Tips and tricks for smooth travel

As we swing into summer, many of you will be hitting the open road and friendly skies, and maybe even staying in a place where they “leave the light on for you.”

Due to my day job, my life revolves around the world of travel and my experience has helped me compile some tips that may help you on your own journeys — with or without the family.

My iPhone has a folder of all my travel apps, and believe me, they come in handy and offer a variety of services such as the ability to check into my flight while at the dog park or checking out of a hotel at the crack of dawn.

When I book family trips, I book directly with the airlines, hotels and rental car companies. I find it easier to deal with them directly than with third parties. When it comes to third-party travel sites, keep in mind that unlike dealing directly with an airline or travel agent, you might not get the help you need when a flight is delayed or cancelled, a hotel room isn’t what you booked or other issues arise while on a trip.

Summer travel can bring long lines once you get to the airport.  However, it's not just because we are getting into summer.  After being grounded by the pandemic, more people are looking to get out and travel.(Credit/Getty Images)

Summer travel can bring long lines once you get to the airport. However, it’s not just because we are getting into summer. After being grounded by the pandemic, more people are looking to get out and travel.(Credit/Getty Images)

Hurry up and wait

As more people have taken up traveling after the pandemic kept us homebound, long lines aren’t just limited to summer travel. Since the new year, my observation is that lines have started to creep back to pre-pandemic wait times.

I suggest that before arriving at the airport, you check airport websites to see a list of wait times for getting through security. This will help better prepare you for what you may be facing once you get to the airport.

If you plan on taking several trips, I recommend getting TSA PreCheck and CLEAR. Even though CLEAR is not in every airport, you can use it to get into other venues like sporting events or concerts.

Before sliding behind the wheel of a rental car, check with your credit card company or your auto insurance carrier to learn about what coverage they offer toward rental vehicles.  (Credit/Thomas Barwick)
Before sliding behind the wheel of a rental car, check with your credit card company or your auto insurance carrier to learn about what coverage they offer toward rental vehicles. (Credit/Thomas Barwick)

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is very similar to having TSA PreCheck, but you get through security faster.

CLEAR uses your information by identifying you through an iris or fingerprint scan. To receive CLEAR access, you must submit approval for the program to use biometrics authentication.

All of that might sound scary, but again if you are making several trips per year, it is something to consider for the near future. There have been times when CLEAR has gotten me through security way faster than the TSA PreCheck.

While faster and more convenient, CLEAR is also more expensive than the TSA PreCheck. The cost to enroll in CLEAR is $189 per person for one year versus TSA PreCheck at $85 per person for five years. If you are financially doable, and you are a frequent traveler, it does help to have both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck options.

Don't be afraid to ask your hotel if there are upgrades available.  Hotels want repeat customers so many times they will throw in a few perks.  (Credit/Michael Kai)
Don’t be afraid to ask your hotel if there are upgrades available. Hotels want repeat customers so many times they will throw in a few perks. (Credit/Michael Kai)

My bag is where?

If you check in a bag, print out an extra boarding pass and put it in your suitcase. This way if a suitcase gets lost, it is another way of hopefully tracking the bag.

In the past, when we have made family trips, I have had everyone place a boarding pass in their luggage to be safe. While your bag may have a luggage tag, those can get pulled off — and yes, that comes from a personal experience.

I also place an Apple Air Tag tracking device in my luggage and it comes in handy. Having an Air Tag can offer a piece of mind because you will always know where your bag is just by accessing the app.

When flying, check airport websites to see a list of wait times for getting through security.  (Credit/Daniel Garrido)
When flying, check airport websites to see a list of wait times for getting through security. (Credit/Daniel Garrido)

Avoid extra costs when renting wheels

Renting a car can have its bumps in the road — pun intended.

If you have a membership at a warehouse store like Sam’s Club or Costco, or are a member of a union or bank with a credit union, check to see if they have member deals or discounts toward rental cars.

Before securing a reservation for a rental car, check with your credit card company or your car insurance about what coverage and protection you have when renting a vehicle. Often times your insurance company will extend coverage to a rental car so you don’t need to purchase the rental company’s pricey insurance coverage.

I had to deal with an accident for more than a year when my rental car got hit in a parking lot and I didn’t notice it until I returned the car to the airport. In that situation, my credit card company handled the situation.

I also suggest not taking the rental company’s offer of pre-paying for fuel, you will be getting ripped off. Instead, fill up the vehicle yourself before returning it to the rental company.

When you are making a family trip, you will want to do some research on the hotel.(Credit/Getty Images)
When you are making a family trip, you will want to do some research on the hotel.(Credit/Getty Images)

Avoid hotel disappointments

When on a trip with the family, take the time to do some research on the hotel ahead of placing a reservation.

For example, is there a pool and if so, is the pool having maintenance done when you arrive?

Also, I still can’t figure out why hotels don’t all have 24-hour access to the gym. Not all hotel guests are in the same time frame. So, if you are a gym person, you might want to see what times the gym is open or if the hotel has an agreement with a local gym.

Since not every hotel website is updated, call and check on the availability of listed amenities ahead of time.

Staying on the hotel topic, when we traveled as a family, I would get either adjoining rooms or at least rooms on the same floor.

In 2012, I got remarried and we took a honeymoon/family trip. When I booked the room, the description said it was a suite—not even close. The room wasn’t meant for three ladies and two boys. I learned a lesson from this and now I book two rooms when we travel as a family — especially when you are dealing with only one bathroom.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask if there are upgrades available. Hotels want repeat customers so it’s worth your while to ask. The worst thing they can say is no.

If you check in a bag, print out an extra boarding pass and put it in your suitcase.  This way if your suitcase gets lost, it's another way of (hopefully) tracking the bag.  (Credit/Israel Sebastian)
If you check in a bag, print out an extra boarding pass and put it in your suitcase. This way if your suitcase gets lost, it’s another way of (hopefully) tracking the bag. (Credit/Israel Sebastian)

Relax and don’t sweat what you can’t control

In my recent travels I have encountered fantastic food and lovely people and as a solo traveler, couple or family, you will also meet new people and create memories during your trips.

When it came to family trips in the past, I realized that I needed to relax. I am so used to my routines, I just need to let life happen.

For example, on one trip from Denver to Chicago, my son Connor and I were meeting my wife, Ann, and her daughters at the airport.

While we “boys” were on time, the girls were, well, not. Even though I was stressed that there was a possibility we were going to miss our flight, I knew I had to stay calm.

Even with the security line snaked all the way back to baggage claim, I maintained a poker face and assured my family that we would make our flight.

We did make our flight.

I was able to stay calm because of experienced travelers that I am and my family were also calm because they could see it in my face and body language. Once again, the experience is paid off.

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