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1. Take screen shots of all your travel confirmations and make two physical copies of your essential travel info because you never know.
2. And keep a copy of your physical travel docs in a trifold travel wallet so you're not wearily holding up the line when it comes time to show the TSA agent your passport and boarding pass.
The wallet has a passport pocket, boarding pass compartment, three credit card slots, an ID slot, a slim card pouch, slim pocket, a ticket slot, a cellphone pouch, a coin zippered pocket, key holder, and pen holder.
Promising review: "Guys, I'm beyond happy with this. I've been looking for a passport and ticket holder for a while but had never found the right size until I decided to try out this one. Besides, the material feels high quality and long-lasting, the red color is even better in person and it's wildly pretty." —BazantSol
Get it from Amazon for $12.99+ (available in 33 colors).
3. If you're traveling internationally, double (no, TRIPLE) check that your passport still has plenty of time left on it for your plans.
The government recommends renewing it at least nine months before it expires. You can pay to get a renewal expedited. But, that's not ideal for any party involved.
4. But! Keep in mind that there are still LOTS of cool domestic and/or short trip travel opportunities. I promise you can still have fun in other places BESIDES Italy (where seemingly everyone was this summer).
Related: There's no need to feel like you're missing out because you haven't been to 53 countries like seemingly every other man on dating apps. Not everyone's life or budget allows for that. You should be celebrating the things YOU are getting to do and don't let someone else's experience make your own pale in comparison. Folks are posting picturesque IGs, not their PTO calendars or credit card statements after going on said trips. And my writing this story is in hopes that you'll get the most out of all of your future travels — no matter the length or destination <3.
5. Look into a cruise (yep, a cruise even if you've said you're "not a cruise person") if you'd like to have a LOT of the trip planning done for you. And if you'd rather not be on a ship with a bunch of kids, there are *legit* good adult cruises.
6. And consider booking your trip with an actually cool group travel company. It'll give you a chance to have someone do a chunk of the planning for you and meet like-minded people who wanna explore without waiting on flaky friends or partners who keep putting off that bucket-list trip.
7. Check your credit card and bank's rewards before you book to see if there are money-back rewards or complimentary services you can take advantage of.
8. Reverse engineer when/where you'll go thanks to a membership to Scott's Cheap Flights that'll let you know the best flight deals. There are two levels of membership, both of which entail *several* daily emails tailored to your "home" airport with priced-out deals and time windows they're available.
I signed up a few months ago for a Premium membership and am forever forwarding deals to my friends. I flirted with the idea of signing up but when my friend Marissa (who's a total booking fiend) told me that she and her husband used it to book a sweet, sweet deal to Italy, I decided to go ahead and do it. The thing about this is, you sometimes have to act fast because people snap up these tickets! I've used it to inform travel dates and windows to destinations, including figuring out that September is a great but affordable time to visit Alaska for a family trip.
Premium members receive airlines' mistake fares from all their departure airports (up to 10). And Elite members receive the same for every single mistake fare Scott's Cheap Flights finds. Additionally, Elite members can refine results for fare classes. So if you absolutely refuse to sit in Economy (good for you, I'll sit wherever on a plane), you won't receive alerts for Economy deals as an Elite member.
9. Check out SeatGuru for info on plane seats by carrier, date, and flight number so you find your perfect spot that suits your flying comfort level.
10. Finding a great hotel deal doesn't have to feel like work (for real). Try Hotwire Hot Rates (which show up in red while you search the travel booking site) to help you score some solid discounts on your next vacation. Just note that they're often nonrefundable.
11. Also check out the Hopper app (a personal fave). It lets you sift through all sorts of travel deals for hotels, flights, car rentals, and home rentals. You can also set watch alerts for flights and get push alerts when the prices change.
12. Plus! If you aren't already using the free Google Flights flight price tracking, wyd still reading this.
13. Look up the COVID testing and masking rules and restrictions for your origin point, destination, and any places you'll transit or visit during your vacation. And! Be respectful of them.
