100 Ways to Travel Smart(er)!
Table of ContentsIntro
The Best Travel Tips and Tricks
Picking Your Destination
Preparation & Panning
Finding and Booking Airfare
Finding and Booking Accommodation
Packing Your Luggage
Airport and Airplane
In Your Destination
Health & Safety
You’ve patiently waited and saved all those vacation days. It’s time to explore a new destination, experience a different culture and most of all, enjoy your time away from home!
If you’re a first time traveler, planning a trip doesn’t have to be that complicated. All you need is a bit of courage to take the leap and maybe brush up a little on your travel skills with a few tips.
Say goodbye to your pre-trip jitters with our ingenious travel tips below. This is not your usual travel advice. We’ve rounded up the most common tips and put our own twist in them so you can travel smart(er) and make that next vacay fabulous!
The Best Travel Tips and Tricks
So you’ve already decided that you want to travel...great! What comes next? Choosing a destination is sometimes a no brainer. Other times, it’s completely overwhelming and nerve wracking! So many incredible places to visit yet so little time. Here are our smarter tips on how you can narrow down your choices:
Smart: Pick a place and go for it
Smarter: Match your destination to your interests
So what do you want to get out of traveling? What’s the first picture that pops in your mind when thinking about your dream vacay? Lounging by a white sand beach or an adventurous safari with the wild animals. You may be all about the food scene or you could be in it for the adrenaline rush. Picking a destination according to your interests might just make your trip more satisfying (and fun)!
Smart: Look at travel guides
Smarter: Scout inspiration from different sources
Travel guides are useful but sometimes they aren’t as up to date or just don’t give a realistic picture of a place. Thankfully, we’ve got so many more ways to chase our wanderlust nowadays. On Instagram, you can find out where exactly a photo was taken using the geotag feature. You can also find places that inspire you on Pinterest and add them to your own travel inspo boards! Don’t just rely on one source, use the advantage of social media + classic guide books to your benefit.
Smart: Consider your budget
Smarter: Go where the best deals take you
Is budget an issue? Sign up with your favorite airline’s newsletter or a dedicated service like Scott’s Cheap Flights. You’ll be updated about the latest airfare deals so you can find the cheapest destinations to fly to. Google Flights is also incredibly helpful for finding the cheapest airfares (use the Explore Destinations feature). Find the cheapest flights and go there!
Smart: Save money on off-season travel
Smarter: Research which places are worth visiting in the off season
You can save a lot of money if you travel during the low season. However, consider what you’re trading for the cheaper ticket. Bali or Phuket during the rainy season? If you’re visiting these places for the beaches, you might be disappointed. Venice in winter? Super worth it! There are lots of advantages to off season travel but you really have to consider whether the trade offs are worth it.
Smart: Create a travel bucket list
Smarter: Choose your next destination out of a jar
Everyone probably has their own list of must see places before they die. Choosing from that list is the hard part. So why not let fate take the wheel? Write down these destinations on paper, cut each one out and throw the pieces in a jar. Draw one out each time you can’t decide where to go next. #YOLO
When it comes to travel prep, you can either wing it or plan it. For us, a perfect balance of both is the best choice! Decide on the essentials like flights, accommodation, transport and major attractions. Leave a bit of spontaneity for everything else so you don’t feel like you’re overplanning. Here’s a list of our smarter tips for the planning stage of your trip (after you’ve picked where to go):
Smart: Know the visa requirements before you go
Smarter: Get started on visa processing early on
Many visas take a lot of time and requirements to process. Apply for the required visa for your destination ahead of time to avoid unnecessary stress and headaches. In many countries, an electronic visa will save you sooo much time during immigration (read: no long queues required).
Smart: Have a copy of your passport
Smarter: Have physical AND digital copies of your travel docs
Have printed copies of your passport, driver’s license, tickets, itinerary, etc. Leave one set with a trusted family member at home. Also backup all these travel documents digitally. Make sure you encrypt or password protect these digital copies! If you lose or misplace any of these documents, having these copies will help expedite the identification or even the recovery process.
Smart: Read travel guides about your destination
Smarter: Make your OWN itinerary
It’s totally okay to take inspiration from your favorite travel bloggers or maybe pick up a Lonely Planet guide about your destination. But you know what’s better? Personalizing your itinerary! Know what you like to do and include places where you can do those things in your travel plan.
Start with the trip duration since it pretty much dictates how many attractions you can fit on your itinerary. Brainstorm the best attractions, activities, etc. and choose the top three from that list! This ensures that you’ll fully enjoy each sight and you’re not jumping from one place to another just to check off a list.
You don’t have to go crazy with this! We recommend creating a simple Google Sheet where you can keep track of your travel plans and just modifying it each time you have a trip coming up.
Smart: Download and use Google Maps offline
Smarter: Plot your itinerary using Google My Maps (& download offline!)
This little known travel tip is one of our favorites! Did you know that you can make your own customized map with Google My Maps? You can plot your personal itinerary and even add layers for each category (restaurants, attractions, hotels, shopping areas, etc.) for more organization.
What we love about this is that it allows you to plan your trip more efficiently. You can group attractions or activities that are closer together so you don’t waste time in transport.
Want to learn more? Check out this in-depth guide by Michelle.
Smart: Get travel insurance
Smarter: Choose the right travel insurance for you
Travel insurance is a must...but it’s not a “one type fits all” kind of decision. The key is to find one that suits your travel style (and needs) so you don’t spend too much money on it. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind:
✅ Short Term vs Long Term Trip - Are you traveling for a few days, weeks or months? You might need more comprehensive travel insurance for a long term trip. Seriously, don’t risk it (or wing it) when it comes to travel safety. You’ve got lots of options with World Nomads, whether you’re traveling for the short term or long term.
✅ Credit Card Insurance - Check with your credit card company. If you book your flights with them, they usually offer coverage for flight delays, lost baggage, theft, etc. For a short trip, this type of travel insurance might be enough (considering your health insurance at home covers your other medical emergencies).
