16 Useful Travel Tips: How to Plan, Save Money, and Relax

It's vacation season, and it's finally time to get away, relax and recoup from the daily grind. While vacations should allow you to unwind, some aspects of travel can be stressful. Proper planning takes the guesswork out of your trip and will enable you to enjoy yourself fully.

Below you'll find 16 essential travel tips that will help you plan, save money, and get the most out of your well-deserved time off.

Travel Tips: Planning Your Vacation

Here are a few simple trip planning tips to consider before you pack up and go.

#1 Check Travel Advisories

In today's travel climate, checking travel restrictions and advisories is essential if you're vacationing abroad. Search the U.S. Department of State's travel advisories web page for the most accurate and up-to-date information. You can find info on the country's safety, vaccination requirements, entry/exit regulations, mask mandates, laws, and travel safety tips.

#2 Get Travel Insurance

Travel insurance isn't required, but it could be well worth it if you spend your hard-earned money on a trip. You'll not only have protection for medical emergencies but also coverage for lost or stolen items, trip cancellations, and damaged electronics. Travel insurance coverage options vary depending on your needs and typically makeup just a fraction of your total budget.

#3 Alert Your Credit Card Companies

Although using a credit card during vacation is usually the safest payment option, thieves are still quite sneaky. Alerting your credit card companies when and where you'll be traveling is a great way to avoid potential fraud. Most credit card companies make this task as easy as logging into your account and inputting your travel information.

#4 Prepare Your Home for Vacation

Shore up your home base before venturing off on vacation. Protecting your home against burglaries, accidents, and disasters is always best. Here are a few critical tasks to add to your vacation preparation checklist:

  • Set alarms and turn on security cameras
  • Put away the spare key or give it to someone you trust
  • Empty your refrigerator to avoid moldy surprises
  • Set your thermostat to save money on electric bills
  • Unplug appliances and electronics
  • Hide your valuables or lock them up in a safe
  • Use the USPS Hold Mail service® until you return
  • Have a trustworthy family member or friend check-in

Taking a few essential steps to protect your home while on vacation leaves one less thing to worry about while you enjoy your time off.

#5 Use A Travel Packing List

Using a travel packing list can help you keep track of essential items you take on your trip. It's frustrating to forget your hair dryer or pack the wrong shoes. Ensure you don't forget your travel documents or jewelry in the hotel safe. You can easily find a printable travel packing list online or easily create your own. Travel packing tip: Use packing cubes to utilize space in your suitcase effectively!

#6 Create A Vacation Itinerary

Pre-planning your vacation activities can save you time, money, and stress. Create a loose itinerary so you're not wasting time on Google searches for “things to do” at the last minute. You can also reach out to friends and family for advice. Look for ticket deals online and make reservations to avoid crowds and long lines. Your vacation itinerary doesn't have to be set in stone, but having an idea of what you'd like to do can reduce stress during your trip.

Travel Tips: Saving Money on Vacation

A vacation can consume your savings and get you into debt if you're not careful. Taking the time to look for deals, budget your money, and take advantage of public resources can help you stay on track. Below are a few money-saving tips to help you save on your vacation.

#7 Use Miles, Points, and Rewards

Saving up your miles, points, and rewards for your vacation can help lower the cost of your trip. Consider a travel credit card with a decent sign-on bonus and save your miles and points throughout the year. By doing so, you may be able to score yourself a free or discounted flight or hotel stay. Sign up for airline and hotel email alerts to get deals delivered straight to your inbox.

#8 Consider A Timeshare Rental

Renting out a timeshare directly through the owner can save you a lot of money. This little-known secret can land you a luxurious stay for a significant discount. Timeshare owners aren't bound to vacation rental company fees or hotel industry rates. Instead, timeshare owners can set their prices without such influence. Timeshare rental websites such as RedWeek, KOALA, and TripBeat offer services to help you book your stay.

#9 Search for Flight Deals

Rather than wasting your time searching each airline for the best flight deals, use a flight search engine such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo. These flight aggregators pull ticket prices from the airlines and online travel agencies and compile the information all in one place. Once you've found your ideal flights, you'll be redirected to the airline or a third-party booking site to complete your order.

#10 Use Public Transportation

If you're not taking a road trip or renting a car, you may be inclined to use ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft. But, if you're not careful, these costs can chew through your vacation budget. Instead, take some time to research your destination's public transportation system. Subways, buses, and trains can be cheaper than a chauffeured ride. Be sure to look into daily or weekly passes for the best price.

#11 Stick to Your Budget

Sticking to a budget is perhaps one of the hardest things to do when on vacation. However, to avoid financial trouble, you should create a vacation budget. Once you've booked your big-ticket items such as flights and accommodation, research the cost of your activities, set a meal and alcohol budget, and consider miscellaneous expenses such as transportation, tipping, and souvenir shopping.

Travel Tips: How to Relax on Vacation

Vacationing alone should invoke relaxation, but let's face it, some aspects can be stressful. Being prepared for stressful situations, having patience, and being more mindful of your irritants can help you relax on your trip. Following a few simple relaxation travel tips can help.

#12 Turn on Your Out-of-Office Reply

Turning on your out-of-office reply and leaving your business laptop at home is the first step to a relaxing vacation. Before leaving for your trip, make sure that someone else can handle your responsibilities while you're gone. Taking this step will allow for a guilt-free trip and less work to catch up on when you return. You'll also want to notify your boss and co-workers that you won't be available during your vacation. And while not advised, if you absolutely must work on your trip, give yourself a time limit.

#13 Spend Some Time Outdoors

Many vacation activities include museums, tours, tastings, and other indoor ventures. Being in crowds and standing in line, especially in a big city, can be stressful. Be sure to schedule a day to get outside and into nature. Look for nearby national parks and beaches, or hop on a bike and explore the town. Soaking up vitamin D, moving your body, and taking in the peaceful sounds and sights of nature can promote relaxation.

#14 Explore Local & Off-the-Beaten-Path

If you're looking for relaxing vacation activities, find out what locals like to do or explore off-the-beaten-path adventures. These environments will likely be less crowded and allow you to take your time without feeling rushed by other people. You can also plan a day trip to a nearby small town or ask about lesser-known hidden gems in the area. Pro tip: Avoid top tourist attractions during peak hours.

#15 Make Sure to Pace Yourself

When you're taking a long weekend or quick getaway, it's easy to overload your itinerary to try and see as much as possible. Trying to fit too much into a short period will stress you out. Instead, spend extra time researching the activities you may enjoy the most and figure out how much time you'll need for a wholesome experience. Engaging in what is known as slow travel puts quality over quantity resulting in a stress-free and relaxing travel experience.

#16 Don't Forget About Self-Care

It's easy to forget your basic needs when in a new environment. Practicing self-care while on vacation is one way to ensure a relaxing experience. Here are a few steps to ensure you aren't neglecting your mental and physical health on vacation.

  • Pack snacks if you're going to miss a meal
  • Bring a water bottle to keep you hydrated
  • Be sure that you are getting enough sleep
  • Schedule time to exercise or take hikes
  • Unplug and only use your phone for photos
  • Include a few healthy meals in your diet

Be sure to remind yourself that you are on vacation and that this should be a time to recoup and escape your daily stressors.

Final Thoughts

Following these sixteen travel tips can help you plan, stay out of vacation debt, and truly relax during your trip. A little preparation can go a long way in protecting your assets and physical and mental well-being. It's an exciting time for you so enjoy your time off!

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Alex Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! She's a proud Virginia native who has also founded the Explore Coastal Virginia website. Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.