family travel airport

Random, Useful, Fun Travel Tips

Whether you’ll be traveling in the next few weeks or have plans for a trip over the Holidays, it’s always a good time for travel tips. Start thinking because you’ll have an opportunity to share your favorite travel tips.

family travel airport

No Room for Air

Sure, you can find cheap plane tickets, but you’ll pay many extra fees if you don’t stay aware. Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free carry-on bag. The way to win this game is to make the most of that one fee-free bag using the sit-and-zip packing method to create more room in your suitcase:

Get a stack of gallon-size zip-lock bags. Take an item of clothing and fold it lengthwise. Roll it up tightly like a tube. Put it in a zip bag. Do not zip it closed. Instead, place the open bag on a chair or bed and sit hard on it to expel the air. You can up two or even three things for smaller items in a single bag. While still seated, zip the bag to seal. Note: This works best for clothing not prone to wrinkles—synthetics like nylon, polyester, and rayon.

Start at the Corners

Imagine your luggage as a grocery bag. Whether you have a rolling suitcase or a duffle, weight should be evenly distributed so as not to become too top-heavy. That is why bulkier items such as shoes should be tucked into the bottom corners and sides of the luggage.

Read Reviews

User-review sites have changed how most people plan their travel, giving us an enormously useful tool for evaluating hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and the like. is the big kahuna, with more than 250 million candid reviews, mostly of hotels, also less traditional lodging like B&Bs, villas, and private homes, as well as restaurants and attractions.

Get on the Bus, Gus

Traveling by bus is not as uncivil as it used to be. So before you rush to book a flight or train for short hops, check out the local bus service. These days buses are often new and clean, with unexpected perks like free wi-fi and outlet access, for starters. And no funky bus smell.

Avoid 3rd-Party Agents

You’ll be pointed to dozens of third-party agents like and when you search for low fares and hotel rooms. Great. Learn all you can and should you come across a deal you are ready to book, go directly to that airline’s or hotel’s site and book direct. Why? Let’s say your flight is canceled. When you get in line to rebook using your existing ticket, you’ll be so angry when that airline’s reservations agent tells you to call that third party because the airline has no obligation to get you on the next flight. Been there, regretted that. Horribly. And getting a refund from that third party after being forced to buy a new ticket? Good luck.

Use ‘Em Don’t Lose ‘Em

There’s no advantage in holding on to frequent-flyer miles, as there’s no way of knowing whether they’ll be worth anything down the road. While all airlines seem to have a “life of the program” exit strategy (they can kill the program any time), miles typically expire within 18 months—though that deadline may be deferred if you keep your account active, either by flying or using an airline-reward credit card that is linked to your account). So get a free flight or golf clubs, electronics, magazines, or anything else the airline lets you trade miles for while you can.

Reserve a Seat

Always reserve a seat at the time of booking if you can. If the airline or booking agent won’t let you keep revisiting until you can. The longer the flight, the more attention you should pay to get a decent seat. Sites with detailed seat info include and Find the seating chart for your flight. Don’t like the seat options? Select one anyway, then check every spare minute to change it, including when you’re on the plane. Seats come available whenever a passenger cancels or fails to show up.

Pack Ear Plugs, Eye Mask

This travel tip should actually be first on the list. A good set of earplugs muffles the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, and more—a traveler’s best friend. An eye mask will help ease jet lag as you adjust to a new time zone—both onboard and at your arrival.

Get Lost on Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live and work, go visit them. On foot. Without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel and inquire at the front desk areas of the city to avoid. you never know what amazing things you’ll find around the next corner. You can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.


Bring your own everything! It’s safer than putting yourself at the airline’s mercy. Bring a travel pillow, a blanket or sweater, and headphones. And, of course, food. While onboard selections are iffy, assume the quality will be meager.

Patience Is Essential

Patience is my top travel tip. Don’t sweat what you cannot control. Life is much too short to travel while angry and annoyed. Did you miss your flight? No worries, there will be another one. ATM out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip to the next town to find another machine. Call it an unplanned adventure. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

Question: What’s your favorite travel tip—by air, car, train, bus, ship, and when you reach your destination, too? Please share in the comments area below.



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  1. Dave Cuffe says:

    When things go wrong and there are queues, once you get to the desk don’t surrender your position till you get what you want. Don’t allow yourself to ‘just stand aside for one minute’ while someone else gets the check in clerks attention.

