Tips from a Frequent Traveler.

Greetings from the West Coast!  After a very long day of traveling yesterday, we are finally safe and sound in Seattle!  If you are just catching up, we are actually going to be relocating here for Casey’s job, so we’re in town this week to house hunt for what is hopefully our next fabulous home.

It’s funny – I am usually a ball of nerves and anxiety about most things that other people think are no big deal.  But when it comes to traveling, I am as laid back as they come.  I like to get to the airport as late as possible, be the last one on the plane so I don’t have to wait in line while others cram bags into overhead bins, and am just generally very relaxed about air travel.  (Casey is the opposite of this, and always wants to be there four hours early.  I like to remind him that I have never missed a flight, and he has!) I love people watching at the airport!

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In the last few years I have done a LOT of travelling, and in the coming months I’ll probably have to do quite a bit more.  I thought it would be fun today to share with you a few of my favorite travel tips.  I’m not talking about tips like “pack a homemade sandwich so that you can save money in the airport!”  You guys are smart and already know to do that.

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Here are a few less commonly known travel tips, that I use every time!

1.  Upgrade Your Seat for Free

When you buy an airline ticket online, you are typically given the choice to pick your seat from the little airplane map upon checkout.  Usually there aren’t many shown as available, and you end up choosing a window in the back not-so-conveniently located near the bathroom.  Online you are also give the option to purchase a nicer seat for $25 to $100, which I doubt many of us actually do.

But did you know that if you arrive to the airport an hour or two early, you can actually change your seat at the check-in counter for free?  I’m not talking about first class – I’m talking about the next best row on any airplane.  The exit row!

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Exit rows generally have 5+ inches of extra leg room, which can easily make the difference between the flight from hell, or a peaceful 4 hour nap.  Of course sitting in the exit row comes with a few added responsibilities should your plane catch on fire or start plummeting back towards the ground.  But I like to think that in an emergency I would help my fellow passengers regardless. 

Check out the seat I got for our flight out here to Seattle – best seat EVER!  There was a giant empty space in front of me for optimum leg stretching and relaxing.  But since my legs are shorter, I ended up scooting over and giving this one to Casey.

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2.  Travel Comfortably

When I was little, my mom used to make us get all dressed up to get on an airplane, and I never understood why.  I think this was passed down from her mom, when flying was very rare and only for special occasions.  Racing through airports, lugging baggage, and cramming in next to strangers is uncomfortable enough – there is NO reason wear something that adds to the discomfort.

In addition, I always try to wear something that will be easy to breeze through security in (read: NOT giant heeled boots, coats with 20 buttons, or lots of bulky jewelry).  My personal shoe of choice for air travel?  My moccasin slippers!

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They are nice looking and have hard soles, so they can easily double as shoes when I’m feeling casual.  (Note: I do think that casual can be taken too far – people should not be travelling in flannel pajama pants, ever.)

3.  Utilize Brand Loyalty

Between weddings, vacations, road trips, house hunting, and moving – we’ve found ourselves staying at a good number of hotels in the past few years.  Way back when we first moved to Charlotte, I realized we would be making multiple trips there to visit, so I researched some hotel chains and ended up picking a favorite.  I joined their frequent guest rewards program, and have since booked every hotel we stay in at the same chain.

Two years later, we have accumulated a TON of rewards that have translated into free night stays, room upgrades, and other perks like free Wi-Fi and parking!  Also, by using the same hotel chain, we generally know what to expect when we arrive to our destination.  Our room here in Seattle looks exactly like a suite we had in Kentucky last fall!

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For a multi-day trip like this, it’s nice to have the extra space with a desk, big sectional couch, and room to spread out.  The hotel rewards seem slow to add up at first, but it’s worth it to commit early and sometimes pay $10 more a night to be able to stay with a brand you enjoy.  These loyalty perks can also be applied to airlines and rental cars – almost all of them have some sort of rewards program.

So there you have it – my favorite travel tips for living on the road.  We are visiting Casey’s new office this morning, and then heading out to see five houses tonight, with four more lined up for tomorrow.  Cross your fingers that one of them is perfect for us!

What are some of your favorite travel tips that you can share?