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A Wealth of Insider Travel Secrets that Go Beyond Facebook Memes

Facebook is full of insider travel secrets, but I’ve never seen anything new. Here are a few travel tips that I hope go way beyond the ones you commonly see posted by so-called experts.

Flights:

Not sure how this misnomer started: book flights on Tuesday for the best prices. While flying on Tuesday or Wednesday definitely offers the best pricing since most people prefer to maximize vacation time by traveling on weekends, this Tuesday booking rule isn’t always accurate.

If your home city and destination is served by Jet Blue, the best pricing is always when Jet Blue releases tickets. And, this is always on Sunday at around 3pm (east coast time). Right now you can book through February 13. If you’re planning a trip for late February or March 2019, I would start checking Jet Blue every Sunday. You can also jump on great pricing on the periodic Jet Blue sales.

Set flight alerts on AirfareWatchdog from your home airport or favorite routes. You will get updates when the fares drop, or when there are great offers from your home airport.

Air Canada’s Aeroplan is very useful for booking mileage reward flights. My friend and client Britt told me about this, and I have found it very useful for finding the best Business class mileage reward flights.

If you care where you sit, check the flight’s seat map on SeatGuru. This is a great way to avoid seats that don’t recline, have no AVOD, or to find seats that have extra legroom due to the plane configuration.

Also, if you are traveling as a family, couple, or a group of friends the earlier you book flights the more likely you will get to sit together. This seems obvious and I’m constantly amazed by the couples who contact me last minute to book a trip then are upset they cannot sit together. And, keep in mind the airlines often hold seats back – and it is very likely you will be able to sit with your young children on flights even if it seems the seats are not available.

Hotels:

Corner hotel rooms are often larger – and tend to have more light with windows on each side.

Speaking of hotels, if you plan to rely on the alarm clock in your room, check it when you arrive. Often the time is not correct. Especially if you are traveling around the time the clocks change. If you have a flight the next day, always ask for a back up wakeup call – and set an alarm clock. If your phone alarm does not ring when you silence your phone – be sure to bring a small travel alarm. Make sure the battery is fresh – and you have an extra.

Always ask for a late check out, if you want it. When I book your trips and you have a flight that gets in early or leaves late, I will always ask for an early check in and late check out – but there are no guarantees. Sometimes, it’s worth paying for the night before if you are traveling all night and want to know you can check in as soon as you arrive. Or, paying for a day room if you have a late flight out.

Even if you don’t plan to visit the hotel again, if they have an affinity program join it. Often hotels give special amenities to their affinity program members – free wifi, early check in or late check out. Kimpton even gives elite members a coupon for free minibar items. You can always opt out of the emails – and you never know when you could want to visit another of their properties. Might as well build status points.

Credit Cards:

Credit cards also offer great travel amenities. If you have a Delta Skymiles AmEx card, even if you didn’t use it to book the trip, you will always be in Boarding Group 1 on Delta flights if you add your frequent flier number to your application. Other airline affinity cards offer similar benefits.

The Points Guy site has a wealth of information about credit card and travel benefits. There are a lot of mileage experts in the NY Travel community, but he is by far the best. If you’re trying to decide which cards to get for the best signing bonuses and travel benefits, check out The Points Guy.

Packing:

SuitcaseReady has a packing list for every purpose. If you tend to overpack, check out my lists there. Yes, you will be limited but it makes no sense to pack more for a one week trip than the typical fashionable French woman owns. You will even find packing advice for specific locations like France and Saint Barth.

Use packing cubes! Especially if you are doing a multi-destination trip. The cubes make it easy to live out of a suitcase and make it easier for strict airport security personnel to inspect your bag. Roll your clothing to fit more in the cubes.

Maximize your 1 quart Ziploc allowance with cosmetics that come in towelette or stick form.

All valuables should always be in your carryon bag. Cash, credit cards, your passport, phone and charger, jewelry, medication, makeup. Travel documents and reading material. Your laptop or tablet if you’re bringing one – and of course your camera/s if you have them. I also recommend packing a change of underwear, and a bathing suit when traveling to beach destinations. If your luggage gets lost, takes a while to be delivered to your room, or if you arrive before check-in, you can head to the beach or pool. If you are checking a bag, try to fit a change of clothing in your carryon.

Money:

Separate big money from small money in dodgy locations. Have the money you might need for the day in a more accessible place, and put the bulk of your cash, credit cards and passports away. If you are based at a location, leave your passport and a backup credit card, and your ATM card in the room safe. If you are in transit, use a money belt or put them in a zippered pocket inside your daypack or handbag. In places like Naples, where bag slashing is known to happen, the zippered pocket higher up in your bag will keep your items secure.

Unless you never plan to leave the resort, get some currency of the country. You will get the best exchange rate – and look more like a local instead of a transient 1x visitor – if you have local currency. Don’t expect to use US dollars everywhere in the world – that isn’t realistic. They are commonly accepted in some places but not accepted at all in others. In beach areas of Mexico, for example, you can pay with US dollars but you will get 10-12 pesos to $1 when the peso is trading at 20 to $1. You lose 50% on each purchase.

If you are going to use your credit and ATM cards out of the country, always contact your bank and credit card issuers to create travel alerts. This will prevent them from freezing your card thinking it’s fraud when you attempt to use it outside the country.

On the Trip:

I’m always amazed by the people who board planes empty handed. Sense is not common: I once met a guy in the airport in Bocas del Toro, Panama who checked his backpack with all his cash and his camera. Guess what was missing when we landed?

Count your items – especially if you’re prone to leaving things behind. If you head to the airport with 2 bags – make sure you always have 2 bags at every stage of the trip.

Always put things away. If you remove your phone from your bag put it back in the bag or hold it in your hand until you can put it back in your bag, never put it in the seat back pocket. That seat back pocket is gross, aside from anything else. Same thing with your passport when you fill out your immigration card.

Look for the shorter immigration line. Sometimes the lines right in front of the entrance are the longest. Is there a shorter line to the left or right? Make sure you don’t go in the resident’s line if you’re a visitor, or the airline personnel line, of course.

Global Entry:

If you travel regularly, it makes sense to get Global Entry. I was resistant for years because I didn’t to give the government my finger prints. Then I got over it. It is so useful – especially since TSA Precheck comes with it. Make sure there is this service in your home airport – and the airlines you commonly fly are part of the program. The $100 fee for 5 years is a small price to pay to avoid the long security lines in most US airports, and the immigration line when you return. However, if you always check luggage, it defeats the purpose because you still have to wait at the carousel. Many premium credit cards, like AmEx Platinum and Chase Sapphire come with a credit towards Global Entry, making it a no-brainer for people who have those cards.

What useful travel tips do you have that are not included here? Please send them to me and I will include them in a future blog post or newsletter – with credit of course!

Insider Travel Secrets from a Travel Specialist

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