Tuesday, November 20, 2012

40 travel tips from an expert traveler

From packing before your trip to arriving in your destination - This post will walk you through every step and will assist you in all things related to travel!


I'm an expert traveler.
How did I become an expert traveler?
Let me tell you:
  • I've traveled to 48 states, every one of which I've been to more than once 
  • I've been to every big city in the country and many little cities/small towns
  • I've been to 28 professional football stadiums and 23 major league baseball stadiums
  • Over the past 8 years I've spent 43 months traveling
  • 43 months = 1,290 days on the road and sleeping in hotels
  • I drove around the country all 43 months. I never once flew
  • I've driven from the east coast to the west coast and back 5 times. 10 round trips
  • Throughout my drives, I have been fully emersed in each of our great states
  • I've seen the sunrise, the sunset, the desert and the mountains... all from a car windshield
  • I've driven through flash floods, tornadoes, tropical storms, black ice and Death Valley
  • Factoring in my airplane travel, I've spent approx. 50 months, 1,500 nights, in a hotel
  • That totals to a little over 4 years of travel
  • I've been on 3 cruises - Mexican Riviera, Caribbean, Adriatic Sea
  • I've been to 15 countries, backpacking around 3 of them

The below tips will help you stay organized, calm in stressful situations, prepared, hydrated and somewhat healthy while traveling.


I can pack 1 suitcase for 4 months at a time and differing seasons.
When traveling for 1 week I bring a carry-on suitcase and a purse.
For a 2-5 night work trip I bring a small carry-on duffle bag and a purse.
When traveling for work for just 1 or 2 nights, I bring a backpack... and that's it. 


Based on many trials with varrying luggage pieces, hotel stays and flights, I have finally mastered my traveling style. Through trial and error, below is what I have learned.

Before Leaving for Your Trip

When packing jewelry, use ziplock bags and an unused make up case. Place your colorful earrings in 1 Ziplock, all of your gold earrings in another, etc. Place a necklace in each Ziplock separately. Then store all of these Ziplocks in a cloth make up case. This method will ensure that nothing gets tangled together, everything is organized and easy to locate and every piece of jewelry has a place to live in while you're out of town, ensuring that you'll lose nothing.

Tote bags are cute, but practically worthless. Unless you have one with many pockets and that is not too deep, your tote bag will become an unorganized catch all. I forego fashion for comfort and praticality when traveling, and although entirely juvenile, backpacks are the way to go! I travel with an Underarmor backpack that has many compartments, zippers and mesh pockets. I stay organized and never lose anything thanks to this backpack!

Always check-in on your airlines website 24 hours in advance and from the comfort of your home, especially when carry on your luggage and simply checking 1 bag/each. Make sure to print out your boarding pass or send it to your e-mail - TSA agents can scan your phone if you pull up your ticket barcode in your e-mail at security. 

Have an account with every airline and every hotel chain to ensure that you are acquiring miles and points for every trip. These eventually add up to free flights and free hotel stays. And shoot, after a year of not flying sometimes the airline or hotel chain will mail you a letter telling you that your points will expire if you don't use them -- often times they offer you free magazines. This is great for when you only have 1,200 point on an airline... You get free InStyle for a year!

Pack an empty water bottle - re-usable or plastic. You will get this through security with no issues. Fill it up at a water fountain in the airport. Hydration is important when flying.

Always travel with your cell phone charger in your carry-on or purse. Never pack it in your checked luggage. You never know when you'll have a delay or flight cancellation and the last thing that you need in a stressful moment is for your phone to die.

Many airlines have an app - use it. US Airways does not.

Booking Hotel Stays

Pick a hotel chain and remain loyal to it. With every night stayed at a hotel you acquire points. With each stay, these points accumulate and you will eventually earn a free nights stay to that particular hotel chain. I'm a Marriott girl, but I also earn points with every other hotel chain out there (Hilton, Starwood,  Choice Hotels) because those random stays will add up to a free night. This goes for airlines also!