✅ Travel Medical Insurance - Make sure the travel insurance you’re getting covers medical care and emergencies. Give yourself that peace of mind!
✅ Other Nuisances - Traveling with your expensive camera and gear? Look into a policy that covers your photography items. Are you mostly renting vehicles during your trip? You might need an extra car rental damage protector.
Last Tip: Always read the fine print so you know exactly what your policy covers and what it doesn’t. Also keep a copy of your policy number and details handy so you can access them during an emergency!
Smart: Get the required shots (vaccines)
Smarter: Schedule vaccinations a month before your trip
Some types of vaccines require several shots AND your body also needs some time to build up immunity. Visit the CDC Health Site for detailed info on which specific vaccines you’ll need for the country you’re visiting.
Another reason why you need to schedule vaccinations early on is because they aren’t always cheap! If you have enough time, you can shop around for the most affordable vaccines. Private health clinics usually charge more so check with your local health department if you really want to save money.
Pro Tip: Scan your vaccine records and keep them in your encrypted documents file!
Smart: Inform your phone company about your trip
Smarter: Know your data options (and choose accordingly!)
Staying connected is a definite must for travelers. The good news: most mobile companies offer international data plans that aren’t super expensive. For $10 to $15 per day, you get internet access (with data cap), reasonable call and text rates. Here’s a list of some sample plans with T-Mobile.
For a short term trip, these rates don’t seem like a lot. The added convenience is a huge plus! You don’t need to get your phone unlocked or scramble to find a local sim card (which is a big hassle when you arrive at 2 am in your destination).
For a long term trip though, we recommend weighing out your other options. That $10 per day can rack up to hundreds of dollars in just a few weeks! Aside from getting a local sim card, you can look into getting a hybrid cellular plan like Google Fi or purchasing an international roaming sim card (great when you’re constantly moving from one country to another).
Last Tip: Make sure to turn off your phone’s data roaming when traveling abroad if you plan on relying on WiFi to get around.
Smart: Bring two credit (or debit) cards
Smarter: Get a separate Charles Schwab Debit card
Want to avoid those pesky ATM fees? Charles Schwab has a checking / debit account with NO monthly fees, NO foreign transaction fees and UNLIMITED rebates. The only downsides are that the bank requires a hard credit pull and it’s online only so you still need another local bank account where you can deposit cash from.
Pro Tip: Inform your bank about your travel plans before you go (include any layovers).
Smart: Download the apps that you will need for your trip
Smarter: Prep your phone before you go
Sure you got it all covered? You’ve downloaded your favorite Netflix shows and even created a Spotify playlist for your next trip...but you need a lot more than entertainment to survive. Of course Google Maps is a must but you’ll also need a translator app like Google Translate (don’t forget to download the languages you’ll need before you leave).
A currency converter app like XE is also handy especially if you’ll be traveling to multiple countries. If you’re concerned about security while accessing public WiFi, it’s also a good idea to subscribe to a VPN service so you can do banking and booking transactions without worries. Speaking of booking, download your favorite hotel, airfare, etc. booking sites as well!
Smart: Check your destination’s exit requirement
Smarter: Buy refundable airfare through Expedia (for proof of onward travel)
Not all countries require proof of onward travel but it’s best to play it safe. If you have indefinite plans, here’s one hack you can use. Go to Expedia and search for a flight from your destination to any other country. It doesn’t matter which one or how much the airfare costs since you’ll cancel it anyway. Scroll through the list and find a flight that offers free cancellation within 24 hours!
Finding flights is one of the most stressful parts of planning a trip. But once you’re through that hurdle, congrats! Here’s a list of our smarter tips for booking airfare:
Smart: Book your flight far in advance
Smarter: Be flexible when booking a flight
It helps to buy flight tickets in advance or during their prime booking window. But if you want to save even more, flexibility is the name of the game. If you don’t have a specific date in mind, look into different options rather than locking into a specific date. When searching for airfare, plug in your destination and look at the prices for a whole month. You can now see which are *actually* the cheapest flights and compare your options!
Smart: Book a flight with multiple layovers to save money
Smarter: A direct flight is sometimes worth it!
It’s not always wise to go for the cheaper option. Sometimes it’s better to book a direct flight to save time - especially if you’ve only got a few vacay days to spare. Don’t book a cheap flight just for the sake of saving money if time is a big concern.
Smart: Use an aggregator site to find cheap deals
Smarter: Don’t just rely on one site, use a variety and compare prices
Start looking for flights using your favorite travel site (our personal faves are Skyscanner and Kayak). Once you have a specific flight in mind, compare prices with other travel search engines. Also check the airline’s website if the price is the same. If it is, it’s best to book the flight through the airline to avoid the extra fees and hassles if ever you need to change or cancel your flight.
Pro Tip: Flight aggregator sites don’t list certain budget airlines so you need to manually check for their rates.
Smart: Book flights from a smaller airport
Smarter: Consider all the “cons” before flying into a smaller airport
In some places, there are smaller airports that serve budget airlines so the airfares are cheaper. But you need to consider the other little details - like how long will it take you to get to your destination from the airport? More importantly, how expensive will transportation be? The airfare difference might not be super worth it in the end.
Smart: Book flights in the local currency to save money
Smarter: Check for airfare variations by changing your location
Did you know that airfares can sometimes vary depending on where you book them from? The most popular example is low cost airline Norwegian. Set your location as Norway (instead of the US), pay in Norwegian kroner and you’ll find significant variations in ticket prices.
You might even see surprising fare differences if you try different locations (aside from your destination). Just make sure you convert the price into USD and use a credit card without foreign fees when booking the ticket. Also read the fine print! For example, Peruvian Airlines charges extra fees for non-residents who booked a ticket in the local currency.
