5 Unique Tips To Improve Your Travel Experiences
Over the years, I’ve come to rely on several tried & true practices that make air travel (particularly international travel) significantly more enjoyable and less stressful. Here are five of my tips to improve your travel experiences — all of which are done before you even leave home.
1. Use a packing list smartphone app.
This may seem like an obvious one, but packing lists make it that much easier to remember everything you want to pack. Furthermore, packing lists give you a chance to re-evaluate what you truly need to take with you.
Taking that packing list with you on your vacation will also help ensure that you’re not leaving anything behind. There are many online resources, but the easiest option is using a smartphone app like Packing Pro. These apps will start you out with a baseline template for your packing list and allow you to customize it to your needs.
2. Organize yourself with packing cubes.
Now that you’ve made a list of everything you want to take with you, use packing cubes to organize your suitcase. My favorite are the eBags packing cubes, which come in a variety of sizes and colors. Many people like to roll up their clothes to reduce wrinkles. I’ve found that with the packing cubes, simply folding my clothes in half (or thirds) I’m able to fit more than I would by rolling them. Additionally, the structure provided by the cubes prevents your items from shifting around the suitcase, which is what causes wrinkles in the first place.
For the most part, I use medium-sized cubes for my clothes, and a small cube for my bras/underwear. The large cubes can come in handy for bulkier items like maxi dresses or blazers. However, keep in mind that they do take up the entire width & length of a 21” carry-on suitcase. You will be amazed how much more you can fit in your suitcase with these cubes! As an added bonus, when airport security wants to inspect the contents of your bag, they won’t leave it a mess as they can easily remove/replace the cubes. When you arrive at your destination, easily unpack by just unzipping the cubes and placing them in a drawer or shelf. This also makes re-packing a breeze! Click here to get yours today!
3. Buy a handheld luggage scale.
Save yourself some stress and weigh your luggage before you head to the airport. I’ve had this digital luggage scale for several years now. With today’s baggage fees, trust me, this will be a sound investment. Most major airlines have a maximum weight of 50 lbs (23 kg) for your first checked bag. Especially if you’re flying on a budget airline, your carry-on weight allowance may be only 15-20 lbs (8-10 kg). Avoid paying extra fees for an overweight bag, or scrambling to move things between bags while impatient travelers wait behind you. If you weigh your bags at home, you can rearrange your belongings peacefully… or simply decide to leave some things at home. You can click here to buy your digital luggage scale.
4. Sign up for STEP and check entry requirements.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free program from the US Department of State. It allows you to register your trip details and provide emergency contact information for the local US Embassy/Consulate at your destination. In case of an emergency, the Embassy will be able to contact you, or help friends & family get in touch with you. You can also opt-in to receive alerts from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country.
As soon as you’ve decided to book an international flight, don’t forget to check your passport’s expiration date. Is your passport set to expire within 6 months after your trip? You should consider renewing that passport now. Even countries that don’t require visas can have regulations for entry into the country. For example, the European Union requires that your passport be valid for at least 6 months past your departure from the Schengen zone. For those of you with a US passport, visit the US Department of State‘s website for entry requirements specific to your destination.
Another helpful tip is to sign up for Global Entry or for TSA Precheck. Compare both and see which one is right for you.
5. Confirm your hotel reservations in writing.
This is especially important if you use third-party booking services like Expedia or Booking.com. It can be very stressful to arrive at your hotel and learn that they don’t have a reservation for you. This happened to me 10 years ago and I learned my lesson. It can also become very expensive to call those US-based booking sites to try and fix the situation from abroad. Avoid this stress by confirming your reservations at least two weeks before you’re scheduled to leave home. This will give you time to resolve any issues from the comfort of home.
I send an email directly to the hotel’s reservations desk to confirm the reservation details. This includes the full name on the reservation, number of guests, check-in/check-out dates, and the room type. Print out a copy of that email as a backup, or have it available for offline use on your phone. Make sure you the name of the employee who confirmed your reservation if you encounter issues on arrival. Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve never had an issue receiving a response from hotels within a day or two. And I have since arrived to have a room waiting for me.
Bonus tip: Learn how to save money while traveling!
I’m positive following these tips will help make your travels more enjoyable and remove some of the common stresses that accompany international travel.
Happy travels mis amigas!
I'm a native New Yorker from Dominican heritage living in Queens, NY. I work full-time as a digital marketer in downtown Manhattan, with an ever-growing passion for travel & photography. I’ve visited over 60 cities within 16 countries in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Check out some of my favorite photos from my travels on my website marlenerossi.com. Don't forget to follow my adventures on Instagram @ latinaphotojourney!