Tips for Carefree Summer Travel
Published June 13, 2012
Whether your summer vacation plans include lounging on a beach, relaxing at a cool mountain retreat, or visiting faraway family, keep these expert tips in mind for smooth summer travels.
Planning & Packing
- When planning a trip within the United States, visit the website of your destination’s local university. Most university websites have a visitor’s section with recommended hotels and restaurants in the area. This could be a helpful first step in narrowing down your sleeping and dining options.
- If you’d like to get a taste of the regional food culture during your vacation, visit www.localharvest.org to find the local farmers markets in the area. Hundreds of markets across the United States are listed on this site, along with the days and times that they’re open and the types of food typically available.
- Language can sometimes be a barrier when you’re planning a trip abroad, especially if you prefer small, unique accommodations, like inns, convents, or bed and breakfasts. Before you call a bed and breakfast in Florence – where the proprietors may not speak English – visit translate.google.com. Type in your request in English (“We would like to reserve a room with a bathroom from August 8-12.”), and translate this to the language of your choice. Fax your reservation request to the bed and breakfast, and the staff can then fax a confirmation back, which you can translate to be sure that your request was understood.
- If you’re planning to visit multiple cities or countries during your vacation, save money by flying “open jaw” – which means flying into one city (London) and flying home from another (Madrid) – instead of booking a round-trip flight. Travel expert Rick Steves recommends saving countries that offer the cheapest shopping – and the greatest health risks – for the end of your trip.
- If you’ve been delaying a European vacation because it’s just out of your vacation budget reach, consider traveling overseas by boat instead of plane. Cruising to Europe can be far cheaper than paying for airfare plus nightly hotel rates. Plus, you’ll pay just one up-front price in US dollars to cover your room, meals, and transfer costs if you book a trip on a US-based cruise line. Bon voyage!
- If you have a furry friend at home, you know that boarding a dog or cat can add up quickly when you’re spending several days away from home. The typical cost of boarding a dog or cat is $15-20 per day, and when fees for services like bathing, special foods, medications and exercise are added in, your total can easily reach well over $100 for a five-day trip. Save this money for souvenirs by trading pet-sitting services with a friend or pet-loving neighbor. You’ll both appreciate having some extra room in your vacation budget.
- Make a list of everything that’s in your suitcase, and keep it with you when you travel. If the airline loses your luggage, this list will come in handy when you’re replacing the contents of your bag.
- Keep your doctor’s business card in your wallet. On the back of the card, list all of your medications and pertinent medical information. This may help you to get the proper treatment in the event of an emergency.
- If you’re spending a week or more in one spot, pack a box with bulky items and mail it to your destination a week before your trip. Since most airlines are now charging a fee to check even the first bag, the post office is almost always a cheaper option. If the box is going to a hotel or time-share, call the front desk to let them know that it’s coming and ask them to hold it until your arrival.
- In the hustle and bustle of the security line at the airport, it’s far too easy to leave a valuable or two behind. To avoid losing your most important belongings, place your watch, wallet, and cell phone in your shoes before passing your items through the X-ray machine. This way, you can be sure that you won’t walk away without retrieving your valuables.
- If your flight is oversold, it can be tempting to volunteer to be “bumped” in order to receive a free flight for a future trip. Before you offer up your seat, keep in mind that free flight vouchers often have restrictions that can make them nearly impossible to redeem (as I have found from personal experience). Many are only valid for one year, have a number of blackout dates, are non-transferable, are subject to booking fees, must be redeemed by mail or at airport ticket counters, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the airline’s policies before hopping off a packed plane.
- Have a safe flight. While the chances of being involved in a plane crash are slim to begin with, you can increase your peace of mind in the air simply by picking the right seat. A study conducted by Popular Mechanics determined that passengers sitting in the rear of the plane are 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those who are sitting in the first few rows. This statistic might make it easier to bypass the perks – and higher price tag – of First Class seating!
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