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We get a lot of comments and email on the blog…and within many of those comments are tips and tricks that you’ve shared with us. I’ve spent some time collecting those tips and tricks that you’ve shared in the past few years and I wanted to share a bunch of them here. They’re in no particular order and I think I’ve cleaned up any duplicates.
What are your favorites? Got any to add?
1) Call ahead to the property you are staying at. Talk to the general manager or concierge (someone in charge!) and remind them of any birthdays, anniversaries etc you’re celebrating.
2) Almonds are a great and healthy snack when you travel.
3) Carry a compass (or a compass app!), whether in non-grid layout cities or in the outdoors, it always comes in handy.
4) Always bring your noise canceling headphones.
5) Always carry a mini-pack of facial tissue to use as toilet paper.
6) Always check your passport validity date at least one month before you travel. Some countries won’t let you in if you don’t have six month’s validity.
7) Always drink a lot of water when flying. Planes are significantly dryer and nothing is worse than dehydration on a long flight.
8) Always pack extra snacks! You never know when you might be stuck in a delayed plane on the tarmac for hours. This is a must when traveling with kids. Hungry kids = screaming kids = many annoyed passengers! Also, clementines are not only a great portable snack, but instantly freshen stale plane air! Ha!
9) Pack your things in plastic bags in your suitcase (no real added weight as it prevents your things from getting wet during travel, plastic bags are useful in the long run as many countries now charge for plastic bags at stores or don’t offer them at all).
10) Always plan in advance. Designate place and time to meet back up, should you and your partner or group plan to separate while out.
11) Always roll your clothes for packing in the suitcase. Saves a TON of space.
12) As a female, never pack more than a pair of shoes when you travel to Italy. You will buy more than you can carry.
13) Ask hotels for benefits for not having your sheets changed each night (i.e. bonus points).
14) Be nice when traveling. I’ve been amazed at how many people help you when you smile and treat them with respect.
15) Be sure that you’ve emptied your room’s safe – it’s easy to leave things in it because it is usually dark. A flashlight helps.
16) Be sure to e-mail yourself where you parked at the airport so that you don’t have issues finding your car when you return from your trip!
17) Be sure to get some sleeping pills and Fenigren (diarrhea medicine). You never know when a travel bug comes along.
18) Before traveling, don’t forget to back up your laptop data just in case.
19) Before you leave the US, take a credit card size of paper and write down: (1) the international dialing codes of the US and each country you’ll be traveling through; (2) the number to the US Embassy in each country; and (3) the customer service numbers for each of your credit cards. Give a copy to your travel companion and keep copies for yourself in your wallet and each of your bags. Don’t just put it in your wallet or purse because if that’s gone, you’re out of luck. Do program the info into your phone, but have a hard copy in case your battery dies. I had a bad experience with a rental car company in Fiji last month and I called American Express while on site to prevent a fraudulent charge.
20) Blister bandaids are a lifesaver for any active trip.
21) Book seats in the rear of the plane when traveling, so you can wait for take-off while sitting in the plane, rather than waiting on line to board up front (of course First Class, and other exceptions do not apply).
22) Book the best car rental you can…then let Autoslash do it’s thing.
23) Bring a sleeping mask, earplugs, neck pillow, and headphones. You never know when you will be on a plane filled with young kids making noise the whole trip.
24) Bring a sweater or sweatshirt on the plane, it can get cold and if not, it can be used as a pillow.
25) Bring an assortment of rubber bands.
26) Bring an empty water bottle with you on your trip. Filling up at water fountains will save you a lot of money over the course of a trip.
27) Bring a spare set of earbud headphones in case yours break mid-flight.
28) Bring extra batteries.
29) Bring old underwear to throw out as you use them on international trips. This gives you more packing space on the way home.
30) Buy 3 pairs of Ex Officio Underwear on Amazon, they are awesome for travel.
31) Buying and using an “Outlets to Go 3” at the airport will make you many friends when outlets are scarce.
32) Buy liquor in local supermarkets. In many countries, it will cost much less than Duty Free. Prague, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro are just three cities that come to mind.
33) Call your hotel beforehand to see if they have shuttle service from the airport.
34) Carry on lip balm and a sunscreen sample.
35) Check out restaurant.com before you leave for your trip, you might save some money on food.
36) Check to see if the alarm was pre-set as soon as you check in to your room so you can turn it off or set it for the time YOU really would want it to go off!
37) Check with your primary car insurance carrier if they cover car rentals.
