Monday, February 10, 2014

Pro Travel Tips

No matter how much you travel, tips always come in handy. Someone has thought of something you haven't. (If you have a tip not listed, make sure to leave it in the comments of this post!)

If you're trying to get the best airfare, when you book can make as big a difference as when you fly. Check out our post on getting a great flight deal. 

The results of a recent FareCompare study offer some very specific advice: For domestic airline tickets, the best time to buy is Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. ET. 

If you've ever done a flexible airfare search, you know just how dramatically fares vary based on the day of the week. Choose your days wisely and you can save hundreds of dollars. 

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the least-popular travel days for domestic flights. For Europe flights, seats are in lower demand on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. So if you're looking for a deal, you might find that flying on these lower-demand days means better prices for you.
Since air traffic drops off significantly late at night, early morning offers most airlines and airports a clean slate from which to launch a new day of on-time departures. And while these best intentions often don't make it to lunchtime, booking an early-morning flight can mean avoiding the worst delays of the day.
Sign up for alerts that deliver the best current flight deals to your inbox. Customize your route and dates, and you'll be able to keep tabs on price drops and quickly find out when prices are on the rise. 

Rolling your clothes is the best way to fit the most in a suitcase. Plus, rolled clothes tend to wrinkle less than folded clothes. Use this interactive packing list to help you out if you need packing tips.

Never pack something that you haven’t worn before. Otherwise you’ll find your new shoes too uncomfortable, your new jacket too flimsy, your new underwear too wedgie-prone.Bring a travel first aid kit with the following: ibuprofen (or other pain killer), decongestant, NyQuil, bandages, hydrocortizone cream. You will not believe how often it will come in handy.  

Bring a hat. In the winter, a knit hat will keep you warm and take up little room. In the summer, a brimmed hat will keep the sun off your face. In either case, it will save you when your straightening iron doesn't work in the trapezoidal electrical socket you found in your hotel room. You will never wear that second dressy outfit, so stop packing it. Most trips, you won’t even wear the first dressy outfit (but you should still pack that one). If you hate wearing something at home, you will hate wearing it even more on a trip.

Things I can't travel without:
(I've provided the links to where I buy them aka: cheap!)

My Microsoft Surface - on the go tablet, cheaper and more versatile than an iPad. 
Water Shoes - beach walks, tide pool exploring, comfy, quick drying, I wear these everywhere!
Repel 100% Deet - I'm not a fan of bugs, or bug bites. This stuff works.

Aveeno Sunscreen - I don't like sunburns, and skin cancer is scary! Be safe. This sunscreen I've used for years and was recommended by my Dermatologist.

 Pack those god-awful tennis shoes you only wear “jogging” (a.k.a., “to the store to buy ice cream”) At some point during your trip, you won’t care what you look like. You will only care about being comfortable. For me, that point is “Day 2.” 

In your carry-on always pack your meds, one change of clothing, a bathing suit, wallet/purse and your important documents. You never know when your luggage will be lost. Keep this stuff with you.  If you are starting a brand-new book on your flight, bring at least one other form of entertainment with you, because that brand-new book might suck. Toilet paper is not a given in many parts of the world. Which is why those little packs of tissues they sell at drugstores are a godsend. 

If you've forgotten something, check with the hotel before running to a drugstore. Most housekeeping departments carry toothbrushes, combs, sewing kits, shower caps, and disposable razors that they will give you free of charge. Tip your hotel housekeeping staff. (A good rule is to leave them about $2 U.S./day.) While you can leave it every day on the pillow, most staff is instructed not to move money or personal items, so they might not pick it up. If this is the case, just leave it in a prominent spot when you check out.
Flimsy shower cap or custom shoe cover? You decide. In every suitcase, there's a constant battle between dirty and clean items. Score a victory for fresh-smelling shirts and dirt-free trousers by keeping your shoes contained in a shower cap. Place them in, soles down, and let the shower cap's elastic band cradle the shoes so that any dirt, grease, or unidentified muck stays safely tucked away inside the plastic pouch. Depending on the type and size of your shoes, you may need more than one shower cap, but housekeeping is usually pretty generous with them.

Can you pack a pocketknife, disposable lighter, or blueberry pie in your carry-on? Which airports use TSA PreCheck? What is TSA PreCheck? Download the Transportation Security Administration's award-winning My TSA app and you'll never wonder about the vagaries of the 3-1-1 rule again.
Additionally, the app provides general information found on the TSA's website, including your airport's on-time performance, its weather, and up-to-the-minute flight delay information.

