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You Really Should Have Mastered These 9 Travel Tricks By Now

From packing efficiently to sidestepping bag inspections, these tips will save you both time and headaches.

When headed out on vacation, the last thing you want is to waste time caught up in security or confronted with surprise baggage fees. Thankfully, there are a few tried-and-tested travel tips that can help you navigate the airport quicker and more efficiently. Things like always checking the guidelines and allowances of the airline, state, or country you’re flying to; and avoiding packing items that can subject your bag to further inspection. From travel credit cards to choosing the right carry-on, here are 9 essential travel tips you need to know.

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The Airport Security Strut

For a nominal fee and some background information, signing up for these programs will fast-track you through security when traveling to, from, and throughout the US. The Global Entry Program also works for citizens of Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nowadays, you can also use your mobile device to store your identification, credit card information, and boarding passes for minimal contact. You just scan or present your credentials upon request. For a complete list of government-approved programs, please visit The Official Trusted Traveler Program Website.

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Miles and Points Are a Must

Sign up for credit cards that maximize your miles and give you access to loyalty programs for airlines and hotels. Loyal customers get perks like upgrades, discounts on car rentals, free nights, and more. Programs like Star Alliance will give you access to around 1000 departure lounges, keep you up to date on travel news, as well as store your travel information under one membership number, whether you’re a regular or corporate traveler.

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Perfect Your Airport Outfit

If you’re not a seasoned traveler, waiting in line at the security check-in can be daunting. The best practice is to be as organized as possible. Be mindful that some airlines have dress codes, as well as some countries may require visitors to dress conservatively. Try to wear clothing that causes the least amount of fuss, like simple sandals, loafers, or sneakers that can easily be removed, and pants that don’t require a belt.

Light layers are essential. Keep everything you’ll need to remove near the top of your bag for easy access. You can even start to remove your jacket, belt and unzip your bags while you’re on the line. Place those items in a tray along with the zip lock bags, and place your phone, laptop, charger, passport, and wallet in another. For added protection, wear socks in case you’re asked to remove your shoes. Footwear with heavy soles is more likely to be flagged for inspection.

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To Check or Carry?

The evolution of luggage has changed over the years. Choosing the right vessel to carry your items largely impacts how you feel due to the distribution of weight and functionality. Standard US carry-ons will not fit in the overhead bins of many European carriers when they’re expanded. If your carry-on is a bit robust, you may be asked to check it. If you’re lucky, some crew members will tag it and place it in a holding space on the plane, but it’s at their discretion and usually during the boarding process. Black is one of the most popular colors for luggage so try to use something that will help you easily identify your luggage. If you’re using a tag, choose one with a cover that can conceal your private information at first glance.


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The Backpack Perks

Backpacks are great options to maximize space, as are small to medium-sized duffle bags, laptop bags, extra-large purses, overnight or weekend bags. These larger items will enable you to pack a bit more without the need for a standard carry-on, thus keeping you within the luggage limit. If you have room, you could even stuff an empty, durable bag in your checked luggage just in case you’d like to do some shopping while you’re away.


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Hack Your Pack

Whether you’re traveling with carry-on or checked luggage, creating a checklist will help you stay organized. Your essentials should go in your carry-on, such as a mini refresher or toiletry kit, sanitizing supplies (mask, hand sanitizer, wipes), medication, essential documents, wallet, or at least one change of shoes, underwear, and clothes. Baby or children’s bags can be used, as well. Consider using disposable bags to discreetly minimize odors emitting from dirty diapers. You can also pack toys and books for entertainment.

In the event of an emergency, food, liquids, creams, and medication should be clearly labeled, especially if you and/or your child have allergies. Your checked luggage can include your bulkier items, anything you don’t immediately need to use or wear, and items that are not permitted in your carry-on. Experiment with folding and rolling your clothes as well as stuffing your footwear or hollow spaces to maximize the space in your luggage, too.

INSIDER TIPWhen packing, if it’s hard to see through, looks sharp or abnormal, or contains liquid, the chances are high that it’ll be flagged for further inspection.


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What to Bring and How to Bring It

The better organized you are, the less time you’ll spend looking for things. Packing cubes and vacuum packs can also compress your clothing, allowing for more space in your luggage. Packing extra bags for storing your dirty clothes will help you keep your unworn clothing a bit fresher. You can consider using laundry/lingerie bags, zip lock bags (to seal odors), or lightweight, reusable bags. Stick dryer sheets or scent sachets throughout your luggage to prolong fresh scents. It’s also a great idea to separate your shoes from your clothing while you’re traveling. You can use standard shoe bags, liners, tissue paper, or even plastic bags. Plastic bags can also protect items from bugs or humidity.

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Snacks on a Plane

Bringing your food is a great way to stay healthy and satisfied while onboard. If you decide to bring anything, make sure that it’s in a transparent bag or container so the TSA officers can easily identify it. Some things that may be flagged are items in aluminum wrappers, large amounts of soups or stews, and some powdery substances. If you can bring small items that are sealed and in their original packages, that would be optimal. Naturally, it’s extremely neighborly to avoid bringing foods that have nuts (especially peanuts) to accommodate people with allergies. Bringing aboard food and drinks purchased at one of the kiosks or restaurants in the airport terminals is also permitted.

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Know the Customs

Bringing items such as unprocessed meat, dairy, grains, etc., is prohibited to minimize or eliminate the risk of biohazards entering a country. Even if you’ve successfully brought a product into a country, you could still face issues if you try to bring it or something prohibited back. Besides being briefly detained, those issues could result in a hefty fine. The transgression will be noted, you’ll be asked to sign some documents, and the items will subsequently be destroyed. If you know you have forbidden items and you neglect to declare them, the penalty could increase. Even more shocking, this could go for animals and their byproducts, as well. So make sure you declare everything and have the appropriate paperwork to avoid a quarantine and/or return to the place of origin.