Smart: Book separate flights to save money
Smarter: Lessen the risks when booking separate flights
Purchasing separate flights? The savings can be big but it’s a very RISKY move. Here are some ways to lessen the risks:
✅ Know the little details - Do the separate flights arrive and depart at the same airport? Do you need to clear customs and security again before the next flight? Is there a visa on arrival? What about checked luggage? If you’re booking different airlines, you might need to claim it in the carousel and check it in again before the next flight. All these little details will determine how much leeway you’ll need between the separate flights.
✅ Consider the airline’s on-time record - More of a concern for the first airline you’re booking. Check this link for the punctuality rating of different airlines!
✅ Allow lots of time between flights - Really the only thing you can control is the time between flights! Allow at least 6 to 8 hours of leeway between 2 flights. Or if you have spare time, include the city in your itinerary.
✅ Does travel insurance cover it? - Check if your insurance will cover your airfare in case you miss the flight due to delay. Most companies cover the costs but with conditions like a minimum delay of 3 hours and a minimum stopover of 6 hours between flights.
✅ Have an emergency plan - Booking separate flights is just risky business! Make sure you have an emergency plan in case everything goes downhill. Prepare some backup money or have your credit card ready. Insurance will reimburse the costs but not up front!
Smart: Ask the airline if they offer discounts for a family / group booking
Smarter: Book one passenger at a time
Some airlines offer discounts for group bookings (10 people or more). But if you’re booking for a group with less than that number, try searching for airfares one passenger at a time. Airlines usually divide seats into different “fare classes.” So even in economy, you’ll notice that seats have different pricings, some are cheaper while others are more expensive.
So let’s say you want to book 4 economy tickets...the cheapest fare class is at $350, the next is at $400 and so on. But there’s only one seat left at $350. The airline algorithm works in a way that it will only book all 4 seats under 1 fare class. So if there’s only 1 seat left at $350, the airline will book all 4 seats under the next fare class which is $400. If still the next fare class can’t accommodate your group, you’ll be booked onto the next one.
Try to book one passenger at a time and then compare the rate to the bulk pricing. After checkout, you can find and reserve seats so you’ll stay together.
Smart: Book an early or mid-morning flight
Smarter: Choose a flight schedule that works for you
Choose an early morning flight if you’re worried about the crowds or being delayed. A red eye flight is perfect for those who can sleep easily on the flight. Also works great when you’re flying from West to East since you’ll arrive daylight at your destination. #youdoyou
Smart: Use your miles when booking flights
Smarter: Calculate (and research) before using your miles
Always calculate the “cents per mile” before deciding on redeeming your points when booking a flight. A good baseline is around one cent per mile though if you plan and research well you can get more value than that! The best value usually comes from redeeming an international flight or upgrading into a business or first class ticket.
Airlines also categorize destinations by zones - for example, you pay the same amount of miles whether you’re flying from the US or Canada to Europe. If you plan and research well, you can find flights that are super worth your miles! Higher class rewards (business class) also give you more value per point so it’s worth looking into those when redeeming your miles.
Smart: Be prepared to pay a lot when changing your flight
Smarter: Sometimes it’s cheaper to book a new flight than change it
The most affordable airfares are usually non-refundable which means: if you cancel it, you get nothing back and if you want to change the date of your flight, you’ll have to pay a penalty fee. So what’s a budget traveler got to do?
The usual course of action is to call the airline (assuming you didn’t book it through a third party one), request the change of flight and pay the penalty fee plus the fare difference (if there’s any). You can also ask for an airline credit if you’re not yet ready to commit to a date.
Sometimes though, it’s way cheaper to book a new flight than change an existing flight. Considering that penalty fees range from $75 to $450, this option might be more practical.
Smart: Clear your cookies when searching for flights online
Smarter: Try different browsers when searching for flights
How do websites keep track of your browsing habits? Cookies! Not the yummy chocolate chip kind ones but the internet kind. Same goes for airline or aggregator websites.
It’s a well known phenomenon - the more you search for a specific route (especially on a span of several days), expect airfare prices to also increase. Clearing your cookies is a known way to avoid these price increases.
A better way is to try different browsers while logged in and also while incognito. There are lots of factors that could be affecting price fluctuations when booking airfare (not just cookies). Again, compare, compare, compare! That’s really the best advice when it comes to finding the cheap flights.
Accommodation is another important and non-negotiable part of any trip. You’ll need a comfy, safe haven after a busy day of walking and sightseeing. The wrong hotel or hostel can turn a fun trip into drab! So here are our smarter tips for choosing the best places to sleep in:
Smart: Read the reviews before booking a hotel
Smarter: Choose an accommodation based on your travel style
It’s always a good idea to check the reviews of other people regarding a specific hotel or hostel. But what most people forget to consider is their “personal needs.” Do you really need a pool when it’s the beach you’re after? If you’re always out and about, is a suite really necessary? Sometimes, a basic room is enough and there might be times that a luxury accommodation is necessary (like a honeymoon, anniversary, etc.).
Smart: Book a hotel during the off season
Smarter: Hotel rates vary depending on the day of the week
It’s no secret that hotels are cheaper in the off season. But not everyone can travel during that time of the year. The next best thing to do is to know which hotel types are less expensive depending on the day of the week. Yup, there’s such a thing!
Business hotels in big cities do most of their work during the weekdays. They lower their rates during the weekends to fill rooms. On the other hand, resorts and family hotels will have better rates during the weekdays since families usually travel during the weekend. Pick the right hotel type depending on your travel dates and you can save a whole lot!
Smart: Look for the best hotel for your budget
Smarter: Consider a premium room at a lower level hotel
For example, you have a budget of $150 per night for a hotel room. What most people do is to find the best hotel that they can get for this price. So probably the cheapest room in a 5-star hotel. A better strategy is to book a premium room or suite in a 4-star hotel. Look for a property that has the amenities you need and you’ll enjoy a more spacious room with a better view (with the same budget)!
