For many people, traveling is both a blessing and a curse. Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is the upside, but the logistics of traveling can be absolutely painful. We’re here to let you know how to travel like a pro, so you take that wanderlust and get out there. Rest assured, if you use some of these travel tips below, you will see more of the upside.
1. Become a TSA VIP
Nobody likes security lines at the airport. Travelers don’t like them, and from the mood of most TSA agents, it would seem that security officials don’t like them either. So do yourself a favor and skip them, or at least expedite it. You can enroll in TSA Precheck and save yourself much of the trouble, like taking off your shoes, jackets, and removing liquids/belts/laptops from your bag. To apply, complete the online form and attend one of the 380 enrollment centers nationwide for a 10-minute in-person appointment. Enrollment costs just $85 and lasts five years. Wait times vary, of course, but TSA claims it can take five minutes or less..
2. Earn Frequent Flyer Miles & Reward Points
Signing up for free loyalty programs to earn points or rewards is right out of the pro traveler’s playbook. One thing you’ll learn about frequent flyers is that they often travel for free by combining frequent flyer points with reward points from credit cards and other incentive programs. These points can also be used to free upgrades in many cases, which might put first class within reach for the first time. Use this strategy yourself, and you could be flying for free (eventually). As a general rule of thumb, look for reward programs that are free to enroll in; if a credit card wants a $150 annual “enrollment fee,” keep looking.
3. Find the Cheapest Fare
There are a number of different ways to save money when booking a trip. You can bundle your flight along with your accommodations to save money, or use apps and services like Level Skies to find the best deal on flights. You may also consider looking for multiple fares at once with fare finders like Google Flights, and even allowing push notifications and email alerts for flights that interest you. Rest assured, pro travelers never book the first flight that meets their basic criteria. There is nearly always a cheaper, more convenient, and better scheduled flight to be found if you just dig a little deeper.
4. Buy an International Phone Plan
Staying clear of roaming charges is a must if you travel overseas often. Thankfully, unlimited data plans are available from most wireless providers these days. Some carriers, like T-Mobile, even allow you to make calls and texts to and from Mexico and Canada without penalties, while further offering talk, text, and data in more than 140 countries around the world. And make no mistake, you are going to want an unlimited plan. Between GPS, texting, social media, and the occasional web browsing (you have to find out where the best local food is, after all), you are going to be using a lot of bandwidth. Whichever plan you end up buying, the key takeaway here is to plan ahead.
5. Pack Like a Seasoned Traveler
You may be tempted to fit everything plus the kitchen sink into your carry-on, but don’t make that mistake. Unburden yourself and travel light for once. You might worry that your luggage will go missing, but 99 out of 100 times, the luggage ends up where it’s supposed to (and on time to boot). Instead, pack away most of your belongings in your checked luggage. This will allow you to give priority to things that you actually want–and need–on board. This may include toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant, a book or tablet, a travel pillow or blanket, and a single change of clothes, along with a small travel jacket.
6. Consider Alternative Lodging Options
If you are accustomed to 5-star accommodations, there’s likely no argument in the world that could convince you to consider AirBnB, but there are other alternative lodging options. Instead of booking a room in a standard chain hotel, consider a bed and breakfast or boutique inn. Alternatively, consider booking with a local hotelier for a more unique–and locally-minded–experience. Not only will you save money, but you might find the experience is more authentic and rewarding as well. Apps and tricks for finding cheaper lodging options run the gamut, from the aforementioned AirBnB to Home Exchange, to name just a few.