38) Sign up for as many loyalty program promos/offers as possible. You never know when or how you can use those points/miles later.
39) Don’t be afraid of renting a car in Europe (if you can afford the gas). So many nice places to discover and the freedom of having a car saves you when looking for accommodations.
40) Don’t bother packing soap to hand wash clothes. The hotel shampoo works well.
41) Don’t keep all your credit cards, cash, valuables in one place. Having said that, don’t forget where you put them!
42) Don’t let your miles expire – order a magazine with a few of them to get another year added to keep them going.
43) Even after you book a car rental, keep checking prices on the company’s website. This is one of the few travel areas you can still cancel without a fee. When you find a better rate, just cancel the one you had before and save some money!
44) When seated in coach on a plane that is not full, try to be the last one to board so you can find a better empty seat.
45) When traveling with kids, try to plan travel around nap or sleep times. Bring an iPad loaded with kiddie movies and headphones. Pack an extra outfit in your carry-on for both of you along with travel sized hand sanitizer wipes.
46) For women: Collect samples from Sephora or other high-end cosmetic shops to use as travel-size toiletries. Sephora offers samples on pretty much every product: face cream, cosmetics, even perfume.
47) Get approved for TSA Precheck. Its a real time saver.
48) Grab your hotel’s business card when leaving (especially in a foreign country where you do not speak the language) so you can simply hand it to your taxi drive when you want to return.
49) Bring flip-flops; light weight, easy to pack and great for simple runs to the ice machine, downstairs at the hotel, etc.
50) I disagree with rolling your clothes – I’ve done it (even lined with tissue paper). Cotton WILL crease/wrinkle. I found I get more in less space and avoid wrinkles by lining clothes with tissue paper or soft plastic before folding, put socks or undies in the folds and fold as little as possible (e.g. only fold pants in half). Then put soft plastic (hotel laundry bags work well) between each layer of clothes. Plastic is like Botox for your clothes!
51) I have two little kids, so I ship a delivery of diapers, wipes, and snacks to the grandparents and/or hotel through AmazonMom (free shipping), scheduled to arrive the day before I get there (some hotels charge a small fee to hold a package, but it’s usually worth it). Much less to pack and carry, and I don’t have to shop when I arrive.
52) I pack a small flashlight that’s great to use in case of power outage to find my way around an unfamiliar room and to check behind bed and under sheets/mattress pads for cleanliness.
53) I recommend not checking your bag(s) during a mileage run, especially if there are a number of layovers and/or you switch carriers. There’s a good chance the luggage could stay back and you won’t receive it until a week after your return…like what happened to me. That said, the compensation could be worth all the hassle, or not.
54) If in the US, remember to register your main dining card on the road with one of the airline Dining Reward programs! You just may be pleasantly surprised!
55) If possible, exchange currency (if traveling internationally) before you leave home. Sometimes it is cheaper here than there.
56) If traveling in the US and willing to go light, you can keep yourself to a carry-on suitcase by bringing as few toiletry items as possible when you depart. Just wait until your arrival, then visit the nearest pharmacy to stock up on the mini bottles of mouthwash, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Sticking to a carry-on gives you the flexibility to cash in on flight bump opportunities.
57) If trying to get a large group to one location, try airports that are close by – but arrive near the same time.
58) If you are traveling internationally, leave your smartphone on “Airplane” mode after you’ve landed to avoid accidentally getting charged for roaming fees.
59) If you have a special interest, find out about a local club and see if you can meet up. For instance, I have met the members of a local birding club in Sacramento and in Sydney; this gave me a chance to see birds and places I would not otherwise see. I met with some members of a rock club in Sacramento, and this gave me a chance to purchase some cheap specimens I could not otherwise afford to buy. Most hobbies have clubs in most cities, so check it out. If an event is planned, such as a bird tour or a mineral sale or who-knows-what, as an out-of-towner, you are likely to be invited even though you’re not a club member.
60) If you have kids between 6 and 12, consider doing Junior Ranger programs at National Parks. They are free and educational.
61) If you have time, make a checklist of your things when packing and use the same list on your return.
62) If you travel quite a bit, replenish your toiletry bag when you get home so it is ready to go for your next trip.
63) If you wear glasses (or contacts), always carry (not check) an extra pair with you. If you want to be really careful, take a copy of your prescription with you (paper or scanned).
64) If you work out while on the road and have limited space in your carry-on, pack gym clothes that can be used as undergarments the day before you plan to workout.