Smart: Book through a third party website for cheaper rates
Smarter: Request the property to “price match”
Look into all sources - including the hotel’s website - before booking a room or property. There might be good deals from third party websites like Expedia, Travelocity or Booking.com but consider the disadvantages. You’ll be at the mercy of the third party website so if you have any complaints, want to upgrade your room or get a refund, the hotel won’t be able to help you.
If you find a good deal from a third party website, mention it to the hotel or property owner (through email or phone call). They will usually match the price or go even cheaper. In some cases, you have to fill in a form - like Mariott’s Best Rate Guarantee - so make sure you have the link to the website with the lower rate.
Smart: Take a screenshot of your hotel’s reservation page
Smarter: Keep a printout of your hotel’s reservation page
A hard copy printout is the BEST proof of your hotel reservation. It’s super useful to dispute amenities that you want to use or if the hotel suddenly sends you packing away because of “overbooking.” Also a printout is way more convenient and isn’t reliant on your phone’s battery.
Smart: Find the cheapest deals for a luxury hotel
Smarter: Look for luxury hotels that are in ‘soft opening’
Want to stay in a luxury hotel but it’s out of your budget? Here’s one hack but it requires a bit of research: find a luxury hotel that is still in its soft opening phase. They usually price their premium rooms at a lower rate to attract guests. You can find such hotels through industry websites or a dedicated service like Be The First.
Keep in mind that there will be a few minor issues - some amenities might not be available, the staff will be slower or inexperienced, etc. But if it’s still worth the savings, why not?
Smart: Stay loyal to one hotel brand to earn status
Smarter: Consider ‘perks’ vs ‘savings’
It takes a lot of dedication staying loyal to one hotel chain. If you’re a business traveler (who probably stays in hotels more than 10 times a year), then it might be worth it. But if you travel just a few times a year, these hotel loyalty ‘perks’ might not be so worth it. After all, you need to earn many points before you can even start enjoying loyalty perks from hotel chains.
So before you sign up for a new credit card or a hotel membership program, ask yourself if it’s really worth the trouble. Or would you rather take the savings you can get now? Fortunately, there are lots of other options to save on accommodation - hostels, Airbnb, home swapping, etc. You can still earn points if you use a dedicated credit card or if you use an OTA like Hotels.com.
Smart: Take advantage of hotel promotions (5th Night Free)
Smarter: Price each night separately before booking
If you’re staying more than two nights in a property, try this awesome hack...instead of booking all nights in one reservation, book them separately. So if you’re planning on staying from October 25 to October 28, book individual nights from October 25 to 26, then 26 to 27 and 27 to 28. There are some advantages to doing this:
✅ Leaves some room for flexibility - If there’s a sudden change in your travel plans, you can easily cancel separate ‘individual’ bookings and incur lower penalty charges.
✅ More savings - Hotels are supposed to charge multiple bookings on an average per night rate but that doesn’t always happen. You might get charged the highest rate for all nights if you book them all at the same time.
✅ Earn more loyalty points - A multiple night booking single reservation is considered a single stay = single point. Multiple reservations are considered separate stays = more points!
When you reach the hotel, inform the front desk about the separate reservations so they can merge it into one and you won’t need to check in or check out for each booking.
Smart: Sign up with your hotel’s loyalty program or newsletter
Smarter: Wait until check in before signing up for a hotel loyalty program
If you’re traveling more than 10 times a year, then it’s a good idea to sign up for a loyalty program. But wait until you check in before signing up! Front desk might feel a bit generous and give you a special perk on the spot (like a room upgrade).
Smart: Reserve & book a room two months in advance
Smarter: Keep checking for price drops even after you’ve booked a room
Room rates for the same date change a lot. It’s wise to book your room in advance but it’s smarter to keep checking the website for price drops. Or call the property a month before your trip to see if they can lower the rate especially if there’s any promotions or discounts. They will usually change to the lower rate if you ask nicely.
Smart: Book two hotel rooms instead of a family room
Smarter: Book an Airbnb if traveling with a large family
Traveling with a family of four or more members? You can save money by booking an Airbnb. Plus, you’ll have more amenities like a kitchen and laundry room which can save you a few more bucks. There’s also more space for toddlers to run around!
Here comes the not so fun part: packing! While packing is not the best part of traveling, it’s still very important. Below are some tips on what to pack and how to pack for your next trip.
Smart: Create a packing list
Smarter: Download ANY of our free packing lists
Save yourself the stress by downloading any of our free packing lists. We’ve got you covered whether you’re traveling on a weekend getaway, a long term trip, European trip, cruise, etc. The best part? They are ALL ready to download and print! #yourewelcome
Smart: Choose a robust luggage option
Smarter: Choose a robust but lightweight luggage option
What makes a great luggage? Durability, correct dimensions… And don’t forget that its weight counts too! Don’t just rely on what’s indicated on the tag, weigh it on a scale to be extra sure. Looking for suggestions? Here’s our list of recommended suitcases including backpacks and duffle bags.
Smart: Stick to a color palette for your clothes
Smarter: Stick to a dark color palette for your outfits
Packing clothes around a color scheme makes outfit planning way easier and less stressful. But here’s a smarter tip: pick a dark color palette so you can mix and match more clothes. Bonus: A black or navy palette hides stains better!
Smart: Plan your outfits in advance
Smarter: Consider the weather + activities when planning outfits
When picking your outfits, consider two things - the local weather & the activities you’re planning on doing. Because really, what’s the point in packing hiking boots or heels if you’re not planning to use them? Also learn about the local customs, taboos and rules on what’s the appropriate clothing to wear so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Smart: Roll your clothes to save space
Smarter: Use a mix of rolling and folding
Are you on the rolling or folding camp? The good news is you don’t have to choose between the two. Rolling works best for clothes that don’t wrinkle as much like cotton shirts, dresses and lightweight bottoms like leggings. Folding works best for jeans, jackets, sweaters, etc.
