5 Things That Have Fundamentally Changed How I Travel
On my last blog post I shared 5 lessons I learned in 2018, not necessarily about travel, but some that did have some impact. Today, I want to share more about specific things that have fundamentally changed how I travel on each trip. I know that’s a really bold statement, but I will admit that ever since I discovered these things, I have continued to use them on every single trip moving forward. These 5 things have either simplified how I travel, have saved me time or money, or have added significant comfort to my travel days. You may be surprised that majority of these are not large or costly things and you can actually start implementing them today for your upcoming trip!
5 Things That Have Fundamentally Changed How I Travel
1. Google Maps
Chances are, if you don’t live under a rock, that you may already be using Google Maps to help you navigate through cities, but the two new ways in which I started incorporating Google Maps into my travels are:
Downloading city maps prior to arrival - I don’t remember who taught me this functionality but it has been a serious game changer during my trips, especially in times where my international data has been weak or in places where I haven’t had any reception at all.
Prior to arriving at your destination (preferably when you’re still at home and the wifi is strong) search for your destination city within the Google Maps app. Once the city map comes up, click on the 3 dots at the top right corner and select “Download offline map.” You will be able to select how much of the city map you’d like to download (for example, you can choose to include neighboring suburbs). Once the map is fully downloaded, you will be able to access the map by clicking in the top left corner of the app > “offline maps.”
By having the offline version of the map, you’ll be able to search for directions regardless of whether you have international data or cell service. I highly recommend downloading the maps for all cities you are traveling to during your trip.
Pinning points of interest on the offline city map - I have to thank my friend for showing me this during our trip to CDMX because I have now used it on every single trip since. Once you’ve downloaded your offline map, start pinning everything you would ideally like to see in this city. First, come up with a list of the top attractions, restaurants, and/or coffee shops you want to check out - you can find these through a simple Google search, TripAdvisor, or through travel blogs (wink wink). You can either make a big list or add them as you think of them, but you would then go into your Google Maps app to search for and save these locations. The save button is a little tricky to find at first, so once you find the location, swipe up and you’ll see the save button there. Don’t forget to also pin your accommodation on the map!
Google Maps lets you organize by favorites, want to go, and starred, as well as categorize more specifically by type of location. Don’t worry about pinning more places than you’ll have time to visit! The point of pinning is that once you are at your destination, at any point you can open your map and see if you are in close proximity to any of the points of interest that you pinned! This can help you organize your itinerary by grouping places that are close to each other. Or if you are more of a go-with-the-flow traveler, this can also help you if you have free time and want to check out something nearby.
2. TripIt App
If I had to label myself as a type of traveler I would say that I’m a spontaneous planner, meaning that I like to have a general plan for the big things like accommodation and ideal points of interest, but like to leave my days flexible to see whatever I please that day.
I discovered the TripIt App this last year, and again, have used it on every trip since. The TripIt app is a travel organizational tool. I am sure there are many many apps, spreadsheets, and tools to help organize your trips, but what I particularly love about the TripIt app is that I literally do not have to input anything! All you do is forward the confirmation email you get to firstname.lastname@example.org and BOOM your itinerary is automatically uploaded into your profile.
I have found this app to be the most useful when I am visiting several cities or if I am traveling with many people, because the system allows you to add other people to the trip itinerary and organize confirmations for each person (for example, if all of you are arriving on different flights, you could easily upload all flight confirmations and assign to each corresponding person).
I generally just forward confirmation emails to TripIt as soon as they come in and like to have everything in the app before departing so that I can easily access all of the details of timing and confirmation numbers at any point in my trip. No more frantic rummaging through my emails or taking screenshots of confirmation numbers!
3. TSA Pre-check / Global Entry
I selfishly want to refrain from sharing this tip because I realize that the more people get Global Entry or TSA Pre-check, the less valuable it becomes, but alas, I feel obligated to share the wealth :P
For those that may not be familiar, TSA Pre-check and Global Entry are two programs that are used to streamline airport experiences. TSA Pre-check is a program that allows you to use the, typically, “faster lane” during airport security and allows you to keep your shoes and coat on and keep your electronics in your bag while crossing security. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs program that offers expedited entry into the U.S. when arriving from international flights. Basically, TSA Pre-check saves you time during departure and Global Entry saves you time on arrival.
Both programs require an application (can be done online), a thorough background check and pre-screening, an in-person interview, and a non-refundable fee ($100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA Pre-check - both good for 5 years). I didn’t know this prior to beginning my application, but thank god my friend was watching me on my computer and stopped me because Global Entry comes with TSA Pre-check included, but not vice-versa. Basically, you get both for $100 by applying for Global Entry, which is definitely worth the $15 more!!
I wrote about this in my previous blog post, but my credit card Chase Sapphire Reserve covers the Global Entry or TSA Pre-check fee through its cardholder benefits (again, they only cover the fee once so definitely apply for Global Entry). This is a huge perk and I’m so glad I took advantage of this because both programs have saved me a tonnnn of time at the airport. I have cut down my time arriving before flights about an hour or more.
4. Airport lounges
If I could only tell you how much money I have saved and the increase in comfort I have added to my travels since having access to airport lounges. Ok ok I could actually do a quick market sizing exercise and give you a rough estimate. Assuming an average of $15 spent at the airport on food/drinks (which is frankly on the low side, but we will assume I wouldn’t always purchase an alcoholic beverage) and taking my 41 flights flown in 2018, I saved roughly $615 this last year on airport food/beverages alone!
To be honest, airport lounges were something that were completely new to me prior to 2017. I did very little traveling when I was young, and when my family did get the opportunity to travel later in life there was no way that we had ever imagined being able to afford airport lounges. It was something I felt was only accessible for the wealthy or business travelers who had acquired a certain point status. And perhaps, at the time it was only accessible to those, but credit card programs like Chase Sapphire Reserve have really opened up accessibility to millennials and young professionals by offering this as one of their perks.
Airport lounges have revolutionized how I travel because at most airports I have the luxury to be able to eat a full meal with buffets of food and alcohol included, and in several larger international airports, have even been able to take a hot shower! Some airport lounges even offer yoga rooms, nap rooms, and family rooms for those that want a separate area for their kids.
Chase Sapphire partners specifically with Priority Pass lounges, so I have the Priority Pass app on my phone to tell me which airports have Priority Pass lounges, where exactly they are located inside of the airport, and what special features the lounges offer. I am sure that different airport lounge programs have different allowances, but with Priority Pass you usually have access to bring anywhere from 1-4 guests traveling with you into the lounge for free. Before my family got their Chase Sapphire card, we used my card access which was a huge saving for our family of 5.
5. Leaving travel essentials in your suitcase
The last thing I discovered this year was not so much a “thing,” but more so something I decided to do. I realized that I was spending a significant amount of time looking for things every time I was packing up for a new trip. Even if you have everything super organized in your home, it takes time to locate things for every trip. I realized that there are many things I take on my trips that I only use for my travels, such as my travel-sized cosmetics, adapters/converters, dual-voltage straightener, packing cubes, and spare toothbrush. On my last few trips, I decided to leave these travel-specific items in my suitcase while I was unpacking. Then, when I was ready to pack for another trip, it was super convenient to have so many items already there, saving me time and energy! Also, if you are like me and despise packing and unpacking this will alleviate some of the pain on both ends! ;)
I hope you’ve found these 5 tips useful for your future travels! I am always looking for ways to save time or money, or add convenience to my travels, so I’d love to hear if you’ve had any game changer tips!
Til next time!