Exploring parts unknown, whether domestically or internationally, is a pastime that hundreds of millions of individuals embark on each year. For families, travel is even more precious because it allows parents to expose their children to something that could be out of their norm. That said, with all the benefits of travel come some stressors that can impede on the travel experience for just about anyone, but you don’t have to let those ruin your vacation. If there’s one thing we love, it’s an appreciation for life hacks (post-gym beauty hacks, baking hacks, the list goes on).
Before You Go:
- Scan your passport, ID, and itinerary and email it to yourself so you have a digital copy in the event of loss or theft. As an iPhone user, once I email the documents to myself, I usually open the email on my iPhone and save them onto iBooks. This provides me with an offline record.
- Be flexible in your vacation time. Avoiding holiday periods and traveling off-season can yield big savings on flights and accommodation. Even if your kids are in school, consider traveling just outside of major school holiday periods.
- Stay more than one night. Many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
- When booking flights and hotels online enable private browsing. Travel sites often track your visits and will raise the price simply because you’ve visited before.
- Check for family deals at hotels and theme parks. Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check-in – they can only say no.
- Call your credit or debit card company before traveling internationally so that you’re authorized for vacation purchases.
- Book two one-way flights. Sometimes flying two different airlines and booking two one-way tickets is cheaper than booking a round-trip, plus it may get you better arrival and departure times as you mix and match flights. Some flight-booking sites already do this for you, but you should do your homework and check the airline websites yourself for even better deals.
- Download your airline’s app. Most airlines (including Delta and United) have invested some significant cash into developing apps that provide you with real-time updates on gate changes or delays, so you can hit up one of those Xpress Spas without worrying about missing vital information. Even better, the app also allows for paperless boarding at most airports.
- Instead of wasting time squeezing your favorite shampoo into TSA-friendly 3.4-ounce bottles, or packing and unpacking the same toiletries over and over again, keep a go-bag of your favorite items at the ready. That way you don’t have to think about what you may need or scramble at the last minute.
At The Airport and On The Plane:
- Infinity scarves give you infinite options. Use one as a blanket when you’re cold, or fold it over your face to block out the light for a nap.
- Wear a night moisturizer on long flights because it’s extra hydrating and you’ll have plenty of time to let it sink in and do its job (you know, like fighting wrinkles and brightening skin). Put just a bit in a contact case for easy traveling.
- Feeding your baby with either a bottle or breast when you are taking off and landing, can help them adjust their ears to the change in cabin pressure.
- Bring a power strip and be a hero for other travelers.
- You can google your airline name and flight number to check the status of your flight. For example Google “Delta 2262” and this will pop up.
- Save an empty plastic water bottle and refill it after passing security instead of buying water at the airport.
- If the back of your plane seat doesn’t have TVs, put your phone in a plastic bag and hook it to the back of the tray table (or use a barf bag).
- Place a dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling fresh and to reduce static.
- Wear your heaviest shoes on the plane (like those cute ankle boots you just bought) as well as your heaviest coat. You’ll save room and that coat doubles as a good pillow, too.
- To prevent bottles from leaking in your luggage, place plastic wrap over the container and then seal it with the cap.
- Pill containers make great organizers for jewelry. You should probably stick some extra backs in there for good measure.
- Pack clothing items around a color scheme (denim/black/white/gray) so that it’s easy to mix and match. Dress up your outfits with scarves or jewelry.
- Leggings are a safe and comfy bet for traveling. Wear them under dresses and skirts.
- Glass cases are perfect for chargers and cables.
- Pack items like your laptop in smaller bags so you have options when you’re out and about. You don’t want to have to lug your carry-on bag with you everywhere, do you?
- Wrap your shoes in a shower cap to prevent marks on clothing.
- Keep hair clips handy in Tic Tac containers. This is especially helpful for all those dance competitions for the kids.
- Save space by rolling clothes instead of folding. It not only saves space, it also helps avoid wrinkles. Plus, you can even roll underwear and socks within your clothes for optimal space-saving.
- A great business tip is to use belts to line collars to keep business shirts crispy.
- Keep colors and paper in a DVD case for easy kid traveling.
- Or use a shoe caddy and put activities, games, or snacks for the kids in each compartment.
- Purchase or borrow a portable TV/DVD player that mounts on the back of the seat in front. Rent a bunch of DVDs or borrow them from your local library for free.
- Know how to read exit signs no matter what US city you are in.
- Buy a shower caddy from the dollar store and use it for easy eating.
- Turn a cereal container into a trash can for your car when on road trips. Great for family trips with the kids.
- Have your vehicle completely checked out by your mechanic before you leave. Oil changes, brake checks, light checks are important to the vehicle’s safe operation. Also, double check the installation of all car seats to ensure they are properly set up for maximum protection.
- Bring some comforts from home. Allow your children to bring along a few home comforts such as a stuffed toy, reading books, or a portable music player.
- When you’re driving in a new city and need to remember where you parked, drop a pin on Google Maps or take a picture of the parking space with your phone.
- Make your own awesome travel beverage. Bring a thermos with lemon, honey, and your own tea bag. Then have the flight attendant fill it with hot water—it makes the flight a tiny bit more relaxing.
- Take frequent breaks, preferably every two hours. Expecting young kids to sit still longer than that is unrealistic. Find interesting picnic spots, historical monuments, public parks or a playground. Let the kids run around and burn off some energy. Make sure you plan extra break time into your traveling.
- Use the local language as much as possible. It reflects well not only on you but also on Americans/your nationality in general. It shows you are willing to make the effort, which can work in your favor in some situations. Try learning a few key phrases before you go.
- If you have children, plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt if solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can see and do with kids in tow. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. The less you feel you have to see, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
- Clean out an old lotion bottle and carry your keys, phone, and money without anyone knowing. You can also do this with a chapstick tube for money. Works great for beach vacations.
- If lost in a new town, don’t go to the gas station, instead, head to a pizza delivery place. They will be able to give you directions to anywhere.
- Use temporary tattoos with your number or info on it for the kids to wear when on vacation.
- Take a picture of places you need to go in foreign countries especially if you don’t speak the language well.
- If you’re heading to a theme park or the beach, put your phone in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet. I wish I would have known this one before my teenager headed to the water parks.
- Use ATMs to get local currency. Using money converters in the airport usually come with their own fees and the exchange rates are a rip-off. ATMs always dispense local currency, of course, so use your debit or credit card and get your money there.
- When booking a hotel, look for one with breakfast included to keep meal costs down and stay on budget.
- To protect wine bottles in suitcases, wrap them in Wine Skin or pool floaties.
- Never underestimate the value of a fanny pack. Yes, they can be embarrassing and seemingly out of the mid-to-late 1980s, but trust me—every time I travel, even domestically, it has ensured that my valuables are safe, and it expedites security checks.
- Get WiFi passwords by checking comments on FourSquare.
- On the last day of your trip to a foreign country, collect all of your loose change and give it to the homeless.