1. Plan your flights, not your schedule – Everyone always seems to want to find the best last minute deal, confident that they’ll discover the sale of the century. Well that’s not usually how it goes and instead of finding that dream flight to Paris for $400, they’re stuck at home wishing they’d planned ahead. This is especially true if you want to cash out those hard-earned miles for flights. Over the years I have accumulated and redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles and have always had great luck. I’ve been able to score those free business class seats to Asia not because I know some secret, but because I planned ahead. When redeeming miles, it’s best to start the process of trying to use them as far in advance of the desired travel dates as possible. It takes persistence and yes, even luck, but with planning you can get those dream flights. The same is true when buying tickets outright. As soon as you know your travel dates, start researching and monitoring prices. Set a target price and as soon as the flights hit it, then it’s time to book. However this travel planning should not carry over to other parts of your trip. Give yourself flexibility when you travel and allow for the wonderful spontaneity of the travel experience to take over the reins.
2. Be nice to everyone all the time – I love travel and I believe that it is an immensely positive experience, but like anything else in life bad things of course happen while on the road. This, combined with the stress of travel, makes people cranky, sometimes very cranky. No matter what though, it’s important to remember to always be as nice to everyone as you possibly can when traveling, no matter how you feel. You never know what a kind word or a simple smile will do or what doors they will open. When I was traveling solo in Jerusalem I said hi to the people at the table next to mine and before I knew it, I had joined them for a wonderful evening of stories, conversation and food. This would never have happened if I hadn’t been courteous. I know it’s not always easy and believe me, I have lashed out at people when I never should have, but on the whole if you can keep up a good attitude, your experience will be made all the better for it.
3. Travel Power Strip – I wish I had thought of this, but like most great travel tips there is nothing new under the sun. This tip I picked up from fellow travel blogger Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere. It was such a simple idea I was shocked I hadn’t thought of it before. For many of us finding places to plug in all of our various gadgets can be a problem, especially if you’re traveling with a significant other or children. Hotels frankly don’t provide many outlets and it can be a huge problem. That’s why the travel power strip is such an amazing gadget. It comes in a variety of sizes and options, but I have a small, compact three-plug version that includes two USB connections. With just one wall plug I can charge five gadgets and better yet, I don’t have to worry about hogging the outlets when I travel. This has quickly become indispensable for me and I suspect it will be for you as well. I use the Monster Power Outlets To Go Power Strip with USB and strongly recommend it.
4. Ziploc Bags – Another very simple item, but one that I don’t travel without. Packing can be a chore, but so can traveling with a disorganized suitcase. Using a variety of different plastic bag sizes you can keep separate underwear, socks and even clean and dirty clothes. They also help in reducing the size of your clothes and make unpacking a breeze. At the end of the trip, instead of rooting through my suitcase to find the dirty items I just unload the Ziploc bags directly into the washing machine. The usefulness of plastic bags doesn’t stop with clothes, I use them to organize almost everything, from ‘extra’ items to ties, toiletries and carry on items. There’s a certain peace of mind when things are organized and when traveling this isn’t just a nice luxury but an important way to improve the overall experience.
5. Grocery Stores – I mention this tip a lot, but that’s because I really believe in its importance. Whether I’m in Milwaukee or Dubrovnik, there is nothing better than visiting a grocery store for two main reasons. The first is cost. Buying snacks, drinks and even souvenirs at a grocery store is the most cost effective way to travel. I love Diet Coke, a lot, but refuse to pay the crazy prices some convenience stores around the world charge. Instead I stop at a local grocery store, buy a large bottle or pack of cans and I’m set for the duration of my trip. The second main reason I love grocery stores is for the sociological overview they provide. Every grocery store, no matter where they are reflect the local community and what they value when it comes to food. Whether it is Moxie cola in Maine or the three rows of olive oil in Madrid, what lines the shelves of the local store does in fact say something about the location. It’s the fastest way to learn about local food and eating habits, which I think is the best way to learn about a new area. Plus, it really is a lot of fun to wander around a new store, looking at prices and just taking it all in.
6. Pack a portable battery charger – We live in a time when a wide array of electronic gadgets makes our lives easier and more enjoyable, especially when we travel. However along with that comes a common problem, how to keep our devices fully charged. This is especially a major concern with our smartphones that seem to be gaining functionality, but losing stamina. Last year I purchased a portable battery charger and it has made my travel experience far less stressful. Instead of carefully limiting my time on the phone, I can use it as often as I want and never worry about having to find an outlet somewhere. Depending on which portable battery charger you buy, you can recharge most devices several times on a single charge. Please note though that right now you can’t recharge your laptop using one of these miracle devices. I use the EZO Power charger, but there are many different kinds out there.
What are some of your favorite travel tips?