65) If you’re going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, always start in the back of the park and work forward.
66) If you’re the only adult traveling with small children and ask very nicely, the airline counter agents have authority to let the other non-ticketed parent/grandparent, assist you in getting the kids through security and to the gate. I find that being very polite and looking a little frazzled seems to increase the odds of getting this granted.
67) If you’re traveling internationally, make a copy of your passport and carry that with you while you’re out and about and leave your actual passport in your hotel safe.
68) If your hotel curtains won’t stay closed, use a pants hanger from the closet to clip them closed.
69) Instead of redepositing foreign currency when you get home (my bank, and most as far as I know, charge a hefty fee) save it to have converted upon arrival at your next foreign trip. That way you’re saving some cash and have at least some money on arrival.
70) It never hurts to ask: Hotel upgrades, car rental upgrades, cruise cabin upgrades. I’ve asked and received. I’ve rarely received without asking.
71) Keep a bandaid or two in your wallet – they are so thin you won’t notice them there, and it’s great to have one when an unexpected need presents itself.
72) Keep a copy of your passport in a separate bag just in case.
73) Keep everything you won’t use while traveling (car keys, etc.) in a specific place that doesn’t get touched until you return. You won’t have to worry about moving any items and won’t worry the whole last leg that you forgot to replace them where they were moved from.
74) Keep the sample size bottle of shampoo and fill them up with your own shampoo when you travel.
75) Keep travel plans and itineraries in a plastic sleeve for easy access.
76) Know the alternative routings to get you home in case there is a problem.
77) Make copies of all credit cards you are traveling with, just in case. Also make copies of your health insurance card.
78) Never check a suitcase with a bottle of Pepto Bismol inside, no matter how well you have it wrapped up, unless you want to randomly dye parts of articles of clothing pink.
79) Never pack jeans in your suitcase if you are tight on weight. They weigh about 1 pound a piece. One of the heaviest pieces of clothing.
80) Never pass up the opportunity to use a clean public bathroom. If you see one, go!
81) On longer trips, like to Europe where two pieces of luggage are free, I pack one larger suitcase with my clothes and toiletries. I bring a second smaller piece with me – EMPTY except for bubble wrap. It allows me to pack my souvenirs and purchases in a separate piece without jamming my first one. Plus, I can rearrange and repack before departing for home if I need to balance weight. I bubble wrap in the second luggage for bottles of wine, limoncello, etc.
82) Overhead bins are filling up quickly these days and so some may opt to check their baggage at the ticket counter. Another crafty way to avoid baggage fees is by not boarding early, resulting in overhead bins filling up before you enter the plane and the airline gate checking your bag for free – standard practice by airlines. Sure, I’d rather keep my luggage in the overhead, but the airlines seldom call Zone 4 first.
83) Pack a carry-on with everything you will need to get you by for one day in case your checked suitcase is lost.
84) Pack a compression sack in order to fit any shopping finds on my trip.
85) Pack a small stack of paper cups. These come in handy for little sips and you can never be really sure how clean that hotel glassware is.
86) Pack clothes that are neutral colors. That way anything will match and you can pack less.
87) Pack dryer sheets in your clothes. Your clothes will smell fresh, plus if they are wrinkled, you can throw them in the dryer with the dryer sheet to knock out the wrinkles.
88) Pack extra zip lock bags. They’re the poor man’s waterproof case and useful for collecting small items or possibly messy items.
89) Pay no ATM fees worldwide with a Schwab Bank ATM card.
90) Pick up one envelope and add all your receipts to it at the end of the day. Saves the day when filing expense report later.
91) Pick up pillow soft ear plugs by Mack – Love these for the plane and for ambient noise at hotels.
92) Put a fabric softener sheet in your dirty clothes section of your bags as you travel.
93) Put address stickers on all of your cords and anything you plug in. Include your email address if you don’t want to include your “if found, contact telephone number.” Put scotch tape over the label so it lasts.
94) Put all of your metal things in your luggage to avoid setting off metal detectors.
95) put as much in your main compartment as possible and use the compression straps to help reduce bulk, then minimize the size of the items you place in your outer luggage pockets. This can really help ensure your bag fits in the overhead bins.
96) Remember that kids’ passports expire after only 5 years. And you have to make an appointment at your local post office and appear in person to renew, so don’t wait till the last minute.
97) Roll your belts up and pack them in your shoes. No kinks that way.
98) Roll your socks and put them in your shoe to save space.
