10 Ways to Make Trip Planning Less Stressful

Our recommendations for how to best navigate all the complexities of travel in 2022.

10 Ways to Make Trip Planning Less Stressful

Island destinations like Maui may be in high demand this year, but there are ample ways to get there stress-free.

Photo by Shutterstock

Has there ever been a more confusing time to plan a trip? Between skyrocketing flight prices and a mishmash of mask rules, we understand how overwhelming it can be. So, we’re giving you the tools you need to plan an amazing trip minus the stress and find the sweet relief that comes from being on the road again.

Here are 10 ways to be better prepared when you travel in 2022.

1. Book your trip at least two to three months in advance (more if you’re going abroad).

Most experts agree that booking a flight at least four weeks in advance—ideally six to eight weeks before travel—is key to getting a better deal and could save travelers as much as 51 percent, reports AFAR aviation correspondent Barbara Peterson. Use the calendar feature offered on search sites such as Google Flights; this allows travelers to see the entire span of airfares and select dates when pricing is lowest. Traveling a day before or after your originally intended travel dates can often get you a cheaper fare, says Naomi Hahn, vice president of strategy for booking site Skyscanner.

Increased demand for outdoor travel (along with more flexible work schedules) have all but eliminated the shoulder and off-seasons in some popular destinations, reports AFAR’s Bailey Berg. “Top destinations are seeing a double-digit increase in hotel demand compared to prepandemic—spring shoulder season might be gone in some places,” says Nancy Lien, a public relations manager at Expedia Group, adding that it’s a trend we’ll likely see continue this fall. So once you know where you want to go, make a reservation. Cancellation policies are still fairly generous.

Low-cost carriers such as French Bee can get you to Europe for less.

Low-cost carriers such as French Bee can get you to Europe for less.

Courtesy of French Bee

2. Set your expectations: Flights are expensive right now, but deals still exist.

Have you been on the receiving end of an $800 round-trip airfare between, say, New York and Orlando lately? You’re not alone: Thanks to rising fuel prices and increased travel demand, booking app Hopper predicts domestic airfares will average $360 round-trip by May, up from $235 at the start of 2022. International tickets will top out at $940 on average in June, up from $650 in January, Hopper says. And jet fuel prices, the airlines’ second highest expense after labor, are likely to stay high due to the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on energy supplies, reports Peterson.

But don’t be deterred. We recently broke down all the ways you can still find a good flight deal in 2022. If you’re willing to take a chance on a new low-cost airline like Breeze and Avelo, they offer cheaper flights that usually undercut the going rate on major U.S. carriers. Expect to pay à la carte for bags, seat selection, etcetera. Pro tip: JetBlue has the biggest economy seats among domestic airlines, and La Compagnie offers business class for half the price between Newark and France.

3. Use a travel agent

If ever there was a time to find and use a trusted travel advisor, now is the time. Between frequently changing pandemic travel restrictions, possible last-minute changes and cancellations, and the fact that many of us have, er, kind of forgotten how to flex our travel muscles, a travel advisor will be your best ally.

So, where do you start? How do you find a good travel advisor? We may be a bit biased, but we think the travel specialists that make up AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council are some of the best in the biz. We reach out to them constantly for their expertise, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either. Another great resource is Virtuoso, a consortium of luxury travel advisors and a network that can help you identify travel consultants who specialize in the destination or type of trip you are planning, whether it’s a family vacation, wellness escape, Europe trip or a safari in Africa.

Arches National Park in Utah has a new reservation system for 2022.

Arches National Park in Utah has a new reservation system for 2022.

Photo by Shutterstock

4. Make that national park/museum/dinner reservation ASAP.

We’re in a Type A planner’s world right now. If there are activities you’d be sad to miss during your travels—be it a museum or dinner reservation, a theme park or show—book them as soon as you have your flight confirmation. Restricted or timed entry began in popular spots like Barcelona and Venice before the pandemic, and it has become a way to limit the number of guests to a safe, comfortable level, including at some of the nation’s popular national parks.

