Updated October 1, 2016 . AmFam Team
It’s true: Getting there is half the fun. Hopping on a plane to visit new places or connect with friends and family is exciting. Make your trip stress-free and more enjoyable by being prepared. And remember to review pre-vacation tips to have more peace of mind — so you can relax and unwind while out and about.
Some of the best travel experiences start well before you take flight for your final destination. Planning is all about knowing when to book your flight to keep costs down and getting close to your target city if it’s a cheaper option. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you leave for your travels:
Here’s where some forethought can really save you money. Waiting till the last minute can sometimes pay off, but waiting for bargain airfare to become available means you might not find it either. Get your itinerary locked in early and plan on buying your tickets well in advance. Use frequent flier points to help keep the costs down, too. Safeguard your finances for the trip by spending wisely at every step. And after you’ve made your flight reservations, remember to purchase travel insurance in case the unexpected should happen.
Traveling safely means doing your homework. Get online and query safe neighborhoods where you’ll be staying. Before booking a hotel room, be sure to check in with a local US consulate if you’re planning on traveling abroad. Look at travel blogs too. Ask them about safe neighborhoods, reliable hotels and how to keep your money and documents safe while you’re there. They’ll also tell you if you need to learn a few key phrases of the local language or if the natives speak English. And if you’ve got visas to process, check in with them to be sure you’re doing everything they require to get your application moving through the system.
If you need to upgrade or change your cell phone plan — specifically when going overseas — make a date to contact your carrier a week before you travel. This way you can schedule a plan shift that will make your phone usable while away. Remember to pack extra chargers, outlet converters and USB cables too! Having your cell phone set up and ready to call once you land can be a real relief.
Don’t forget to review how much medication you’ll need while away. Get your prescriptions filled in advance to be sure you’re going to have enough for your trip.
Most banks and credit card companies will freeze your card if they notice unusual activity from a user — like using a card in a different country or state. Let your bank and credit card companies know your destination and how long you’ll be away. Even if you only plan on spending cash you’ve saved, you’ll be glad you played it safe when your credit card purchases clear after making an unplanned purchase.
Get high quality, color photocopies of your passports and driver’s licenses. If your hard copies get lost, they’re going to come in handy when you’ve got something to help prove your identity while you’re away.
Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the fact that your home can be a vulnerable target for theft while you’re away. Think about installing a smart home security system that can deliver real-time details on your home’s status to you when you’re not home. Take a look at the benefits of home security, and learn more about how easy it is easy to monitor your home from all over the world, so you can travel worry-free!
If you’ll be traveling abroad, contact your physician and schedule a visit to get vaccinated against the viruses, diseases and infections in your target nation. Do this well before you plan on leaving and keep documentation of the visit. Often, you’ll be required to get shots before you’re allowed to travel into a given country.
Whether you plan to travel the world or fly across the state, here are a few practical travel tips to keep you and your family moving through the airport and beyond.
Consider using a soft carry-on bag for easier overhead storage. When packing, you can save space and avoid wrinkles by rolling your clothes instead of folding them.
Remember to check out the airline’s carry-on policies in advance to avoid last-minute surprises at the airport. Verify that the dimensions of your bag are smaller than their maximum allowed size.
Planning on checking your bags? Weigh them ahead of time so they’re within the airline’s weight limits. Keep in mind that extra fees may be involved if you go over.
It helps to schedule ridesharing, shuttles and parking ahead of time. If you’re getting a ride from family or friends, keep them in the loop, just in case there are last-minute changes. Remember to get them details on the airline and terminal you’ll need to get to as well.
It’s wise to get to the airport two hours prior to departure. This way you’ll have time to check in, get through security, as well as time to unwind and ease into the trip.
Make your luggage stand out with brightly colored stickers or tags, so you’ll be sure to grab the right one. It’s smart to put your name and cell number inside and outside your bags, so you can be easily reunited with your luggage if it's misplaced.
Getting away doesn’t mean your finances should go into a freefall just because you’re on vacation. Staying mindful of how to spend wisely when you’re traveling is another way you can get out there — experience the sights and sounds of where you’ll be — and still be able to pay for gas after you pick your car up from the airport. Check out these great money-saving travel tips.
If the cost of flying to another nearby airport is less expensive, find out how much it would cost to travel locally to your target city. Get on a train or take a bus. Rent a car, especially if you were planning on doing so anyway.
Many of the best restaurants have a menu identical or very similar to their evening offerings on the lunch menu. Often, these same entrees are less expensive because they’re bundled into lunch specials. Another benefit here is that you’re going to be eating the biggest meal of the day when you’ve got hours of activity ahead to burn off all of those delicious calories!
After settling in to your hotel and resting up a bit, check in with the local tourism office. They’re a fantastic resource for details on free activities, upcoming festivals, family-friendly things to do and they’re usually eager to help you make the most of your time away. They’re often a well-funded public service that can point you to adventures you may not otherwise know about.
Although you might miss the lovely weather, if you’re looking to save all around, nothing beats traveling during the offseason. Everything from airfare to hotels to the cost of food can be substantially cheaper if your dates are flexible.
It’s true, everything’s more expensive when you’re staying downtown, no matter what city you’re in. So look for a good hotel that’s near the city’s transportation grid. You can take the public transportation into and around the area and save a lot of money on a place to stay.
Getting online shouldn’t hit you in the wallet. Dig online for local free internet hot spots and consider checking in with the concierge or the tourist authority for a list of spots to surf for free.
Let’s be honest, time is money. You’re away, so spend that time exploring, soaking up the sun or resting peacefully under a veranda. Set your alarm clock and get out into the day. You’ll get more done and you might find great photo ops in that soft morning light as the city wakes up around you.
It may seem like you’ll be putting a lot of effort into those few precious days away, but getting home safely and traveling on a budget will give you more momentum to pursue your dreams upon arriving home. While you’re making your travel plans, check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and review your homeowners policy. You’ll feel great knowing that your home is insured carefully while you’re away. Bon voyage!