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Whether you travel enough to earn a designated seat on a plane (I don't think that's a thing, but wouldn't that be cool?) or you haven't taken a trip in years, adopting these 12 travel hacks will help you be better prepared, less stressed, and an overall savvier traveler!
1. Pack an Extra Change of Clothes In Your Carry-On
I originally learned this handy trick from my boyfriend's sister on our most recent trip together, and I'm amazed I'd never thought of it before! Simply pack a spare outfit in your carry-on - yes, a whole outfit. Though it's not likely, delayed luggage does happen no matter how good the airline is, and while you can and should ask your airline what they offer as far as compensation or emergency toiletry/travel kits, having a spare set of clothes to change into while you wait will make it a bit more bearable. Traveling from a colder climate to a warmer one? Pack a pair of shorts or a dress to change into once you hit the destination airport - it's way easier than rummaging through your luggage in the middle of the airport, lemme tell ya.
2. Carry an Empty Water Bottle
Since airports don't allow you to bring a bottle of water through TSA checkpoints, take an empty bottle (or an eco-friendly collapsible bottle) with you to the airport to fill up after you get through security. Once in your terminal, food and drink prices are incredibly inflated, so this handy trick will definitely save you a few extra dollars!
3. Pack Early
Do not wait until the last minute...seriously. Get your suitcase out of storage a week ahead of time and put it somewhere where you'll see it every time you get dressed or do laundry, then you can slowly start the packing process over the week, leaving toiletries and last-minute laundry items last. This will give you time to think more about what you really need and don't need (I'll admit, I'm an over-packer), and you'll be less likely to forget something important since you're not scrambling to get everything together in the final hour.
4. Carry Copies of Your Passport & Important Documents
This includes screenshots, printed copies, and emailed copies - whatever works for you. If you were to misplace an important document during the travel day, you at least have a back-up you can use in the meantime while you work on getting a replacement.
5. Pack Earplugs, an Eye Mask, & a Neck Pillow
Whether you're facing a long flight or a long drive (as a passenger, obviously), having small creature comforts like these seem insignificant until you're forced to bunch up your hoodie on the side of the window (or worse, you're in an aisle seat), wishing the baby in the adjacent aisle would stop screaming long enough to let you drift into a not so restful sleep. If you're not directly in charge of navigating or actual transportation, do yourself a favor and catch some z's so you're well rested when you arrive.
6. Use Luggage Organizers
If you're traveling long distances or for a long period of time, organization is key to keeping your head on straight and not loose valuables. I used to always carry extra shopping bags while traveling to stash dirty clothes or my shoes within the rest of my belongings, but then I discovered these babies already exist on the market (there goes another SharkTank idea out the window), and my life is changed for the better. While I don't use every single compartment, keeping specific outfits or jewelry separate makes for an easier time living out of a suitcase, and a better overall travel experience.
7. Download Google Maps for Offline
When traveling Wifi signals can be spotty, especially if you're traveling internationally. Having a reliable GPS (because these days who actually uses paper maps?) could make or break your overall trip experience. Google Maps offers a feature that allows you to download maps of the area you're in or going to, that way when you don't have Wifi or Data you are still able to navigate as you would normally. I know...mind, blown.
8. Leave Early
Get everywhere you need to be very early. Travel days are stressful enough on their own, you don't need a long security line or a missed flight adding to it. Give yourself plenty of buffer time in case of traffic, flight delays, or God-forbid you forgot something after you left the house. This also goes for once you're at your destination - since you'll most likely be in an unfamiliar place, allow yourself time to get lost and run into obstacles because they will happen. Worst-case scenario, you're early and you can enjoy a bit of free time.
9. Keep a Travel Journal
While I'm all about documenting my trips with photos and videos, there's something really personal and intentional about carrying a travel journal, too. Research shows that relying only on photos to remember things can actually have a negative impact on how well you remember them. The idea is that since you're counting on the camera to record the event, you're not fully experiencing it for yourself with all of your senses, therefore, your memory of it is dulled. I've traveled with both a journal and without, and I can honestly say I enjoy having the written recap just as much as I do photos. If you're not much of a writer, try a quick voice recording overviewing what you did that day, to help support the awesome photos you're taking. I guarantee you'll remember and appreciate the trip so much more.
10. Pack a Portable Phone Charger
We all know how surprisingly fast our phone batteries are drained, especially when we're relying on it for a GPS or frequent Google Searches, so these little guys are an absolute life-saver while traveling. Especially if you're flying, finding reliable outlets can be a challenge, so having a couple of portable chargers will ensure you're never out of juice! While there are tons of models on the market to choose from, I particularly like having one with included cables for iPhones and MicroUSB.
11. Use Memberships or Discount Sites
Organizations and businesses such as AAA, Costco, AARP, and Student Advantage offer all kinds of travel discounts just for being a member. Definitely check their offers before booking to see if you can get discounts on flights, hotels, or even activities in the city you're traveling to. I also personally love browsing Groupon and Living Social to see what discounts I can find for restaurants or activities before my trips.
12. Book Flights Strategically
Overall the best time to book a flight is roughly 70 days in advance. Though that depends on the season, too, overall anywhere between 3 weeks and 4 months in advance is considered the "Prime Booking Window" and is when you'll find the best fares. It's also pretty well-researched that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly, whereas weekends are much more expensive. Choosing to travel during "peak season" (which will vary depending on where you go, likely), will raise your costs for not only the travel but also your stay. Typically booking trips right before or after "peak season" will save significant costs and still allow you to have an awesome adventure.
Protip: research flights in a private browser to reset your cookies - this will allow you to research the same route multiple times (just make sure you open a new private browser each time) without the sites catching on and inflating your prices because of your repeat traffic.