U.S. citizens may be notoriously bad at using up our vacation days, but even if you’re just taking off a few days this summer, make the most of it with these 10 vacation tips.
Photo by mikety28.
10. Save Money with a Staycation
Times are tough, but just because things aren’t looking so hot in the finance department doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice vacation. Consider planning a staycation. It may not seem as exciting as exploring exotic new places, but just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t explore your own home as though it were a foreign land. Photo by carlock_family.
9. Prepare Yourself for Travel Abroad
Let’s say you do have a good reserve of spare cash for your vacation and you’re ready to go abroad. Chances are you’ve already done your share of planning, but for a little extra help fitting in with the natives, check out web site Travel Etiquette for tips on how to behave properly in different countries. If you’re heading somewhere where they don’t speak your language, brush up on a few common phrases at BBC Languages’ Quick Fix, and make sure you learn the proper phrase for “Where’s the ATM?” since according to MSNBC, you’re likely to get your best exchange rate there—though you may want to let your bank know you'll be doing this ahead of time. Last, fill up your suitcase with just the good stuff when you’re heading back from abroad. Photo by Al Ianni (Away).
8. Handle Your Jet Lag
If you’re traveling across time zones, jet lag can rob you of precious fun-time, so take a look at British Airways’ jet lag calculator for tips on how to adjust your sleep schedule beforehand so you don’t end up napping through the good stuff. If you haven’t planned ahead enough, try wearing sunglasses or starving yourself to fend off jet lag. Finally, if you didn’t plan ahead at all, a few jet lag cures (like melatonin) may be just what the sleep doctor ordered. Photo by Ann Chou.
7. Hit the Open Road
Of course, flying isn’t the only way to get somewhere when you head out on holiday. Perhaps instead of flying the friendly skies, you may want to enjoy one of the best scenic drives in the U.S. The cost of gas is still a consideration, so figure out how much it’ll cost you at web site Drive Pricing—or simply stay close to home with a vacation within 71 miles. You may have to do a little more planning to survive a long road trip, but there’s nothing like a classic road trip. Photo by NOIZE Photography.
6. Deal with Overload When You Get Back
Nobody wants to think all that much about what’s waiting them when they return from a relaxing vacation, so if you can manage it, just take a full-on email sabbatical and skip the full inbox altogether. If that’s not an option, it may be time to empty your inbox with the Trusted Trio—or if that's not your style, see how our readers sort through vacation email buildup. And now that you’re back, check out how your peers kickstart work mode after returning from a vacation. Photo by DeaPeaJay.
5. Make the Most of Your Vacation Photos
If you haven’t snapped some great photos, how will you ever remember what you did? (Or prove you were there?) Take a few words of wisdom from the New York Times’ on how to be a better photographer when on vacation, or if you’re really serious about your photography, take Fodor’s advice and set up a shooting itinerary (and use a map to keep track of them). If, despite your best efforts, you’ve got other tourists cluttering up your otherwise masterful snaps, try web site Tourist Remover or Wired’s Photoshop guide to removing tourists from travel photos. Photo by mandj98.
4. Get Your Laptop Travel-Ready
I'm a firm believer in unplugging as much as possible during a vacation, but who am I kidding—most of us still travel with our laptops. Keep it safe in your luggage by securing it for air travel, and grab a TSA-checkpoint friendly laptop bag to expedite your trip through security. Before you leave, try minimizing your need for the laptop in the first place with some smart vacation auto-responders in Gmail that’ll notify everyone that you’re out (so you don’t have to deal with messages that aren’t important). If it is important, try something like AwayFind so people who desperately need to get in touch with you can. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a quick but refreshing weekend trip, consider trying a battery-only weekend to help restrict your computer time to the bare minimum. (You’re supposed to be on vacation, after all!) Photo by joey.parsons.
3. Streamline Your Packing
When it comes to lugging around all your bags, we’re major proponents of the one-bag philosophy of traveling light. In fact, web site One Bag is an excellent go-to source for all-things-packing, offering packing lists and methods—like the wrinkle-free bundle method—to help you make the most of your luggage. You can also put your MacGyver chops to use when traveling by repurposing items for your packing purposes (stuff souvenir maps in a water bottle, for example). Photo by Digiart2001 | jason.kuffer.
2. Find Cheap Tickets
If you’re only goal is cheap tickets without much hassle, take a look at our Hive Five Best Travel Sites for a quick glance at some of the best places to find a great deal—or just head straight to Kayak, our readers’ (and our) favorite travel site. If you want to play the odds, Bing Travel’s Farecast predicts whether the price of a ticket will rise or drop over time, helping you determine the best time to buy. On the other hand, if you’ve got an open calendar and just want to get out of town, web site Voyij (pronounced “voyage”) can find very cheap tickets for flexible travelers. Frequent fliers, check out Placely and MileMaven to get the most from those frequent flier miles. Photo by alex-s.
1. Get the Best Seat on the Plane
If there’s one thing we hate, it’s starting off and ending our vacation with a suffocating airplane ride. Head to web site SeatGuru before choosing your seats to find the best seat on your plane. (It shows which seats have extra legroom, outlets, and which are just a touch too close to the bathroom, for example.) If you’re booking too late to get your pick of the litter on seats, low-cost carriers are now offering the most legroom (believe it or not). Last but certainly not least, if worst comes to worst and you’re stuck in an airport waiting out delay after delay, get to know Rule 240 and score some meal vouchers, a hotel room, partial refunds, and more. Photo by Allerina & Glen MacLarty.
Are you a master traveler or vacation planner? Share your expertise in the comments.