YUP, just because you can walk into your hometown's grocery store without a mask or showing proof of vaccination doesn't mean that you'll be able to walk into an art museum in Europe in the same manner. Rules tend to change frequently and you should look them up a few times during your trip-planning process to make sure you have what you need. In August 2021, I had to wear my mask inside the Roman Colosseum...which is a completely open building. But! My word, it is ONE of the seventh wonders of the world and I'm so fortunate to be able to travel. Wearing a piece of fabric on my face is NBD given the context.
Check out the State Department's travel advisories by country.
14. When you have to get tested, opt for a telehealth at-home COVID test instead of standing in line for one.
15. Watch some YouTube videos about your destination before you go. It’ll be a way to get pumped for your trip and pick up all kinds of little tips along the way.
16. Even if you're strictly a hotel person, check out Airbnb Experiences for tours and activities to try out in your locale.
17. But also poke around on Viator a bit because they have amazing trips and experiences that you can't always find on other sites. Embrace the bookable day excursion!
18. And look for free walking tours in your destinations. These tend to book up a bit earlier than paid tours, though, so it's worth googling them as soon as your trip is booked.
19. It's even more important to book reservations for top attractions whenever possible.
20. And check out hop-on, hop-off bus and trolley tours because they'll save your old dogs from an obscene amount of walking and they'll hit most of the must-see attractions in one area.
When you've got a lot of ground to cover, this is an easy bet.
21. But! When making sightseeing bookings and appointments, don't over-schedule yourself. Some timed ticket entries are very strict and you don't wanna miss out on must-see attractions.
22. If you're into the ~unusual~, do a bit of research on Atlas Obscura to find sightseeing ops that are a bit off the beaten path or decidedly kooky.
23. If you're cruising, you can often find shore trip guides and tours for cheaper by booking ahead of time *not* through the cruise line. (Tour prices are gouged port-side and on the cruise.)
Rick Steves has a great video (shocker) about a Mediterranean cruise and in it, he mentions that it's great for solo travelers. You get a lot of independence on days on shore but can meet other cruisers.
24. You can sometimes buy a combo city pass that covers many attractions for a discount. Look up passes by the locale for everything from transportation to parks and historic sites.
25. And sometimes you can luck out with free museums and even *free* museum admission days!
26. Check into your flight ASAP! Don't wait 'til you get to the airport. You want to check in before other passengers to secure your seat assignment and avoid getting bumped from the flight.
Airlines overbook flights and sometimes even when they don't, passengers can get bumped simply for the reason that they were the last to check in for a flight.
I used to be one of those people who refused to give up space on my phone for an airline app and would check into the flight at an airport kiosk before going through security. I stopped that a few years ago when I saw a fellow passenger find out that he didn't have a seat assignment and the airline counter employee at the gate told them that they didn't have a seat because they were the last to check in to the flight. Now when I'm ready to go on a trip, I plan accordingly to check into my domestic flight 24 hours before and for some international carriers I've been able to check in days beforehand (for example, EasyJet lets you check into your flight starting 30 days before).
If you're traveling internationally, you might have to show your negative COVID test results to even get *to* checkout counters. This also adds on quite a chunk of time at the airport. I nearly missed my flight back to NYC from Rome thanks to a line of hundreds of people at a checkpoint where any US-bound passengers had to have their test results checked. I made the flight. But it was a very close call!
27. Get to the airport EVEN EARLIER for your flight than normal because, well, have you read or watched any news in summer 2022?! Airports are more crowded than during pre-COVID travel, and many airports and airlines aren't at full staffing levels just yet.
28. If you travel internationally, snag a five-year Global Entry membership that'll *also* include TSA PreCheck for when you're getting out of Dodge. It'll seriously shorten your security line times and end up being a great value if you get out of the country at least once a year and fly domestically a few times annually. (This combo is $15 more than five years of PreCheck alone.) Cheers to your full breakfast spread you'll be eating post-security while others are in the regular line, taking off their shoes (ick).
