How to Travel Like a Pro - Tips from a Consultant

BY JESS LEVINE

Traveling is time consuming. Not only do you spend hours on a plane or in a car, there’s also time spent planning, packing, and preparing. Have you ever thought, “there has got to be a faster way to do this?” Many inexperienced travelers waste hours each time they travel. How do you remove the unnecessary time and stress?

Speed up the process.

Traveling can be a fairly efficient process if you have the right tools. Take rewards programs for example: rental cars, airlines, hotels, even coffee shops have programs that reduce paperwork and let you skip the line. Hotels offer priority lines for rewards members.  Rental car agencies have your paperwork already on file. And the points and free upgrades you’ll accumulate are, of course, a great added perk.

For the occasional traveler, most of your time waiting in line will be spent at security and customs.  More experienced travelers register for programs that let them skip the long lines.

To speed through customs, use Mobile Passport. Mobile Passport is a US based app that stores your customs security questions and lets you skip the line coming back into the United States. You fill out the security questions for your trip, submit them, and are approved all through your phone.

For security lines, there is TSA Precheck. TSA Precheck is a background check that gives you priority in security lines along with allowing you to leave your shoes and belt on, and to leave laptops and liquids in your bag.

Global Entry is a step up from TSA Precheck, and key for anyone frequently traveling internationally. It gives you expedited entry into the US and other countries along with all the benefits of TSA Precheck. By using these programs you not only have shorter lines, but you are also grouped with other experienced travelers who move through the process quickly.

Now that you have skipped most of the lines, what else can you do? You want to give yourself plenty of time at the airport in case something goes wrong. Is there a way to reduce that buffer while still being confident everything will go smoothly?

How can you prevent things from going wrong?

In the spirit of reducing time at the airport, do everything you can ahead of time. Being prepared means a smaller chance that something can go wrong. Pack your suitcase the night before and keep any critical, non-clothes items, such as chargers, toiletries, and shoes stored in your bag at all times (even when you’re not traveling). This way you won’t be turning around halfway to the airport because you forgot your laptop.

Carry your luggage on instead of checking it. You’ll avoid the risk of your checked bag getting lost,  and you won’t have to budget time pre-flight for going to a bag drop.

To further reduce headaches at the airport, make sure your carry-on is truly a carry-on. When bringing luggage onto a plane people tend to bend the rules. But when your bag doesn’t fit in the overhead or you get stopped to see if your bag fits in the luggage sizer, you lose a lot of time in emptying or checking your bag. Reduce complications with a size compliant bag. Check the dimensions in both the standard and expanded states. Just because the tag says it’s a carry-on, doesn’t mean it will be once you have packed it.

Switch from a laptop bag to a backpack. It’s easier to reduce the size of your roller bag if you have more space in your personal item. However, make sure it fits under the seat or you will have to check your carry-on anyway.

You’ve got your luggage. You have measured the dimensions, and you know it will fit on the plane. Now, how do you get everything into it that you need? And how do you determine what to pack?

Bring only what you need and wear everything you can.

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There are some items, such as jackets and shoes, that take up a lot of space. Bring the bare minimum of those items. On a trip you should only need one jacket and two pairs of shoes: one business and one casual/workout. Wear the jacket and the bulkier pair of shoes to free up space in your luggage.

Make your clothes overlap. This can involve packing within a single color palette and choosing clothing that is appropriate for multiple events. Wear the same clothes for both work and dinner. Wear the same pair of pants two days in a row. However this does not mean bringing only one pair of pants on your trip! Make sure to carry a spare of any critical items (pants, shirt, etc) in case of a stain or a tear.

What if you have minimized your clothes but still can’t fit everything? Keep your suitcase organized and compact. Pack socks inside your sneakers. Roll your clothes. Your suitcase will be smaller, neater, and easier to find things in.

Congratulations: you’re ready to fly! Now that you’ve cut out a heap of unnecessary waiting, all that’s left is figuring out what to do with all your extra time.