The sun’s out, the kids are out of school, and summertime is finally upon us. There’s no better time to pack up that suitcase to travel somewhere nice—i.e. to have fun, to let loose, and to reward yourself for having conquered another school year! The stress of planning that perfect summer vacation, however, is usually a real downer, especially with all the hefty details that tend to come with. You know the ones: those onerous, time consuming, and not-fun-at-all list of things to do beforehand that put the bummer into summer.
Why not skip the headache and the hardship this season by leaving all the work to us? Go focus on how to truly enjoy your time away from home with these handy dandy travel tips that are sure to make any upcoming va-cay easy, breezy, and even more beautiful than you could ever imagine. “Life is a journey, not a destination,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. So make the most out of summer with these eight essential travel tips.
Make Your Summer Travels Easy With These Ideas
1. Get a Global Pass
Get a hold of the best-kept secret in travel—a.k.a. Global Entry — a nice U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that lets you cut all immigration and customs lines, gets you pre-checked for TSA every single time, and allows savvy travelers to skip all that paperwork when leaving or entering a country. Sounds like a dream already--- and the service will only cost you about a hundred bucks for five years!
Yes, that’s right folks, for just twenty dollars a year, you can dodge the wait times, long lines, and all that other chaos by merely filling out an online survey and then scheduling an in-person interview at your local enrollment center. Seriously, what’s not to love?
2. Steal the Deal
When it comes to booking, it’s best to save save save. So whenever you’re browsing for flights and/or hotels via Google, make sure to seek out a handy promo, discount, or coupon in relation to your preferred destination. Always check reviews as well, especially when it comes to hotels. Most importantly though, make sure to know your price range, as you are more likely to actually embark on that dream vacation if you set aside plenty of funds ahead of time.
In terms of snagging the best offers, let’s just say that great deals tend to almost always hide, but if you do the right kind of hunting, you’ll be able to find whopping deals such as round trip tickets to Peru for under three hundred dollars. Also, you can always avoid unreasonable prices by opting for a trip before or right after the high season. When it comes to traveling, timing is key, so see those sights while the weather is still nice but for a whole lot less money. Plus, you’ll be able to skip all those awful tourist crowds as well!
Two more tricks for the road: do all of your bookings until after 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, as studies have shown this to be the cheapest day and time to do so, and when searching, enable private browsing, as travel sites often track visits and will increase your price based on search history. Or just go the easy route and clear your cache. Piece of cake.
3. Act Fast & Avoid Fraud Abroad
The last thing anyone wants when on vacation is a call that there’s been report for suspicious activity in your bank account or to not have access to any money. To avoid this sort of mess, be sure to call your credit or debit card company before traveling internationally so that you are fully authorized for vacation purchases. Also prior to your trip, notify the fraud department with what exact locations you will be visiting and on what dates—even if you’re only headed to another state. No one wants to find themselves in a sticky situation when souvenir shopping. So be prepped and ready for your own safety.
In addition, it’s best always to have a copy of all your important documents on hand, especially when going abroad. Scan your passport, ID, and itinerary to email to yourself so you have a digital copy in the event of loss or theft. And speaking of passports, make sure to get a head start on all paperwork well before the trip starts, as processing times (without extra rush fees) can take a couple months and a new travel deal can be gone in less than a day. Some travel deals are way too good to pass up-- the key is to act fast.
4. Go All Inclusive
When it comes to low prices, nothing beats bundled pricing, which usually makes your vacation planning super-duper easy. As of right now, all-inclusive resort vacations are being offered at some of the best prices in years and for families out there, they’re the perfect way to create some hot summer fun. With these goodies, everyone in the clan can eat, stay, and play at one set price. What’s more is that most resorts offer a ’kids camp’ so that the parents can get a bit of downtime to themselves. Think fruity cocktails and reading a book from start to finish on a sandy shore. Nice, ain’t it?!
Also make sure to fully understand seasonal travel trends. You wouldn’t want to run into the masses of people attending Carnival in Brazil in February, the slew of travelers flocking to Spain for the Running of the Bulls in July, or the array of frat boys and sorority sisters in Cancun over Spring Break, which all will certainly drive travel prices way up.
5. Try Keeping It All in One Place
Really, it’s pretty self-explanatory-- store everything you need super close for easy access, such as all cables or chargers in an old sunglasses case, or rolling together similar-type outfits to quickly grab out (not to mention save tons of space and avoid unwanted wrinkles!). It’s how flight attendants pack. It’s also super helpful to try making a travel list beforehand to ensure that even if you do procrastinate, you won’t forget one single thing. For those tech savvy travelers, there’s even the option of downloading the Wunderlist app (free for iPhone and Android), which can help plot out everything you need (the app even has calendar alarms to help you combat procrastination and allows you to collaborate on a super-list with your travel buddies!!)
To keep things fresh, try sticking a dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep things smelling good, and for ultra-cleanliness, curl up that belt to stick inside collared shirts to keep them nice and stiff. Also be sure to invest in small travel containers, or better yet, to make your own flight safe travel size products. Or, you can just head on over to Sephora’s Beauty On The Fly section, which features tons of items that are all TSA-approved. And last but not least, double check always for those essential items, especially all valuables such as passports, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, and electronics—which are best kept with you in a carry-on bag.
6. Avoid Jet Lag
To beat jet lag, be sure to get into the rhythm of a new time zone before you actually arrive there. For example, if you’re flying out midday but are headed to a place where it’s six hours later, try waking up super early on your travel day to try tiring yourself out. This way, you’ll not only sleep straight through the flight, but also avoid playing catch up when starting that dream vacation. Smart.
7. Get Covered
Sometimes, a travel insurance plan can be a total lifesaver, as it will cover you for all those things that may go wrong while traveling. If you or your child gets hurt, you’ll have medical expenses. If you need a new flight or hotel, 24/7 assistance coordinators will promptly arrange all necessary changes for you. Plus, if your trip is interrupted or cancelled, all pre-paid, non-refundable expenses spent beforehand are paid for. Let go of all worries and fears by doing this one simple thing. Here’s more on how travel insurance can make anything trip better.
Also, if you're planning to rent a car, always double-check to see whether or not your own auto insurance covers rental insurance (most auto policies do) before buying additional coverage. You can also always just pay for that rental with an American Express card, which offers "Premium Car Rental Protection" for $24.95 or less for up to 42 days. Snazzy!
8. Sit back, relax, and truly enjoy upon arrival
The whole point of a vacation is the get some much needed R&R. So when arriving, let go of the small stuff and don’t sweat about little bumps that may happen along the way. Life isn’t perfect and sometimes, it’s actually the detours that end up bringing about the best vacation memories.
Be present, be open, and be willing to go with the flow, especially when you find yourself amongst new people, cultures, and places. More often than not, vacations can be a fabulous and enriching life experience-- so go ahead and turn off that phone. Forget about all the work that may be waiting for you when you get home and let the smell of sea salt and ocean breezes (or the sights of mighty mountains and rugged cliffs!) take you to your happy place. And remember, stay flexible when traveling and always play it by ear, as spontaneity is always half the fun of any vacation anyway!
This article was written by Pamela Chan.