  2. compass19 says:

    Never wrap your presents you are taking with you for that special occasion, Christmas, etc. I did that once, and had to unwrap all presents for TSA–almost missed my flight, and wasted all that time and effort. You can always pack some wrapping paper and tape, no scissors!!, or pack gift bags to use, or borrow from your host.

  3. Linda Ketcham says:

    We travel to Kauai for 2 weeks every other year & stay at a condo-style resort. I have a note card of items which are not stocked in the condo kitchen, and pack those each time we go. I take spice seasoning packets & shaker spice jars, (ones I use frequently), baggies of various sizes rolled together tightly, plastic storage containers from the dollar store filled with items I will use in the condo kitchen, and to use for storing leftovers later . I also bring small soft sided cooler packs (unfrozen) to freeze for the beach cooler I have packed.
    I also bring a baggie of laundry supplies (detergent pods, dryer sheets).
    Since I have Celiac disease requiring a gluten free diet, I pack GF crackers& snacks.
    I have another baggie of postcard & regular stamps, note paper, etc.
    each time we go I add or subtract from my list depending on the changes in what is stocked at the resort.
    All of these items could be purchased in Kauai of course, but the prices are really high in the resort area we visit, in addition to limited availability of shopping options.

    Thanks for all your great tips, recipes, & suggestions, Mary! I read your column every day!!



  4. Sharon says:

    Pack really light, not only for ease of transportation, but to leave plenty of room for those things you buy while on vacation.

  5. Pat Blumberg says:

    Don’t count on a hotel to have enough outlets to charge all of your devices. There are plenty of options on the market to be sure that you can charge everything at once.

  6. Syd Waskey says:

    Go to your bank and get a couple hundred dollars, euros, or whatever currency for where you’re going. That way you don’t have to fiddle around upon arrival – jet lagged – and head to your destination. That way you already have $$ for a taxi, subway, etc.

    • Pat W says:

      Banks here don’t supply foreign exchange, and at the airport it’s an expensive exchange. There is always a cash machine in or right outside the airport, where we take out enough cash for a couple of days. ALWAYS be sure your card supports a foreign withdrawal.

  7. Cate says:

    Wear your heaviest pair of shoes. For me, that’s usually my athletic walking shoes. It’s not part of my favorite traveling attire, but really helps with saving packing space and weight.

    • Andrew says:

      And wear your jeans, not your shorts. And throw your sweater over your shoulders, even in the summer. The plane will be cold. A sweater can also make a good pillow.

  8. Lydia Warden says:

    Be careful packing the “no room for air” too tightly. I had my luggage packed like that. It was tight. A zipper, as best I can tell, showed on the scanner and they couldn’t determine what it was. They made me unpack the entire bag. Everything had to come out and be examined. Then I had to put it all back and it took valuable time to get it all repacked. My friend packed her suitcase like that and TSA went through her suitcase and they couldn’t refit everything in her suitcase. She got a trash bag filled with her stuff that they couldn’t fit back in her suitcase. Just be careful.

    • Red says:

      I had my carry on searched between flights, overseas. They went through my recyclable straws which are not metal. I still have no idea what they were looking for. Fortunately, the bag was not full as internationally there can be weight limits on carryons and it isn’t all that high!

      The porter complained that one of our bags was way too heavy to be a carry on and told us the contents of the bag marked medical equipment should have been put in checked luggage. When I told him there were batteries in the bag he told us that the laws were different in each country, they aren’t; international law requires that lithium batteries be in the cabin, not the hold!

      Like your friend though, we’ve slowly figured out what gets triggered and what doesn’t. I think I only have 4 TSA cards that say this bag has been inspected and that’s rom a ways back!

      • Andrew says:

        I have a BIG bag that I weigh before I leave home. No sense paying for overweight on something I can buy cheaply at my destination.

  9. Berni says:

    Always, always, always recheck your flight info. Sometimes airlines (especially smaller ones) don’t get corrected flight info to you on time. It isn’t very pleasant to think your flight leaves @ 11 PM as initially booked, but when you get to the airport, find out it’s been changed to 3 AM!!

    • Red says:

      Indeed, although i do get the notices but finding the differences can be different and earlier.. The strangest one I had happen was a full day change! It was later, but I had to change hotel reservations.

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