Travel tips. Everybody who travels has a small arsenal of tips and tricks that they've learned along the way and today I'm sharing 10 of my not-so-obvious travel tips that can hopefully help make your travels just a little more smooth.
1. Peanut Butter is a liquid - I know. It's weird, it's strange, and unfortunately it's true. I learned this coming back from Charleston one time when I had purchased a small jar of peanut butter at a cute pet store for my dog and it was confiscated. While I wouldn't consider peanut butter a liquid, gel or aerosol, the folks at TSA do, and they're the ones in charge. Perhaps you're not bringing back doggy peanut butter for your pet, but it's good to keep in mind if you're buying a snack pack that has a side of peanut butter.
2. You aren't done using your packing checklist after you pack - Don't be so quick to toss that packing checklist after you're done using it. If you bring it with you you can use it to make sure that you haven't forgotten to pack everything back into your suitcase before you leave the hotel or AirBNB (looking at you forgotten phone charger). Oh, and PS: I have a free 25 page travel planner has a packing checklist if you need one!
3. Don't assume your carry on suitcase won't be gate-checked - Try as you might, sometimes you have to fly on a smaller plane that has limited overhead bin storage, forcing anyone in a higher zone to gate check their luggage before getting on the plane. Sure, this is still faster than having to go to baggage claim when you arrive at a destination, but if you have a tight connection than you can find yourself waiting on the tarmac for longer than you'd like depending on how quick the airport can get the gate checked luggage unloaded.
4. Airlines can put you on another airline, but that doesn't mean they will - In short, be nice to airline workers. Like reallllllly nice. Because they can do you a lot of favors or make your travel day your worst nightmare. Plus, it's cool to be nice to people. I've never understood how people can be downright nasty to the folks that work at the airport. Especially when things like weather or maintenance issues arise that are outside of those workers control. My guess is that they don't want a blizzard rolling through and delaying everything just as much as you don't want a blizzard rolling through and delaying all your flights. So be genuinely nice because they have a lot of power - like moving you to another airline if needed (even though some will try and tell you they can't do that).
5. Ask the locals - Sure, Yelp and Trip Advisor are good sources, but don't be afraid to ask the locals for recommendations. I have found so many hidden gems for drinks, food, tours, and hikes that never showed up on a website because I chatted with my bartender, hotel worker or server. And they would of course know the best places to go!
6. Always carry a photocopy of your passport and ID - I'm not sure where I learned this tip, but when I went to France alone when I was 17 someone told me to take a photocopy of my passport with me. You keep the copy in your hotel room safe so in case something happens to your passport when you're out than you have the copy to show the American Embassy. This will help expedite the process of getting you home since it's your intentional ID and has all your needed information on it.
7. Take a photograph of your luggage on your phone before you leave - I hope you never ever ever have to go through the pain of losing your luggage, but should you, your life is going to be so much easier if you can help the folks at the airline identify what is yours. Other important luggage tips are to always make sure your luggage tag has your up-to-date information and is secure on your bag, and if you have all black or all navy suitcase (the most common suitcase colors out there) than have some sort of identifying feature (ribbon, a fun luggage tag, etc.)
8. Travel is not the time to break in that pair of shoes - I like shopping for vacation just as much as the next gal, but other than perhaps a pair of sandals, be very very careful about bringing a pair of shoes you've never worn with you. Now, in full disclosure I would trust wearing brand new TOMS on vacation for the first time, but that's because I've spent years wearing them, and even backpacked around Europe for 3 weeks with really happy feet thanks to my TOMS, so I have a tried and tested level of trust with the brand.
9. Browse flights in a secret, or incognito, browser - Ahhhh technology. It's a beautiful thing, but your footprint is constantly being tracked, and your flight search history is no exception. Websites are often putting cookies in your browser to track where you've been and what you're searching, which means they know what flights you're searching. The downside? They can often drive prices up because they know what you're looking for. Luckily, you can often just right-click on your browser icon and open separate, hidden, window. There will be no tracking on that window and you'll often see a much lower price (I know I do!).
10. Sign up for TSA pre-check - Why-oh-why I waited so long to get TSA pre-check, I have no idea. As much as I've travelled I can't believe all the times I waited in long security lines when I could have cut all the tireless waiting and hoped up to the front of another line. For only $85 you can get pre-check for 5 years. It's a simple fingerprint scan, then you wait while the FBI does a background check and so long as you don't have a criminal past you get a traveler number that you use when you purchase plane tickets to get you to the front of the security line. It's quite easy and though wait times can vary, I had my traveler number within a week.
Those are some of my favorite not-so-obvious travel tips that I've learned from all my years on the road, but if you have any hidden travel gems to share I'd love to hear them!