Below are a handpicked selection of articles by our team of travel veterans and our favorite travel experts. These are people, just like you, for whom necessity is the mother of invention. Over many trips, suffering the frustration of lost luggage or bags that weighed them down, they learned to pack better, and lighter. They learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
It's terribly important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. We probably don't need to tell you why you need to keep your passport and wallet on your person. But if the airline loses your luggage (or if a TSA agent gets sticky fingers), you'll regret stowing your expensive watch in a checked bag.
If you are constantly visiting the same location, find a hotel you like and make that your go-to accommodation on each trip. This way, over time, you can negotiate the rates of the hotel; if you know you will be staying in this city for at least two weeks throughout the year, that’s two weeks that hotel needn’t worry about their rooms being empty. This gives you grounds to negotiate some sort of special rate in advance of your trip. Many hotels are famous for giving corporate rates and discounts for loyal customers, so it can’t hurt to ask. Furthermore, returning to a hotel you know you will like will seriously help to reduce your stress levels. You know what you’re going to get, and you know you like it.
From a safety perspective, it’s good to have several people back home who know where you’ll be. I forward any flight or accommodation confirmations to my family and Skype with them several times a week to let them know what I’m up to. That way, if ever I disappear for a few days, my family will know immediately and will be able to know where I was staying at that time. It takes just a few minutes but really improves your safety.
Baggage allowance varies from airline to airline. Make sure you’re aware of your limits before you reach the airport. Some carriers will allow you to check in two bags, but not all, and the weight allowance can vary (see point 12). Make sure you understand the hand luggage allowance and avoid costly charges at the gate. You might also want to read our hand luggage guide.
I know that to most people it looks like I am always on vacation, and that I live the glamorous life. But trust me, there is a big difference in traveling for pure pleasure or going on vacation, and traveling for work reasons. I have learned how to prepare for a business trip, and I talked about this a year ago, on a post where I explained what the reality of being a travel blogger is.
"Packing in a soft-sided weekender or duffel gives you the flexibility (literally!) to shape your bag to what you're packing instead of the other way around. My canvas overnighter takes on a different shape depending on what I need it to hold and will squish, even when packed almost beyond its means, into spaces a hard-sided roller bag just won't go. I hope my current bag will last forever but I'm eyeing this simple weekender from Makr as its eventual replacement." — Skye Senterfeit, Photo Editor
However, experts warn against passing up extremely cheap flights for the sake of accumulating points. Sometimes there are offers out there that really are too good to miss, and one ought to stay level-headed within the points game. The same goes for balancing frugality and practicality. The cheapest flight is often not the one that gets you from Point A to Point B the fastest, so it is important to know what makes sense for the trip at hand, or how much you can handle as a traveler. Although, it is beneficial to try to consolidate a trip into one or two airlines if possible (less distance to cover when running between gates!).
Great list of tips! I do have to say that I have been very thankful in the past for a nearby McDonald’s. Years ago when I was not a very experienced traveler, I arrived on a train by myself in Munich. I don’t speak German beyond a very few basic phrases. The train station is large with numerous exit doors. I knew where I wanted to go but didn’t know which door to take that would put me in the right direction. After standing there indecisively for some time, I realized that I would simply have to select a door and go out. When I did exit, the sight of golden arches about 2-3 blocks away was most welcome. I knew that I could go there, order some coffee or perhaps something else breakfast-like and study my map to orient myself. It turned out that I had selected the best door to exit, but it was the ability to sit somewhere somewhat familiar that gave me the confidence to carry on with my travel plans. I agree with several other posters, too, that McDonald’s can be depended upon to have clean bathrooms, often the only ones available.
The best business traveler knows how to pack both the absolute minimum and everything he or she could possibly need. The basic key to this is remembering the purpose of the trip: business. A pro business traveler packs his or her personal items efficiently and packs a disaster kit for business because being shy that one adapter or not bringing a flash drive can cost one a deal.
2. Blend in with your surroundings. Once you’ve done your research, you can start your visit to a new destination as if you were one of the locals. This is not only sound exploration advice, but a good safety tip as well. You’ll make yourself more vulnerable to con artists if you stick out like a sore thumb with your massive backpack, two cameras and confused look on your face. and you will draw much less attention if you make an effort to blend in. You also don’t want to disrespect or offend with improper dress or manners. If you’re visiting places of worship, make sure to dress modestly in order to prevent upsetting the locals.
6. Recharge gadgets using USB ports. Almost all devices have some sort of USB connection cable through which they can be recharged. Rather than drag along a spaghetti of cables, I find I can get by with just one plug when I charge my gadgets using my PC’s USB ports. This comes in particularly handy in the many international hotels that think that electrical outlets are an extravagance.
Chances are you’re familiar with Google Flights. The flight search engine does everything you assume it would, like locate flights based on your ideal outbound time, inbound time and number of stops. After all, it’s the same technology that powers both Kayak and Orbitz. The site also includes a whole host of features that aren’t so easy to imagine, probably because they’re so unimaginably amazing. In some cases, this online tool can beat out any human travel agent. Don’t believe us? Check out these six tricks.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.
“For those trying to pack light, it’s difficult to choose worse items than bottled liquids (and gels, and aerosols). They are heavy, bulky, prone to leakage (especially on airplanes), and a security concern. And with but a little forethought, the vast majority of them can be eliminated entirely. From shampoo/conditioner to toothpaste, from sunscreen to insect repellent, from facial cleanser, foundation, and moisturizer to mascara, bronzer, and face mask, even exfoliants and perfumes, all come in solid versions that will save you weight, space, hassle, and the environmental cost of excess packaging.”
There is always a solution to these issues you may face during your business trip. You can quickly find another flight or use the Jet Card program we talked about earlier to secure a private flight to the destination. Accommodation issues can be solved by turning to booking apps and services such as Airbnb. When you are prepared, no challenge is to difficult to handle.
If you travel frequently for business outside your home country, an annual travel insurance policy is a great way to ensure you have coverage when you need it, even at a moment’s notice. This type of plan gives employers peace of mind, knowing their employees have high levels of medical protection, an emergency medical evacuation benefit, and coverage for lost luggage and baggage delay. As the global business world continues to expand, it’s important for business travelers to know their domestic health insurance may not follow them when they travel abroad. And, if they are traveling to an area without appropriate medical care, emergency medical evacuation coverage is key in making sure they can be moved, if needed, to a location that has proper medical care.