Smart: Organize with packing cubes
Smarter: Organize with CLEAR packing cubes
It’s a MUST to organize with packing cubes. But what kind? Of course clear packing cubes! EzPacking’s clear, see-through cubes make packing a breeze. No messy mesh to deal with, super structured design to prevent wrinkling and lots of fun colors to choose from. Here’s how you can use our different size cubes for an #OrganizedSuitcase:
✔️ Extra Small Cube - Works as a TSA Approved Liquids Bag for your 3 oz. toiletries. Also the perfect size for packing medicines, cords, chargers and other tiny travel items.
✔️ Small Cube - For organizing undies and socks, also works as a clear pouch for larger size toiletries and cosmetics.
✔️ Medium Cube - Can fit up to 15 lightweight tops like shirts and blouses.
✔️ Large Cube - Best cube size for organizing bulky clothing items like jeans, pants and sweaters.
If you’re a carry on only traveler, our Starter Set is perfect for you! It includes one each of our cube sizes. Checking a larger suitcase? Our Complete Bundle includes two sets of each cube size plus other packing accessories (laundry bag, two shoe bags and folding board set). Choose the two color option on checkout if you’re sharing a suitcase!
Smart: Bring a variety of shoes
Smarter: Bring 2 pairs of shoes (+ the one you’re wearing!)
Shoes are heavy and take up a lot of space. Limit the pairs you’re bringing into two - plus the one you’re going to wear on the flight. A comfy pair of walking shoes or sandals, gym shoes (if you’re planning on working out) and cute dressy heels or flats. Wear the heaviest pair on the flight to save space and weight!
Smart: Stick to the basics
Smarter: Make some ‘smart swaps’
Throw in that extra dress in case you end up going to dinner somewhere nice. Or those three lipstick shades because why not? Just remember to cut down on something else to make room for your special ‘extras.’ A little bit of compromise is the key to lighter luggage.
Smart: Use a ziplock bag for your 3 oz liquids
Smarter: Use a TSA Approved Toiletries Bag
Want to breeze through TSA inspection like a PRO? Invest in our TSA Approved Toiletries Pouch and you’re golden. It can fit up to 10 of your 3 oz containers, has a clear design and a super convenient pull handle. Plus, it’s way more durable than a ziplock bag and you can reuse it every time you travel.
Smart: Don’t pack multiples
Smarter: Pack items that do double duty
Make this your new rule of thumb: Every item in your bag has to have two or more uses. Bring yoga pants that you can wear for either sleeping or quick errands. How about makeup? Pack products that have multiple uses like a lip and cheek tint or dual ended brushes.
Smart: Don’t pack expensive items
Smarter: Don’t pack any item you can’t risk losing
Don’t bring expensive jewelry items or accessories. You’re not only risking losing them but they also make you an easy target for pickpockets. Likewise, don’t bring any items you don’t want to risk losing whether it’s a discontinued makeup product or something with sentimental value like a favorite stuffed toy.
Smart: Use plastic bags to cover dirty items
Smarter: Bring foldable laundry and shoe bags
Have a plan for your dirty travel items. Use a Travel Laundry Bag to keep dirty clothes contained and away from your clean ones. Or a Travel Shoe Bag to keep dirty shoes from contaminating your other clean items. Both of these travel organizers are foldable and don’t take up much space nor weight in your suitcase!
You’re getting closer and closer to your dream vacay… But first, you must go through that long haul flight! These smarter tips will help you breeze through airport chaos and enjoy (yup!) that economy flight.
Smart: Check in online as soon as your flight opens
Smarter: Allot ‘extra time’ if you can’t check in online
Checking in online is a must - it allows you to choose a seat, verify important booking details and lessens your risk of being bumped from the flight (if you check in early). But there are instances when remote check in isn’t possible (some international flights don't allow it or if you’ve been flagged for random check). So if that’s the case, just reach the airport earlier to allow time for personal check in.
Smart: Save digital copies of your boarding pass
Smarter: Have digital + printed copies of your boarding pass
Screenshot your boarding pass so you have a digital copy that doesn’t require data connection. Also have at least 2 printed copies in case you lose your phone or your battery dies out. It saves you both time and money! Yup, some airlines REQUIRE a printed copy and charge a fee for printing a boarding pass at their airport kiosk.
Smart: Get TSA Precheck
Smarter: Choose the ‘best’ Trusted Traveler Program for your needs
Here’s a mini checklist created by the DHS so you can choose the right program for you or your family. Also here’s our summary for the different programs to help you decide:
✔️ TSA Precheck - Provides expedited security screening at most US airports - no need to remove your shoes, liquids, electronics, etc. Costs $85 for 5 year membership. Best for those who travel domestically most of the time.
✔️ Global Entry - Provides expedited reentry into the US. Costs $100 for 5 year membership. Also includes TSA Precheck! Best for those who travel internationally 2 to 3 times a year ( or more).
✔️ Nexus - Provides expedited entry from Canada into the US. Also includes TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Downside is that there are only a few enrollment centers in the US. Costs $50 for 5 year membership.
✔️ Sentri - Provides expedited entry from Canada and Mexico into the US. Also includes TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Costs $122.50 for 5 year membership.
✔️ Bonus: CLEAR - Unlike the previous ones, CLEAR is a private program for an expedited security process. You can also use it to expedite the screening at select stadiums. Costs $179 per year.
Smart: Download the airline’s app
Smarter: Be familiar with the airline’s app
Download your airline’s app and learn about its awesome features which might come in handy later on. For example, Fly Delta allows you to rebook cancelled flights right from the app itself. United Airlines allows you to access in-flight entertainment through their app. You can even check the status of your flight from some apps and be updated about real time changes like delays or cancellations.
