Tips to Make the Most of Your Trips: Insider Tricks to Make You a Smarter Traveller

As many of you know, I have been doing a lot of traveling lately. Since January, I’ve been to California, Florida (twice), Ohio and Denver. As a result, I have picked up some great ideas on how to make travel less stressful and more enjoyable. I’d like to share some of my tips in hopes that it will make your trips go smoother.

Get Your Papers In Order:

-Before you travel, make two copies of the important information in your passport. Leave one copy with someone at home and pack the other in your carry-on. If your passport is lost or stolen this will make it easier to get a replacement. Treat your passport the same way you do your cash; always keep it in a safe place.

-Put one photocopy of your credit cards/identification in your carry-on and leave another with someone back home. Also take a copy of your medical and eyeglass prescriptions.

-Take an extra credit card and know your account numbers and bank/credit card contact numbers. My U.S. credit card was compromised on my last trip, and the bank was unable to give me information because I didn’t know my credit card number (U.S. law). I had packed my Canadian credit card as an afterthought, and boy was I happy about that when I had to pay for the hotel room and my US card was declined!

-Bring small bills in the country’s currency for tipping.

-Keep your receipts in a small, clear resealable bag. This keeps your wallet light and, when you fill out your customs card, you’ll know how much you spent.

-Place your business card or your name and contact information in a prominent place inside your luggage. If the luggage goes missing and the tag comes off, the airport personnel can still identify you as the owner of the luggage and return it to you.

How to Enhance  Your Hotel Stay:

-If you are staying at a hotel that is part of a large chain (i.e. Hyatt, Westin), sign up for their loyalty program ahead of time (usually no cost). You will receive perks like early check-in, late check-out, free upgrades, points for free stays, etc. Arrive early and you’ll have a better chance of getting a room that matches your preferences. Arriving early in Denver got me a room with a spectacular mountain view at no extra cost. Be sure your room is not near the elevator or the ice machine; the noise could keep you up all night. I like to request a low floor, in case the elevator is slow. The fire alarm has gone off in the middle of the night during several of my hotel stays, and though they were false alarms, I didn’t panic because I knew I could take the stairs and get out if there really was a fire.

Make your hotel stay environmentally friendly; stick the “Do not Disturb” on your door. You don’t change your sheets everyday at home, so why do you need to have them changed while you are away? If you are only staying for a few days, you can decline housekeeping services, thus saving water and electricity. Some hotels reward this by offering vouchers for food and drinks or additional points.  An additional bonus is that you don’t have to pick up after yourself or hide your valuables before housekeeping comes in (although you should avoid traveling with valuables and use secure storage where available).

-Do not leave your key card behind when you check out. Take it home with you and shred it. It can have sensitive information about you on it.

How to Pack for Your Trip:

-Keep a packing list on your computer so you can print out a fresh one each time you travel. Check off the items as you pack them to avoid leaving behind necessities. The stress of last minute packing often causes us to forget things, so this can be a real sanity saver.

-Pack comfortable clothes that travel well. Prints and checkered patterns in blended fabrics or knits will hide stains and wrinkle less. Choose clothing in neutral colors (black, white, grey, cream) to create several outfits out of just a few mix and match pieces.

-Protect your clothing from dampness (if the luggage is transported in the rain or snow) by lining the inside top and bottom with a large garbage bag.  Some airports (Denver) provide clear plastic bags that fit over the entire luggage.

-Pack a mesh laundry bag or extra pillowcase for dirty clothing.

-To simplify packing, items that will be used at the same time should be packed together so that each bundle has a purpose.  For example, put toothbrush and toothpaste together in a resealable bag; bundle the camera and batteries as a group; combine hairpins and elastics with a comb.

-Pack the clothing items that will be worn first at the top.

-Pack each pair of shoes in a large, clear resealable bag to keep them visible and prevent them from soiling your clothes. Shoes should sit at the bottom of the luggage when it is upright; this distributes the weight properly so your luggage doesn’t tip.

-Save space by tucking socks and underwear inside shoes. Pack individual pairs of shoes in large zippered freezer bags; you’ll be able to see what’s inside while keeping dirt from the shoes contained.

-Wrap and roll clothes in dry cleaning bags to prevent them from wrinkling.

-Never pack more than you can carry; this will give you the freedom to move around easily and save your back! Use the smallest size of luggage you can get away with so items can be packed tightly; that way, things won’t move around. If you can travel with just a carry-on, you can save a lot of time. You may want to purchase a luggage scale to weigh your luggage before you get to the airport. If you like to shop while you’re away, be sure to allow extra space for your purchases.

