It may seem a little early to be thinking about summer vacations and travel plans, but you’re going to daydream about far off places anyway so might as well do it smartly. Add these tips to your daydreaming and you’ll be sure to enrich your next adventure!
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Take advantage of travel apps like Skyscanner and Hopper that allow you to watch specific flights. They also alert you when it’s the best time to purchase your ticket. Skiplagged, another travel app, is also a good place to check for cheaper flights. The app (or website) finds you the cheapest fare by looking for hidden city tickets. Best part is they’re free to download onto your phone allowing you to mindlessly check and re-check during work. Also, follow some of your favorite airlines on social media. You’ll get notifications when they post deals. Keep in mind, as well, that sometimes it’s cheaper to buy one-way tickets instead of roundtrip tickets for domestic travel.
YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US
When I’m traveling on a long flight–or any flight for that matter–I’m not keen becoming bff’s with the other travelers sitting next to me. My time in that seat is my time and I like to spend it in an introverted way. If that time is also your quiet time, be sure to bring along something to keep you busy. Even if you don’t stay busy, the key is to have something to do before, during, and just after takeoff. It can be a book, a journal, your kindle, or even work. The bonus is that you actually get something done during that “free time.” However, if you enjoy meeting strangers while traveling, feel free to be the chattiest Cathy you can be!
If you’re traveling with someone else, sit on either side of the middle seat leaving it empty. If the flight isn’t completely full, people will be less likely to sit in between the two of you and more likely to go look for another seat that isn’t the middle seat (who really wants to sit in the middle?). Melo and I did this on an almost full flight from the east coast back to the west coast and we were able to have the entire row to ourselves. Another trick is to sit at the back of the plane. Yes, it’s near the lavatory, but most people tend to keep away from the back of the plane (especially those traveling with children). You don’t want to do this on a connecting flight, however, as if your first flight is delayed or your layover is really short you want to be able to get off the plane as quickly as you can.
While traveling, it’s important to stay hydrated. Pack an empty water bottle in your carry on and fill it with water once you get through security. A lot of airports now have those water bottle filling stations in lieu of water fountain. You can purchase collapsible water bottle to save space or water bottles with filters to avoid spending money. While you’re at it, pack a few power snacks as well: nuts, fruit, protein bars, etc. Most airlines only give out small snacks for domestic flights no matter how long they are and purchasing something off the menu on longer flights can get really pricey. If you’re on an international flight and they are feeding you, request the vegetarian option for your meal. The ingredients are more likely to be better quality because they make less of those than they do the standard meals.
SLOW YOUR ROLE
Research! Research! Research! I can’t emphasize this enough. I worked at a hotel in Atlanta while in college and I cannot even tell you how many times I had to disappoint travelers who just weren’t aware of what they had signed up for (a “double bed” is a fancy way of saying a full sized bed; it does not mean two beds–*the more you know*). Spend the time before your trip (and before you book!) getting to know your itinerary, your accommodations, and the city you’ll be spending part of your life in. Does the hotel have resort fees? Are there incidental fees? What’s the best way to get ahold of your Airbnb host? What’s the best way to travel from the airport to where you’ll be staying? What’s the exchange rate? Where’s is your country’s embassy and how far away from it are you? Also, what’s the embassy’s contact information? Answers to these questions are crucial; you need to know as much as you can once you hit the ground. I always print out copies of my itinerary, accommodations, insurance, etc to keep with me. When you land, pick up a free map of the area at the airport; you can usually find them at the information desk. If you are using a service like Airbnb, ask your host as many questions as you can think of. They know the area better than you do and are usually more than happy to help make your stay as comfortable for you as possible.
BE LIKE J.LO
Get insurance for your booty. This may not be necessary for domestic travel, but for international travel it’s a must. You’ve just spent a lot of time researching and planning your travel time. Now imagine you have a family emergency right before your scheduled departure or that you get seriously ill while traveling. Does your personal insurance cover the costs of an emergency visit in another country? Is your credit card company going to give you your money back on that flight? Traveler’s insurance provides you with the necessary resources should something happen before or during your travels (like, say, an emergency evacuation back to your home country–it could happen!). You usually have the option to purchase this insurance when you are purchasing your flight and it’s usually under $100. I once traveled with friends to Peru (with insurance). While there, two of them became really ill. Because we had insurance, we were able to speak with a medical professional on the phone for free. We ended up not having to take them to the emergency room, but we had the option and didn’t have to worry about how we were going to pay for it. AIG has several options to choose from at reasonable rates.
Leave some room for spontaneity during your travels. Traveling somewhere new without allowing yourself to get a little lost (physically or mentally) is a bit of a waste. Don’t plan every detail of the trip and be flexible. Ask the locals where to eat, shop, surf, etc. They’ll be able to tell you about their home in a way that no guide book can. Linger in that cafe longer than you had planned. Stop in at that little bookstore. Try the hole-in-the-wall restaurant famous with the locals for great food. Live a little; that’s why you’re there isn’t it?
Be sure to plan your return so that you have at least a day to rest before having to get back to the grind. Whether this means returning during the weekend or simply taking a day off, do it. Allow your body and mind time to rest and catch up with the world you left behind. You just had an amazing experience somewhere new (or not so new); you need time to process all that you experienced and your body needs time to rest from the sheer act of traveling. I’ve gone into work the day after returning from travel (and once the same day; ugh) enough times to know that having that extra day off does matter. Your body will thank you for it.
There is obviously more travel advice you can find if you scour the interwebs, but these are the most important ones I’ve come to rely upon. The thing you should remember is that everyone’s travel style is differently. Some people have to pack their days full doing as many things as possible (ugh). While others–like me–would rather sleep in and just take a walk in a new place, and others yet are somewhere in the middle. Whatever your style is, stick to it. It’s the one thing that will ensure you have a good time.
Do you have some travel tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below! And don’t forget to subscribe to have Plate and Passport delivered to your inbox!