Book your hotel stay through priceline.com or hotwire.com, even when overseas. You will not gain points by doing so, but you will get up to a 50% discount on hotel/resort rooms. We do this all the time - even when we went to Cabo and Italy!

If you book your hotel stay through hotwire.com or priceline.com you will not earn points for your stay. You must decide if the price difference is worth losing out on the points. Generally it is.

What to Wear When Flying

We all can't look like Lauren Conrad when traveling, nor do we all sit 1st class and have private jets - therefore, looking cute while still being comfortable is a priority to me. I stick to yoga pants, comfortable cargo pants, leggings, flowy tops, sweaters and maxi dresses. Basically, I pick my outfit based on what would be comfortable to lounge/sleep in should my flight get delayed/cancelled and I'm stuck in an airport for several extra hours/overnight. It happens all too often. Be prepared... Layering is key!

Throw on a simple necklace and earrings, but keep jewelry to a minimum. No one wants to hear your bangle bracelets clink together while on a flight.

Scarves are a cute accessory and provide warmth in a cold airplane.

If you have long hair, wear it down, in a high bun or a low ponytail. If you put your hair in a bun/ponytail in the middle of the back your head, you will be so uncomfortable once you're in your airplane seat. Trust me. Those headrests hit at a weird spot.

You must remove your shoes at 98% of airports. Wear easy shoes to get in and out of.

If flying in sandles, bring a pair of socks in your carry-on or purse -- Those planes can get cold!

At the Airport

You can bring food through airport security. Pack snacks or a meal for yourself from home. My favorite airplane snack is peanut butter filled pretzels and the above salad is a great meal to travel with!

Every airport has a "bag drop off" counter for those who check-in at home and pay online for their checked luggage. You do not have to wait in the long check-in lines if you've checked in at home and are just dropping off your checked luggage. There is a separate line at most airports and is clearly marked for those who have checked in at home and are only dropping bags off.

As of August 23rd, 2012 you can bring a larger sized bottle/container through security as long as the liquid inside equals 3oz or 100ml or less. Example: My Neutrogena face lotion is in a 5oz bottle. As long as that bottle is approx. halfway empty I will be able to get it through security.

Make sure to always put your laptop in it's own security bin. You cannot put your shoes or anything else in with it. Laptops must go through security in their own bin. iPads and tablets, however; can remain in your carry on... They do not need to be taken out because there is no hard drive.

Obama has not given TSA agents a raise in 3 years. Be patient with them. They are just doing their job. (if anyone has information to the contrary, please bring it to my attention)

On the Plane

When traveling with an infant, it's a thoughtful idea to put together a bag filled with goodies and a sweet message for everyone on your flight. If you do this, you're guaranteed to make friends with everyone. Who could possibly compain or be upset when sucking on a Jolly Rancher from the babies in 20E and 20F?!

Don't be afraid of turbulence. Planes don't just fall out of the sky. You can equate turbulence to potholes in the sky... It's the wind changing directions. I know it gives most people, including myself, sweaty palms and a racing heart, but you will be fine.

Order tomato juice on the plane. It's a filling and healthier option (although the sodium level is high). That or ginger ale, which will ease your stomach pains through turbulence.

Travel with an inflat able, washable travel pillow. This is what I use.

Have each airline's phone number saved in your phone. If you have a delay or cancellation, instead of waiting in the long line of disgruntled passengers at the gate counter, you can comfortably sit on a chair chatting with an airline agent on your phone. They can help you just as easily as an in-person agent and they aren't overwhelmed by the chaos occuring in the terminal. Be nice to them and they'll go above and beyond to help you out!