Smart: Check in early so you can choose your preferred seat/s
Smarter: Upgrade your ticket to get special ‘add-ons’
Some carriers, like American Airlines, allow you to reserve a seat for FREE at the time of your booking or when checking in. For these airlines, all you need to do is check in early to reserve your preferred seat. Other carriers don’t allow seat reservation for some types of tickets (basic economy or discounted). You can, however, upgrade your ticket into a special fare or opt to add in those extras that you need. Must do for a long haul flight!
Smart: Check what terminal you’re going to be in
Smarter: Study the airport map before you leave
Aside from knowing which terminal (or airline) you’re going to be in, don’t forget to study the airport map before you leave. You can figure out where to park, the best places to eat and other facilities you might need (breastfeeding area, family room, lounge, etc.). Knowing where the other terminals are and the different security lines will also come in handy!
Smart: Park at an economy airport lot to save money
Smarter: Consider Uber cost VS parking cost
Leaving for a long term trip? Fees can pile up even on an economy parking lot. So before you go, consider which will save you more money. If it’s a short term trip, airport parking is probably the most convenient option but it’s also the most expensive. There are economy parking lots as well which have lower rates than airport parking - but you’ll have to ride the shuttle to reach the terminal. If it’s a long term trip, you’re probably better off getting an Uber or Lyft. It’s going to be more convenient (and a lot cheaper!).
Smart: Keep a change of clothes in your carry on
Smarter: Keep all the ‘essentials’ in your carry on
Aside from the change of clothes, keep the most important items in your carry on. A kid’s favorite toy, travel documents, medications, keys, etc. Don’t forget to pack some toiletries as well (so you can freshen up after the flight).
Smart: Bring a travel pillow
Smarter: Create your own ‘Flight Kit’
Pack your flight essentials in a Small Cube. Think about the items that will make your economy flight more comfy (or fun)! So the usual - an eye mask, earbuds, scarf… Also other items that aren’t super common like compression socks, wipes, toothbrush / toothpaste, deodorant… Anything that will help you survive the flight!
Smart: Download some series / movies before your flight
Smarter: Have a variety of ‘entertainment’ options
Download some series, movies, podcasts or even music on your phone. Also bring things you can do on the flight that don’t require your phone. A good book, maybe some crossword puzzles, a Rubik's cube, etc. Your eyes will thank you after several hours into the flight.
Smart: Wear comfy clothes
Smarter: Create an ‘Airport Outfit’
Aside from wearing comfy clothes, make sure to:
✔️ Wear layers - Airports and planes are notoriously cold. You can always shed layers if it gets warm.
✔️ Get a belt without a metal buckle - So you don’t need to take it off for security.
✔️ Wear shoes without laces
✔️ Bring a jacket with pockets - Easy place to toss your wallet, keys, phone, etc. then put into the conveyor belt (easier to collect when they’re together in one place).
Smart: Be prepared for airport security
Smarter: Make use of time while waiting in line for airport security
Separate the electronics from your bag, as well as your TSA Approved Quart Size Bag, place small items in your jacket… Then it’s easier to just grab a bin and place the items here. The line will move quicker and the passengers behind you will be super thankful!
Smart: Have a luggage tag on your bag to identify it
Smarter: Attach a bright ribbon or scarf to your luggage
Snap a photo of each bag that you check in. Make sure to include important details including the items inside. You’ll need these photos in case your luggage is lost by the airline. It also helps to bring a unique luggage or attach something colorful in your bag so it’s not lost in a sea of black.
Smart: Board last so you can stretch and enjoy the space
Smarter: Board EARLY if you need to stow your bag in the overhead bin
Need overhead bin space? Board early so you can secure that space. Otherwise, you risk having your carry on bag gate checked. If there’s two (or more) of you flying, you can let the other person board early while you enjoy a bit of open space in the terminal.
Smart: Eat healthy snacks and hydrate
Smarter: Avoid certain foods and drinks before / during the flight
Want to reduce bloating (and flatulence) during your flight? Avoid certain types of foods - like broccoli, cauliflower, beans, dairy and salty foods. Similarly, avoid carbonated beverages like soda and beer - imagine those tiny little bubbles you’re sipping, going to your stomach, expanding and you know what comes next! Hydrate with lots of water or tea instead.
Smart: Set your clock to your destination time
Smarter: Adjust your sleep and meal times to destination time
Adjust your clock to your destination time a day or two before you leave. Then act according to that timezone! Works best if you also adjust your sleeping and eating times to your destination’s timezone. You can easily adjust to the new timezone and at the same time, avoid the effects of jet lag.
Smart: Charge all electronics before you leave
Smarter: Pack all chargers + a portable charger in your carry on
Don’t want your phone’s battery running out mid flight? Bring all necessary chargers in your carry on. Most aircraft have in seat power outlets you can use to juice up. Sometimes, they’re hard to find or use though so having a backup portable charger is also a must! Make sure it’s under the ICAO limit which is 100 Wh.
Smart: Walk up and down the aisle every 1 to 2 hours
Smarter: Do some in flight exercises
Cramped cabin space? No worries! These in flight exercises are super discreet and helpful to prevent DVT. You can easily do them from the comfort of your own seat!
Smart: Check the distance from the airport to the city
Smarter: Have a plan for airport transfer
You don’t want to land in your destination airport at 2 AM without any plans on how to reach your Airbnb or hotel. Research ahead of time about the best transportation options - taxi, Uber or train? Find out how much it will cost (roughly) and also how long will the ride be. Save yourself the hassle and stress!
You’re finally at your dream destination! You have everything planned out and your itinerary is all set up. Here are some more tips so you’ll have a smooth and fun trip:
Smart: Join a guided tour
Smarter: Consider when to book a guided tour
Guided tours are generally more expensive and super hectic. They try to fit as many attractions in one day. Despite these cons, a guided tour is beneficial when:
✅ You have limited time - Traveling only once a year? Or have just enough time for a quick getaway? A guided tour can give you a general overview of a place if you don’t have much time. It covers a variety of places so you can get the most out of your trip.