I put off getting TSA PreCheck and even Global Entry for YEARS despite flying ~10x a year because I'm a person who likes to get to the airport early and have getting through security down to an efficient routine. However, my breaking point was last July when I had to wait soooo long at the airport when coming back to the country from Croatia (I had Mobile Passport at the time, but the machines were broken so I had to wait in line with everyone else). I went to Italy about a month later after signing up for Global Entry and coming back into the country was a breeze. I just had to let a machine take my picture, print out a receipt with said picture, and then place it in a nearby TSA agent's open palm. Then onto baggage claim! I've only used the Global Entry portion for that Italy trip so far, but have a France trip planned later this year when it'll come in handy. I've used the TSA PreCheck 4x since getting it. So I feel as if I've already gotten my money's worth after less than a year.
Apply with the Department of Homeland Security for $100. Once you're approved, you have to do an in-person interview and if approved on the spot, you can have your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry privileges available immediately. I just so happened to find a date for my interview the day before I flew to Italy and was able to update my boarding passes and flight reservations with my info to reap the benefits ASAP.
BTW, check out my tips for travel during the pandemic.
29. Pay for Nannybag (in select cities) for someone to babysit your bag in case your hotel can't hold your bag until or after checkin.
30. Share pics with your trip mates (and any loved ones who want to share in on the fun) with Google Photos for free. And then if you want to print photos out later...you already have some g2g.
31. Research whether tipping is part of the culture. Depending on your destination, that's how some people make a living or could be incredibly offensive. And it can also help determine how much cash you should exchange for local currency.
It varies by location and by the service!
32. Don't assume that everywhere has the frigid AC you enjoy at home.
It might be best to ~mentally~ and physically prepare for that. In some hotels, you might even have to pay extra for AC in your hotel room. Sometimes before going on a trip, I'll try to sleep with the AC unit either off (depending on the local weather) or up by about 5 degrees for a week before my trip so it isn't as much of a shock to the system.
33. And remember that the same temp can feel VERY different in two different locales. So pack accordingly!
34. And while we're on the subject, make sure you wear an adequate amount of sunscreen because the sun's rays may feel more intense in that locale. And buy sunscreen at the destination.
35. Make economy feel like business class with an airplane footrest that loops over your tray table so you can kick back, relax, and hopefully head off to Snoozeville as soon as you get comfy in your seat.
Promising review: "I’m a flight attendant and I travel A LOT! This is a game changer! Folds up super small in the cute bag they provide and really makes a difference when on those long flights. The people in front of me had no idea I was using it. Thanks for the great product!!!" —sarah rubin
Get it from Amazon for $21.99 (available in three colors).
36. Catch up on all your stories with a hands-free (rotating!) phone mount to help you watch what you want or take advantage of the movies available online for those budget airlines without TVs in the back of the seats. It'll work on the plane, train, or bus, *or* while you wait to board.
Promising review: "I bought this nifty gadget about six months ago for a multi-leg, ultra-long-haul trip and it more than held up the entire duration. I was able to finagle it to fit the tray tables on different planes and like others, I find the height just nice when clamped onto a stowed tray table. It also works on my roller carry-on handle during layovers. However, I find myself using it a lot outside of travel, too! With work, I've clamped it onto my office desk shelving to hold my phone at eye level beside my computer. At home, I simply clamped it to a deck of cards and it turns into a versatile stand that I can place on any flat surface. Heck, I've been using it to hold my phone comfortably at eye level while watching videos in bed. It's extremely well-built and I find myself fidgeting with it all the time. Thus far it still feels solid and I don't anticipate breaking it any time soon. Even if it does break, I'll be happy to buy another one or two of it!" —Earendil
Get it from Amazon for $12.97.
37. Or if you're working with some actual in-flight TVs, use an Airfly wireless transmitter that'll let you connect your Airpods or any wireless headphones to your airplane seat...even without Bluetooth!
Promising review: "I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t connect but once I got on the plane ✈️ plugged it in and pressed AirFly (four seconds) then pressed and held AirPods Pro back button. Voila, connected YAY 😀! Now I can get caught up on a couple of movies 🎥 I missed. LOVE IT 💚. Volume is loud and clear." —Nicole J
Get it from Amazon for $54.99.
38. Help prevent sea sickness on ferries and boat excursions with a set of Sea Bands with a little nub that targets the acupuncture point on your wrists meant to help reduce nausea. Cheers to using these instead of having to buy Dramamine over and over and over again.
