For a stress-free getaway, follow this expert’s pre-travel tips – Hartford Courant

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Friends often comment on the amount of travel I do. Especially how I can rack up the miles without being stressed out, exhausted and even overwhelmed at times. Truth be told, in my decades of pretty steady travel, I’ve had my moments. Haven’t we all?

But in my years of zipping around both locally and globally, I’ve learned a few strategies to help make the travel itself a bit less stressful, a bit more seamless and more awesome than angsty.

Here are some basics that help me be able to focus on fun, discovery and relaxation rather than logistics. Most are basic, but for those who may be new to travel or haven’t zipped off too often, they’re good to adopt. And sometimes even us long- timers need refreshers. Try these to make your road or air trip even better.

All the apps: At home and on your own wi-fi, take time well before any trip to download all the apps that can make a trip better. I tell everyone: Download every major airline app now (even if you’ve not planned a trip as of yet) and join any loyalty programs they have.

The first reason is basic: The apps help make all of the minute details easier. Checking on flights, checking in for flights (or bus or train trips), and staying up to speed on any delays or changes all comes easy when you have the apps. Keep them all in one folder on your phone.

Another bonus to having them: It’s super easy to shop deals for trips by clicking from app to app and comparing.

Here’s a back-up tip: Should your app notify you that your flight is delayed by a few hours, head to the airport anyway. Often (and as happened to me just the other day), they delay a flight and then “poof” it’s suddenly back on schedule. You don’t want to sleep in and miss it; you’re better off reading a book at the airport or having a snack.

Be a pack master:  Packing well for a trip takes foresight, planning and lists, lists, lists. My goal is always twofold: I want to bring everything I could possibly need while also bringing a little as possible.

Here’s how I do it. I start with a trip itinerary, listing each day and evening and what activities are planned (or may happen). I sit down with that and write next to each itinerary item, what I need for that. (For instance: Snorkeling outing: bathing suit, cover up, sunscreen, water shoes, hat). Once I’ve done that, I look to see where and how I can double up on using/wearing things. Once I have that list complete, I know what I need and what I can double up on.

Next up is fitting it all in an easy-to-access and easy to repack (super important!) way. I’m a huge fan of packing cubes. When you see them you think: Well, how are they any different than inside a suitcase? But by rolling my clothes and placing them in themed packing cubes (nighttime and going out wear, sports and activity wear, personal items, etc), I not only have little organized cubes that move easily into hotel drawers or shelves, but it all somehow fits in there better. It’s more secure, takes less room and is easy to view when you’re looking for something. They’re affordable and available on line. Just do it.

My goal is as little luggage as possible. If I can make due with a roller that is carry-on size and a decent backpack, it’s great. A great luggage tip is gate checking. While you’ll have to roll your bag through security, once you are at the gate, ask the agent if they are accepting volunteers to check bags. They almost always are, and then you can forget about your bag until you land and get it at the carousel. Side note: If you are in a rush when you land, don’t do this. But when I’m on golf or ski trips when I’m already checking a big bag that I must wait for anyway, this is a great way to forget about the other bag – at no cost – until then.

Don’t rely solely on Yelp-like reviews: When I decide to travel to a particular place, I begin my research early. I like to find great spots for coffee, amazing things to visit, beaches that are special, places to dine and more. I lean toward reading published reviews by travel journalists, but I also lean on social media and friends in person. If I know you like what I like and you’ve been to the spot I’m heading, you’re my source for great tips.

Once I’m there I ask all the locals: Cab drivers, cashiers, someone who just happens to be standing near me, for insider info. Its amazing what you can discover by trusting the home town person.

Those are just a start. Planning things out and being at the ready is the best way, this long time traveler says, to really let loose on vacation. True escape may take a little prep work, but it sure is worth it.

 

 

FILE - In this April 19, 2019 file photo, travelers look at a menu at a Taco Bell restaurant inside Miami International Airport in Miami. The company that owns KFC and Taco Bell posted better-than-expected sales in the second quarter thanks to stronger customer demand and a record new store building spree. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
It’s better to wait at the airport, or have a snack as these people at the Miami International Airport Taco Bell are about to do, than miss a suddenly rescheduled flight. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

 

Luggage packing cubes, like this set from Bagail ($25.99, amazon.com) make organizing your travel wardrobe a snap. (Photo amazon.com)
Luggage packing cubes, like this set from Bagail ($25.99, amazon.com) make organizing your travel wardrobe a snap. (Photo amazon.com)

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