✅ You don’t have time to plan your trip - When you book a guided tour, everything is included - transportation, attractions, activities and sometimes, even the meals! Great option for those new to traveling or older travelers who just don’t have the energy to pre-plan things.
✅ Public transportation is not an option - Going to a rural place or anywhere else where public transportation isn’t that developed? A guided tour takes the stress out of traveling - you don’t need to drive or book an Uber every time you need to go.
Smart: Skip the most popular tourist spots
Smarter: Find out the ‘best’ time to visit tourist spots
There’s a reason why the Eiffel Tower is visited by over 7 million people yearly. Or why the Angkor Wat accounts for 50% of international tourist visits to Cambodia each year.
Yes, these places are extremely crowded and no, you don’t have to skip them. Before you go, find out the most strategic time to visit popular tourist spots. Often that’s around lunch time or early afternoon - when tourist groups head out to eat or want to avoid the heat.
Smart: Carry some emergency cash
Smarter: Stash emergency cash in different places
Carry some USD or local currency with you in case of an emergency. Stash the cash in various places - hidden in your shoes, day bag or a secret pocket. In a worst case scenario, this money will come in handy to pay for food, a hostel or to call your family home for a wire transfer.
Smart: Save the address of your hotel or Airbnb in your phone
Smarter: WRITE down the address of your hotel or Airbnb
After a long day of using Google Maps and taking pictures, your smartphone’s battery could end up dead. Take it old school and write down your hotel or Airbnb’s address on a piece of paper then keep it tucked safely in your wallet. You don’t need to worry about memorizing the address or communicating with the taxi driver if he speaks a different language.
Smart: Learn basic phrases in the local language
Smarter: Learn how to say ‘hello’, ‘yes/no’, ‘bathroom’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language
These phrases are very easy to learn yet super important. The locals will appreciate that you tried and will make communicating way easier. In some developing countries, you really need to learn how to say ‘no, thank you’ especially if you’re planning on visiting crowded markets.
Smart: Read reviews before going to a restaurant
Smarter: Filter restaurant reviews to local language
When reading restaurant reviews, use the filter option to see reviews in the local language. Or if that’s not possible, see how many locals have reviewed the restaurant. If the locals love it, there’s a good chance you’ll love the food there too!
Smart: Visit the attraction’s website to confirm admission hours
Smarter: Call ahead to confirm admission hours
Double check admission hours before going to the attraction. You can go to their website, social media page or the best option - just call the day of your visit to make sure they’re open. Some attractions may close due to renovation, a local holiday or staff shortage.
Smart: Withdraw from a local ATM
Smarter: Withdraw money from the ATM of a ‘major bank’
Don’t exchange money at home or in the airport. Use a local ATM in your destination for better rates - bonus if your card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees! The trick is to find an ATM operated by a ‘major’ bank preferably one that’s inside so you don’t risk getting your info stolen. Also try to withdraw a significant amount at once so you’re not consumed by transaction fees.
Smart: Pick only a few places to see or things to do each day
Smarter: Pick ‘one main’ place to see or thing to do each day
So you have your travel itinerary all planned out… Don’t worry if your schedule isn’t exactly according to what you have planned! Make it a point to have ‘one main’ attraction to see or activity to do each day. Then visit nearby attractions that aren’t as popular and spend the rest of the day just exploring or relaxing. You’ll be less stressed and not rushing from one place to another just to complete a checklist.
Smart: Get a tourist pass for buses, trains, etc.
Smarter: Book a tourist pass for buses, trains, etc. LOCALLY
Consider booking a tourist pass if you’re planning to use public transportation. It can save you from a few bucks to a couple hundred dollars. If you’re going to multiple cities in Europe, there’s the Eurail Pass. In Japan, you can get a JR Pass, which you can use an unlimited number of times for the JR Lines for several days.
However, DON’T book tourist passes online or in advance. They’re much cheaper when bought in person, like at the train station.
Smart: Get discounted combo tickets to save money
Smarter: Find out what’s included in a combo ticket
Before purchasing a combo ticket, know what attractions are included and which of these places you’d actually like to see. Consider how much you will save and if it’s worth it. Or if the combo ticket includes perks like ‘skip the line’ which can be handy on crowded attractions.
Smart: Students should carry a valid school ID
Smarter: Students can look into getting an ISIC
Museums offer special discounts for students. Your regular school ID might not be valid if there’s no photo or expiration date indicated. Generally, ISIC is better recognized and accepted, especially in Europe. Plus, students can get awesome deals on theme parks and flight tickets booked through STA Travel.
Smart: Bring a day bag
Smarter: Pack the essentials in your day bag
When you go out, take only what you really need. Limit the amount of cash and cards you carry with you. If your hotel has a safe, you can leave your valuables there for safekeeping. Here are other essentials you’ll need in your day bag:
✔️ Bottled Water
✔️ Smartphone + Portable Charger
✔️ ID / Passport (Photocopy)
✔️ Wallet / Cash / Card (Also a ‘dummy wallet’)
✔️ Small Umbrella
✔️ Map / Compass
Smart: Leave a buffer day in between
Smarter: Add in 2 buffer days for the trip
Travel can be unpredictable - you have to plan for delays, jet lag, sick days, etc. Adding in buffer days is super important. Allot 1 day for when you arrive to adjust for jet lag or to anticipate a flight delay. Then another 1 day for when you return to ‘prepare’ you for work (or life) again.
Smart: Have a backup credit card / cash
Smarter: Back up EVERYTHING in multiple places
Have two separate credit cards - one on your person and another hidden in your hotel. Same goes with money! Also have a copy of important documents and backup your photos (use the Cloud or an external hard drive).