Promising review: "These were awesome! My entire family suffers from motion sickness, especially car sickness. My little one gets sick in the car on a regular car ride through the city. So I knew that a long road trip was going to be a disaster. I was amazed at how well these bands worked for everyone! Not one single person complained about being sick for 12 hours in the car. At one point I did have one child remove their bands because they said they were getting too tight. But after only a few minutes without them, a headache started to come on, so they immediately put them back on and the relief was instant. I have suffered for decades and now I know better. I will never travel without mine again!" —1SmartCookie
Get a set of two from Amazon for $8.59 (available in adult and children's sizes).
39. If you get jet lag, try a set of homeopathic jet lag pills made to help you fight off time zone changes and disrupted sleep schedules. Plus, you can actually sleep while taking these. I've taken them on a couple of red eyes and I think they help!
According to the instructions, you should take them at take-off and then every two hours and then again once you arrive to help with relaxation and combat sleepiness.
Promising review: "My husband and I have used this product now for five years for multiple trips overseas and these really work. How do we know? We've forgotten to use them on a couple of legs and there has been a night/day difference in our energy levels. We use precisely as directed, setting timers on our phone when possible to remember the doses. On a few occasions we've slept through the timer, so missed the timing of a couple of doses, and we've been fine. Our last trip to Australia was 34 hours door-to-door on the outbound. We would have been a complete wreck without these. As it was, we arrived late morning, remained awake and lively (enough) through dinner, and then got a good night's sleep. The next day we felt as good as new. For the years before I used this, I would need to sleep for a few days after a leg like that. We never travel without this now. I highly recommend this product." —motokat
Get a pack of 32 pills from Amazon for $9.93.
40. If you're going on a beach vacation, try to only pack one or two cover-ups that also function as normal nonbeach outfits.
41. Cope with the fact that you'll likely have to launder some clothes if your trip is a week or longer. You might even luck out with a vacation rental that has in-unit laundry! Regardless, pack some laundry soap sheets (seriously they take up VERY little room) you won't even have to slip into your toiletries bag if you're flying. They're perfect for hotel sink-washing.
I just came off a 2.5-week Europe trip (I stayed in Nice, Barcelona, Mallorca, and Rhodes Island, Greece) and only had in-unit laundry in one of those places. These sheets were a lifesaver for washing underwear, clothes that I sweated SOOOOOO much in, and also swimsuits that were laden with very salty sea water. They got the job done and I even found that the towel-warming rack in my Nice hotel did a fine job of hang drying my hand-washed undies much faster! Now, I went through about half of the sheets because my friend and I were having to wash a lot. But it was such a small investment (size- and money-wise) to keep our travel loads significantly lighter.
Promising review: "This came SO in handy during my vacation to Europe! I was making lots of different stops to places with different types of weather. With these laundry soap sheets I was able to wash my clothes in the sink — letting me pack just the right amount of clothes for all the different places I went." —Katie Fujarski
Get it from Amazon for $7.19 (available in four other styles, including hand soap and shampoo).
42. Make the best use of your personal item (that'll fit under an airplane seat) with a Beis backpack that zips open like a suitcase without *looking* like one of those backpacks that does that. It's sleek and minimalist on the outside while allowing you to pack a weekend's worth of stuff into it (unless you're an overpacker). OK if you're an overpacker, it's just an overnight bag.
I snagged this backpack after hearing my colleague Chelsea Stuart sing its praises. I had a trusty (now discontinued) InCase backpack I used as a personal item and served me well on dozens of trips for about five years. But I wanted a bag for some upcoming travel (2.5 weeks in Europe with *just* carry-on for five flights) that opens up like a suitcase for easier packing. Since buying, I've taken it on two long weekend trips (Amtrak to Newport, RI, for a wedding and regional train to a CT country lake house) with no complaints. In fact, for both of those trips I packed MORE than I needed.
