sharp439 writes "7 Pro Tips to Make Travel More Efficient
The ability to waltz elegantly through chaotic airports like an individual actually on vacation isn't something you're born with; it is earned. Packing and planning for optimal travel serenity can take years of trips filled with stress and anxiety before you finally hit your stride and start coming out on top, no matter the lines or the hold-ups. The airport, or the train station or cruise ship dock is where many trips begin, and thus is your launchpad for an awesome trip, be it for work, pleasure or both.
What do the happiest travelers have going for them? Some might just force a smile and promise themselves a drink on board, while others likely spent the entire morning meditating as to fully relinquish control while the airport is still a mile away. But for someone without these capabilities, a little pre-planning and gathering of only the best supplies can stop that trip anxiety before it starts.
The following travel tips, packing hacks and apps can make your next trip the smoothest yet. Give them a try and tell us how it goes for you.
1. Find destination-specific navigation apps
If you're going to Los Angeles (or another city with tons of traffic), download Waze — it will give you turn-by-turn audio cues and advise on routes to avoid traffic. If you'll be getting around by public transit, you'll want HopStop.
For international travel, there are a number of apps that will download static maps so you can use them underground or if you don't have Wi-Fi, such as Stay.com for iOS and Android. (And speaking of Wi-Fi, you may want to consider purchasing a mobile hotspot or tethering your phone — many providers offer this as a monthly subscription service, and it's more secure than free public networks.)
For nearly any urban destination, you can rely on Uber, currently active in 32 countries.
But anyone who hasn't planned ahead can take advantage of publicly displayed maps — just take a photo with your phone and you're all set. If you rented a car, take a photo of the license plate, too. You'd be surprised at how often two white Corollas park next to each other.
2. Sign up for VIP airport services
TSA Precheck will save you from having to take off your shoes and pull your laptop out of your bag at the airport for the next five years — as long as your $85 application is approved. Clear is available in select airports and won't let you skip the security process altogether, but you do get to skip the line. It is currently available in 12 U.S. airports and costs $179 per year, a worthy price if it's available in your home airport and you fly frequently.
On the way back from your international jet-setting, you might consider Global Entry. Like Precheck, you must apply and be approved to take advantage. If approved, you can speed your way through customs and get home that much sooner.
3. Eat where the locals eat
It's easy to get on-the-go (and nearby) restaurant or nightlife recommendations from the Yelp and Foursquare apps. But with our faces in our phones, we sometimes forget the obvious sign of a great venue — is the place full, and do the customers inside seem to be locals?
If you're looking for more in-depth activity planning, the WikiSherpa app is highly recommended — the mashup of a map and travel guide offers tips on sights to see, and it also works offline. TripAdvisor also has offline city guides for 80 cities across the globe.
Another resource for finding solid recommendations from locals is Peek, which has options to ask both celebrities and its community to design a perfect day in their hometown. If you're really looking for an authentic take on a new town, you might try Tinder (really!). When I used the app on a trip to Puerto Rico, I met up with someone I had a mutual friend with who was in town for work — but you could just as easily meet a local who might be happy to show you around his or her town. In WeChat, you can use the shake feature to get connected with users nearby and send them a greeting — you'll have the most fun with this if you're traveling in China, where most of WeChat's user base is located.
4. Check airfare on multiple sites
There's no secret sauce to booking cheap flights (although some data shows purchasing airfare 54 days before takeoff is optimal). In scoring flight deals, there is only hard work — at least, if you're the type that considers web browsing to be work.
You'll want to check Kayak, Hipmunk, Living Social Escapes and Groupon Getaways to see if there's a deal for your preferred destination. I would add GetGoing's Pick Two, Get One to that list, if you're adventurous enough for mild gambling on where you'll land. Despite the rise in comprehensive search engines (see both Google and Bing), it's always possible that a site (or the airline itself) is offering some sort of special discount, so it's worth shopping around and being open to multiple airports in a region, too.
5. Download a language app
Language app Duolingo has amassed a cult following for offering free language lessons, possibly of higher quality than enrolling in a college-level language course. Do a few lessons on your international flight, and although you may not be fluent by the time you land, your practice will at least take the sting off that disorienting feeling of foreign conversations all around you.
Also useful are offline dictionary apps — check out Google Translate or QuickDic for Android, and iTranslate for iOS, which has text-to-speech and offline mode, too.
If you're truly keen on impressing those you're socializing with, you might look into VerbalizeIt, which sets you up with a translator-for-hire. Consumer plans start at $10 for five minutes and can help you make that transaction or get un-lost while abroad.
6. Pack like a pro
Baggage fees crept up on us — $25 here or there doesn't seem like much, but if you're a frequent traveler, it adds up, and it's an additional line to wait in when you arrive at the airport (plus, there's always the risk your bags won't make it to your destination).
Traveling with only one bag will save time and money, but more importantly — it's one less item to keep track of, boosting both your security and serenity as you're moving through airports, cabs and public places in an unfamiliar area.
No matter where you're headed (unless, of course, the trip is two weeks or longer), by packing only the essentials you should be able to make one bag work. Bring dark denim that can be dressed up or down, and a black blazer that will hide wrinkles. Wear your best multi-purpose shoes on the plane, and only pack a second pair if you'll need athletic shoes or something a little more formal.
If you worry about wrinkles, there's such thing as an inflatable hanger, which may be worth the investment. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them is another way to pack your bag efficiently and avoid wrinkles.
Lastly — don't forget to bring the one accessory you can't live without: an extra phone battery. Some savvy travelers also throw in a power cord in the event you find yourself killing time in an airport, needing to charge a laptop, tablet, camera and two phones all at once. Just be sure to check if you need to bring an adapter to use the local outlets.
7. Book only the first night
No matter what time you land, you don't want to be spending your first few hours running around and hoping a hotel has a vacancy. But after that, why stay tied down to a venue you chose with only the context of its digital presence? A quick walk through the neighborhood might leave you feeling you really want to stay in a different part, splurge on something superior or move somewhere more convenient.
Apps from HotelTonight and WeHostels will get you a last-minute room right from your phone. Since it was acquired by StudentUniverse, WeHostels added discount hotels to its app, and HotelTonight offers rooms ranging from affordable to high-end.
That being said, if you're just in town for business and your days are packed with meetings, perhaps booking the whole trip at your go-to hotel chain is a good idea. After all, who doesn't love hotel points?
Hopefully a few of these tips will change the way you travel. If you've got your travel persona down, kick back and take an airport selfie. What's your go-to travel tip?
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