Seasoned travelers pick up their own arsenal of tricks to ensure their travels are smooth and easy. From a packing hack that saves space in your luggage or a mobile app that helps cut down on time in the airport, there's a number of unique tips that can help you have a fantastic trip. Whether you're an experienced traveler or are embarking on your first vacation in a while, here are 25 travel tips that will make your vacation stress-free.
Print Out Important Documents
These days, it’s normal to rely on your phone for getting around. But when you travel, that dependence comes with a risk. Your phone battery might die, or, if you're traveling internationally or in a remote area, your cell signal may not be quite as strong as it is back home. If you're using maps on a phone or other device, take screenshots before you head out, in case you lose signal. But to fully secure yourself, go old school and print out a map. This also goes for your itineraries, schedules, reservations, or any other important information you may need.
Read the Local News
It's tempting to completely disconnect from the real world while you're on vacation. But you will want to keep up with the news, especially in the destinations you're visiting, so you can stay safe during an emergency. If you don't know the local language, consider downloading an app like OZZI, which tracks international alerts to keep travelers informed of developing threats.
It should come as no surprise that airplane travel is a dehydrating experience, but did you know that dehydration affects more than just your thirst levels and skin appearance? Dehydration can increase the effects of jet lag since the high altitude of the pressurized cabin lowers oxygen levels in the blood. This makes it even more difficult for your circadian rhythm to make the adjustment. Staying hydrated keeps the blood flowing at an even pace and smooths out the transition.
Bring a First Aid Kit
Pack a small first aid kit with the essentials — bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain medication, and antidiarrheals for easy access if you get hurt or fall ill on the road. If you’re traveling through villages or remote areas, these basic items won’t be readily available. And if you're in a city with higher tax rates, you might save money by purchasing these items at home.
Pack One Complete Outfit in Your Carry On
If you plan on checking your bags, then be sure to pack one complete outfit in your carry on in case your baggage is delayed. This way, you’ll have a spare set of clean clothing ready to go. Even if your bags make it safely, accidents can happen while in transit, and you'll have a nice clean shirt handy for any spills that may occur.
Back Up Critical Documents
Scan and store copies of your passport and identification cards in a cloud-based folder so they're accessible should they be stolen. Having copies on hand will significantly expedite the process of replacing your stolen documents. The same goes for itineraries and reservation information.
Bring Several Different Forms of Money
Not having access to money can put anyone in a bind so be sure to bring more than one form. Certain debit or credit cards may not work in the destination you’re visiting so you’ll want to bring a backup or two. Keep an emergency card somewhere other than your wallet and carry some local cash as well. Store bundles of cash in multiple places, including your carry-on, a checked bag, and somewhere on your person. That way, if you’re separated from your luggage, you won’t lose all your budgeted money.
Become a Loyalty Member
Frequent fliers should pick one airline and stick to it in order to accumulate points. Earning status with a particular airline yields results such as free upgrades. Similarly, earn points with a chosen hotel chain and you’re more likely to be upgraded to a venue’s best available room upon check-in.
Learn the Language
Pick up key phrases in the language of the country you’re about to visit. By learning how to thank someone or ask where the bathroom is in the local language, you show respect as a tourist. You don't need to be completely fluent, though. Bring along a translator app to help you navigate the more complicated requests.
Get Familiar with the State Department
Before stepping onto new land, do some research. You don't need to learn the entire history of your destination, but it helps to at least know some information in case of an emergency. A lot of what you're looking for is available through the U.S. State Department. Where is the nearest U.S. embassy? What phone number is used for emergency services? Are there any neighborhoods to avoid? Write down or save that information and keep it on you at all times while traveling. You should also register with the U.S. Embassy if you're traveling overseas using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Bring Travel Size Laundry Detergent
In order to avoid high laundry fees at hotels, carry a few travel size detergent packets so you have the option of doing your own laundry in the bathroom sink of your hotel room. This works especially well if you just need a few more pairs of clean socks and underwear during your trip.
Keep an Emergency Card Accessible
Write down (ideally, laminated and also on your phone) a list of emergency contacts as well as any medical conditions, health issues, medications, or allergies you may have. Keep the printed copy with your ID in case of an emergency. It's also not a bad idea to look up the translation of any medical considerations ahead of time, in case you need to quickly convey information to a foreign official.
