1. Book ahead. With low gas prices and a strong U.S. dollar, Americans may travel more this summer than they have since the beginning of the recession. This means that flights will be full, and so will hotels in popular destinations. You’ll want to book your airfare pronto. (Pro tip: flying on Tuesdays can be cheapest.)
2. Create a trip plan. Having a basic idea of how you wish to spend your time will help you relax upon arrival in your destination. Before departure, sit down and sketch out ideas for what you’d like to do. This can be as vague as “make sure to go snorkeling” or as defined as where you want to eat for every meal.
3. Make reservations. If you do know where you wish to eat on certain nights, or if you want to catch a concert or theater performance, it’s best to book in advance, especially if you’re headed to a popular summer destination.
4. Travel during hurricane season. Head to Mexico or the Caribbean this summer, and you’ll likely score some serious lodging deals. Many resorts slash rates by upwards of 50 percent, making five-star resorts affordable on a three-star budget.
5. Consider all-inclusive resorts. While hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean will be on sale during summer, food and drink at restaurants will not. Consider staying at an all-inclusive resort, where you’ll know in advance exactly what you’re spending. And while many people have visions of megaresorts offering only buffet options, the new all-inclusive properties usually feature six or seven different restaurants with à la carte menus and premium bars.
6. Hire a travel advisor for specialized trips. For complicated itineraries or if you have only a week somewhere and want to make sure you maximize your time, consider hiring a travel advisor—someone who will know the region and can curate your ideal itinerary.
7. Know your mobile provider’s international rate plans. Before you log onto Facebook and post a selfie from Rome, make sure you aren’t going to be hit with massive data charges from your cell phone carrier. Smartphones will work all over the world these days, but only T-Mobile currently offers free international data and texting while overseas. If you don’t have T-Mobile, switch your phone off when outside a Wi-Fi zone.
8. Be prepared. Have both paper and digital copies of all reservations, insurance, and passport info, plus emergency contacts and other important details. Research the customs and culture of your destinations, so you’re prepared for everything from tipping and electrical outlets to major cultural faux pas.
10. Be responsible. Wherever you head this summer, try to be a conscientious traveler and follow the “Leave No Trace” principles of “Take Only Photos, Leave Only Footprints.” You may think that straying from a marked trail while hiking in a national park or removing a single shell or artifact from a site won’t matter, but if millions of other tourists each year think the same way, the destination becomes damaged and degraded.
Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to summer travel!
Photo by Davina Baum