Inside, you'll find a mesh zippered pocket and a plastic pocket perfect for your toiletries. I can fit enough wet toilet toiletries in the second pocket as I'd be allowed to carry-on for a plane. In the mesh pocket I put other necessities like cotton swabs, medicine, eye glasses, etc. The main compartment is deceptively deep so you can easily roll clothes and Lego-fit them in together without using packing cubes. In fact, I fit all of the stuff in the second picture in that section (a romper, PJs, a bikini, sunscreen, five pairs of undies, a pair of jean shorts, nap dress, three pairs of socks, two pairs of sandals, two T-shirts, a slip skirt, sleep mask, curling iron, mini flat iron, makeup bag, and tote bag). AND it has stretchy X-straps to keep it all secure like you'd see in a roller suitcase so when I unzip it, everything stays put. But before I forget, there's a separate cushioned laptop pocket close to the backpack straps that I found works well for books or a Kindle if your travel leaves you laptop-less.
I love that this backpack has DEEP side pockets so your umbrella or water bottle won't fall out. In fact, I stuck a flashlight and an umbrella in one side pocket. (You could always use a flashlight.) Plus! It has a generously sized pocket on the front of the backpack with easy access for sunglasses, snacks, writing pens...all sorts of those little extras you need to access quickly. To top it all off, the backpack straps and top handle are STURDY. I felt totally secure toting it around and slinging it into overhead storage compartments on the trains. I love the look and construction of it with faux leather and sturdy black canvas, and the trolley passthrough to easily fit on my roller suitcase I'm about to drag through a bunch of airports. At nearly $80, this isn't the cheapest backpack option but if you're a frequent traveler, you'll get so much mileage on it and seriously save on some baggage fees, making it well worth the cost. This backpack and I are going places, for sure.
NOW when it comes to air travel, you won't be able to put your wet toiletries in the waterproof pocket (as I have in the above pic for a train trip). But! Lots of nonliquid toiletries and essentials fit in there just fine.
Get it from Beis Travel for $78 (also available in beige).
43. Decant your fave fragrance into a pocket-sized, refillable travel perfume atomizer you simply pump on your normal size perfume bottle. Besides, this is much more compact than the travel size perfume rollers you can grab at Sephora.
^ That's me pumping my signature perfume into one of these travel atomizers I've been using for about a year. As the reviewer down below mentions, it's great to just throw in your purse on the reg for a fragrance re-up throughout the day. As you can see, it's about the size of my thumb and therefore takes up very little room. Plus! It's smaller than most rollerball travel fragrances you can pick up. This first one is working so well, that I just have the other three in storage. But if this one bites the dust this summer during travels, I'll be OK about digging into my stores to use one of the remaining three...especially at this price point.
Promising review: "These work so great. Love it!!! I put my favorite perfumes in each one. When I wear a perfume I put the matching one to the perfume I’m wearing for the day in my purse. So I can freshen up my scent later! I like to smell pretty all day!!! They are small and compact but hold enough before you have to refill as well." —Nikki
Get a four-pack from Amazon for $8.99.
44. If you're a dress person and your destination clothing standards jibe with shorter dresses, opt for mainly above-the-knee options because they'll in general take up less space in the suitcase than midi or maxi dresses. Like, this satin spaghetti strap dress will serve you well for fancy occasions in your travels.
45. But! Slip dresses will look incredibly chic and take up a minuscule amount of space in your suitcase.
46. Pack some under-eye masks for some pampering, depuffing...especially while you're fighting jet lag. They take up VERY little space in your bag and will feel a little luxurious — even if your friend booked a lackluster 2-star hotel and you're googling where to rebook your stay while you wear said masks.
47. If you want to get the most magical pics, get to popular tourist sites at dawn to beat the crowds. THAT is how your favorite travel IG influencer got that pic of the Trevi Fountain without 50 other tourists in the shot.
48. Don’t be afraid of public transportation! Depending on where you're visiting, it can be much easier to navigate than anything you've tried at home.
49. But! Don't show up at a public train station or bus stop completely unprepared. You will need to do a smidge of research before your trip.
51. Planning on renting a car abroad? You might want to consider the smallest car your party can fit into to deal with smaller parking spaces and streets.
52. When you're checking out of your hotel, see if you can use some of your leftover local currency for your bill.
I got this tip from my colleague Tasia Bass! There's always going to be a loss when you exchange foreign currency back into your local currency because you're charged for the service. So at least with this route, you'll put most of your leftovers to good use!
Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.