T ravel is full of major decisions -- like which country to visit, how much to spend, and when to stop waiting and finally make that all-important airfare purchase. But beyond the big picture, it's the little things that can make a trip easier and less stressful. Following are 10 simple but clever tips to smooth the way on your next vacation.
As airports expand, they need more parking spaces; those spaces are ever more frequently found in parking lots that are off-airport in every respect but name.
I've found that buses and monorails run regularly to these lots, but I invariably need up to 20 to 30 minutes more than I might in less remote parking lots. If you're looking to save money, or are traveling over a major holiday weekend, leave extra time to get from the lot to the terminal.
If a) your baggage is lost or delayed; b) you miss your connection and will be late checking in; or c) you are going to a destination you've never visited before, you'll want to have complete contact information for your hotel on your person. Before you leave home, print out the hotel's name, address and phone number, and program the latter into your cell phone. It's also a good idea to print out a map of the hotel's neighborhood, whether for your own use or to show to a confused cab driver.
The days of flower-pattern steamer trunks are long gone; now we all buy our bags at the same stores from the same manufacturers.
The result: an endless stream of nearly identical bags on the baggage carousel. The solution: mark your bags by tying a colorful ribbon, stitching a unique patch or putting a large sticker on your bags. You won't see other passengers pulling your bags off the carousel to check for their tiny name tags, and you'll be able to see your suitcases come out the door from miles away.
Recent stats indicate that, on average, at least one bag on every flight is lost or delayed. If there's anything you can't live without, pack it in your carry-on. This is especially true of items that are not easily or inexpensively replaced, such as running shoes or a lightweight raincoat.
And you'll get through airport security faster if you pack your carry-on more efficiently. For example, have your quart-size plastic bag with liquids and gels packed in an outside pouch or right near the top of your bag so that you can easily pull it out for screening.
Exchanging foreign currency after you've returned home is a hassle, especially since almost no one spends any time in an actual bank these days. Why else do so many travelers have so much funny money lying around?
If you travel abroad with any frequency, and have any stray foreign currency laying around, take it with you the next time you cross international borders. Then, when you get some local currency, you can exchange the money from any other country at the same time.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but knowing your flight number can make your life easier in small or foreign airports that do not list the full names of destination airports, or list by flight number alone.