How to travel: Making traveling easier and more comfortable

In a previous post, I’ve written about some basic airplane etiquette rules. Today, I’d like to touch upon some tips and tricks I’ve learned that made my travelling life easier, more effective, or more comfortable.

As mentioned before, I used to be a frequent traveler and have collected quite some miles and hotel points in the process (most of which I’ve already used, sadly). This has given me a bit of experience, and over the years, I learned some stuff that I thought might be helpful for others as well.

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After all, this is what traveling is about, right?

Planning

Book early and check in early. Apart from some sensational last-minute offers, you can pretty much always benefit from booking as early as possible. Check multiple comparison websites, such as Kayak or Momondo, as well as airlines’ own websites, to make sure you get the cheapest fare (some people suggest to turn off cookies and delete the browsing history as this might influence prices as well). If the prices are not different, book directly with the airline, as this will give you greater control over your booking, and more security in case your flight gets canceled etc. I also sign up for mailing lists, airlines often have special offers for weekend trips or certain destinations. Checking in online as soon as possible is also an absolute must. My personal preference: Choose a seat in the front of the plane, and choose an aisle seat. The view isn’t that great above the clouds, and you’ll be free to go to the bathroom whenever you want. Plus, you’re out of the plane faster. If the flight is longer than an hour or two, you might want to opt for an emergency exit row, if available (although some airlines have started charging extra for those).

Try to book business travel times. Now this one can go both ways. If you’re travelling a popular (business) route, maybe it’s not the best idea as prices might be steeper. But usually, early morning travel times are less frequented, and queues at security and the gate are much shorter as people know what they’re doing. Plus, I like this sort of crowd much better than touristy groups (no kids!).

Join ALL the programs, and keep track of them. I’m a member of four different frequent flyer programs. Why would that make sense? Admittedly, you don’t need to join EVERY program as points are usually awarded in the same airline alliance (Star Alliance, One World, etc.), but you might face some severe point discounts, even when flying within the alliance. Even if you’re not travelling that frequently, I still recommend collecting points. Many airlines offer bonus flights from as little as 10,000 points, and you can spend the points for on-board food and drinks or shopping as well. Same goes for hotel points. Sign up for the program, because you can often already get some benefits purely from being a member (like free wifi or access to the gym), and the first status tier is normally not super difficult to reach. I use AwardWallet to keep track of my loyalty programs.

Pro tip: If you want to take it a step further, there are a number of blogs and websites on the topic of “point hacking”, and Nomadic Matt has even written a book about the subject!

Packing

Get that nice little trolley. Now, as a consultant, a cabin trolley is basically a part of the uniform, but I still think it’s the best option for short trips (max. 10 days). I recently tried borrowing my boyfriend’s weekender bag for a trip, but ended up hating it – it’s incredible how heavy things can get if you have to carry them instead of pulling them around! I did some research before I decided on a Rimowa cabin trolley, and opinions differ strongly on the questions of hard-case versus soft-case, and four-wheel versus two-wheel. I opted for a hard case to make sure things don’t get squished to death in there, and the two-wheeler, because that gives an additional 5 liters of room in there compared to the same model with four wheels.

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My favorite travel companion (apart from my boyfriend)

You don’t need to bring that. My number one rule for packing is to pack as lightly as possible, especially for a short trip. Strike that, for any trip! Planning your outfits in advance can be helpful to make sure you don’t bring four pairs of jeans but forget the dress for the fancy dinner you’re supposed to attend. I like to make piles: must-haves (underwear, socks, toiletries, favorite pair of pants, favorite shirt, favorite sweater, you get the pattern) and nice-to-haves (that other pair of jeans that fit a bit better with that shirt, a second pair of heels in case you spontaneously want to wear the dress, …). Wear the stuff that takes up the most space (shoes, coat) so you have more room in your bag or suitcase. Ladies, check here or here for some nice ideas on how to mix and match outfits from a few basics.

You absolutely need to bring this. I guess the essentials are passport, travel documents, and credit cards. Because really, you can buy everything else if you have to. But since that’s not how I usually plan, here’s my personal must-bring list for any sort of travel: Underwear. Toothbrush. Toiletries (bring the smallest possible containers!). Chargers for phone, iPad, camera. One comfy pair of shoes (likely the one I’m wearing for travelling). Cardigan or sweater. One pair of warm socks.

Traveling

I forgot something! It happens to the best of us. There are a few things that you just HAVE to bring (like a passport or other ID, credit cards, phone). But if you forgot something important, don’t panic, because chances are you can get a replacement quite easily. A couple of examples: Make use of other people’s forgetfulness! Hotels usually have a box of phone chargers that people have left, so unless you have a 15 year old Nokia 3310, you can probably find one that fits to borrow. I’ve also been helped out with toothbrushes, toothpaste and sewing kits at hotel receptions. If you need to buy something, ask hotel staff if there’s a cheap option around.

Look your best when you arrive. Packing and unpacking doesn’t make clothes look better. But there are some tricks on how to minimize travel “damages” – check out the video below for some cool packing hacks. Some more upscale hotels provide fabric bags for shoes, so I always make sure to take them. Shoe trees are also a good investment. One of my favorite tricks for wrinkled shirts and blouses: hang them in the bathroom when you take a hot shower (or just let the hot water run) – the steam will remove the worst wrinkles and you might get around ironing them.

What are your best travel tips? Do you follow any specific blogs on the subject?

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