Beat Jet Lag
When the plane takes off, set your watch to your destination’s local time and stay awake until an appropriate bedtime. Similarly, when you arrive at your destination, refrain from taking a nap until the sun goes down in order to reset your internal sleep clock. If you're struggling to adjust to your new time zone, melatonin supplements can help.
Bring Ear Plugs
If you’re a budget backpacker roughing it in twenty-bed dorm hostels, there’s bound to be at least one snorer who will keep the room awake throughout the night. Bring ear plugs to ensure you catch some Z’s. We even found you an inexpensive pair with over 2,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
It requires extra leg work, but signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is one of the best ways to sail through security lines at the airport. TSA PreCheck is explicitly meant to speed up the airport security process. You'll need to apply online, then in person, and it costs you $85 for a five-year membership. Global Entry is a different program meant to make it easier and quicker to move through customs when re-entering the United States. This will cost you $100, which might sound like a lot, but there's a bonus: Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck. If you think you may fly internationally, it's generally worth the extra $15 for the extra convenience. Not only will you get through security faster, but you'll bypass the lengthy U.S. customs line when you return from that fabulous trip abroad.
Bring an External Phone Battery and Power Strip
Bring an external phone battery to keep your mobile charged especially if you rely on Google Maps to navigate new cities. It’ll also save you when your mobile shuts down just before you show your cab driver the address of your final destination. Another great tool to bring is a power strip is a tool, which will make you instant friends at a hostel or while waiting for your flight at the airport. When there’s only one available outlet but a dozen people needing to recharge, you’ll be an instant hero with a small power strip.
Use Recyclable Bags
For avid hostellers, pack your items in a tote bag instead of plastic bags. Aside from being more environmentally friendly, if you need to rummage through your backpack early in the morning or late at night, using a tote will save you from making lots of rustling noises that’s sure to wake your roommates.
Be Nice to Gate Agents
In the event that you miss your flight or there’s a delay, gate agents are likely the first people you turn to in order to be rebooked or rerouted. They handle numerous complaints filed by impatient travelers throughout the day, and understandably will not sympathize if you’re rude. Ask politely for help and you’re much more likely to receive a stay at a hotel or a seat on a reassigned flight.
Don’t depend on free Wi-Fi to help stock your movie collection at the gate. Often times the network is too slow for downloading. Make sure you’ve got your favorite series and films ready to roll so you can block out the chaos around you. Same goes for non-digital entertainment. Don't wait to buy a book or magazine at a store in the airport. Not only will these be marked up with airport prices, but you'll risk running late or losing your seat at the gate.
Talk to the Locals
Locals are experts on the destination you’re visiting, so don’t be afraid to befriend some and ask for suggestions on what to do or where to eat. They often know better than the guide books on where to uncover hidden gems and get off the beaten path. You must first know the people to know the country.
On Rental Cars
Rent from an establishment a short cab ride away from the airport instead of picking up your vehicle directly at the airport to save up some serious cash. Airport rentals inflate their prices due to high demand and convenience, so search for a pick up location that’s just a few minutes down the road to save big, and be sure to book your car with a credit card that offers good rental car insurance.
Airport Currency Exchanges
Redditors recommend visiting a local bank or withdrawing money from an ATM instead of exchanging money at the currency exchange when you land at the airport, as it charges a hefty fee. If prompted at an ATM, always carry out the transaction in the local currency to avoid incurring unfavorable exchange rates set by the bank.
Don’t Check Bags
If you can, pack light and travel with a carry-on only. Not only does that prevent the airline from losing your luggage, but traveling with a carry-on also eliminates the need to wait for your bags at the carousel after a long flight. If you miss a connecting flight or wish to catch an earlier one, then you don’t have to worry about arriving to your destination without your checked luggage. With a carry-on, you’re able to deplane and hop into a cab for your accommodation without skipping a beat.
Act Like a Local
Not a tourist. Dive into the daily life of locals by visiting supermarkets when traveling internationally. In destinations where supermarkets are geared towards middle class shoppers, then opt to visit marketplaces. Though it sounds mundane, you get to observe and understand the popular local ingredients and common dishes of the destination you’re in.
Keep Records of Your Rides
Always double-check your Uber driver's name and license plate before getting inside of a vehicle. If you take a taxi, text or take a photo of the taxi ID number. These won't just keep you safe, they'll also come in handy if you leave something behind in the car.
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