Smart: Learn the local customs or norms
Smarter: This resource provides a quick overview of customs around the world
Learn a little bit about the local customs or norms of the country you’re visiting. For instance, in Japan, slurping your noodles is okay and a sign that you’re enjoying your meal. In some countries, meals include service charge and tipping isn’t necessary.
This one’s a good resource - just choose the country and it will show info about the local dining norms, etiquette, etc.
Smart: Buy a souvenir from local markets
Smarter: Buy a souvenir that you will actually use
If you really want a souvenir that will remind you of your awesome trip, purchase an item that is both practical and useful (instead of something that will just end up collecting dust on the shelf). A blanket, pillowcase, bracelet, bottle opener, etc., these items aren’t only cheap but can be used in everyday life.
Pro Tip: Save souvenir shopping when you’re getting closer to the end of your trip so you’re not carrying heavy things around while touring or wandering.
Smart: Try the street food
Smarter: Exercise caution when trying street food
Delicious food is definitely a part of an awesome trip. But exercise a bit of caution and remember to:
✅ Make sure that food is cooked in front of you
✅ Go where the crowds are - High turnover of food = fresh food!
Don’t forget to put health and safety in the forefront… With these tips, you can enjoy your trip without worrying about getting sick or scammed:
Smart: Bring a First Aid Kit
Smarter: Create your own First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is a must - but it’s best to create your own so you can tweak the items according to your travel style or needs! If you need help, we’ve created a guide on how to make your own first aid kit.
Smart: Bring enough supplies of prescription meds
Smarter: Pack prescription meds in their original bottles
To avoid being questioned, pack prescription meds in their original bottles AND place in your carry on. Don’t forget your doctor’s note in case you need to replenish your supplies overseas!
Smart: Know the risks associated with your destination
Smarter: Register at STEP and be informed about your destination
STEP is a free service that allows travelers to sign up and enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy. It’s super easy and is an added ‘security’ - in case something happens, the US Embassy knows how to contact you. Plus, you can receive alerts about important activities in high risk areas.
Smart: Learn your destination’s emergency number
Smarter: Check this list for your destination’s emergency number
This list has the emergency numbers for various countries. Check your destination’s emergency number, add them to the contacts in your phone and save!
Smart: Carry a safety whistle
Smarter: Carry a safety personal alarm
It’s louder than a whistle and also legal to carry on a plane. Always carry it on your person or in your bag when you’re going out!
Smart: Send your itinerary to a trusted family member
Smarter: Keep your loved ones informed at least once a day!
Keep your loved ones in the loop! Tell them when you’re checking into a hotel, where you’re going, when will you go back, etc. Check in with them at least once a day - to keep them updated and also to let them know that everything is going smoothly.
Smart: Become familiar with local scams
Smarter: Know the local scams and reduce your risk
Read on local scams before you go. By then, you’ll know which places to be wary of and avoid being a victim! For example, if you know the average taxi fare to and from the airport, you’re less likely to be scammed by drivers. This is a common one wherein they don’t use the meter and quote twice or thrice the original cost if they know you’re a tourist.
In Bangkok, there’s the ‘Grand Palace scam’ where they try to trick you into thinking that it’s closed and then whisk you off another attraction. Or how about the ‘free bracelet’ scam in Paris? Travel forums and groups are your best friends for this!
Smart: Keep your insurance info handy
Smarter: Keep your insurance info + receipts handy
Keep printed and digital copies of your travel insurance info. Also provide copies to a trusted person who isn’t traveling with you so they can arrange for claims in case you need it. Don’t forget that you’ll need evidence or proofs when filing a claim. So keep all receipts in handy too - hotel reservations, transportation tickets, etc.
Smart: Take every opportunity to charge your phone
Smarter: Don’t use a ‘Charging Station’
Plugging into a public charging station is super risky. You don’t know if it’s safe - someone could’ve hacked into it and installed malware to download information from your phone. Your best option is to charge your phone before you leave OR bring a portable charger. You can also bring your own charger and plug into a socket directly instead of into a charging station.
Smart: Bring a theft proof bag
Smarter: Be mindful of your bag especially valuables
Having a slash proof bag is an added security… But honestly, nothing beats being aware and keeping a sharp eye on your belongings. Don’t place your bag anywhere you can’t see it. Keep your smartphone, wallet, cash, etc. in close proximity, if not always in your bag or pocket. If there’s a noise, someone asks you a question, any distraction, make sure you still keep a keen eye on your belongings.
Smart: Look like a local
Smarter: Look like you know what you’re doing
Be confident and make it look like you know what you’re doing. Walk with purpose, don’t read a map while walking and act like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t). If you really need to double check your route, go inside a restaurant or shop.
Smart: Carry your valuables all the time
Smarter: Only carry the valuables you need for the day
Only carry items that you need for the day like your smartphone, some cash and main credit card. Leave all the extra credit card, cash, laptop, tablet, etc. behind, locked in your hotel’s safety vault. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb, ask the host if there’s a locker you can use.
Smart: Avoid doing anything risky
Smarter: Know your limits
Partying with fellow travelers? Don’t let your guard down and control how much you drink. Before going on a hike, assess your fitness levels so you’ll know for sure that you can survive it.
It’s okay to step out of your comfort zone and be adventurous at times. But you have to know your limits. Always keep in mind that your SAFETY should be the number 1 priority.
Smart: Have a backup plan
Smarter: Create a Plan A, Plan B or Plan C
What if you get robbed? Sure, you stashed some emergency money in your hotel. But what if you lose your passport and smartphone too? Another scenario, what if your rental car breaks down or your Uber fails to get you… what’s your plan of action?
Don’t just have a backup plan - create different ones, have Plan A, Plan B or if all else fails, Plan C. Imagine every possible worst case scenario and plan for what you’ll do in the event it happens.
Hope this list of smart(er) tips got you excited for your next trip. Traveling doesn’t have to be hard or scary. Just remember that being prepared and planning well can go a looong way.
Any more travel tips you can think of? Share them in the comments below or send us an email!
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