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Setting yourself up for “travel success” means you’re creating a plan to be more intentional about your money and time. I know it sounds sort of corny, but I’ve used these travel tips and it’s saved me time, money, and headaches.
Specifically, I’m referring to things like:
- Choosing a better travel credit card so you can earn points
- Saving time by skipping lines at the airport
- Avoiding costly travel expenses whenever possible
Here are three ways you can set yourself up for smarter and more efficient travels in 2019.
1. Improve Your Credit Score to Get a Better Travel Credit Card
As someone who uses credit cards for just about everything, I always cringe when I see people whip out their debit cards for travel-related purchases. It’s time for an upgrade.
There are so many travel credit cards that reward you with tons of points and goodies for using it! The best travel credit cards usually require good-excellent credit, so if your credit is not so great, commit to making it better. Aim for at least a 720 or higher FICO score.
Here are three simple tips for raising your credit score:
- Don’t be afraid to see what your score is. Monitor your credit each month with a free service like Credit Karma or Mint.
- Pay your bills on time.
- If you have credit card debt, try to pay it off as soon as possible.
Once your credit goes up, try for some of the top credit cards.
One of my favorite perks about using travel credit cards is the lounge access at airports. It’s saved me on more than one occasion when I was able to avoid the hellish crowd at the gate. Not all cards offer this, so if you like this perk, make sure the card you choose offers it.
Pro tip: Once you get your card, make sure to pay it all off each month, and don’t let the debt accumulate. The strategy to get the most value out of your card and racking up debt means you’re accruing interest, potentially negating any travel benefits you earn.
2. Get TSA/Global Entry
You walk into the airport and see a massive line at security. Your heart sinks or you start to panic if you’re cutting it close to your flight time. We’ve all been there.
Consider applying for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. While it won’t guarantee you won’t ever experience long lines again, I say, having them is better than not.
With TSA PreCheck, you are shuffled to a separate line at security and don’t have to take off your shoes or remove big electronics like laptops from your bag. It’s $85 for five years. But, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements.
I first signed up for TSA PreCheck in 2013 and over the years, I’ve noticed the separate PreCheck lines getting longer. But there are plenty of times when I’m able to breeze through lines at security, so it’s still totally worth it.
The Global Entry fee is $100. You need to meet certain eligibility requirements to apply for Global Entry. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
The only caveat to Global Entry and TSA PreCheck is that you have to make an appointment.
I made my appointment in April and the first available appointment date was seven months later.
3. Pack More Efficiently
Be more mindful of how much you’re spending unnecessarily when you travel. Start with your checked luggage. Pack more efficiently into a carry-on so you can save money on luggage fees. Plus, it just feels better to travel without so much stuff.
Airline baggage fees have gone up over the last year. The average increased cost for the first checked bag has gone from $25 to $30, and about $30 to $40 for the second bag.
If you’re not sure how to pack more efficiently, use Google. There are tons of Pinterest posts and YouTube videos that show you the most amazing tricks for packing. There are some that show you how to cram a week or two’s worth of clothing in a small carry-on.
Some handy tips include:
- Rolling up clothes
- Using packing cubes
- Filling shoes with underwear/socks
- Wearing your bulkiest items on the day you fly
- Packing clothing that can be mixed and matched easily
Packing pro tip: Here are 10 things you don’t need when you fly.
Make Traveling Great Again
All it takes is a little preparation to make sure you’re being as efficient when you travel. This includes packing lighter, getting something for your travel purchases by using a travel credit card and saving yourself the unnecessary stress of long airport lines by finally setting appointments for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.