Hotel Tips

When booking hotels using Marriott's website, they have standard rates and often offer room packages and marriott rewards rates as well. There are times when it's worth it to just book a standard room rate and times when it's worth booking a room package or marriott rewards rates. Make sure to do your research -- We have acquired many gift cards thanks to the room packages rates! (Hilton and other hotel chains offer this also)

Choice Hotels will earn you a free hotel the quickest. They are not high end by any means, but they are a place to rest your head and they do offer free breakfast, many accept pets and are often located in ideal locations, such as on the beach or in a city. If you luck out and have an Ascend Collection hotel in your destination city, I recommend staying there.

Many hotels offer free breakfast - take advantage of this!

Hotels, such as Marriott's Residence Inn and Hilton's Hampton Inn, offer their weekday guests (Monday-Thursday) a managers reception in the evening hours. This reception often includes free wine, beer and appetizers. Some also offer a free light dinner - hamburgers, salad, meatballs, sandwiches, chips, baked potatoes, etc.

Always run the hotel air conditioner and/or fan. By doing so your hotel room will get cold. Pack your pj's accordingly - sleep and lounge in sweatpants, even in the peak of the summer months. This cold room will help keep germs and mold at bay. Cranking up your hotel room heater is a recipe for sickness.

Bring a mini can of Lysol with you. This is what I have. Spray the door handles, toilet handle, faucets, telephone and remote control immediately upon check-in.

Do not drink out of the coffee mugs or glasses in your hotel room! Think about it -- Have you ever seen fresh mugs and glasses on the maids cart? I never have. They might get wiped out in the bathroom sink, but they do not run them through a dishwasher. Do not drink out of anything that isn't wrapped and sealed in plastic.

Every hotel has a lost and found box. Go to the front desk and politely ask if you can look through their lost cell phone chargers. If one matches your phone, they will let you keep it. It's always nice to have an extra cell phone charger around the house!

Once You're in Your Destination

Take Emergen-C everyday.

Purchase a case of water bottles from a local grocery store. This will only cost you $4 and will ensure that you're staying hydrated.

Call your hotel to see if they have mini refrigerators in room. If so, while at the store, pick up some protein bars, fresh fruit, nuts, v8, yogurt and other healthy snacks to off-set the rich dinners and high caloric cocktails you'll soon be consuming.

It's not easy for anyone to workout in a hotel gym. Keep your goals small and attainable -- no one likes to feel like a failure while on vacation. Try your best to hop on the treadmill for a minimum of 20 minutes daily... Hey, it's better than doing nothing!

I want to stress the importance of Tips 32 and 33 -- If you don't spray your remote control with Lysol, bring a ziplock bag with you to put the remote in. You can push the buttons through the bag.
Story: Someone recently told me about how they used to work with professional skateboarders. These guys would swipe the remote up their butts and pee in the coffee pot. 

Wash your hands more than usual. Catching colds and coming home with a bug is not fun!


Get-away weekends and vacations are necessary for the psychy, for a healthy marriage and for a productive employee and a dedicated parent. The above tips will help you stay organized, calm in stressful situations, prepared, hydrated and as healthy as possible while traveling.

Whether it's for work or pleasure, have fun on your next trip!

* If you have discovered any great travel tips of your own, please include them in a comment below. I love to learn how to be more efficient and how to get more bang for my buck! 
* If you are a mother and have any recommendations about flying with children, please comment below. I clearly don't have any experience with that subject and feel that that is the only main topic that I wasn't able to cover.


  1. Thanks for all of these tips! I'm going to be traveling a lot in the next few weeks so this was very helpful! xo


  2. Great post!! I have traveled quite a bit (not nearly as much as you!!), so I have my own little tricks and tips, but these are wonderful!!! It's always good to hear from experienced travelers about loyalty programs - I usually stick with USAir because they are the cheapest for our routes, but for hotels, I usually just pick the cheapest, so I never get any rewards!!! I think I may pin this, if that's ok!! Thanks!

  3. such a great list! I am packing a mini lysol can from now on though!

  4. seriously awesome post Kate!!! love it!! :) i totally laughed about the potholes in the sky, because i tell myself that every single time i fly ;) thanks for all these tips...so helpful!!!!

