Vacations should be a breeze, but quite often, become headaches. Everyone is grumpy before, during, and after. Yuck! Here are some tips we use to keep things as smooth sailing as possible:
- Scout your airfare, hotels, and/or lodging several weeks ahead of time. We use Booking.com, Expedia.com, Cheap-o Airfare, Airportrentalcars.com, among others. Make sure you have the freedom to change your reservations if needed.
- If traveling by air, check into TSA Precheck. This handy pre-authorization costs about $85, but gets you into the speedy line at security-- most of the time. TSA can randomly deny the pre-check status. Believe me, they do sometimes. Go to www.tsa.gov. Register your Known Traveller Number with the airlines before you board the plane.
- If you don't do this, wear pants that don't need a belt to stay up, wear shoes that slip on and off easily. If you take a laptop or notebook computer, make sure you can easily remove it from the case for the TSA screening. If you have metal in your body (joint replacements, titanium screws and plates, etc) let them know ahead of time. You will have to remove items like watches and other large jewelry.
- Some groups charge fees or the whole shebang. Most airlines will not. Check the policies before clicking the RESERVE button!
- Compare prices for several weeks to get the lowest prices.
- DO NOT BORROW MONEY TO GO ON VACATION. IT'S A HEADACHE THAT WILL HAUNT YOU FOR MONTHS AFTER YOU GET HOME.
- Set up all of your bill payments, mail hold, and line up help to take care of pets, plants, etc.
- Make sure your home will be comfortable to see when you come back. Wash all clothing and dishes, sweep, dust, pick up and put away anything out of place, use up perishable foods and throw away anything that will be bad when you come home. When your suitcases enter the door afterward, you will be glad you did all of this ahead.
- Know the weight limits for luggage, size requirements for carry-ons, and DON'T TAKE ANY PERSONAL CARE ITEMS IN YOUR CARRY ON OVER 3 OZ! I had to surrender a brand new bottle of sunscreen. UGH! This will help you avoid unnecessary scrutiny.
- Do your pre-board check-ins 24 hours before for the best flight experience. Southwest uses the order guests check in to determine when you line up to board. If you want a decent seat, do this. I set an alarm to remind myself to pre-check in.
- Pack snacks that are pre-packaged for the flight. Scout out food for airports and destinations ahead of time if you have celiac or food allergies. Pack allergy bedding neatly in a big zipper bag in your check-in luggage. I use the big Ziploc storage bags (non-food). Have protein and carbs ready in case you will have to wait a long time before you can actually have a meal.
- PRINT itineraries out, yes, old-school. it saves you if you can't find that email confirmation. It also helps you in a dispute over charges, which can and do happen every once in a while. Rental car agencies are common places these issues happen. I put mine in a clear plastic envelope in my carry-on bag.
At your destination, have a flexible plan of what you do and see. If you make a list of everyone's wishes, it will help ensure no one gets forgotten in the fun. Take the time to go to out of the way attractions as well as those everyone flocks to. The tourist trap areas are expensive and you really don't get to experience the place as well. Just be respectful of the people who live and work there. Tourists can be a nightmare for them. They deserve their privacy.
- On your way back, pack luggage well so breakable treasures make it home for you to enjoy. Anything large and fragile, have shipped to your address or order online when you get home.
- Follow these guidelines for on the way home: itinerary, pre-check in, food, and carry-on. Be sure you have registered your TSA Pre-check with the airlines again. It may or may not carry over if you forget.
Hopefully, this helps you have a better experience on vacation and streamline life when you get home! Have a great time!