The best travelers develop habits and routines that make their trips more rewarding. Adopt these seven tricks to take your vacationing skills to the next level.
Taking Advantage of Flight-Tracking Apps
One of the smartest things you can do with your smartphone is to download a good flight-tracking app. We recommend TripIt—with the pro version, you'll get instant alerts about flight delays, cancellations, and gate changes. You'll also get alerts letting you know as soon as online check-in is available, whether your airfare is eligible for a refund, and help finding a new flight if yours is cancelled. At $49, it's definitely pricey, but there are many other free apps worth your time, too. Make a habit of inputting your itinerary into a travel app before you take off, and you (or at least your smartphone) will be on top of the travel game.
Integrating with Locals
Make a new tradition and have one of your first stops on each trip be a bar, coffee shop, or restaurant frequented by locals and not recommended by any guidebooks. While you're there, chat up friendly natives for their tips on what to do. By starting off every trip like this, you'll often discover things you would have missed by sticking to a guidebook or concierge's choices. Why not start a routine of dropping your bags at the hotel, then immediately heading out for refreshment at the quirkiest local establishment you can find? It's a fun and informative way to ease into your vacation.
Do you travel a lot? Make it a habit to keep your suitcase stocked with travel toiletries and a carry-on bag packing list. Even if you're not away every weekend, having the essentials ready to go and an idea of what you need to check off can save you lots of pre-vacation stress and prevent overpacking. Plus, if someone ever offers to whisk you away at a moment's notice, you'll be prepared!
Checking in ASAP
With airlines trying to squeeze every last penny out of flyers by turning exit-row economy seats into "premium economy," your chance of snagging a good aisle or window seat (without paying extra) is dwindling. Get in the habit of setting an alarm on your phone or email to remind you exactly when your airline's online check-in starts. If you weren't able to select seats when you booked, this will give you the first shot at what's open. If you already picked a seat, remember that oftentimes it's the passengers who check in last who get bumped from oversold flights. Print your boarding passes at this time, too, and you'll be able to ditch the long check-in lines at the airport.
Doing Your Homework
Spontaneity is great on trips, but doing a little homework before you go can vastly enhance your getaway. A few weeks before you travel, try signing up for daily deal sites (like Groupon or LivingSocial) for your destination. You'll get offers for local restaurants and activities that you can redeem once you're there—all at a deep discount. Read up on the place that you're traveling to, too—there's nothing worse than finding out about an amazing event or attraction after you've returned home.
Calling Your Credit Card Company
Another important habit is calling your credit card company and bank before you head off to any far-flung destination. Many companies will freeze your card if it's used outside of your home country, thinking that it's fraud. A few days before you leave, give them a call and let them know the dates you'll be gone so you'll still be able to access all your funds abroad.
Building Downtime Into Your Schedule
It's tempting to try to pack a million different activities and sights into your trip, because who knows when you'll get a chance to come back? Get in the habit of leaving some downtime in your schedule. Without it, you'll be overexerted and tired, and you'll never have time to just wander and discover the unexpected delights that can be the best part of any trip.
-- Caroline Morse