-Update your luggage. New technology has made luggage lighter and easier to maneuver through the airports, making your trip more enjoyable. Investing in quality luggage was one of the best things I did to make my life easier at the airport.

Transportation Tips:

-Reconfirm your flight time and print your boarding pass before you get to the airport. This saves you time and secures you a seat on the plane. Many hotels will allow you free access to a computer and printer for this purpose.

-If you are renting a car at your destination, book online as far in advance as possible. I usually book the smallest car and have always received a free upgrade upon arrival. In fact, I got a Mustang convertible twice when I booked a compact! If you are willing to take the gamble, it’s a great way to save some money.

I hope you find these tips valuable when you are planning your next trip. Please post any tips you have so we can all benefit from your wisdom as a smart traveller!

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This post has 6 comments

  • Ron Mitchell says:

    Hellen, Thanks for a very good article on traveling! Good that you had a enjoyable stay in our mile high city of Denver area. I printed your article for future reference. One year, I traveled around the world for five months with just one carry-on. No checked baggage! Stayed at hostels that had a kitchen to cook some meals with local groceries and met many wonderful travelers (“backpackers”)! I used a very slim “belt wallet” to keep my tickets, cash, passport, copies, etc. http://www.beltwalletstore.info/001_Belt-Wallet I suppose you have watched Rick Steves show about Europe. This week, “The Dr’s” tv show(NBC) had a segment on hotel rooms ‘cleanliness’ and ‘bed bugs’. Many tips on just how clean hotel rooms are (or not)! In some countries, the U.S. dollar bill is more valuable than the local currency. Thanks for the tip on the hotel key card…I did not know that. I bought things along my trip as I needed them and even dressed as a local to blend in more (such as in India). I always kept my eye out for information everywhere and anywhere. In hostel at Zurich, I saw a poster about a local tour of Switzerland in small bus leaving the next day. A great trip with 8 Japanese math students! Being flexible and even back tracking! Meeting people from other places and trying out the local food! Traveling is great! Many, many traveling and cooking shows on tv! Thanks again for your article, Ron Mitchell.

  • Rosemari says:

    I liked your article because it reminded me to photocopy my ID and credit card for my trip.

    I already do many of the other things you suggested and I would also add that I have a separate toiletries and cosmetic bags which I keep stocked with travel sized items and whenever I run out of something I put a stickie on the bag listing what I need to replenesh for the next trip and the list is extremely handy. I usually list what I plan to do on the trip and pack accordingly.

  • Suzanne says:

    Oh my, SO many great tips! I did not know that about the hotel key card either. One thing not mentioned, in reference to Ron’s comment, pack slippers or socks to use in the hotel room. You don’t want to walk barefoot in public places like that (perhaps this is such a given that it’s not worth mentioning). About the luggage: the next time I buy luggage, I’ll get something in a standout colour or pattern for easy spotting on the luggage carousel. I used the standard black suitcase for my last business trips and it did at least two rounds on that conveyor belt before I realized it was mine. The colourful ribbon I had attached on the handle wasn’t as easy to spot as I expected.

    Thanks for this post, Hellen. Your blog posts always have at least one great tip for me.

  • We have navy coloured suitcases that are adorned on all sides with bright fluorescent stickers for identification. These stickers can be purchased at a safety supply store.

    Our suitcases are always very easy to spot.

  • Karen Mc says:

    I’ve started traveling with my kids, and have invested in luggage that can be spotted even when you’re not looking for it. We were on the plane, but they had to remove someones luggage, in the process we spotted ours among the many, cool.
    Also learned with every trip less is best, trying not to overpack.
    Oh and one more thing I learned the last time we traveled, thought I could put all (mine & the kids) the small liquids in one large zip loc only to learn, the meduim ziplocs are best, let everyone have thier own bag, we almost had to get rid the excess, but I did ask for another bag, and divided the liquids.
    Still a newbie, but learning from my mistakes, and others.

  • Fern W says:

    Found the inside trips for travelling very helpful. However, feel it important to let you know that the info about destroying the key card is not true. Please see this link
    http://www.hoax-slayer.com/hotel-key-card.html . There is an explanation that the the source of this information was a prematurely leaked investigation in 2003. Credit card and home information on the hotel guests are not stored on these cards.