Whether you’ll be traveling in the next few weeks or have plans for a trip over the holidays, it’s always a good time for travel tips.
NO ROOM FOR AIR
Sure, you can find cheap plane tickets, but you’ll pay many extra fees if you are not aware. Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free carry-on bag. The way to win this game is to make the most of that one fee-free bag using the sit-and-zip packing method to create more room in your suitcase.
Get a stack of gallon-size zip-close bags. Take an item of clothing and fold it lengthwise. Roll it up tightly like a tube. Put it in a zip bag. Do not zip it closed. Instead, place the open bag on a chair or bed and sit hard on it to expel the air. While still seated, zip the bag to seal. Note: This works best for clothing not prone to wrinkles — synthetics like nylon, polyester and rayon.
START AT THE CORNERS
Imagine your luggage as a grocery bag. Whether you have a rolling suitcase or a duffle, weight should be evenly distributed so as not to become too top-heavy. That is why bulkier items such as shoes should be tucked into the bottom corners and sides of the luggage.
User-review sites have changed how most people plan their travel, giving us an enormously useful tool for evaluating hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and the like. Tripadvisor is the big kahuna, with more than 250 million candid reviews, mostly of hotels, with those of less traditional lodging like B&Bs, villas and private homes, as well as restaurants and attractions.
GET ON THE BUS, GUS
Traveling by bus is not as uncivil as it used to be. So, before you rush to book a flight or train for short hops, check out the local bus service. These days, buses are often new and clean, with unexpected perks like free Wi-Fi and outlet access, for starters. And no funky bus smell.
AVOID THIRD-PARTY AGENTS
You’ll be pointed to dozens of third-party agents like Booking.com and Expedia when you search for low fares and hotel rooms. Great. Learn all you can, and should you come across a deal you are ready to book, go directly to that airline’s or hotel’s site and book direct. Why? Let’s say your flight is canceled. When you get in line to rebook using your existing ticket, you’ll be so angry when that airline’s reservations agent tells you to call that third party because the airline has no obligation to get you on the next flight. Been there, regretted that — horribly. And getting a refund from that third party after being forced to buy a new ticket? Good luck.
USE ‘EM, DON’T LOSE ‘EM
There’s no advantage in holding on to frequent-flyer miles, as there’s no way of knowing whether they’ll be worth anything down the road. While all airlines seem to have a “life of the program” exit strategy (they can kill the program any time), miles typically expire within 18 months — though that deadline may be deferred if you keep your account active, either by flying or using an airline-reward credit card that is linked to your account. So, get a free flight or golf clubs, electronics, magazines or anything else the airline lets you trade miles for while you can.
PACK EAR PLUGS, EYE MASK
This travel tip should actually be first on the list. A good set of earplugs muffles the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns and more — a traveler’s best friend. An eye mask will help ease jet lag as you adjust to a new time zone — both onboard and at your arrival.
GET LOST ON PURPOSE
If you want to see the parts of town where real people live and work, go visit them — on foot, without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel and inquire at the front desk about areas of the city to avoid. You never know what amazing things you’ll find around the next corner. You can catch a taxi back if needed. Just pick a direction and start walking.
Bring your own everything! It’s safer than putting yourself at the airline’s mercy. Bring a travel pillow, a blanket or sweater and headphones — and, of course, food. While onboard selections are iffy, assume the quality will be meager.
PATIENCE IS ESSENTIAL
Patience is my top travel tip. Don’t sweat what you cannot control. Life is much too short to travel while angry and annoyed. Did you miss your flight? No worries, there will be another one. ATM out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip to the next town to find another machine. Call it an unplanned adventure. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
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