No passport? No worries! If you are longing for a long-distance getaway but don't have a passport? You can still jet off to a faraway island overseas. Consider Puerto Rico, officially an unincorporated territory of the United States; the U.S. Virgin Islands, mere minutes from Puerto Rico by plane; Northern Mariana Islands, a collection of Micronesian islands governed by the United States since the Battle of Saipan in 1944; Guam, which is home to a heavy U.S. military presence; and American Samoa, a collection of five volcanic islands and two atolls between Fiji and the Cook Islands. 

Passport tip: Do not assume your passport is valid until it expires. You checked the expiration date on your passport to make sure it precedes the date of your flight home, but you forgot that certain countries—China, Russia, and the U.A.E., among others—­require that passports be valid for six months past the date of your flight home, and 26 European nations require that passports be valid for three months past. Check the State Department’s Web site for entry and exit requirements for the destination you’re headed to next (

Early to the airport before your flight? Did they tell you to arrive 2 hours early and now you have over an hour before your flight? Long connection or layover? Delayed flight? Comfortable chairs and soothing music, plus free snacks (no expensive airport food!), drinks, and Wi-Fi are waiting for you in the airline airport lounge. While annual passes to airline and airport lounges tend to be pricey, a day pass can be a worthwhile expense, especially if you've got a long wait or simply want a quiet place to relax before your flight. As an added stress buster, airline-affiliated lounges usually staff a desk where you can make flight changes without needing to stand in a long line at a customer-service counter. Don’t take foreign guests to an Americanized version of their cuisine. I know I shouldn't generalize, but no Italian has ever wanted to go to the Olive Garden. 

Fruits and vegetables are great for you, but in places where the water isn't safe to drink, raw produce is best avoided. Crops are often watered with tainted water, and raw ingredients are often cleaned with unsafe tap water. While cooking kills off pathogens, salad ingredients and other raw fruits and vegetables don't have that layer of safety. Going somewhere with clean drinking water? Pack a reusable water bottle that clips on to your bag.  In an age where the bottled stuff costs $7, you’ll save a ton, too.
Wherever you  are, wherever you are going, bring snacks. This will save you in almost any situation. 

  • Cold meat platters, cheese, buffet foods and unsealed mayonnaise are often home to rampant bacteria.

  • Seafood dishes are notorious for causing intestinal problems, as fish accumulate contaminants from a wide variety of sources. Smaller fish tend to be safer. Fish organs and shellfish (such as clams, mussels and oysters) are usually best avoided.

  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt. Check labels for evidence of pasteurization; most canned milk is safe.

  • Nuts and other shelled foods are usually a good choice.

  • Coffee and tea are generally harmless, but it's best to take your hot drinks black, without potentially contaminated milk. Cream from sealed containers, if pasteurized, is usually safe.

  • Condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup and salad dressings are safest in sealed packages.

  • Order portions "well done" or at least "medium well," and eat them only if served hot. Be careful especially of runny eggs and sandwiches with lots of raw vegetables.

  • Starbucks addicts, rejoice! Here's a clever way to avoid having to pay a commission fee to convert that last bit of foreign cash to U.S. dollars at the end of a vacation. First, pick up a reloadable Starbucks Card before your international trip. Then, if you have leftover money in the local currency when you’re on your way home, use it to reload your card at the Starbucks location in your international airport.

    The money you'll save on commission fees might just cover that triple-shot-no-foam-cinnamon-soy-mocha-Frappuccino with extra extra sprinkles.Are you going to need your library card when you're 6,000 miles from your local branch? Probably not. Before you leave, take the time to go through your wallet and take out everything except the necessities (a universal credit card and a backup, an identification card, an insurance card, etc.). Not only will it help you travel lighter, but if your wallet does get lost or stolen, you'll have less to replace.

    If you disregard all other advice about carrying money when traveling, take this tip to heart: Whenever possible, divvy up your travel cash and even credit cards into multiple safe spots. If you've got all your money in one place, it only takes one time for a thief to totally wipe you out. You can even apply this idea when you're out and about by keeping some money attached to your person and some in a bag you carry. That way, if your bag gets lost or snatched, you'll still have enough to get to a police station or back to your hotel. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket, and never carry your purse on just your shoulder. Make photocopies of your passport and leave one with friends and another tucked into your bag. Or, better yet, scan your passport and email a copy to yourself. Contact the embassy and letting them know the dates of your trip. Or at the very least, have their contact info on hand. Call your credit card company before you leave and put a travel alert on your card. This will prevent them from freezing your account when they see charges in another city/state/country. While you’re at it, jot down their international customer service number...just in case.

    Make sure you also check the Traveler's Checklist on the Department of State website. Also check their Travel Warnings page before planning or leaving for your trip.