When I say, I like to travel…..I REALLY like to travel! In this past year, I’ve logged about 40,000 miles!! So, yeah travel is my passion.

Our recent journeys have taken my family and me internationally as well as local jaunts averaging about one trip every six weeks. So, I’ve had to be on my planning A-game. As soon as I’m unpacking from one trip, I’m prepping for another.

They say the best teacher is experience, right? Well through my experiences I’ve learned some very valuable tips that I’ll share with you.

Become a checklist nerd.

  • Items that need to be bought.
  • Items that need to be packed.
  • Reservations confirmed.
  • Phone calls that need to be made and emails that need to be sent.

Investing a little money will often save you time and some headaches

  • Luggage– Investing in high-quality luggage is important! There is nothing more terrifying than to hand a bag over at check-in with a zipper that has been “jerry-rigged” out of desperation in your hotel room. Inspect your luggage as soon as your planning starts and make sure there aren’t any holes, that zippers work properly and they’re in overall good condition.
  • TSA Pre-check–  Consider investing in this service that allows you to bypass the long lines at security. As often as I travel, I always give myself plenty of time at the airport. For the latest info visit https://www.tsa.gov/precheck 
  • Car Service– Strolling into baggage claim and meeting a driver who is holding your name on a placard (or iPad these days) seems so fancy-pants……BUT worth every penny!! I first discovered this while traveling with my brood of five to San Francisco. It was LESS expensive to hire a private car service than to do a taxi or van service to where we were staying! Now when we plan trips where we’ll be using public transportation during our stay I will ALWAYS book a private car service to/from the airport. The driver will assist with luggage, allow you to bypass much of the airport madness and get you into and out of the airport much more quickly. Plus, as locals, they often have great restaurant suggestions and tips for your destination.
  • Curbside Check-In– Oh how I love-love-love the wonderful folks that now offer curbside check-in at many major airports! This is a valuable service only steps from your drop off point. The lines are often short and move much more quickly than the ones inside the airport. Now, if you use this service, PLEASE tip these hard-working folks at least $2-$3 per bag…..and never give less than $5. (If you are blessed to have the income to travel then please bless those who work hard making your experience possible.)
  • Full-service airlines– I rarely travel budget airlines. I hate the nickel and diming and the extra fees such as paying to choose my seat…..wait….didn’t my fare already BUY me a seat??!! Shout-out to Southwest Airlines as there are no fees for your first two bags and they’ve somehow managed to budget the cost of giving everyone a free beverage on every flight. Yes, I opt in for their Early Bird Check In too.
  • Pay the checked baggage fee- Unless you’re a super frequent traveler who has the carry-on luggage thing down to a science pay the darn fee and check your bags. It’s not a guarantee that your bags will fit in the cabin (as the frequent travelers usually have first-priority and they often carry on.) Plus, it’s kind of nice not to have to navigate escalators, trains, buses, restrooms, and security only to have to gate check your bag when you board. This will save you time and some headaches!!

Map It Out

This is obvious, right? Take it from me….REALLY map it out. Get old school and pack physical maps! Check your routes for tolls, bridges, construction and alternate routes. We recently drove through Denmark and, I underestimated the amount of bridges and tolls that we encountered during this portion of the trip forcing us to re-route and find ATM’s to cover the fees. (No, not all tolls accept credit cards or other currency….DOH!)

Clothing

  • Check the weather. I live in Las Vegas where our temps reached 117+ degrees this summer. When I travel to locales where the high is 87 degrees but with high humidity this desert girl struggles. Yeah, it’s the dry heat vs. humidity debate. Humidity feels warmer.
  • Pack for layers and go light on the shoes. I’m an over-packer and like options. I will keep the shoe selection to a minimum as they add weight and I settle for comfort over cuteness.
  • A variety of plastic bags. These come in handy for a variety of reasons: packing toiletries, keeping wet clothing separate, a place for dirty clothes, a place for muddy shoes and perhaps for a rain cover in a pinch.

Money

  • Create a budget, and I suggest you over-budget for items such as food, drinks, and miscellaneous expenses.
  • Call your credit card company and inquire about foreign transaction fees and let them know your travel dates.
  • For overseas travel, a good rule of thumb is to use ATM’s for local currency and use your credit/debit card for purchases. You usually get a better exchange rate.

For the “What-If’s….”

  • My kiddos have identification bracelets from Road ID. They can choose their favorite color and style which encourages them to keep it on. I have their name and our contact info in case of an emergency or separation.
  • Make sure someone at home has a copy of your itinerary.
  • Pack the basics for medications. Especially if you’re traveling abroad. Motrin isn’t necessarily sold everywhere and you don’t want to rely on the kindness of a stranger as you desperately act out your symptoms with hand motions to diagnose and give you a medication suggestion while standing in a foreign pharmacy.
  • Contact the U.S. State Department’s website for travel warnings, restrictions. The CDC website for required immunizations if you’re getting super adventurous and going to any under-developed regions.
  • Make sure that your passport is valid for SIX months beyond your travel dates.

My focus in life is to stay as organized as I can so that I have more time to enjoy my journey no matter where it takes me.

I hope you enjoy your journey as well!!

-Janel