I am stricken with wanderlust, as are most of my family and friends. So I asked my circle of travelers for their best travel hacks and compiled them, along with my own. Some of these apply to traveling in Jackson and some don’t. Also, remember these tips are just our opinions–obviously there’s always different strokes for different folks.
- I map out my plan on Google Maps so I get a good idea of logistics and how long it takes to get from point A to point B.
- Is it better to book hotels ahead or be more spontaneous? In a place like Jackson in the summertime, it’s better to book ahead because there are many days in the summer when there are seriously no vacancies in the whole town. But in the winter or in a less touristy town, I like to wait until I’m there because it’s so much more fun to have the freedom to stay longer in one place or skip a place that ends up being overrated.
- Lodging: Stay in some places that aren’t chains (like a nice local business such as . . . . .Flat Creek Inn 🙂 ). Non chains are way more memorable than a string of chain hotel rooms. However, check out meta-search sites like Trivago, TripAdvisor, Kayak, or Google that rate hotels based on reviews so that you know exactly what you are getting.
- Try Airbnb. It’s great because you feel like a local and sometimes even save some dollars.
- My favorite travel guide is Rick Steves. He’s really more of a Europe guide, but he does have some American road trip advice. He’s great at finding efficient ways to do the touristy “must see” items (think Old Faithful) so you can spend more time doing those underrated, off-the-beaten path items.
- If you fly a lot, it’s totally worth it to get TSA precheck. It’s like Disneyland’s FastPass but for the airport security line. You pay $85 and fill out a form online, then for five years you get to skip that really long security line. You also don’t need to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, belts, or light jacket. I always feel like it’s dehumanizing when everyone has to remove their shoes, so TSA precheck is nice.
- Bring an empty water bottle into the airport and fill it up inside the terminal for free.
- Pack light and don’t check luggage, if possible. I have a small rolling suitcase that fits under the seat on the plane. Lately they try to get me to check my luggage at the gate and I always say, “It fits under my seat.” And they let me keep it. It just makes it easier because I don’t have to wait for it again outside the gate or at baggage claim and it won’t ever get lost.
- Sometimes it’s nice to have your carry-on be a backpack so that it is hands-free. My sister has written all the places that she has taken her backpack over the years on the handles of the back pack. It is a travel log.
- When you are flying with kids, bring their sippy cup and have the flight attendant pour the beverage right into their cup so you don’t have to worry about it spilling. My sister has had fourteen years of flying with kids and they haven’t spilled one drink!
- A good friend shared with me this Brian Regan video on flying. Every time I’m on a plane, I think of Brian Regan jokes and it makes me laugh!
- I limit the pairs of shoes I bring, because shoes are sooo bulky! I try to find shoes that work for multiple purposes, like hiking sandals. They work for touristing, beach, hiking, and church (although some might disagree 🙂 ). A simple pair of flats is also compact and versatile.
- Pack heavy stuff on bottom.
- Put shirts on top so they don’t wrinkle.
- Roll up clothes so they don’t wrinkle.
- Bring an empty plastic bag for dirty laundry.
- Use little containers for lotion and other toiletries.
- Try Uber–it’s cheaper than cabs.
- When the rental car company asks if you want to add a spouse to the plan so they can drive (for extra $$) say no. It already says in the contract that the spouse can drive and you don’t have to pay extra $$ in most states. (Be sure and check each contract first.)
- Also, you usually don’t need to pay for the full insurance on rental cars because your own insurance or your credit card insurance will pay for that. (But you would have to check, of course).
- Great travel toy options are Silly Putty, Play Dough, Legos and magnetic toys like dress-up dolls.
- If you have a short layover and have very little time to catch the next flight make sure everyone in your group uses the bathroom on the plane so that once you land you can make a dash for it.
- Bring hand sanitizer and/or baby wipes. You can use baby wipes for everything, even if you don’t have a baby.
- I enjoy every trip in three phases: when I’m planning it, when I’m on the trip, and when I’m remembering it. One way to remember my trips is with my scratch map. I’m so proud of my scratch map!
In Jackson you won’t need these things, but I had to share my favorite items for backpacking Europe. I learned about these from good friends:
- Microfiber towel. If staying in hostels, you need to bring your own towel and this one is so portable, dries your whole body, and dries itself super fast!
- Moneybelt. My husband calls this is a fanny-pack, but it’s totally not a fanny-pack! It’s flat and it’s hidden. When I’m abroad, I’m a little OCD about making sure I have my passport and debit card, so it’s nice when I can feel them right against my stomach, each time I get off the subway or train.
Hopefully these travel tips are helpful to those out there who wanderlust.
by Jessica Heath