Traveling—whether for business or pleasure—can be very stressful. Long lines at the airport, flight and train delays, and forgetting to bring your contacts are all things that can turn an otherwise pleasant experience sour. However, with the right planning, traveling can be seamless and easy. Here are some tips and tricks to streamline the travel experience from booking the flight to navigating the airport.
Preparing for a Seamless Travel Experience
Booking a trip
The first step to any great vacation is deciding to actually take one. Whether you want to go lounge on the beach or climb the tallest peaks, it can be intimidating to know where to start planning.
There are so many great options out there, you just have to know where to find them. If you’re looking for flights, Google Flights is a great option. The interface is cleaner and simpler than other travel sites. It has features such as a world map with prices—in case you haven’t decided on a destination—and a calendar with prices so you can easily see what shifting your trip a few days could save you.
No matter which airline you choose, sign up for the frequent flyer program and download the app. Frequent flyer programs are generally free and can really add up over time if you continue to fly with that airline, especially internationally. With the app, you can easily keep track of them, plus, you can use the app as your boarding pass (for most airlines) now, which keeps you from having to remember yet another thing.
Packing is something I always dread. Will I bring enough clothes? Will I bring enough of the right clothes? Did I remember my toothbrush and my glasses? These questions always haunt me the night before a trip. One way I’ve learned to simplify this process is to make a list on my phone, gather up everything I need in one place and double check it before I even open my suitcase. This helps to visually check everything, instead of mindlessly throwing things into a bag and forgetting something.
I’d always recommend packing as light as possible. Try to limit yourself to one carry-on suitcase and a personal bag. It’ll save you the checked bag fee, plus, once you land, you can simply stroll out of the airport and start your vacation. Waiting at the baggage claim is an unnecessary hassle that you can avoid by really paring down what you pack. I promise you really don’t need six pairs of shoes for your week-long vacation.
Another tip for packing is to bring bar shampoo and soap. Not only are they better for the environment, but they also tend to last a lot longer than those travel-sized shampoo bottles. This is great if you’re going on a trip for more than a week and are worried you might run out of your shampoo or don’t want to have to check a bag just because of bottles over 3.4 ounces. Also, bar shampoo and soaps can’t open accidentally inside your suitcase, ruining all your clothes, so you have peace of mind. The final reason to choose bar soaps is that you won’t have to take them out of your bag at the security station since they’re not liquids. Fewer things to take out means you can coast through the line. Which brings us to…
When I was a kid, airports were places of excitement and wonder. Now, I hate them. Most are outdated, stuffy, crowded and overpriced. But here are some ways to alleviate some of their major problems.
First, never drive to the airport. Parking and shuttles are overpriced and inconvenient. There are so many better ways to get to the airport that don’t involve you paying $18/day for your car to sit in a lot. If a friend or family member isn’t willing to give you a lift, take a ride-share service such as Uber. It might feel costly up front, but it’s almost always cheaper than parking fees.
Another option, especially if you live in a big city, is public transportation. It’s not nearly as luxurious but can definitely save you some money (to later spend on mimosas on the beach). In LA, they have the Flyaway buses, in Dallas, they have the DART, and in Atlanta they have MARTA.
Most other cities have something similar available, so check around online before throwing in the towel and hopping in your car. If you do use public transportation, make sure to leave a little bit of extra time to make sure everything runs on time.
Get TSA Pre-check
TSA pre-check is a service offered to all U.S. citizens. Pre-check is one way TSA relieves the burden of long security lines. It involves being “pre-screened,” which includes fingerprinting and a background check. After you’ve finished those and paid $85, you have access to the pre-check lines at TSA, which are almost always much shorter.
On top of shorter lines, the regulations are less strict so you can keep your shoes and belt on, keep your laptop and liquids in your bag, and enjoy breezing through to your gate as you watch all the miserable souls in the other lines. Plus, it’s good for five years, so it’s well worth the money.
Bring Food and a Water Bottle
My final tip to streamline travel is to save money at the airport by not buying food or water. The food inside the terminals is ridiculously overpriced. Unless you have a midday layover or a long flight without a meal option, it’s really not necessary to buy food inside the airport. Pack some snacks to tide you over until you get to your destination. You’ll have more and healthier options that way, plus you won’t have to pay $3.75 for a single bag of chips.
Also, bring a water bottle. TSA allows empty water bottles to go through security, so pack one and fill it once you’re inside the gate. Almost all airports have water fountains and most even now have re-fill stations specifically for water bottles. Don’t fall prey to the $4 bottles of water at the Hudson News Stand.
Last Word on Streamlined travel
While hopefully these tips help to make travel easier for you, some things are out of your control. You can plan all you want, but things won’t always go perfectly smoothly. There are ways to keep the costs down, to make your airport trek reasonable, and to simplify the packing, but you can never control if or when a plane or train is delayed or even canceled. So make sure you always leave plenty of time, pack a good book, and relax. You’ll get to your destination eventually.
For more travel tips and destinations, check out LWOS Life: Travel.
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