The wanderlust vibe is real these days. You see travel pics all over your social media feeds, and it’s easier (and more affordable!) than ever to explore the world. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to live in London for almost five years. Prior to my lengthy stint abroad, I had only left the U.S. once. Unfortunately, Americans have a bad rap for not leaving our bubble. I think that this is an unfair judgement. Since the U.S. is so big, we have countless travel opportunities to experience different climates, topography, and micro-cultures without ever having to leave the country. Did you know that even though Europe is only slightly larger than the U.S., it is composed of 50 individual countries? Just as we can easily visit different states, it’s no big deal to travel from one European country to another.
I believe that travel can bring out both the best and the worst of people. You are pushing your limits, shying away from your comfort zone and a lot of things can go wrong on the go. Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter, or this is your first time leaving your home state, here are a few tips that will make your travels easier and more affordable!
If you’re traveling far, there may be no other transportation option other than an airplane. Airlines are notorious for gouging prices during long weekends, holidays and any other time when travel is popular or convenient. The trick is to beat the system. Travel mid-week or during an off season, and try to avoid holidays. If you don’t have a particular destination in mind, you can use the “explore” option on Kiwi.com. It lets you view awesome deals, and you can save a ton if you’re flexible!
If possible, try to book most of your trips with the same airline. This will allow you to start racking up points that can be used for free flights, upgrades, and lounge access. If you’re flying with a budget airline, make sure to read all the T&C’s in advance. They can be very sneaky about hidden charges for things like printing your boarding pass at the airport or selecting your seat in advance.
While hotels and airlines sometimes offer last minute deals, this is almost never true for train operators. Whether you are taking a short trip from N.Y.C. to Cold Spring, or you’re traveling from London to Paris, the key is to book as far in advance as possible! Don’t bother springing for first class, the difference between first class and standard coaches are almost indistinguishable. Save your money for a cool souvenir or that funky exotic cocktail you’ve been wanting to try!
I was born and raised in the Florida suburbs, and the only buses I ever came across had one destination…school. They were never a means of reliable daily transportation or long haul travel, so you can imagine my reluctance to try public buses.
Now, I ride the bus all the time! You can travel across state lines for as low as…wait for it…$5. I kid you not! Every few months I take trips back and forth between N.Y.C. and D.C. and it usually costs me around $15 each way, or $30 round trip. Just as is true with trains, the further in advance you book, the cheaper it will be. If you’re traveling to a city with public transportation like public buses or a subway, consider taking a long haul bus instead of renting a car. It’s easier and cheaper, and you won’t need to worry about parking!
In addition to the total pain of having to schlep multiple bags and suitcases, traveling heavy can also make a dent in your wallet. Many budget airlines and other transportation providers will offer low prices, but beware, there are no amenities included. You may think that you already possess a “carry on” bag, but make sure you double check the airline’s weight and dimension restrictions for luggage before you finish packing. This will help you avoid some hefty fines at the gate!
– Pack light and wash your clothes on the go…in the sink! Bring a plastic bag with laundry pods in it, and a bath stopper (or use the plastic bag.) Then, fill the bathroom sink of your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb with warm water and detergent, and hand wash your clothes. Make sure you thoroughly rinse each item, so your clothes don’t become crunchy or chalky with soap stains. When you’re done, lay them out to dry. This is particular easy with socks and panties, but is a bit trickier with larger heavier clothes that take much longer to dry.
– Liquid limits are no joke when you only have a carry on. Use a weekly pill organizer to bring travel sized versions of foundation and moisturizers, just make sure it’s airtight so you don’t have leaks!
– Speaking of leaks, prevent them by putting a tiny square of cling wrap over the container’s opening and screwing or snapping the lid on tightly over the wrap. This hack is particularly useful with travel-sized bottles.
– Tangled necklaces and lost earrings floating around amongst your clothes are the worst. A small jewelry organizer can have a huge impact in helping you to keep things orderly.
– Scan copies of your passport, driver’s license, and credit/debit cards before you leave on your trip. Leave these scans with a trusted friend back home, and also take copies with you and keep them in a safe place. In case any of them get lost or stolen, it’s great to have a backup!
– If you don’t already have one, apply for a credit card that gives you extra points for travel charges. Also check to make sure that it doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.
– Pack a large blanket scarf. This can keep you warm on cold flights, and can offer modesty if you need to cover your shoulders to visit any religious landmarks.
– Sleep tight. Bring an eye mask to get some zzz’s even if there is lots of light. Also bring some earplugs; hotels, hostels, or group housing can be noisy!
– Wrinkles are only cute on shar peis. You can find mini travel steamers for as low as $20. This will be your best investment not only for travel, but I use mine at home daily!
– Before your trip, check out discount sites like Groupon.com and search for activities in the city you’re traveling to. It can help you save loads on excursions and meals!
– If you plan on traveling (domestically or abroad) more than a few times a year, it is 100% worth it to apply for TSA Pre✓/Global Entry. It involves an easy online application and a 10-minute interview where your fingerprints are taken and a background check is conducted at an enrollment center (often at your local airport). It costs $85 and is good for 5 years! Membership allows you to go in the Pre✓ fast lane through security, and you don’t have to take off your shoes, light jackets, or remove your laptop from your bag. You also receive Global Entry status, which allows you to breeze through immigration when you return home from international travel.
There are so many reasons to travel, but also so many things that can hold us back. Whether your personal reason is budget, lack of time, or fear, don’t let it stop you from experiencing all the wonderful things beyond your city.