Most of us can relate to the jitters that travel can give a rise to. Between long security lines at the airport and the exhaustion that comes with a day spent moving from place to place, a “vacation” doesn’t always feel like a vacation, especially on day one.
But with the average American spending 10% of their annual income on travel, it’s clear that travel is something we value highly.
How can consumers improve the travel experience without making compromises on the quality of their trips or the accommodations they enjoy?
Here are a few ways today’s consumers can improve the travel experience without slashing their vacation budgets.
1. Making the Airport a More Pleasant Place
The convenience of air travel is beyond contention. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the airport experience. That’s why one of the first things many consumers should focus on is making the airport a more pleasant place to be.
Some credit cards offer free airport lounge access that makes waiting for a flight a much more attractive prospect. These lounges offer everything from electrical plugs for you to charge your phone to complimentary beverages. But it’s important to consider your usual travel locales before you apply for a travel rewards card. The American Express Platinum Card, for example, offers lounge access in larger airports, such as LaGuardia in New York City or SFO in San Francisco. Keep in mind that the more frequently you travel, the more you’ll be able to get out of these lounges.
Another way to improve your experience at the airport is by using TSA PreCheck when available. According to the TSA, some 90% of passengers who had TSA PreCheck waited less than five minutes to get through security. This reduces the overall stress of getting to a plane on time. While the there’s a $85 application fee associated with TSA PreCheck, the benefit lasts five years.
2. Pack Light
It’s counterintuitive—the idea of remaining comfortable when traveling means that you’ll have all the amenities at home, but you’d be surprised. Failing to pack light can mean extra time spent in the security line, exhaustive trips dragging around luggage at the airport and constantly going through bags to find specific items. Here are a few tips for packing light.
- Use digital media. Don’t pack five paperback books; opt for one e-reader instead. Put your movies on a cloud service so you can access them from the road without having to pack them at all. In fact, many airlines today have in-flight movies that you can access through your phone at no additional cost.
- Stick to one carry-on bag. Make an airline’s carry-on limit your own personal limit. Packing light can improve the travel experience by reducing your overall burden. It’s better to bring one carry-on than check a bag that could potentially get lost on the way to your destination. Not to mention the cost savings you’ll likely experience.
3. Use Your Credit Card Wisely
In addition to using credit cards that offer exclusive airport lounge access, try to keep in mind that using your credit cards effectively can add to the overall experience of traveling. Here are just a few examples:
- Call your credit card company in advance and let them know you’re traveling. This will help you avoid accidental fraud alerts that shut down your credit card access while on vacation.
- Carry a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. This will mean you’re free to travel the globe without the additional spending guilt of added charges throughout the trip. Another bonus is that you’ll be able to avoid costly currency conversion fees as well.
- Bring a backup. If you have two credit cards and run out of cash on the road, you’ll stand a better chance of completing any purchase than if you only bring one and find out—to your dismay—that there’s been a temporary freeze on the account.
- Read up on your credit card travel protections. Protections for lost luggage and trip cancellations can be a major help and can save you hundreds of dollars. Read your credit card agreement to see if you have these services built in.
The travel experience is meant to be a refreshing one. Whether you’re going on a business trip or an extended vacation, it’s important to take advantage of everything that can make your trip a better experience.
Joe Resendiz is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, where he focuses on personal finance and credit research to assist consumers. Previously, Joe specialized on public sector and infrastructure financing at Goldman Sachs. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Finance.