Travel Tips: Before Leaving

This is a short series of posts with my tips for traveling. I’ll explore things from booking to packing to flying and many things in between.

Planning and preparation can be the hardest part of a trip. Everyone has their methods, but I’ve found a few things that have been very helpful to me. Hopefully, I can contribute to your efforts in some way.

Booking

If you travel frequently, I highly suggest taking advantage of membership offerings. Almost every hotel and airline has some sort of points system that you can benefit from. Over the years, my wife and I have used points/benefits for free first class flights to Hawaii, countless free hotel rooms, airline club access, free beverages and snacks, discounted rates, priority boarding, free checked luggage, free TSA pre-check and more. As you can imagine, we’ve saved thousands of dollars by doing this.

For a great hotel rewards program, I suggest Hilton Honors. Their family of hotels includes Hilton (obviously), Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites, and many others1. No matter where you travel, you’ll probably have access to multiple Hilton options. The more you stay at these properties, the more benefits and points you’ll receive. Free nights, free water bottles, free snacks, and reserved parking are some of the tremendous benefits. My biggest suggestion here is to get the American Express Hilton Honors card to use when booking a hotel. There are no annual fees and you’ll get 7x the points when you use it.

For flying, choose an airline and stick with it. We use United Airlines because our small hometown airport has limited options. We’ve been very happy with their MileagePlus program and have reaped many rewards from it. We use a United MileagePlus Explorer card for booking flights. This card has some very nice benefits (miles don’t expire2, free priority boarding, free checked bags for 2 people, bonus miles, club access).

I prefer to book the hotel first because hotel reservations can be canceled without a fee or hassle. I’d rather deal with hotel changes/cancellations than doing the same with airlines.

For renting a car, I don’t suggest getting a credit card solely for that purpose. Instead, book with one of the above cards, get the extra points, and use the included insurance instead of paying extra with the rental car agency. I typically use National because I can skip lines and walk straight to my car thanks to my membership level. I try to avoid Thrifty and Dollar at all costs. They’re cheaper for sure but are not worth the hassle in my opinion. Another good option is Silvercar, although they have limited locations.

Packing

The last headache before you leave the house! Over the years, I’ve gone through countless amounts of luggage. Finally, my wife and I decided to invest in a proper set of quality luggage. We chose the TravelPro Magna 2 line for our needs. It has an excellent lifetime warranty that should enable us to use this luggage for years to come. While it was hard to bite the bullet and spend this amount of money, we calculated that we’d spent much more than that buying cheap luggage over time. We coupled that with some cheap packing cubes that streamline the whole process.

Try not to wait until the last minute to pack! You’ll surely forget something and create more stress than necessary. Make a list of what you need a few days out and start gathering the items a couple days beforehand. Don’t forget travel bottles for your carryon, a great USB power adapter for your hotel room, and a sweet pocket knife to put in your checked luggage.

Download a couple of games on your phone, add a great book to your Kindle, put some podcasts on your phone. Pack an empty water bottle in your carryon to fill up once you’re past security. Check the airline app for last minute offers on better seats. Wear a hat. Use a flight tracker3 for delay/cancellation notifications. Get some sleep.

Trip to the airport

If possible, get a ride to and from the airport from a friend. This could save you some major parking bucks and you’re not forced to leave your vehicle unattended for days at a time. If you can’t, request an Uber or look into prepaid parking options at your airport.

Enjoy your trip!


  1. We typically stay at Hampton or Homewood because both offer a great free breakfast everyday. 
  2. This is a big deal. Miles typically expire if not used within one year. 
  3. Just enter your flight number into Google for a cheap and easy flight check. 
Matt Langford @Mtt

Copyright 2018 Matt Langford