Never Ever Book a Return Flight

There have been so many times I’ve traveled and almost every single time I’ve ended up changing my return trip to extend it and visit another city or to stay longer in the place that I am at. And every time I regret that I booked my return flight.

So take a lesson from me and just don’t do it. In the long run it’s a lot cheaper and it keeps your options open. You can easily book last minute tickets and sometimes better availabilities or cheaper routes open up, although not always.

The cool thing is that you can do a search using Kayak to figure out which city has the cheapest flight back home and then take a super cheap flight using budget airlines like RyanAir or AirAsia. I still have not done this because I’ve continually made the mistake of booking a return and have been stuck, but this method is far better and allows you to keep your options open.

In short, go with the flow, don’t plan ahead and see where your travel adventures take you.

How to Travel Like a Pro

Believe it not, traveling is an art these days. With intensely thorough and inefficient security lines, layovers, baggage claim, and crying babies, it takes a little bit of know-how to travel smart these days. Here are five things you can do to travel like a pro:

1. Sign up for Global Entry. This program is a huge timesaver and well worth the $100 application fee as it also includes TSA Pre-Check. In fact, many times companies like American Express will cover the cost if you have one of their high level credit cards. The program allows you to skip the regular custom lines upon entry and skip the regular security lines upon departure all of which amounts to saving a huge amount of time. I remember having gotten off a really long flight at JFK only to have to wait another 45 minutes to get past customs and immigration as the line snaked away. Luckily, I now skip that line, have my fingerprints scanned at one of the Global Entry kiosks, and am quickly on my way.

2. Don’t check your bag in. Not checking your bag in is ideal for domestic flights with minimal stops. It keeps your bag safely with you and you don’t have to waste any time retrieving it at baggage claim. If you do decide to check your bag in, however, make sure you mark it with something easily visible like a colored ribbon so you can easily spot it instead of being like everyone else who’s scrambling after a black suitcase only to find out it’s not theirs (or worse- taking someone else’s bag home).

3. Want to see another city on your trip for free? Usually you can have your airline schedule your connecting flight on a different day. For example, let’s say you have a connection in Paris, France. You may be able to call the airline and ask them to reschedule your connecting flight to say seven days later. That gives you a week in Paris and you didn’t have to buy a new ticket (you may have to pay for a flight change fee unless you initially book your trip this way)

4. Earplugs and sleeping visors are a godsend when you’re dealing with bright lights and crying babies on a plane. It’s a small investment that can assure you a lot of peace of mind in the future. On top of that, you never know when you’ll need these items. I’ve checked into hotels and there happens to be massive construction going on next door (that was fun). You get the idea.

5. Get yourself a Priority Pass. It allows lounge access to thousands of priorities in business lounges all around the world.

Following these tips and tricks will make for a way smoother travel experience – you’ll be amazed at how much time you save and maybe even feel a little guilty when you skip the long security and immigration line and get to sip on your favorite drink in the business lounge pre-flight.

Why Travel Off the Beaten Path

Many people consider themselves travelers when they go to 8 different countries in a span of 10 days and they only go to the most popularly visited cities. To me, that isn’t real traveling. That’s not taking in the culture and really getting to know a city. It’s not learning the local formalities and it’s not discovering the quirks of what makes each place unique.

I feel like to really travel – to really absorb that which is the essence of going far and away to experience a completely different place on this earth and the way of life of its inhabitants – is to spend at least 3-4 weeks taking in everything and to be going to places outside of the normal touristy destinations.

It’s when you’re trudging through a small city in a far away land that hasn’t even come into contact with many outsiders is when you truly experience travel. And it goes both ways. You allow inhabitants of that city to experience you as a traveler – as a novelty – something that wouldn’t happen in say Paris or London or even Warsaw.

The reactions that you get from locals of “What in the world are you doing in our small town?” are priceless. The hospitality that you get from these locals is also far greater than you’d get from a local from a major city. And you’ll see things that no other “traveler” got to see.

So do yourself a favor and the next time you decide to travel – stay a while. And go somewhere off the beaten path. There’s no need to rush things because travel is about taking it all in.