Traveling can be stressful, expensive, relaxing and memorable — all at the same time. Summer is when most travel occurs to new and exciting destinations around the world. The less-enjoyable part about travel is the airline check-in lines, long security queues, large families or groups traveling together and waits at the baggage claim, rental car facilities and hotel check-in lines. Below are some tips to make your next trip more enjoyable and less stressful.
First, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Avoiding summer months (peak travel time) is usually one of the best and easiest ways to save money. If your schedule is flexible, you can usually find good deals by adjusting your dates.
Second, some credit cards offer benefits that include free TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry to expedite the security process at airports. Memberships to AARP and other clubs offer discounts for air travel, hotels, rental cars, restaurants, amusement parks, tours and ticketed events such as concerts and shows.
Some credit card benefits may also include free checked luggage, preferred boarding and/or complimentary room upgrades. While it may take time to compare prices from various travel providers and find a discount, it can save a traveler hundreds of dollars on just one trip. Also, following travel companies on social media channels is an easy way to find deals or sales — but you often must act quickly.
Whenever I travel to a new destination, I do a lot of research in advance. As a foodie, I look for restaurants in the area where I’m staying, particularly restaurants that I don’t find at home. Sometimes I come across a highly recommended restaurant that requires reservations weeks or months in advance. I like to identify the must-do activities the city is known for and explore the days and hours of operation. This includes finding out the average visit time so that I can fit it into my travel plans and plan accordingly. I also look at airport maps so I can become familiar with the layout, especially if I have limited time between flights.
Additionally, I belong to several airline, hotel, rental car, restaurant and store frequent-buyer clubs/stamp cards. Some offer benefits such as preferred or priority seating, upgraded rooms, vehicle upgrades and dining discounts or rewards for frequent or high value purchases.
Be forewarned that this often leads to receiving emails and text messages, but over time, the miles/points add up and eventually can be used toward those special, once-in-a-lifetime trips. I’m saving my airline miles and hotel points for a trip to Japan someday.
One of my best travel memories is taking a Hawaiian vacation with extended family. I planned and organized the itinerary since we had a large party — this included making dinner reservations, purchasing tours and planning activities in advance.
It helped to reduce stress and allowed my family to enjoy our time together instead of waiting for a table at a restaurant or spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. By planning, it also saved us money by taking advantage of deals and comparing purchase options.
Sometimes, it can be financially better to book travel arrangements a la carte instead of purchasing a bundled package, particularly when an airline, hotel chain or rental car company offers discounts or has limited-time sales.
And don’t forget — it is always important to read the fine print when making a reservation. Some bargains can be nonrefundable and nonchangeable, while others restrict earning frequent buyer points/miles. Some deals may be for select markets or on certain days of the week. And if you are considering trip insurance, be sure to know what your credit card covers before purchasing any coverage.
For more travel tips, ways to save and trip ideas, visit aarp.org/travel. Happy travels!
JR Fujita is a senior state and community engagement specialist for AARP California. He is based in Sacramento, Calif.