Summer is upon us and many of you will soon be taking vacations that you have eagerly awaited. Here are a few tips that can help you as you prepare for that ultimate get-away.
First and foremost, use a travel agent. I’m not just saying that because I am one. Ok, perhaps, I am. However, most every system you use to book a trip, including Expedia, Hotels.com, is technically a travel agent. The real difference between working with a local travel agent versus an online site is that a local agent is someone who will be your advocate. If your flight is cancelled or delayed or some other issue arises with your trip, those online sites don’t care and don’t do anything to help. You the traveler will have to resolve the issue. Working with a local travel agent who knows you and your needs will help you with the issues and even help file travel insurance claims, if you purchased travel insurance.
Speaking of travel insurance–Have you purchased a policy for that upcoming luxury trip? Most families will spend thousands of dollars for a vacation without even considering spending a couple of extra hundred dollars for trip insurance.
Most major U.S. insurance companies will not cover you if you need medical assistance while outside the United States. Most travel insurance companies will cover you for pre-existing conditions if you purchase the policy within fourteen days of booking your trip.
Did a delayed or canceled flight cause you to miss part of your vacation? If you have travel insurance you are covered. Lost luggage? Again, with travel insurance, you are covered.
There are many benefits to having travel insurance. Ask your travel agent for more details. At Magnolia Travel Group, we always offer you travel insurance.
Make sure your passport is current. If you are traveling outside of the United States, your passport must not expire within six months of your return date.
For traveling outside of the United States, you must have a passport book and not a passport card.
Make a photocopy of the page in your passport that has your identifying information on it and keep that copy in a safe place. Doing so will be helpful in the event your passport is lost or stolen while on your trip.
Be sure you know the location of the United States embassy in the country where you are traveling.
Passports are not required for cruises which leave from and return to a US port. Nevertheless, MTG highly recommends taking yours if you have one, as you will not be able to return to the United States without your passport if you are offloaded for a medical emergency or stranded in a foreign port of call.
Finally, allow plenty of time for your passport to be processed. Processing time can take up to eight weeks after you have successfully submitted your application. For emergencies or quicker turnaround time, you can travel to your nearest passport office.
For more information, please visit U.S. Passports
Be prepared for the security lines. You know you are going to have go through security. Unless you are disabled, a senior or a child, you will have to take your shoes off, remove items from your pockets, and take your electronics out (unless using a TSA-approved bag). So, don’t wait to get up to the scanner and be surprised you have to take these actions, thus holding everyone up in line. You won’t make friends that way.
Look for security lines where there are business or frequent travelers. Since these people travel often, they know how to navigate security. Typically, they identify lines that move faster.
If you travel frequently, you can also consider getting TSA pre-approved. While there is an application and background check process, it saves a lot of time. Check with your local TSA office or www.tsa.gov for more information.
Consider purchasing travel-friendly clothing. This type of clothing is typically wrinkle-resistant and quick drying for those hotel sink washes. Pick clothing that can be mixed and matched or serve multiple purposes, so you aren’t having to take full outfits for every single day.
Use organizers in your suitcase to help with packing and to more easily access your belongings at your hotel. This past Christmas, I received a hang up suitcase organizer similar to this one Hang Up Suitcase Organizer – The Viral Gadgets. I love it. All I have to do is pull this organizer out of my suitcase and hang it in my hotel closet.
Here are some Eagle Creek organizers that I also recommend based on personal use:
Snacks and water
A great way to both save some money and have healthier choices is to pack your own snacks for your trip. Avoid the overpriced items at airport newsstands and hotel kiosks. I also recommend taking an empty, reusable water bottle that you fill up after passing through security or when you arrive at your hotel. Sometimes, I will find a drugstore or discount store near my hotel and buy a small case of water. Usually, a 12-pack of bottled water will cost less than one bottle from the hotel mini-bar.
Planning Your Routes
Some areas of the country have weak-to-no cell phone service which can cause issues when you are relying on your phone’s GPS for navigation. With Google Maps, you can download sections of maps to use offline. So you don’t have to worry about using your phone’s cell or wifi service when there is none to be had.
I found this particularly useful when I was traveling in Vermont and Maine last summer and my local cell phone carrier didn’t have good coverage in those states. Mountainous areas also tend to have spotty service.
If you are like me, you are ready to hit the ground running when you land at your destination. However, long flights can cause jet lag. You can prepare by getting plenty of rest a couple days before your trip, avoiding alcohol, and drinking plenty of water leading up to and during your flight.
Quickly acclimating to the local time zone is your best bet. Depending on your arrival time, you may need to stay up when tired or getting rest when not sleepy. For instance, if you arrive in the early morning after an overnight flight, try and stay awake rather than going straight to your hotel and going to sleep, which will make adjusting to the local time zone harder. On the other hand, if you arrive in the evening, you are better off getting rest immediately.
Now that most airlines charge for luggage, you need to plan accordingly. For shorter trips, consider taking your suitcase onboard and putting it in the overhead bin. However, be a considerate passenger: don’t expect a large suitcase to fit in a small overhead bin, thus wasting everyone’s time now that your luggage has to be checked plane side. Use a duffle or backpack that can easily fit in the overhead bins and conform to non-standard spaces. Not only does taking these steps make the boarding process easier but you also saved that luggage fee. Note: Most airlines have a checkpoint with a measuring device to determine if your bag will fit in the overhead bins of their planes.
When checking luggage, be sure to check your airline’s luggage weight policy. If you cross that weight limit, you will have to pay a higher fee. You should also compare this fee to the cost for a second bag. If the extra weight fee is less than the second bag fee, then let your own physical capabilities dictate how heavy you want your bag to be.