Ah, the joys of travel. Although vacations are terrific opportunities to see new things and meet new people, there can often be the tiniest element of stress in even the best-planned trips. That’s why we share some of our favorite tips and strategies picked up over the course of dozens of vacations with our newsletter subscribers every month. We find they help take some of the challenges out of planning and taking vacations, and we hope they make your next vacation easier as well!
Every six months we compile our tips into the best-of Smart and Savvy Travel Tips series. We hope our latest collection gives you a few new ideas or confirms some of your own favorite strategies!
Check Your Voltage — and Bring an Adapter!
If your travels will take you outside of your home country, there’s a good chance you’ll remember to bring your favorite devices like your phone, laptop, or tablet, but don’t take charging them for granted!
When visiting new parts of the world, you may discover that the shape of the electrical socket in your hotel room is different from what you have at home, which may mean your device can’t be charged without an adapter. Before you leave for the airport, spend a few moments researching what kind of outlets you will find at your destination. We often rely on websites like Power Plugs and Sockets of the World to help us determine what kind of an adapter we will need on our packing list. You may needed a few adapters if you are planning to bring multiple devices that will be charged at the same time; alternatively, you may be able to bring a smaller number of chargers if you will have access to a power strip, surge protector, or a laptop with multiple USB ports that can support charging a few devices at once.
Once you know what kind of adapter you will need, don’t overlook voltage! Electrical voltages can vary around the world, which means your devices may be compatible with the voltage supplied in some countries but may not be compatible in other countries. While most modern devices can be successfully charged and used without a voltage adapter, know whether your device will work on different voltages before you travel. Many phones and computers will work without an adapter, but small electronics like hairdryers often require a separate voltage adapter. If there is incompatibility between your device and the voltage in your location, you may burn out the device or even disrupt power to the building you are in! You can find both socket adapters and voltage adapters on Amazon and through many retailers, so be sure to purchase what you need before you travel!
Travel During the Off-SeasonThere’s no question that vacations can get expensive, especially during the summer. With schools closing for the summer and many offices offering a more relaxed attendance policy, summer is often the easiest time to incorporate a vacation into your schedule. When flights, hotels, and attractions are in high demand, prices can go up significantly. That’s why off-season travel might be your next money-saving secret.
When planning your next vacation, think about any flexibility you might have in your personal calendar. If you can avoid traveling to a destination during a popular, more expensive time, you may be able to save some money and find a better deal. Instead of traveling during the summer, look into postponing a trip until the fall or winter, when flights and hotels may be less expensive. That may also provide you with a chance to use summer vacation days to explore your hometown; a few day trips that don’t require flights and hotels can be just as relaxing as a longer trip!
If your vacation dates aren’t flexible, consider traveling to a region whose off-season aligns with your planned vacation time. If you live in the northern hemisphere, look at destinations in the southern hemisphere that are experiencing fall or winter. You may be surprised to discover that weather conditions are comfortable and there is just as much to experience—and you can benefit from visiting during a quieter, less expensive time!
Wear a Non-Metal Belt
Airport security presents plenty of challenges, and one of the greatest challenges is wearing the right clothing. In addition to taking off hats, coats, and shoes, belts can present a unique kind of frustration. After the hassle of taking a belt off, when collecting it once it has been x-rayed it usually takes a few extra moments to put it back on. That’s why non-metal belts may just be your next favorite travel purchase.
Non-metal belts are a terrific item to add to your packing list because they use a polymer buckle instead of a metal one, which means the belt is fine to wear through security checkpoints and won’t set off sensors that trigger questioning or a secondary search. The stretchy elastic belt is comfortable for flights (including long-haul flights that require a lot of time sitting down), and many belts are both machine washable and adjustable, making them as good for wearing during your trips as they are flying to and from your destination. If you regularly wear a belt, consider a non-metal belt like our favorite (found on Amazon!) for your next flight. You may still be taking off your coat and shoes, but you’ll have one less piece of clothing to remove and put on again at security!
Know Your Travel Comfort ZoneTravel—whether local, domestic, or international—can be daunting. It can also seem overwhelming; with so many choices to make about where to go, where to stay, and what to do, planning a vacation can immediately feel like it’s outside of your comfort zone. Good news: that can work to your advantage!
If you are craving adventure but are nervous about traveling, consider the activities you enjoy that might make a foreign place feel more like home. If you are a baseball fan, traveling to see your team play in another city gives you the chance to explore a new place while enjoying an activity you love. Do you enjoy spending vacations laying by the beach? Instead of an annual trip to a place you know, consider a vacation that would incorporate a few beach days in another state or country. You’ll combine new experiences with activities you know and love, which will allow your comfort zone to follow you at the same time you adapt to grow it.
Want to learn more about turning anxiety into adventure? Check out our article from 2015 to learn how we used our comfort zone to help us achieve our travel goals!
Make a Permanent Packing ListNo matter where your travels might take you, there is a good chance your suitcase will always contain a few staples. There are some things, like deodorant or your toothbrush, that you never want to leave home without packing. There are also some things—like deodorant or your toothbrush—that you are likely to overlook and leave behind. That’s why a little bit of pre-planning can save you the time and money it takes to seek out and replace those items while traveling.
As you get ready for your next trip, take a few minutes to write down all of the items you pack. Save the packing list to your phone, tablet, or computer as a guide to preparing for your next trip. That will ensure the items you don’t want to forget will make it into your suitcase. Consider segmenting your list into a few subheadings to keep it organized, such as a list for clothing items, toiletries, and items you want in your carry-on bag (like headphones or a book). Your packing list will help your packing process to become more automated; you will save time and energy when you don’t have to recreate a mental packing list for every trip, and you’ll greatly reduce the number of emergency trips to the store to pick up items you wish you hadn’t left at home!
Overbudget for Your VacationThere’s a good chance you already budget for your vacations, but there’s a better reason to consider overbudgeting for your next trip. Although it’s important to be realistic about how much your trip will cost—from flights to hotels to meals and entertainment—it’s also important to recognize that some aspects of your trip may cost more than you expect. Running out of money on vacation is never fun, but it can be just as terrible to spend your paid time off worrying about expenses and adding up every meal, souvenir, and activity—especially if you encounter unexpected opportunities you would hate to miss.
Overbudgeting is an easy way to avoid the worry, frustration, and disappointment that can come from setting too little money aside for a vacation. While it is easier to know exactly how much expenses like flights and hotels will be, add some extra money to your daily budget to cover more expensive meals, tours you hear about from locals, or even an extra couple bottles of water to stay hydrated. You’ll have better memories of your vacation if you return home with more money in your wallet than you expected, and you won’t have to turn down the experiences you really want to enjoy.
Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks aren’t just for marathon runners anymore: they are a traveler’s new best friend!
Long flights can be tough for many reasons, and while you might think of sleepless hours and inedible meals as the obstacles that impact your health the most, swelling and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are two health issues that can impact anyone who flies. One great way to combat those challenges is to wear compression socks, especially on longer flights. Compression socks squeeze your legs, which helps the veins in your legs to keep blood flowing. That simple action reduces your chances of swelling and DVT; although most travelers don’t need to worry about either issue, the longer your flight is the higher your chances of being impacted by either condition. One of our favorite travel tips is to keep a pair of compression socks in our carry-on luggage and then change into them just before boarding a flight. Compression socks are an inexpensive investment, but they are a great addition to your packing list and an easy way to stay a little healthier during your travels.
There are plenty of ways to make your vacations as close to stress-free as possible, and we hope these tips give you a few great ideas. Do you have a favorite strategy you would love to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!
Be sure to check out our other Smart and Savvy Travel Tips posts!