99) Save the cases airline amenity kits come in and use those to store small things in a larger suitcase or carry-on. I use mine for chargers, outlet converters, headphones, etc.
100) Scan a copy of your passport and email it to yourself so that you can access it online wherever there is internet access.
101) Ship some clothes and stuff in priority flat rate box if you end up buying some local goodies and don’t have room in your carry-on luggage.
102) Sign up for Living Social and Groupon emails for the country to which you are traveling.
103) Take a small luggage scale – while it’s always easy to weigh bags at home, more than once I’ve run into a problem with heavier bags on the way home due to purchases. With the scale, I can rearrange and avoid overweight fees, and it’s much nicer to do the repacking in my hotel than at the airport check-in counter.
104) Take a video of your rental car.
105) Take advantage of hotels that offer free breakfast and/or kids eat free (Holiday Inns and Expresses, Marriott Residence Inn, Hiltons for Gold and Platinum Status are options). Great for traveling with family.
106) Take extra of any must-have meds in case your return gets delayed.
107) Travel with light jacket with zipper pockets.
108) Use a very simple and lightweight backpack for day trips. Easy to pack, easy to use and clean.
109) Use betterbidding.com to get an idea of what Priceline bids were successful.
110) Use colored paper to print different parts of itinerary: white for airline reservations, green hotel, yellow car, etc. for easy sorting.
111) Use distinctive luggage so it is easily recognizable and there is no chance someone else will take it.
112) Use Eagle Creek zip pouches to color-code your carry-on luggage (e.g. small black for electronics, large green for clothes, etc).
113) Use everything complimentary provided by the hotels. Most hotels have free toiletries at the front desk, if you ask politely.
114) use Kayak.com to build your trip itinerary. You can enter in all your confirmation details for flights/hotels/rental cars and then print out the whole thing for easy reference. To take it a step further you can even email the company your confirmations and they will type it all in for you and present you with your itinerary for free.
115) Use OpenTable.com to identify restaurants and make reservations. Join and earn points that lead to certificates redeemable at OpenTable restaurants. Especially check for 1,000 point ($10 back) restaurant opportunities.
116) Use rubber bands to bundle up loose power, USB and other cabling so it’s not floating around in your baggage.
117) Use sites like Homeaway and Flipkey to save tons of money on vacations when traveling as a group. House rentals can be found almost anywhere (I just found one in Istanbul right next to the Blue Mosque). Added bonus, you have extra space and a kitchen if you want to stay in one night.
118) Use the 3 oz cough syrup bottles from the pharmacy (ask for the kind they fill) to hold 3 oz of liquor for your travel needs. They are indestructible AND you can get 3 or 4 in that quart zip lock bag!
119) Use the apps on your phone when traveling to new places for finding cool things around you last minute.
120) We buy a small treat or toy for my 3 year-old just before getting on a long plane flight. I hide it in my purse until we have taken off, and when she gets restless, surprise!
121) Wear all of your heavy clothes on the plane in order to get more into your suitcase.
122) When approaching the security checkpoint, stick your wallet, watch and other loose valuables into a front pocket of your carry-on bag. Helps you move faster on the other end, and it’s safer than having them loose in a plastic bin.
123) When flying from a small regional airport you should try to book the earliest flight out. The planes are usually serviced overnight and you run less of a risk missing your connection.
124) When flying, save your legs with compression leggings. The best can be bought at Walmart or your local pharmacy for $25.
125) When in big cities that you’re unfamiliar with, wear a money belt and don’t take it out in public.
126) When packing contact lenses, always store them in a ziploc bag in case it leaks due to pressure changes.
127) When packing, double duty as many items as possible (ie. flip flops double as slippers; swim suit cover up doubles as bathrobe; etc.).
128) When skiing, always bring your ski boots on as a carry-on.
129) When traveling to a smaller town with older hotels, book a room with two beds. Usually one of the two will be well worn, but the second will be usable.
130) When traveling in Europe, you need to be careful regarding public transportation to and from the airport if you leave/arrive on a Sunday. The schedule is much reduced.
131) When you take little kids abroad, make sure to find out where the playgrounds are near your sightseeing spots ahead of time.
132) Write letters or email the airlines for compensation when you have a bad travel experience. You will likely receive an e-certificate good for future travel.
133) You can earn Starwood points by dining at a restaurant on a Starwood property and then submitting the receipt with your SPG number.
Questions about this or other topics? Feel free to comment below or email us.
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