Avoid making rookie mistakes when you travel, and use these 45 ways to travel smarter.
General Travel Trips
- Check your passport expiration date. We can’t stress this enough! Some countries (hello, most of Europe) require your passport valid three months after your intended date of departure. The worst way to start a trip is to be turned away at the airport.
- Get travel insurance. It’s not just for the elderly – learn more here.
- “Get Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. They are lifesavers during those peak travel periods!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Joanne Smith
- Don’t blindly trust everything on the internet. You don’t want to plan a week at an “incredible hotel” with an “amazing view” that is actually located between a brothel and a construction site.
- Use a travel advisor. Your leisure time is one of your most precious, non-renewable resources, and you deserve to make the most of it. You advisor will ensure your trip is tailored to your unique preferences plus can access amenities, promotions, and benefits that add incredible value to your trip.
- Let your travel advisor know about any special milestones, birthdays, or celebrations going on during the trip. They can make a special time in your life even better!
When Planning Your Itinerary
- Be realistic. Don’t try to pack multiple tours and activities in each day.
- Allow time to explore – this is one of the best ways to truly experience a destination.
- Book specialty dining and spa appointments for your cruise. (See more tips on how to cruise smarter here)
- Get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a new destination or a new experience in a favorite city, plan something that is not in your travel MO.
1-3 Weeks Before the Trip
- Read your itinerary. Don’t wait until you’re en route to review – if there’s something you want to change, you’ll have time to do so before the trip.
- Notify your bank and credit card company of your travels.
- Research the fees associated with international usage of your cell phone. Purchase a plan, if necessary.
- Refill any prescriptions, making sure that you have extra in case of delays (and always pack them in your carry-on!).
- “Two weeks before departure, I order fun crafts, sticker books and coloring books on Amazon for my children. I pack each of their back packs and include some paperback books and lots of snacks, they are not allowed to open them until on the plane, they are always excited and this also helps take up time on the plane! I strongly recommend saving the iPad for later in the flight, use it as bribery for good behavior!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Merrill Laguarta
- Before you even open your suitcase, make a packing list. Use your itinerary to plan what you’ll wear each day. You’ll avoid last minute over-packing and can make sure you have room for souvenirs!
- Bring comfortable shoes. Those cute wedges may be comfortable all day at home, but unless you’re used to walking 6+ miles on cobblestones, forget-about-it!
- “I always tell my clients with kids, especially for Disney, to pack and label their clothes for each day in one Ziploc bag per child. That way it’s easy for the little ones (and dad!) to get ready on their own.” – Brownell Independent Advisor Karen McAlpin
- Remember sunscreen. Even if you’re not relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean, chances are you will be outside more than usual.
- Prep your carry-on. Remember chargers, headphones, a wrap (those planes get chilly), prescription medications, and a change of clothes – you never know if your luggage will arrive with you. See our Carry-On Checklist here.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with a loved one, and put a copy in your carry-on and checked bag.
- Make a photocopy of your passport and take a photo of it on your phone. In case it goes missing, you’ll have something to prove your citizenship.
- “Make your to-do list for when you get home. It may seem like overkill, but when you return you won’t have to stress over figuring out what you need to do.” – Brownell Digital Media Coordinator Brooke Drinkard
- Charge your laptop, iPad, e-reader, portable charger, etc. Not all airports have charging stations, and you don’t want to start your trip fighting over an outlet.
At the airport
- “On any trip but especially on long haul international flights, I buy and bring on board 1-2 of the largest water bottles the airport stores sell. This allows me to stay hydrated and drink as much water as I want without relying on the flight attendants’ drink cart schedule during the flight, setting me up for success, more sleep, and reduced jetlag upon landing!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Louisa Gehring
- Find your gate before stopping to get food, books, magazines, etc. Gates and times can change, and no airport food court is worth missing a flight.
On the Plane
- Be gracious to the flight attendant, even if something is not right. Remember, you catch more flies with honey.
With the Children
- Let your children help plan the trip, even if it’s simply picking an activity from a list. They’ll be so excited when it comes time to do what they chose!
- If only one parent is traveling, have the non-traveling parent write a note consenting to the trip. Some countries even require the letter be notarized. Check with your travel advisor to see what you require.
- Make sure you have down time. Children, especially younger ones, won’t appreciate three museums in one morning, no matter how beautiful the art is.
- Give each child a travel journal. These will be fun to look at for years to come and will help them understand what they did during the trip.
- “When traveling with kids I usually book early morning flights, kids tend to be better travelers earlier in the day plus flights are more likely to run on time. We usually eat breakfast on the plane, which helps take up time on your flight!” – Brownell Independent Advisor Merrill Laguarta
During the Trip
- “A safety tip is to take a picture of your kids with your cellphone each day in case they get lost so you can show others what your child looks like and what they are wearing that day.” – Brownell Independent Advisor Karen McAlpin
- If something isn’t right, tell your travel advisor. They can fix the problem as soon as they know about it but can’t change anything after the fact.
- Take photos – and not just staged ones. “Try to capture the moment without posing.If your kids are anything like mine, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to pose for a picture. I find the best shots come from just catching them having fun with friends, or doing something they love—like dressing up or playing make-believe,” Photographer Abnous Samford explains. See more of her tips here.
- Enjoy it (aka put the phone and computer away!). Sure it seems obvious, but social media and a growing inbox have a way of taking over even the most exciting trip.
- Remember the Traveler’s 10 Commandments, like “Thou shalt not take anything too seriously for a carefree mind is the beginning of the vacation.” This list came from a 1963 tour director manual, and the commandments still apply to travel today.
- Put a shoe in the safe. Seriously. “Even some of the most seasoned travelers store their passport and important items in the safe and forget to grab them before leaving,” says Advisor Deborah Barth. Put one of the shoes you plan to wear the next day in the safe the night before. “You certainly won’t forget your shoe and leave with one shoe on!”
Out and About
- Eat the food. Don’t be afraid of cuisine that’s not like home (or of the calories – remember that they don’t count when you travel!). Try something new. Who knows, you might find your new favorite food!
- Don’t wait until the last day for souvenirs. If you see something a cute in market that you really like, get it.
- And on that note, ship home any heavy souvenirs. You don’t want to weigh down your bag or potentially break anything. Plus, you’ll have a treat in the mail once you’re home!
When You Get Home
- Allow a day to recover. You’ll be glad you don’t have to go straight back to work and have time to catch up on laundry, get groceries, unpack – all the fun real-world stuff.
- Start planning your next trip. Fresh off the plane, you’ll remember what made your trip incredible and what you can skip, and you can share that with your travel advisor.
- Print pictures. “We rarely do this anymore, but in the afterglow of vacation you’ll be more likely to do so. I can easily order prints using the Snapfish app on my phone, or I like to make a photo book with Artifact Uprising.” – Brownell Creative Services Coordinator Brandi Sides
…And Our Number One Tip to Travel Smarter
- GO! Don’t wait to spend time with loved ones and experience our beautiful world. Despite the uncertainties in our world, you should still travel. Travel creates incredible memories, teaches valuable lessons to adults and children, and is truly life changing.
Blind with Perfect Eyesight!
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