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Travel tips and tricks

Tried-and-true hacks for your next hop away from home.

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When traveling, you have the opportunity to view the world from an entirely new perspective. Incorporating the following tips for traveling can help you make the most of your experience, whether you’re jet-setting overseas or staying stateside.

Is it safe to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

It depends. The CDC states that you can get infected and spread COVID-19 while traveling, even if you don’t have symptoms, and many international borders are closed. However, domestic travel may be possible if you follow social distancing guidelines and adhere to the policies set in place by state and local governments.

Packing a coronavirus travel kit can help ensure you stay sanitized along the way.

Do your research beforehand to see whether travel within your desired destination is allowed, and plan your accommodation and activities to avoid highly populated areas. Stocking up on masks can help make sure you respect the safety of fellow travelers.

Domestic travel tips

  1. Track changing time zones. There are six different time zones within our 50 states: Hawaii, Alaska, Pacific, Central, Mountain and Eastern. Make sure you calculate how that’s going to affect your sleep schedule, communication with friends and family back home, and your overall itinerary.
  2. Bring along ID. Even if you won’t be flying or driving yourself, you still need to bring a form of ID in case of emergencies.
  3. Stay local and shop local. Instead of booking a room at a chain hotel, browse vacation rentals or sites like Airbnb to find accommodations with a bit more personality. While there, shop at locally-owned establishments and eat at mom-and-pop restaurants to support the local economy and get a taste of authentic flavor.

International travel tips

1. Get the proper immunizations.
You must undergo certain immunizations before you can travel to some countries. Ask a doctor about any precautions you should take before traveling. Malaria pills are a prime example if you are visiting some destinations close to the tropics where the malaria-carrying mosquito is common. Even if immunization is expensive, you must prep yourself to be safe.

2. Be wary of tainted water.
In some countries, water is highly contaminated. You might see locals drinking it, but they have built up an immunity to its impurities. Be very careful what you drink or you could end up quite ill. If bottled water is not available, you should boil the water first — or resort to chlorine tablets.

3. Make room for a small medical kit.
Your basic medical kit should contain a supply of over-the-counter painkillers, hand sanitizers, band-aids, as well as any prescribed medication you may have to take. It is a good idea to take enough prescribed medication with you to last your entire trip no matter where you’ll be traveling. Pharmacies might not be as readily available and you might need to visit a local doctor in order to get your medication.

4. Save money on flights.
With an airline or a travel credit card, you can earn miles on your everyday purchases. When the time comes, redeem your miles for flights or seat upgrades. Depending on the card, you can also save money on checked bags, priority boarding and lounge access.

5. Get the right travel money option.
You have several money options when traveling abroad, no-foreign transaction-fee credit cards, debit cards, travel or prepaid cards and cash. Relying on a single payment method may not be a wise choice. Instead, opt-in for a combination of two or more — for example a credit card for purchases and a debit card for ATM withdrawals.

6. Carry the proper documentation.
Your personal identification documents proving you’re a US citizen entitled to be in a foreign country should always be on hand. Make copies of all your documents and put them in a safe, accessible place. Take another set with you as a backup while you travel. You’ll need:

  • Emergency contacts. This list could contain friends you know in the country you are visiting, the US Embassy in that country, and contacts back home so that your identity can be verified.
  • Insurance policies. Especially your travel and health insurances.
  • Accommodation details. You should have addresses and phone numbers, booking details, dates and payment confirmation of where you’re staying.
  • All your travel plans. This should include flights, booking references, dates, times and payment confirmations.
  • Your passport. Use this and your visa — if you have one — for approval to enter the countries you’re visiting.

7. Find out if you’ll need a Visa.
For some countries, you may need to acquire a visa or a work and residence permit in order to enter the country. This may cost you additional money and time. Some countries require you to get a visa before arriving, so make sure you arrange an appointment at your nearest consulate of the destination country.

8. Consider travel insurance.
Travel insurance can help cover cancellations, lost or delayed baggage reimbursement, car rental collisions, emergency medical care and more. You can typically buy travel insurance through an airline or a third-party provider.

9. Cover your tracks.
Before leaving, make sure you have someone visit your home periodically to get your mail, take care of your pets and turn a light on at night. This could be a relative or a friend, but you could arrange to pay a neighbor a small amount to help you out. Also, try to refrain from posting on social media that you won’t be at home.

Travel tips for long flights

On a long haul flight, you’ll want to bring noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask so you can make your own peace and quiet, regardless of what’s going on inside the cabin. And also remember to:

  • Pack healthy snacks. Think high protein — nuts, cheese, yogurt or peanut butter and crackers — to stay full for longer, without suffering from a sugar crash.
  • Avoid coffee. This might sound counter-intuitive, but avoiding coffee will help reset your sleep schedule after you land.
  • Wear comfy clothes — and bring layers. There’s nothing worse than shivering your way across an ocean. Dress in loose or stretchy clothing and bring a scarf, cardigan and an extra pair of socks for additional warmth.

Travel packing tips

  1. Roll your clothes. Folding may be the status quo, but you’ll save room and avoid wrinkles by rolling your clothes, whether you’re packing a tote, carry-on or heavy-duty suitcase.
  2. Bag up your toiletries. Securing your toiletries in a sealed bag can help avoid dreaded spillage, and will also streamline the security process before a flight.
  3. Leave room for souvenirs. You know your own shopping habits best. If you tend to stock up on souvenirs or local goods, then make sure you save room in your suitcase up front, to avoid frustration or pricey trips to the post office later on.

Travel safety tips

  • Share your itinerary with friends and family. Especially if you’re traveling alone or with a small group, it’s important that loved ones back home know when and where to check up on you.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. It can be tempting to wander into less-populated areas or indulge in mind-altering substances a bit too much while traveling, but it’s imperative to keep your wits about you. Keep your bag on your person when you’re out in public, and lock up your belongings if you’re staying in a hostel.

Did you know?

The government provides a service that lets citizens notify the closest US Embassy or Consulate about their trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is free and can contact you in the event of an emergency, get you in touch with friends or family and offer general safety tips.

Bottom line

Travel can be absolutely life-changing. Following these expert tips will create time and space for the discoveries that will surely come your way. Browse our top deals, discounts and coupons to save money in every phase of your next adventure.

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