50+ Travel Tips and Tricks

The little touches that make travel more fun, less hassle, and more rewarding.


  • Use your business address (or business card) in your luggage tags to avoid revealing your home address and phone number.
  • Tape a card with your name and address inside every piece of luggage in case the bag is lost and the outside tags get lost.
  • Make two photocopies of every important document you'll be carrying -- tickets, driver's license, proof of auto insurance, passport, vaccination certificates, and so on. Carry one copy with you (not with the originals) and give one copy to a friend at home. These copies may be lifesavers if you lose the originals.
  • Carry a list of toll-free phone numbers for all of your credit and bank cards in case you have to cancel them (if they're lost or stolen) or if you need to find an ATM to use them at.
  • Remove old airline destination tags; they're the main reason bags get lost.
  • As soon as you get to your hotel room, look for a map of fire escape routes. Be sure to check that the routes are marked correctly and are accessible.
  • During hot weather, never leave an animal or a child in a parked car -- even with the windows open.
  • If you can find someone to reliably pick up your mail and newspapers while you are traveling, there is less chance that strangers will know no one is home. Another option is to have delivery temporarily stopped; the Post Office can hold mail, and the price of undelivered newspapers is often credited toward future deliveries.
  • When driving in unfamiliar locales, always park in well-lighted areas.
  • Never open your hotel door to a stranger without first calling the front desk to see whether hotel management has sent someone to your room.
  • If you are combining business and leisure travel, take a diary to keep careful records of all business expenses for tax purposes. You may also want to take an envelope to hold all receipts.
  • Consider trip insurance to protect against losses if you must cancel your trip for any reason.
  • Write down confirmation numbers whenever you make reservations. If one isn't offered, ask.
  • Leave a detailed itinerary of your trip with someone at home in case you need to be contacted.
  • Pack a duffel or ultralight knapsack inside your check-in bag. You may need the extra space later to carry home gifts and souvenirs.
  • Use accessories such as scarves and belts to enhance the limited number of outfits you pack.
  • Check the weather forecast for your destination before you leave to ensure that you are packing appropriate clothes. Also, don't forget that nearby mountain areas may be much cooler than the valley where your hotel is.
  • When making reservations, always ask, "Is this the lowest price you have?" You'll be surprised how often you may qualify for a discount.
  • You may have a better chance of getting a seat on a sold-out flight if you call just after midnight when many "reservation holds" expire. The same holds true for train travel.
  • No matter how short your trip, pack enough socks and underwear for at least four days.
  • Tape a contents list for each suitcase inside the lid. This saves pawing through every bag when you're looking for those argyle golf socks, and makes it easier to repack for your trip home.
  • Hope to return "someday" to that ultra-popular hotel? Make a reservation for next year at checkout. You may be able to get a special price. (Just be sure to ask about the amount of cancellation notice required.)
  • Call or visit the Web site of the convention and visitors bureau in your destination city three months in advance and inquire about discount coupons and special attractions packages.
  • Plan well in advance if you want to bring your pet on vacation. Inquire about pet rules and regulations for every form of lodging and transportation you plan to use. You should also bring proof of vaccinations.
  • Pare your packing list by creating mix-and-match outfits using one or two colors.
  • If anyone in your party will be using a wheelchair, let the reservations agent know when you are booking travel.
  • Find space for a folding travel umbrella.
  • If there is any way to manage it, bring your own pillows.
  • Always have a travel alarm as a backup for the wake-up call service.
  • Premeasured packets of laundry detergent (available at camping supply stores) make it convenient to wash T-shirts and underwear in a hotel sink.
  • Don't focus solely on getting to your destination. Be willing to investigate intriguing possibilities that arise en route.
  • Attach bright tape to your bags so they're easy to spot when grouped with strangers' bags.
  • When you arrive at your hotel, unpack immediately. Hang wrinkled items in a steamy bath to freshen. (Always pack several plastic hangers for contingencies like this.)
  • Carry a couple of energy bars to snack on during layovers or long drives.
  • Pack a nightlight or leave the hotel bathroom light on. This will avoid bumped shins if you need to get up in the middle of the night.
  • To minimize ear-popping discomfort on plane trips, chew gum during descents. If you have a young child who experiences severe ear pain, ask your pediatrician about a decongestant. Feeding a baby, by breast or bottle, can help reduce their ear pain.
  • Carry a few spring-type clothespins to secure bulky shower curtains or to pin together drapes that don't close completely.
  • Never go anywhere without a small notebook and a pencil. You never know when you'll want or need to write something down -- directions, a phone number, a special store you want to return to.
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  • Have your car thoroughly checked and serviced before leaving on a long car trip. If you will be driving in an area with few service centers, inquire ahead about the locations of service facilities along the route. This is especially important if you are driving a rental vehicle.
  • Use a highlighter to mark your route on a map. Circle interchanges where you'll be changing roads or directions.
  • For long driving trips, call state transportation agencies along your route and request information about highway construction. Plan for detours or delays.
  • Allow for rest stops on long drives. Plan on at least a 10-minute break every two hours. You'll drive safer and arrive much more refreshed.
  • Remember, when driving a rental car, that you must carry your proof of auto insurance.
  • Designate a large, soft bag as the toy tote. Fill it with simple games, toys, puzzles, books, and similar items.
  • Take along a cleanup kit that includes plastic trash bags, paper towels, and a travel pack of disposable wet wipes.
  • Take along easy-to-eat snack foods such as cereal, fruit slices, and juice boxes.
  • If you are traveling by air with a child under age 2, take a child restraint seat. Board early, giving yourself time to get situated.
  • When taking long car trips with young children, go to bed early the night before and start out long before dawn. This pretty much ensures that the kids will sleep through a major portion of the day's drive.
  • To keep bickering between siblings to a minimum, give the children three strikes at the outset of the trip. If any child bickers with another, all of the children are penalized a strike. When you arrive at your destination, if the children have not used all three strikes, they are allowed to do something special.
  • For trips where you'll stay at the same hotel or resort for multiple days, choose one with separate educational and recreational programs for children as well as child-sitting services.
  • Pack children's shoes inside adult shoes to save space.
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  • On trips out of the country, keep medicines in their original, labeled containers and bring a copy of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If any of your medicines contains a narcotic, get a letter from your doctor indicating your need to take the drug.
  • If you are taking your passport, carry an extra photo in case your passport is stolen; already having the photo will make replacement easier.
  • If you will be driving, ask your insurer about a special proof of insurance card to take along.
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