Traveling, even to well-known vacation hotspots, means leaving your daily comforts and learning how to navigate the unexpected. From searching for the best ticket prices to preparing for worst-case scenarios, the process is full of challenges.
Sure, destination guidebooks will share location-specific tips and must-sees. But, they generally fall short when it comes to educating readers on things that are more common to international travel or diverse destinations.
Because much of the most useful information is learned by experience, many travelers like to tell tales of their past trips. (Knowing that the lessons you learned might help save someone else the same pain also helps lessen the burn.) However, anecdotal evidence isn’t always accurate—or applicable to every destination.
Our travel tips and articles attempt to fill the gap left by location-specific guides and acquaintances’ cautionary tales, with a collection of articles that spans every step of your trip:
Articles on how to find the cheapest plane tickets are in abundance online. Some advise early-bird tactics that involve waiting up into the wee hours, while others may suggest stalking airline prices multiple times throughout the week.
These supposedly fool-proof formulas might save you a few bucks. However, they demand a high investment of your precious time.
What about applications such as DealRay or Flighthub, which promise subscribers that they can find cracks in an airline’s pricing system? The problem is that, if an airline really is goofing up and publishing absurdly low prices, they’re likely to correct the mistake or change the pattern once people have caught on.
That being said, there are some tips that do work:
Shop in stealth mode. Ever notice an airfare price go up after you’ve checked it a few times? While you should always shop around early, do so in incognito mode. That’s because airfare websites are known to leave cookies on your browser, alerting them to repeat searches so that they know you’re serious about buying—and that they can hike up the price.
Consider the low season. If you’re willing to risk less-than-desirable weather and potentially limited tourist attractions, traveling in the low season can bag you a great ticket price.
Don’t fly out on a Friday. Airlines know that you only have so many vacation days and that you’ll likely try to get the most out of your trip by bookending it with weekends. That’s why flights that fly out on a Thursday or Friday and return on a Sunday, are always the most expensive.
Be flexible. Being willing to suffer through a few small inconveniences, such as multiple flight legs, red-eyes, or secondary airports, can also offer bigger savings.
However, sometimes the slight savings just isn’t worth the trouble. Depending on how few days you have to travel, ask yourself, is it really worth arriving exhausted from a 26-hour journey instead of a non-stop flight? Wouldn’t you rather pay the extra hundred bucks to have those additional days to enjoy your trip?
In our experience, the best advice when shopping for airfare is this: Know how much you’re willing to pay for a flight and book that ticket when you find it. There will always be someone who’s paid less than you, no matter how diligently you shop around.
There are a few tricks to getting a great deal on accommodations for your next trip, and unlike trying to win the airfare game, these aren’t too complicated or time-consuming.
First, use websites such as Kayak or Google to get an idea of prices in an area that you’re traveling to. Then, narrow down your search using filters until you find a hotel that you like. However, don’t book on those third-party websites!
Doing so can cost you more—while limiting your flexibility to change or cancel a booking. Namely, that the hotel isn’t responsible for what’s promised by those third-party websites, and sometimes doesn’t even have the amenities that you’ve been promised.
Instead, visit the hotel’s website or call them directly. They’ll usually match the price that you saw advertised, and can sometimes offer you a better deal.
Pro Tip: Equally important to knowing bargain hunting tips is recognizing when it’s best to enlist the services of a professional travel agent.
Hotel and Home Rental Scams
In the wake of AirBnB’s success, droves of vacation rental websites have surfaced—and with them, the scammers looking to take advantage of your long-distance booking.
Unlike brand-name hotels, or even boutique accommodations, both of which depend on their reputation and reviews for business, enterprising homeowners and renters can easily create accounts to rent out their homes or properties to vacationers without fear of reprisal.
Scams run the gamut from advertising images that are far from accurate to listing properties that don’t even exist!
Even big name hotels and resorts are guilty of doctoring images. To protect yourself from disappointment, learn how to spot altered or unrealistic images.
There are tricks to recognizing vacation rentals that are out-and-out scams as well. We share what questions to ask, how to reverse search images, and other verification tools in “How to Spot a Scam Vacation Rental.”
Third-party websites offering fake bottom-dollar savings on hotels are also a growing problem. Check out how to check up on any hotel website in “How to Spot a Hotel-Booking Scam.”
Depending on where you’re going and what you’re bringing, there are a few different methods to most efficiently stuffing your suitcase. Whatever your style, follow these steps to strategize what you’re packing:
Stick to a color scheme
Choose lightweight layers
Pack your favorite items, not newbies bought especially for the trip
Navigating the Airport
From checking in and weighing your luggage to navigating security, the airport experience is notoriously frustrating due to the abundance of rules and regulations that seem to limit the ease with which you can get from A to B.
Check whether or not your airline penalizes you for not checking in online
Take advantage of last minute deals on seat upgrades
How to make sure that you purchase the right number of checked bags weeks ahead of time
How to get through that TSA line a little faster
Here are our favorite tools and tips on surviving long hours in the air:
Use handy seat-mapping websites, such as SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com to learn ahead of time which seat offers the closest proximity to the bathroom, a quiet nook, or the legroom that you so desperately need.
Prepare your carry on with all the necessary supplies to endure a multi-hour flight. Pack a smaller satchel, such as a reusable shopping bag, to sling over the seat in front of you so that important things are never out of reach or left in the seatback pocket.
Pack a healthy meal (or three) that will sustain you throughout the flight, without leaving you feeling bloated and broke from onboard offerings.
Stretch, stay hydrated, and take care of yourself so that you arrive feeling as refreshed as possible.
Dealing When Stuff Goes Wrong
While 90% of lost luggage is eventually found, the absence of your carefully packed belongings can still put a damper on any vacation. However, all’s not lost!
If your airline can’t find your luggage for more than a set amount of time, they’ll often give you a payment to purchase backup items until your things arrive.
If an up-front cash payment isn’t available, or if your luggage appears to be lost for longer than you can stand, learn how to recover quickly in “How To Deal With Lost or Delayed Luggage.” We also share tips on how to help prevent your luggage from pulling a disappearing act and what to expect during the filing process.
Did you know that the price of travel insurance is affected by where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and what you need to insure? To help negate the loss of items and precious time, learn crucial steps to “Choosing Travel Insurance That Keeps You Covered.”
Don’t come home to a sky-high cell phone bill, either! Learn how to shop for SIM cards or an international plan that ensures you aren’t faced with any unexpected surprises in How to Travel With Your Phone.
Avoid Scams Wherever You Go
Learn about classic street scams around the globe, so you’ll never again fall for a scammer attempting to grab your wallet through means of distraction.
And, while every destination is unique, one thing isn’t: Taxi drivers are notorious for attempting to trick travelers out of their money. In “Your Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Taxi Scams,” we share how you can stay safe in cabs around the world.
Our collection of travel articles below will help you become a smarter traveler, save money when possible, and avoid scams around the world.