By Jess Ekstrom, Guest Blogger
When I was younger, I thought the idea of traveling for my job was probably the coolest thing ever. I imagined having a really cute suitcase, a convertible rental car, princess status on my hotel and airline rewards programs, and ordering a mimosa in first class (or wine depending on the time of flight and what kind of mood I’m in).
However when I started traveling for speaking engagements and for my company, Headbands of Hope, I realized that the traveling portion was harder than the actual business event. I started to get tired, cranky, unhealthy and behind on work. Not to mention, I didn’t realize how expensive everything was.
Now I travel almost once a week. Although some days are easier than others, I’ve learned a lot over the past two years of heavy traveling. Here are some tips for the young travelers to stay healthy, frugal, and happy:
1. Take the early flights when you can. When flights are cancelled or delayed, it trickles down to affect other flights that day. So when you can, take the earlier flight so there’s less room for error and you’re more likely to get out on time.
2. Download a trip-planning app. When you’re on the road a lot, all of your travel details can run together. Confirmation numbers, flight times, and car rentals are impossible to remember. Tripit is an app I use to organize everything. Once you get a confirmation number sent to your email, you forward it to your account at Tripit and it organizes a travel itinerary for you on your phone. Staying organized (which is a struggle for me) is key to smooth travel.
3. Use Relay Rides to waive under-25 rental car fees. There is nothing more frustrating than an extra $30 per day when getting a rental car. I’ve had to pay up to $100 per day for a rental car just because of my age (I’m 23).
A car rental option outside of all the agencies you see at an airport is Relay Rides. Relay Rides is basically like Airbnb except for cars. Instead of going through an agency, you rent someone’s actual car. The downside is this is only in major cities. But I’ve had great experiences using it, and it saves you money.
Also, pack your own car charger for your phone so you don’t have to purchase theirs.
4. Get loyalty points. Try to stay loyal to a certain airline, hotel chain, or rental car service. Once you gain status, perks go up, and so does customer service. Is your flight delayed or cancelled? They’ll pick up your phone call and accommodate you first. Plus, doesn’t status just feel special?
5. Avoid airport food whenever you can. If you want a totally average turkey sandwich for $12, be my guest. Airport food is notorious for being below par and above price. The exception to this rule is a brownie sundae I found in the Atlanta airport for $3.50 that I will forever dream about. But that’s beside the point. If you have a long travel day ahead of you with connecting flights, you’ll have to eat while you’re at the airport. I try to make something and bring it in a tupperware before I go to the airport (you can bring food such as a sandwich, pasta, a salad, as long as there are no liquids). Or I’ll hit Subway before I get to the airport and put the sandwich in my bag and save it for later. I also try to bring healthy snacks like almonds, popcorn, and even oatmeal packets if you can find hot water.
6. Invest in a Kindle or iPad. When you travel, there will be times where you’ll be waiting…a lot. Your flight may be delayed or you have to wait on the plane or maybe for your rental car. A good book always helps pass the time, but carrying around books and magazines can get bulky. A Kindle or iPad helps trim it down and it also allows you to purchase and download a new book when you’re done instead of waiting until you’re home to go to the bookstore or the library (does anyone still go to the library?).
7. Work on the plane. I find some of my most productive hours are on an airplane. There’s something about it that’s so quiet and peaceful. I save any work that can be done without Internet (blogging, planning, spreadsheets) to be done on the plane. I’m way more productive on those tasks when the Internet isn’t tempting me.
8. Drink Emergen-C packets. Traveling can expose you to a lot of germs and viruses. Not to mention, you’re probably exhausted which means your immune system is also tired. I always pack Emergen-C packets and put them in my water to get extra vitamins. Oh, and hand sanitizer is always a must!
9. Stay near the airport. I always stay at the hotel closest to the airport, not the event. Once I made the mistake of staying near the school I was speaking at and then had to get up at 3:00 am for a two-hour drive to the airport. Not one of my brightest moments. Staying near the airport also gives you that peace of mind instead of the stress of navigating a long drive before a flight.
10. Expecting bad weather? Call the airline. When a snowstorm or any kind of bad weather is coming in, you can call the airline before and ask to get on an earlier flight. Usually, they’ll waive the change fee because they actually want to get people out before the storm so they don’t have to deal with accommodating tons of passengers for cancelled or delayed travel.
11. Be the last one to put your carry-on under the plane. Sometimes airlines require you to tag your carry-on and put it under the plane when there’s limited overhead space. If you’re the last one to give your luggage, usually it will end up on top of the pile and be the first one pulled out. Then you won’t be awkwardly standing in the jet bridge when you need to make your connection.
12. Remember that you’re not on vacation. When I first started traveling, the hotels and the plane rides made me feel like I was on vacation because ‘travel equals vacation’ was ingrained in my head. But it’s important to remember you’re there to work. You can still enjoy the city and try “the best burger in NYC” or visit the Atlanta Aquarium but don’t stay up late, drink a lot, or overload on food.
Let's Chat! What other travel tips do you have for new travelers? Share them with us here!
Jess is the founder and CEO of her college startup, Headbands of Hope. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to fund childhood cancer research. She loves speaking on college campuses through CAMPUSPEAK and has recently launched her first book, The Freshman Fabulous: The Girl's Guide to College. When she's not working or speaking, she enjoys trying new foods, doing crossfit, writing (especially for IATG!), taking improv classes, being outside, and helping others find their path to help the world.