You've heard about it a dozen times, the most unforgettable travel experience your friend had. Not because your friend went to a paradise island, but because she went to the wrong airport. Here, we compile travel tips that will make your vacations truly a good dream.
Safety and Security Tips
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-lit 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 ultra light 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.
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 website 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.....
Find space for a folding travel umbrella.
Making Travel More Pleasant
If there is any way to manage it, bring your own pillows.
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.
Car Travel Tips
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.
Check the condition of your wiper blades.
Check the operation of your turn signals, brake lights as well as the high and low beams.
Examine the tread on your tires.
Make sure your car is prepared for the weather it will encounter on your trip. You might need more antifreeze, snow tires or recharged air-conditioning.
Get your car cleaned. You'll feel better in a clean car
Use a highlighter to mark your route on a map. Circle interchanges where you'll be changing roads or directions.
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.
Make estimates of travel times along the route, so you'll have an idea when you'll be at certain points on your trip. This will help you to plan rest and meal stops. It will also help you plan to avoid traveling through a major city or area of road construction during rush hour.
Pack an emergency kit in your car. Include motion sickness medication if anyone in your group suffers from it. Remove any items from the car that you won't need on your trip.
Prepare some on road entertainment for your trip. Include games and CDs of music and/or audio books.
Check your plates, registration and insurance information to make sure they are all valid. Be sure to place your insurance company's emergency contact number in your car.
Check with all the drivers in your party to make sure their driver's licenses haven't expired.
Check your insurance for expiration dates and coverage for your automobile.
Arrange for someone to start your other car, if you leave one home, during very cold or very hot weather.
Fill the car with gas before you pack the car so all the fumes won't bother your passengers. Check the fluid levels and tire pressure, your tire pressure will effect the ride and gas mileage you get on your trip.
Pack the car inside the garage, with the door down, so people driving by won't find out you're leaving.
Avoid the temptation of road rage. Honking and yelling at the drivers around you is probably more likely to make someone get out their tire iron than to help get traffic moving. Be patient. Avoid flashing your lights at other cars that are driving without their lights on at night. This used to be a common courtesy, but unfortunately some gangs will drive around with their lights off and pick the first car to flash them as a victim to harass. You may think it's just an urban myth, but our local police put out a memo about this to all the Rental Companies this year.
Beware the pull over. If you're in a new car coming from the airport that's so full it barely clears the ground or you have those out of state plates, you're targeted as an easy mark with a big payoff. Sometimes, criminals will try to get you to pull over by pointing and saying something is wrong with your car. They might even fake a small accident, a little tap on your bumper to get you to pull over. Since this has been used as a scam, you'll want to be careful about where you pull over if you need to, be sure to pick a well-lit public place.
Stick to the major roads, since you don't know the side streets you might just pick the one all the locals avoid. You'll also find more people and better lighting on the major roads; these factors make the "pull over" riskier for the criminals Look at maps and plan your route.
Renting a Car
Stay the week: Sometimes weekly rates can be cheaper than three-day rentals, especially at the major rental agencies.
Fill'er up: Make sure you never return a rental car with less gas in the tank than when you got it. Fuel surcharges can double and triple the price per gallon you'd pay at a regular gas station.
Don't trouble with double insurance: Don't duplicate insurance you already have. The car rental agencies will try to sell you insurance at an additional charge, ranging from liability to accident to policies covering personal belongings. You undoubtedly already have health insurance and probably homeowners' and auto insurance, so you can often decline them all. The exception to this rule is when renting a car in Ireland or Italy, where the purchase of insurance is mandatory.
Traveling with Kids
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 two, 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.
Book early. Airplanes and hotels fill up fast in the week prior to Easter, and this year Easter falls early -- in March. If you haven't started looking for flights and a hotel yet, you're already behind. When you book early, you can take advantage of early booking discounts and special hotel offers.
Pack light, pack smart. If you're going to a warm destination, your swimsuit is your most important item of clothing. Pack swimsuits and one change of clothes in carry-on luggage, just in case. If you arrive at your destination and your luggage doesn't, you can still take the kids to the beach.
Make safety a priority. Don't rely on lifeguards to watch your children at the pool or the beach.
Always apply sunscreen -- the stronger sunshine is rejuvenating but can also cause a vacation ruining burn if you don't use protection. In public places, establish a meeting place in case you become separated.
Be prepared with first aid. It's a long trip to the car or the hotel room for a band-aid if someone steps on a sharp seashell. Visit the beach, amusement parks and other attractions with at least one bottle of water and some bandages on hand to make those little cuts no big deal.