Travel is a complex subject, and it’s hard for travelers to stay up to date on rules, regulations, and the best methods to get from A to B. To help prepare you for your next adventure, we sat down with some of our longtime agents to learn their secret travel tips so you can travel confidently.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY
Have you looked at your passport lately? Travel Agent Michelle McNally from Aurora, Indiana, explained why you should dust your passport off if you haven't looked at it in a while before traveling internationally.
“When traveling internationally, be sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your scheduled return from your trip, as the majority of international destinations require this. It would be pretty devastating to be denied boarding because your passport does not meet this requirement.”
Also, on the subject of passports, Troy, Ohio-based Travel Agent Linda Snyder recommended making a copy of your passport before you travel.
“Make a copy of your passport and keep it opposite of where you keep your passport. This way, you always have something to prove who you are in another country if you lose your passport. Our passport shows foreign officials who we are and that we are allowed to be in their country.”
Debórah Black, a Travel Agent from Cincinnati, Ohio, advised that travelers look into Mobile Passport Control app.
“I wish more people knew about the Mobile Passport Control app. It gets you through customs in a fraction of the time because it allows you to answer the customs questions in a free app, so instead of standing in a long line, you are able to breeze through a shorter line. Once you answer the questions, you're given a QR code–you simply scan your code in line. I have timed myself twice using the app–one time, it took ten minutes, the other time, it took two minutes. It’s available when you arrive in the U.S. from most international destinations.”
WATCH YOUR FLIGHT TIMES
Don't trust the flight time that's printed on your original confirmation, according to Newport, Kentucky, Travel Agent JoEllen Bell. She shared why.
“Pay attention to flight times, as they change often. Be sure to check several times before leaving home, as many things can alter a flight time. Mechanical issues, staffing challenges, and weather in your departing city or the origin of the aircraft can all cause short-notice timing issues that can impact your plans.”
HOW TO TRAVEL COST-EFFICIENTLY
Travel Agent Cyndy Driehaus of Cincinnati, Ohio, recommended a cost-efficient way for every traveler to make their reservations.
"Packaging a trip with all of the components like air, hotel, transfers, and excursions is usually more cost-efficient than booking each one separately. When you bundle a trip, you are getting the best prices from a vendor and may include components that would have otherwise been a separate charge, like transfers. You may also be eligible for contracted air rates when you book flights in a package.”
WHAT EVERY TRAVELER SHOULD PACK
A water bottle is something that Seven Corners, Virginia Travel Agent Holland Rainey recommended every traveler pack on their next trip.
"Carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go. You never know when you will be stranded in a line on a bus, delayed on a plane, or just plain thirsty with no access to water. I've carried AquaPockets for nearly three years, and it’s the most simple, helpful tip I can offer to any traveler. It keeps your hands free while keeping water and all of your travel essentials (phone, ID, credit cards, etc.) right where you can easily reach them anytime.”
DISNEY LODGING ADVICE
Travel Agent Lea Smith from Toledo, Ohio, had some advice about where you should stay for those heading to visit the Mouse's house.
“Staying on Walt Disney World Resort property is so much better than staying off-site. You stay within the action, as many of the characters visit the resorts, plus you get that Disney feel. Free transportation drops you off at the park entrances, and you get the advantage of getting into the parks earlier. Plus, you can ship your purchases at the gift shops back to your room, so you don't have to haul them around all day.”
ENROLL IN LOYALTY PROGRAMS
According to Lisa Bittermann, a Travel Agent from Cincinnati, Ohio, enrolling in rewards or loyalty programs can make things run a bit more smoothly when you travel.
"Sign up for the rewards programs for airlines, car rental companies, and hotel chains. They are free, and giving them some of your information ahead of time makes things run much more smoothly when you arrive. For example, with the rental car shortage, customers who were a part of a rental car company's rewards program didn't always have to wait in line at the counter–they could go to a kiosk and check in. With hotels, they may offer loyalty members special rates and provide a faster check-in experience since your information is already on file.”
HOW TO PACK LIGHT
When it comes to packing, Travel Agent Patty Weber of Defiance, Ohio, recommended keeping things simple to fit everything in your carry-on.
"When packing outfits, pack only four colors: black, white, and two other colors that will coordinate with each other. Keep it simple, and accessorize with jewelry or scarves.”
DON’T OVERLOOK THE SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM
Roxanne Laks, a Travel Agent from Lexington, Kentucky, advised enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP.
“The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is something that is often overlooked. In our current environment, it’s an important safety precaution. It specializes in helping minimize risk by registering American travelers directly with consulate resources along their itinerary. I highly recommend it for common issues such as lost or stolen passports, natural disasters, and ongoing issues like COVID quarantines. It’s highly overlooked, especially when your child is traveling abroad in an exchange or college program.”
THE BEST WAY TO GET ACQUAINTED WITH A NEW DESTINATION
Travel Agent Christine Donia of Marlton, New Jersey, recommended the first thing you need to do when visiting a new destination.
"On your first day in a new destination, always do the hop-on, hop-off city tour. It's the best way to get familiar with a new destination, see all the area has to offer, and to determine what you want to go back and revisit."
THE KEY TO PLANNING ROAD TRIP STOPS
Lauren Singh from Glen Burnie, Maryland, has a rule she always follows when planning a road trip.
“Always follow the 350 rule. When completing a long road trip with multiple stops, plan to stop at either the 350-mile mark or 3:50 pm – whichever comes first. This gives enough daylight to find a hotel or set up camp and will give you enough time to start traveling the next day well-rested.”
TRAVELING DURING THE PANDEMIC
Senior Travel Agent Jerri Moler from Dayton, Ohio, had some advice on your return to travel. It starts with extending common courtesy to any staff you may encounter.
“Be patient and kind. Know the rules before you go. The lines are long, security is slow processing everyone, and airport personnel and flight attendants are doing their best.”