Going on vacation is amazing, but sometimes the process of getting to your destination can be less than enjoyable. Traffic jams, airport security, flight delays and other annoyances can not only put you in a foul mood, but can wreck your entire trip. Sadly, you can’t control some of these things, but there are plenty of ways to ensure you arrive at your destination relaxed, prepared and ready to enjoy your getaway.
Here are 19 things to consider when planning your next big trip.
1. Get Global Entry & TSA PreCheck
Your five-year, $100 Global Entry membership means expedited processing while going through U.S. Customs. It also gives you TSA PreCheck status that can speed you through security when traveling domestically without removing your shoes, laptops, liquids, belt and light jacket. Don’t think you fly enough to warrant the fee? You could consider an opportunity to …
2. Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Many travel rewards credit cards cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee for as long as you carry the card. On top of that, you can earn miles to help you earn free upgrades and free travel. Many of these cards also offer perks like travel insurance, rental car insurance and assistance for health care and other emergencies while traveling. You can check out some of our favorite travel rewards credit cards here.
3. Consider Travel Insurance
Of course, travel rewards cards often require excellent credit, so you may not qualify if your credit isn’t in good standing. (Find out where you stand with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.) You can easily buy one of the perks these cards offer, though — travel insurance. If an illness, weather situation or other issue keeps you from your plans, travel insurance will make sure you don’t forfeit the cost of your plane tickets and possibly your accommodations.
4. Buy Your Ticket From the Airline
It’s tempting to buy your airline ticket from a discount website, but you can wind up at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to overbooked flights, rebooking without hefty fees and other issues. So if you think you’ll need to change your flight, or absolutely, positively must be at your destination at a specific time, buying from the airline may be worth it, even if it includes an added expense. Also consider signing up for your favorite airline’s miles program.
5. Buy Good Luggage
We’re not saying you need to spend a lot of money, but buying sturdy bags can ensure you don’t end up at your destination with your wheels having literally fallen off. Do your research and look for sales on well-reviewed bags. You may even want to splurge for a bag with a lifetime warranty on repairs. Use your travel rewards card for the purchase and you’ll earn miles toward your next trip.
6. Research Accommodations
There’s nothing worse than ending up at your hotel, hostel or home and it looks nothing at all like the photos you viewed online. Be sure to read the reviews and do lots of comparing to ensure you get a space that is in a good location for your personal tastes, is safe and is priced competitively.
7. Check Your Passport
If you’re traveling abroad, most countries require your passport to not be within 90 days of expiration while you’re in the country. Avoid being turned away at the airport and having to spend hundreds of dollars to expedite your passport renewal just so you don’t have to completely forfeit your trip. Also check the visa requirements for your destination (same goes for inoculations if needed). If you forget, the airline can typically handle it at the airport, but it’s better to square it away ahead of time to avoid potential delays.
8. Pack Snacks
Food at the airport is stupidly expensive and typically not good. Plan ahead and put together a solid meal for every 12 hours you’ll be traveling, especially if you’re not flying business or first class. Having a few of your favorite munchies can be the difference between arriving hangry or happy.
9. Carry a Water Bottle
The same goes for having adequate liquids. If you’ve ever been stuck in your seat for long periods without beverage service, you know the importance of having your own water or other hydrating beverage with you. Pack an empty water bottle at home and fill it when you’ve made it through security. It’s great to have with you on your trip as well, especially in hot climates.
10. Be Comfortable
We’re not giving you an excuse to look like a mess, but being comfortable, especially on long international flights, can make even the most cramped leg room more comfortable. Wear soft fabrics that don’t bind and try to layer so temperature fluctuations don’t leave you freezing or sweating. If your flight is super long, consider packing a comfy sleeping outfit you can change into on the plane.
11. Wear Slip-On Shoes
Slip-on-shoes are one step further on your road to comfort. Not only do they help you pass through security (if you didn’t get your TSA PreCheck), but you can easily kick off your shoes and get comfy on the plane.
12. Take Soothing Socks
Once you slip off those shoes, you’ll want something to make you feel cozy and cuddly. Some fluffy, cushy socks can do the trick. Try to find some with rubberized feet so you don’t have to change when you head to the restroom.
13. Pack a Refresh Kit
This has gotten me through many an international flight. If you’re not flying business or first class where they provide a comfort kit, packing a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb or hairbrush, change of underwear, a washcloth, moisturizer, lotion, lip balm and even a refreshing herbal mist can make all the difference in how you feel once you reach your destination.
14. Pack a Cozy Wrap or Sweater
Planes frequently get cold, so a sweater, light jacket, shawl or scarf can help, especially if the airline doesn’t offer blankets or runs out.
15. Know the Language
If you’re headed to a country where they speak a different language, try to know a few simple phrases so you aren’t constantly using the translation app on your phone.
16. Get an International Calling Plan …
Speaking of your phone, see if your carrier offers an international plan on a temporary basis. It can help you keep in touch without racking up a huge bill.
17. … Or a Temporary Phone
If not, there are plenty of places that offer simple and inexpensive phones with prepaid calling plans that will let you at least text and talk, if not check your email and play with your favorite apps.
18. Have Walking-Around Money
You may be planning to use your credit card exclusively while traveling, but it’s good to have money in your pocket, especially in foreign countries. Exchange your money at the airport or make a withdrawal at a local ATM. You may want to research if any local banks are affiliated with your bank back home, as they can often charge lower ATM transaction fees.
19. Make Note of Your Accommodation Details
Putting your local address into your phone can save you serious headaches, especially if you’ve been out having a bit too much fun and can’t remember. If you’re in a hotel, include the phone number so you can call for assistance if necessary.