Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? It can be a lot of work to prepare for a getaway. From finding coverage at work and making plans, to air travel and all that site seeing – it can be exhausting.
Here are some tips that can make travel worry-free so you’ll have more time for fun.
- Save for your trip: About 6 months into our relationship, my now-husband and I opened a joint “vacation savings account.” Each month we set aside a little and by the time we are ready to go on our next excursion, we have enough to pay for a hotel, plane tickets or both!
- Secure your home: The last thing you want to worry about while you are out of town or country is whether your home and pets are safe. Ask friends to housesit or drop by every few days to put your mind at ease and be sure you have a few backups willing to help just in case.
- Carry-on healthy snacks: It’s a great idea to bring some healthy snack options for the plane. The endless amount of high-sodium meals they serve, especially on long flights, may leave you feeling sick once you arrive.
- Get there early: It’s hard to predict the security line at most airports. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to reach your gate. In general, about two hours ahead of your flight for international travel.
- Use a bag with wheels: It’s easier to zip around the airport on wheels than lugging around a duffel.
- Roll your clothes: This simple, tried-and-true trick helps provide a little more room per bag than folding.
- Make a list, check it twice: Lists come in super handy for travel prep. Make a list of what you need to bring a few weeks before you go, allowing time to add to it before you take off. This way, you’re less-likely to forget anything important.
- Pack extra in your carry-on: Bring an extra sweater, scarf, change of underwear and pair of shoes in your carry-on. You never know when you may end up some place chilly. If something happens to your luggage you won’t be completely without, too.
- Have a transportation plan: Know how you’re getting to and from the airport upon departure and arrival. It will reduce the last-minute scramble as well as your stress level.
- Bring comfy clothes: Go ahead, bring one glam outfit. But unless you’re the Duchess of Cambridge, any more might be a waste. You’ll be glad you brought those worn-in sneakers, jeans and T-shirts.
- Make copies: Bring printed copies of your passport and driver’s license. Leave them hidden in your luggage in your hotel. Leave an extra copy of both at home and email them to yourself for easy access in an emergency.
- Use ATMs wisely: Many ATMs will charge a fee of up to $5 per transaction and a 3 percent transaction fee when using your card in stores. Cut down on those fees by taking out larger sums of money at a time. Also, avoid ATMS that are not affiliated with a bank as their fees can be much higher.
- Notify your bank: Tell your bank the dates you’ll be out of town. Otherwise they may freeze your accounts if they detect unusual spending.
- Bring a backup: It’s a good idea to bring one credit card and one debt card. Use your credit card as a backup in case your debit is stolen or lost. Keep them in separate secure places. Remember, most European ATMS do not allow withdrawals from savings, so keep plenty in your checking account.
- Protect your cards: Nowadays, identity thieves can steal your information right from under your nose using radio-frequency identification (RFID). It’s a wireless, non-contact way of transferring the data. RFID credit card protectors can be purchased online and in most travel stores for about $7-$10.
- Know the exchange rate: Get familiar with the exchange rate of the country you’re visiting. While we are at it, stick to a budget so you don’t overspend.
- Carry your passport with you: Even when out and about on day trips or a simple run to the coffee shop, it’s good practice to have your passport securely on your person. May people use money belts, but I just carry a purse that zips securely.
- Get to know local customs: Familiarize yourself with local etiquette and bring a cheat sheet. For instance, what’s the standard tipping practice?
- Check for freebies and discounts: Check to see what your hotel has to offer before shelling out. Many offer free bike rentals, airport shuttles and vouchers on local attractions.
- Arrive early to popular sites: This way you won’t end up at the end of a huge line or risk the event selling out.
- Ask locals where to eat, shop & play: Don’t be shy. This is your chance to get away from the tourist traps and live like the locals. Without fail, they always know the best places to go.
- Look for free things to do: Many cities offer free museum days. There’s also farmer’s markets, free walking tours and other free or cheap local happenings that are great for people watching.
- Eavesdrop: Didn’t pay for that guided museum tour but fascinated by the origin of the Mona Lisa? Listen in on passing tour guides, but try not to be too obvious.
- Roll with it & have fun: Part of why we travel is to get out of our comfort zones and see how other people live. Customs won’t be like they are at home – just go with it – remember to have a good time and a sense of humor.
Do you have a travel hack you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
Rebekah Schilperoort is a writer and digital media maven based in Seattle.