  5. Wow! Tons of great tips!
    I am frequently using Emergen-C, and Lysol! Eeek, Hotel germs, gross!

    Great point to about the hotel room cups, gross!



  6. Such great tips, thank you! I agree about the remote - that always skeev's me out. I use the ice bucket plastic liner to cover the remote mostly. Also, one of the ladies I work with travels with one of these: http://www.gadling.com/2012/04/09/skymall-monday-bed-bug-sleeping-cocoon-poll/

  7. Love this especially the tip with the treats from the twins in row 20...genius idea!!!

  8. Wow!! Very helpful. I have never been on a plane and we don't travel to new places often, but I will definitely remember this post to reference to next time we travel!! Very knowledgeable tips. I especially like the cranking the AC up in the hotel rooms and lysoling everything. I always get grossed out by staying in places that I don't know how well they were cleaned.

  9. Saving this and showing it to everyone I know. I may even link back to it on my wedding website if that is okay with you?! A lot of the tips are things I do myself, but I did NOT know about the remotes and coffee pots. That is so gross!

  10. i will definitely be saving this page!
    awesome tips girly

  11. Wow, great post, Kate! I have heard/used some of these tips already and here are a couple that aren't on the list:

    Whenever booking hotels online, I always compare AAA/Military/Govt rates (for those who have AAA or are Military) and also do a Google search for discount codes on hotel rooms or rental cars. I've saved a lot of money doing this, especially through Enterprise.

    An FYI - If traveling over the holidays, airlines will not allow you to bring wrapped gifts on the plane. Be sure to wrap them when you get to your destination or order online and have them shipped directly there.


  12. This is such a fabulous post! I LOVE IT! Very smart! Will be bookmarking :)

    This might be an odd question but are the only states you actually haven't been to?

  13. OMG this is the greatest travel tip blog i've ever read! Thank you! I don't travel a lot anymore, but will definitely keep these tips handy for when i do! You RoCK!

  14. Autumn,

    The only 2 states that I have left to go to are Alaska and Montana. I'm so close to getting all 50, but have been stuck at 48 for 5 years now. One day!


  15. I'm not sure if I'm overly worrisome but as soon as I get to the hotel (no matter how upscale) I pull the fitted sheets back off the mattress and check for bed bugs!!

    and your tips are wonderful. you definitely know what you're talking about!

  16. These are some really great tips! I will definitely keep these in mind next time I travel

  17. Kate this is awesome! I have already picked up tips from you here and there.. what a great guide.

    I love using MyTrips on the Kayak app - you forward all of your email confirmations (hotel/air) and it makes it easy to pull everything up when you are traveling and check your flight status/gates too.

  18. Thanks for all the awesome tips!!!

    We just stayed in a hotel this weekend and used the remote with no protection. I'm totally grossed out now!! :(

  19. Awesome post, Kate. I travel a LOT less than you do, but it's always fun comparing notes with a fellow traveler. So many good pointers here.

    A few that I follow as well:

    I keep a pair of ankle socks in the front pocket of my carry-on suitcase. Then, if I wear flats or heels with no socks and have to remove my shoes at security, I slip them right on to bypass the feet germies.

    Also, for tickets and other important documents, I always keep them in the same place. For example -- boarding pass always goes in my Kindle case. That way, there's no fumbling around about where in the world that passport went.

    I also permanently keep a charger in my travel bag - no forgetting it at home.

    Oh! And pashminas balled up can make a good makeshift pillow on a flight. :)

  20. You are superb! These tips you gave us were so useful and clearly expressed while using pics to support the text!
    Absolutely fantastic post!! <3

  21. This was such an awesome post! You have perfected traveling and I will definitely be using a lot of these tips!

  22. This is an amazing post! Thank you for sharing all your tried and true tips.

  23. This is such a great post! Amazing tips! Thanks for posting!

  24. This is great, thank you SO much. I thought I was a well rounded traveller but I've never even thought of some of these. :)


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