Traveling and vacationing are a wonderful part of summer. Touring the world -- or even just your own state -- can bring you amazing adventures.
However, traveling also seems to breed anxiety and complications. So if you are hoping to get in one more vacation before school starts, or arranging a trip for the holidays, or preparing for next summer's family vacation or senior trip, planning ahead and knowing some insider's tips may help make your expedition run more smoothly.
Pack with purpose
* An important rule in packing is B.Y.O.E. -- Bring Your Own Everything. This includes a small (inflatable) pillow, blanket, Ziploc bags (useful in so many ways), entertainment (include one non-electronic thing for when you have to power down), snacks, and a reusable water bottle.
* Another rule of packing is a bit of a contrast to the first rule: pack light. Try to take only one suitcase, preferably a roller carry-on.
Packing light doesn't mean going without, just being strategic. Figure out specific items you will need and pack these first. Check the weather forecast for your destination and think about what activities you will be doing. When you are packing clothing, think wrinkle-free and like colors and fabrics.
Choosing the shoes you bring on your travels is one of the greatest challenges of life (I am on a constant search for the perfect shoe that matches everything, is comfortable, and packs easily). To save room, your heaviest clothing and bulkiest shoes are easiest to wear the day of your traveling.
Consider leaving your most valuable belongings at home, because if you absolutely cannot afford to lose it, you probably shouldn't bring it. Don't forget to leave some room to bring home a few souvenirs.
* If you will be flying, check out the current rules and restrictions at tsa.gov. You are only allowed two carry-on items, one that must fit in the overhead compartment and one that must fit underneath the seat in front of you. Some airlines charge you extra to check a bag.
To help prevent lost luggage nightmares, make sure the destination on your bag tag is correct and your bag has contact info both on the inside and outside. Take a picture of your bag before you check it to help with any claim if it becomes lost. Be sure you never check vital items such as your toothbrush, medications or important papers.
You can only carry on one quart-size bag of liquid items and each item must be 3 ounces or less. The Container Store carries "guaranteed leak-proof bottles" in many small sizes. Non-liquid shampoos, lotions and sunscreens are very travel friendly. They don't leak and you don't have to take up room in your liquids bag.
Lush Cosmetics carries a large variety of solid shampoos and conditioners that work just as well (or better) than their liquid form. Peter Thomas Roth sells powder sunscreen with SPF 30 and 45.
Plan like a pro
* Everyone should have a passport. Getting one can take as long as 90 days, so get one now even if you don't have immediate travel plans. Make photo copies of your passport and travel plans (confirmation numbers and such). Bring the copies with you and email a copy to your family and yourself. Sometimes, rental agencies or hotels will ask for your passport. Giving them a copy, which they will usually accept, is much safer. Treat your passport like gold.
* Try not to overbook. While we all want to see everything, a constant feeling of "hustle, hustle" is exhausting. There's a lot to be said for the little things you find along the way when you're not rushing.
Allow for travel delays. If you have a strict schedule, like a cruise or tour, consider arriving a day early. Spending money on a night's lodging is a lot cheaper that missing your Caribbean cruise because a storm delayed your flight.
* When you are searching for hotels or excursions, read traveler reviews, but read between the lines. Look for reviews that are recent, specific and have photos.
Make air travel easy
Most importantly, always arrive early. Security waits can be very long (think over one hour) and some airports are huge.
Make security smooth sailing by taking off jackets and shoes and emptying pockets. If you have a liquids bag or laptop, take it out of your luggage and put it in a separate bin. Be prepared to answer even the strangest questions from TSA agents politely, especially if you are overseas.
Always double check that you have picked up all of your belongings from the conveyor. If you are a frequent traveler, consider applying for TSA Precheck, which allows you to get through security faster.
Stay safe, comfy
At least four weeks before you leave, start taking probiotics to boost your immune system. Pack a small bag with stomach soothers, motion sickness pills, ibuprofen, decongestants and basic first-aid necessities. Drink a lot of (clean) water. Make sure you keep moving; take periodic stops during road trips and get up and stretch your legs during flights.
When you leave your hotel, take its business card with you. This can become a lifesaver if you find yourself lost.
Pickpockets often target distracted and excited tourists. So ladies, make sure your purse is closed and consider an over-the-shoulder style. Guys, keep your wallet in your front pocket.
If you have food allergies, write down (in the local language) what you can't eat. If you have a nut allergy, contact the airlines ahead of time so that peanuts will not be served.
Be a good guest
If you're staying with someone, thank your hostess. Bringing her a small gift that is special to your home town is a great way to show your appreciation, and it leaves room in your suitcase to bring things home!
Learn a few words in the native language, especially "please" and "thank you."
Make certain you understand the tipping policy.
Find simple mementos
Tourist maps, pretty reusable shopping bags, quality postcards and flattened pennies are small, easy to take home, and almost free!
Bring a reliable camera. Take a picture of everything you love and don't forget little things like your hotel room, the front of the hotel, your tour guide, and the best gelato you have ever tasted. These things can be some of the best parts of your trip. Don't forget the chargers and extra memory cards.
Save some money
* Make sure you budget everything; little things like checked baggage fees, taxis and tipping add up fast.
* Know the cancellation and price-matching policy of all hotels and tours you book.
* Local delis and grocery stores often offer fun foods without restaurant prices. When you do eat out, it's usually cheaper to make lunch your biggest meal.
* Before you leave, check for online deals like Citypass or Groupon. During the summer months, many museums offer free admission days, so check if that works with your schedule. When flying, always check the price of one-way fare versus round-trip prices, check airline web sites on Mondays, and reserve your seats as soon as possible.
OK, get out a map -- or a map app -- and pick a destination! Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I love the adventure and chance to see something new. I have even grown to love the pitfalls and delays. With all of your planning, you have to understand that things may go wrong so enjoy every aspect of your vacation -- even the rain.
And remember these words from St. Augustine: "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
Rachel Badali is a recent graduate of Electronic High School. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you love traveling, here are a few apps to help you get there:
* World Lens (free to download, with the option to purchase additional languages) uses your phone's camera to snap a picture of printed text and translate it to the language of your choice.
* Best Road Trip Ever! (99 cents) lets you explore the quirky spots and hidden gems along our country's highways.
* Kayak (free) lets you compare prices for travel and see what others have paid.
* Yelp (free) has reviews of most every hotel, restaurant and shop you can think of. Users can also view pictures that other reviewers uploaded.
* WorldMate Gold ($9.99) lets you manage every aspect of your vacation directly from your phone. This app can notify you of flight changes, share your itinerary, and inform you of hotel upgrades.