Five Tips and Tricks Every Traveler Should Know
I know, I know. Everyone says they have all these tips for you, and most of the time you read it and you think “um… DUH.” Here is my own list of five tips that I truly believe everyone should know if they want to travel. My goal is that you will learn something new and useful!
1. Use an incognito window
When you are browsing for the perfect flights, hotels, and excursions, your internet browser is remembering what you are looking at. If you spend enough time searching for the same thing, it’s going to realize that you are probably going to eventually book it. What’s the result? The prices you see could actually increase. Don’t worry, you can use an incognito window. An incognito window is just another window in your browser that doesn’t keep a history. You can pull up an incognito window by pressing command-shift-N on a Mac or Ctrl-shift-N on a PC. A new window pops up and off you go! You can also use this trick when you are shopping so you don’t get a million advertisements of your search history on the side of your browser.
2. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are usually the cheapest days to fly
Vacationers often travel Friday-Sunday, and business travelers often travel Monday-Thursday/Friday. Which days are left? Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If you feel like you can’t afford plane tickets, look at when you are trying to travel. Want to go on a trip from Friday to Sunday night? So does everyone else. Whenever you can, avoid that weekend travel. Thinking of a long weekend, perhaps Thursday-Sunday? Try Saturday-Tuesday instead. It’s the same amount of time off, but the tickets are likely to be cheaper.
3. Always sign up for the loyalty program
Flying on United for the first time? Getting a car from Hertz? Staying at a Hilton? No matter what travel based service you are using, sign up for the loyalty program. These programs are free and allow travelers to redeem points for goods and services. Maybe you don’t have any other travel planned, but who knows what may come up? Plus, program members are often given available perks and upgrades, regardless of how often you use their program. I was able to skip a 90 minute wait line at the Las Vegas airport Hertz counter just for being a part of their program, as Hertz members had access to another counter with no line. My husband was put in a brand new room at the Holiday Inn Express Budapest the first time he stayed in a Holiday Inn with his membership number. The receptionist said “Thank you for your loyalty. You’ll be placed in the newly remodeled wing.” Um, awesome! Everything in our room was brand new. You may not get something every time you travel, but it’s worth enrolling!
Note: For airlines, you only need one loyalty program per airline alliance. If you have no idea what alliances are, click here.
4. Use an ATM to get foreign currency when overseas (and withdraw in the local currency)
The best way to obtain foreign currency (and not paying to do so) is to use a local ATM once you arrive in country. Be sure to call your bank and ask if they charge a fee to use foreign ATM’s- many banks do not charge a fee at all, and you will be able to withdraw money for free. In some countries the ATM will give you a choice- do you want the withdrawn money to charge to your account in USD or the local currency? If you choose the local currency they will give you some sort of ominous warning, such as “Conversion rate is not guaranteed. Do you wish to proceed?” The answer is YES! You never want the ATM’s exchange rate. This is called DCC, or Dynamic Currency Conversion, and it’s never a good deal.
Here’s an example- I was withdrawing money from my US bank account while in Crete. Crete uses the Euro, but the ATM told me that if I did not choose to charge my withdrawal in USD, the exchange rate was not guaranteed. Well, good! The exchange rate they offered would have cost me a full $13 more than what 100 Euros should have cost in dollars on that day. I recommend downloading a currency convertor app- you can see the exchange rate in real time and laugh at the nasty ATM’s horrible rate.
The moral of the story- ALWAYS choose to withdraw local currency without a conversion rate. No matter what the screen on the ATM says, they are trying to make a profit. Never charge in USD (unless, of course, you are withdrawing money in the US.)
5. Use the MobilePass App
Ok, this one is mainly for Americans. When arriving in the US, customs lines can be a pain. Luckily, there’s an app for that! MobilePass rolled out in 2015 and is spreading to airports around the US. Simply download the app, input your information, take a selfie (yes, they really ask you to do that), and you are ready to go! The app generates a QR code that you can scan at the airport. You still go through customs and answer a few questions, but you’ll notice that the MobilePass line will be significantly shorter than the main line. The best part is- it’s free! The downside is that it’s only available for US citizens and Canadians with a B1 or B2 visa (sorry, permanent residents are not eligible yet.).
For those that have Global Entry, this may work for you too. Once you arrive at an airport, just take a quick look at the two lines (Global Entry or MobilePass) and take whichever line is shorter. Because MobilePass is so new, many people still don’t know about it, and in some airports the service is underutilized (for now.) Of course, in some airports Global Entry still has a much shorter line, and MobilePass does not come with the other perks of Global Entry. When arriving in San Francisco in July 2017, my husband and I decided to divide and conquer- he took the Global Entry Line, I went through MobilePass. We got through at the same time.
There you have it! Tips for every traveler. Did I miss anything important? What would you recommend?