When I was younger I was the kid who was constantly asking my parents about when our next vacation would be, where we would be headed off to, and research all the amazing things we could do when we got there. Even if we were just taking a two hour trip to my grandpa's house I would still plan out when I could make time to visit the horses that were down the road from his house. As I've gotten older and traveled more, (find all my travel posts HERE) I've had a lot more experience planning my own trips. There's so much that goes into making travel plans, but there are also so many tricks that can help to make everything easier, and more importantly, cheaper! And with me leaving for Chicago tomorrow morning, I thought it was perfect timing to share the tips that I've learned.
1. Book Flights on Tuesdays at 3pm
After lengthy research into how to find the cheapest airline tickets, I've found that booking on Tuesdays at around 3pm always seems to give me the best and least expensive options. It's a day that doesn't see much travel traffic, and if you're booking far enough in advance, you should be getting a great deal! Also if you have Google Chrome you should be looking up tickets on an incognito window, otherwise prices might go up with each search!
2. Don't Be Afraid of Long Layovers or Odd Flight Times
On my trip to Ireland, my friends and I booked a red eye flight with a 10 hour layover in Washington D.C. We did this on purpose, knowing that we would end up at our final destination early in the afternoon, but also knowing that we probably wouldn't get much sleep. If this is something you can handle or have time to take a nap when you arrive, I recommend leaving on those red eyes! During your long layover you can go out and explore the city you're in to make the most of your downtime. While in D.C. we had a great time wandering in and out of museums and monuments, and it was almost like a mini vacation within our larger trip! Plus, most people tend to avoid these odd hour flights or long stops, making than cheaper. But speaking of layovers...
3. Don't Be Fooled by Short Layovers
If you aren't up for a super long layover, I would still recommend having at least an hour between flights. I once made the mistake of choosing a 40 minute layover in Chicago when traveling to Rome, and everything that could go wrong did, which made me almost miss my plane. My first flight was delayed by 25 minutes, then when we finally got to Chicago my next flight was leaving from all the way across the airport. Do you all know how big Chicago O'Hare is? It's huge! So imagine me running at top speed, nearly knocking down people with my carryon bag trying to make that flight. It was one of the scariest moments of my life (I hate being late, but missing a flight is one of my nightmares!) It wasn't an experience I want to repeat again, so here's my warning to you all not to follow in my footsteps!
4. Always Get to the Airport 2 Hours Early
There are a few exceptions to this rule, the main one being that if you're flying out of a small airport you won't need this much time. But for major airports, my rule of thumb is to arrive two hours before my departure time. I do this because it gives a generous amount of time if something were to go wrong or you forgot something, etc. Two hours is long enough so that if the security line runs long, or you want to stop for something to eat, or even if you just need extra time to charge your phone or laptop before heading on the plane (curse those planes without outlets!) you'll have plenty of time to do it. And if something does happen to go wrong, you won't be worried that you don't have enough time to resolve the problem.
5. Prepare for Security Ahead of Time
There's nothing that I hate more than the person who is going at a sloth's pace through security, especially if I have a plane to catch. I always come prepared and want to pass through security as quickly as possible. When packing my carryon I make sure all the items security wants separated are at the top. This normally includes any liquids I have and my laptop. I also try to take off my shoes and jacket right before it's my turn to put my stuff down. For the most part, I tend to avoid wearing shoes that take too long to put on or take off, as they will slow me down. This is a simple tip, but if everyone was just a little more prepared for security, the lines would probably move twice as fast.
6. If Going Somewhere Foreign, Learn Some of the Language
It's always good when traveling to have a couple key phrases in the native language written down or memorized. My go to phrases include how to order food, how to buy something, asking where the bathroom is, and asking where a place is located. You can write these down, although I definitely recommend trying to memorize them to the best of your ability. I've learned that if you try to speak the language you'll get better treatment from the locals than by just speaking english. Along with being treated with more respect (and treating the locals with more respect!) they might just give you cheaper prices if you're buying something. Obviously this won't happen at regular stores or restaurants, but if you're at a flea market or buying something off the street, you might just be able to haggle the price down more if you're doing it in their language.
7. Make Copies of All Important Documents
It's always a good idea to be better safe than sorry when traveling, especially abroad. You never know if you might lose a piece of luggage, or someone might steal your wallet, either way it's best to have a copy of a few key things. When traveling abroad especially I always carry a few copies of my driver's license and passport. I keep one copy in my carry on and another in separate pocket in my luggage. Hopefully you won't need to pull these out, but again, always better to be prepared!
8. Know the Local Transportation
I always do a little research on how to get around wherever I'm staying and attempt to find the cheapest way to get around. For a simple example if I were traveling to New York I wouldn't just assume that I'll be taking a taxi everywhere, but I would look into the subway system or even walking! I would plan out an itinerary of all the things I want to see and then make a little map of the best route I can take and how to get to and from each place.
9. Make Sure You Have Snacks + Water on Road Trips
I regularly do the 7 hour drive from my school in Southern California to San Francisco, so I know quite a bit about long road trips. I always have an extra case of water in my car just in case something overheats, I'm dying of thirst, or I get stuck somewhere on the road without a store nearby. Luckily I haven't been stuck out in the middle of nowhere before, but I always come prepared (are you sensing an overall theme here?) just in case. A great list of things to keep in your car during a road trip include water, snacks, a blanket, and all emergency numbers!
10. Always Tell Your Bank When You're Traveling
You're so excited to go to that exotic location with those gorgeous beaches and fancy restaurants that serve the best food, and when you go to pay for your food or items the cashier tells you that your credit card is locked. This is something that happens way too often to those traveling, and letting your credit card company and/or bank know when you'll be going on an extended vacation will help resolve any issues before they even show up. You don't want to be put in that awkward situation where you end up on hold with your credit card company for what seems like hours because they aren't sure if someone stole your card or not. And while on the subject, always bring some cash just in case. ;)
What's your #1 travel tip?