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10 Tips to Make Vacation Travel Easier: As summer vacations or other holidays are upon us, there is so much to do and think about before celebrating. At such busy times, travel can end up being more frustrating than festive. Now it can seem hard to know how to get started again.
Step One: With all the restrictions that came out of the pandemic, picking the right destination starts with finding what is open to foreign tourists. Are COVID-19 tests or quarantines still in effect at places you are thinking about going?
Step Two: Choose how long you want to be away,
Step Three: Plan a budget.
Step Four: See our quick summary of updated tips below on packing light to carry-on, avoiding airport delays and keeping safety in mind.
10 Tips to Make Vacation Travel Easier: Packing:
Avoid checking luggage only to find you arrived, but it did not. I spent part of one Christmas looking for my lost bag at the St. Louis airport. On another trip, I flew to Norway for intermediate ski lessons. Again my bag took a separate journey via an unknown location. Luckily, the hotel had a “Lost and Found” box where I found an ill-fitting but warm jacket to hit the slopes.
If you do check your bag, mark your bag handle with a ribbon or decal. Since typical black bags all look alike, at least this makes it easier to locate on a turn style.
Think twice before lugging your sports equipment. In winter, I have found at ski resorts that lift tickets often included rental equipment. There was no discount if you brought your own gear. In any case, paying the airline and dragging oversized items back and forth is no fun.
See what size dimensions your airline is currently allowing for bags and totes to be brought on board. This is usually combined with a weight limit. I was very surprised on my seventeen day trip traveling through China and Southeast Asia. The total weight allowed was only eleven pounds! That included the weight of the bag, the frame and wheels. The biggest problem in small jets is the size of roller bag wheels. They may not fit in the overhead bins. If you have them gate checked and have a tight connection, you may miss your next flight. The best way to avoid that issue is to measure your bag carefully before you pack.
10 Tips to Make Vacation Travel Easier: Airports:
For travel during the Christmas holidays, for weddings or for birthday festivities, do not wrap gifts. Also with enhanced security, do not plan to bring your favorite dishes since they may not make it through security.
Arrive at the airport even earlier than usual because vacation and holiday crowds mean longer lines wherever you are going. Try to get your boarding pass at home. However, international boarding passes may require airport check-in. That typically occurs for one of two reasons. First, if the destination has a visa requirement, some countries mandate an in-person check-in at the airport so the airline staff can verify it is in order. Secondly, if you try unsuccessfully to scan your passport online, you will also have to take care of it at the airport. I have tried several times and found the scan did not go through on the airline’s app.
If you are going abroad, see what limits beyond COVID-19 your destination places on incoming tourists. Many countries require that travelers have passports that will not expire in less than three to six months or have two blank pages remaining. If you do not meet that requirement, you may not be allowed to board your outbound flight even to popular European countries.
Read your visa very, very carefully. You may find a surprise as I did joining a tour in India. An apparent visa issue gave me a problem on my arrival and again on my departure. A second detail to check is whether there are time limits on your visa. Even if not, when you take a long trip, you should know how long you are allowed to stay at your destination. Over staying your visa can result in a daily fine.
Check to see if your airline has limits on electronics larger than a cell phone. Lithium or other batteries are also an issue. As more and more devices have rechargeable batteries, this is less of a problem than before. In the past, when I traveled with a camera in the Middle East, my extra batteries were confiscated by airport security. That can be costly especially if you have to buy more at your next stop.
10 Tips to Make Vacation Travel Easier: Safety:
Unfortunately, vacation travel is a prime time for robberies and burglaries. To avoid being a victim:
Don’t broadcast on social media the dates you are traveling. You may come home to find an empty house or apartment. Tell all on your great travel adventure but wait until you return!
In addition, purchase travel insurance with good theft or loss coverage. Make a list or snap a photo of expensive items, including clothing, while you are packing. Better yet? Leave your valuable electronics, jewelry and any irreplaceable items at home.
If you are traveling abroad, consider taking a pre-paid debit or credit card with a set amount. They are easy to cancel or freeze online if stolen. I personally never travel abroad without a money belt. I then divide up cash, credit cards and key documents, such as passports, and put them in three separate places. Even following that approach, you should still make a cell phone copy or print out of the first page of your passport, visas and credit cards.
Safeguard your smart phone, computer and tablet and password protect them to avoid identity theft. In past years, there were reported cases in Mexico of “cyber” kidnapping. How did this work? First, a select group of enterprising criminals would find or steal a cell phone. Next, they would find the victim’s personal contacts or family. They would then “notify” them that the phone’s owner had been kidnapped. For their “release”, they wanted ransom. The family would likely make a payment before they found out there was no kidnapping!
Send us your own tips that we can share with fellow solo travelers. Safe travels!
For adventure travel enthusiasts, see our “35 Smart Solo Adventure Travel Tips“.
If packing drags you down, check out our “Holiday Packing Tips“.
For budget tips and expense tracking as well as more on packing, go to our free app, the Solo Sherpa. It is available for iPhones and iPads at the App Store. For Android devices, go to Google Play Store.