Know that not all serendipity is lost. You might be able to score a day-of pass because of canceled reservations, if you’re willing to take the risk.

5. Pack a COVID test—or several—and talk through your “what if I get COVID abroad” plan.

If you go abroad, you risk getting stuck there for upwards of two weeks if you test positive for COVID. (As of April 21, the U.S. still requires a negative COVID test within one calendar day of entering the country.) Rather than stress about it, come up with a game plan. Make sure you know where you would stay during that additional time abroad were an unfortunate positive test to occur.

As for testing procedures, there are ample ways to get COVID tests for international travel. Some hotels will offer free COVID tests to guests, especially in popular tourist destinations such as Mexico, and some domestic and international airports (in Costa Rica and Germany among others) will run COVID tests onsite.

We recommend you pack at least two CDC-approved COVID self-tests per person in case you cannot find a testing location in a pinch.

6. Check your passport expiration date (and make sure you have a vaccine passport, too).

Remember that you still need at least six months of validity on your passport to enter or leave most countries. Thankfully, if you need to renew your passport, wait times have come way down from last year. We’ve created a handy guide for how to expedite your passport application if you find yourself in a rush. If you do need a new passport, the good news is you may score a cool new “Next Generation Passport” when you get one.

While traveling, you never know when you might be asked to show proof of vaccination status. Make sure to have the physical copy of your vaccine certificate, a photo of it handy on your mobile device, and a digital version just to cover all your bases. Also make sure to be up to the date on the latest vaccine requirements. Some destinations require that travelers be boosted if they received their one- or two-dose vaccine regimen more than nine months prior.

7. Buy travel insurance.

There are many reasons your trip can get derailed these days, and travel insurance can really help defer the added costs of changes and cancellations. Additionally, some countries actually require visitors to buy travel insurance before arriving. Travel credit cards may offer trip cancellation or rental car protection—here’s our guide to the cards with the best insurance. If you want the absolute gold standard in COVID-era coverage, Covac Global will evacuate and repatriate you if you have a positive PCR test and at least one symptom. We have also broken down how “Cancel for Any Reason” travel insurance can (and can’t) help you on your travels. For some, it may very well be worth the added cost.

8. Pack added patience: staffing shortages remain an issue.

Labor shortages remain an issue at hotels, resorts, restaurants, and airlines throughout the world. What this means for travelers: It’s important to be respectful and patient, because the staff that remains is trying to meet sky-high demand. The lines might be longer at the airport and there could be ample delays. Take a deep breath and remember what a privilege it is to travel at all. Hospitality is a two-way street: If you expect staff to be good hosts, be a good guest as well.

9. Get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or Clear.

Staffing shortages apply to airports and TSA, too—especially during a travel high season like spring break. Airports big and small aren’t immune; we’ve seen 60-minute waits at airport security everywhere from Newark Liberty International to Denver and New Orleans. We highly recommend that you get to airports earlier than normal (if your normal is two hours before flight time, good job!). Your other best bet is to apply for one of three tiers of security “fast pass”:

  • TSA PreCheck: $85 for five years. Good if you mostly travel within the United States. Children age 12 and under can get through on a guardian’s PreCheck.
  • Global Entry: $100 for five years. Worth the upgrade if you plan to go abroad at least once in the year. It includes PreCheck, speeds up your wait time at Customs, and is very easy to renew online. Note that if you travel with children, they’ll all need Global Entry as well.
  • Clear: $179 annually. Gets you through security even faster than PreCheck. If your home airport is one of the dozens with Clear and you’re a frequent traveler, the program is worth signing up for on top of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

Read on for more about the differences between TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR.

10. If you’re nervous about the fluctuating mask mandates, play it safe and just wear a mask.

When in doubt, break out that N95 or KN95. We have compiled the best face masks for travel. Peace of mind can go a long way.

>>Next: How to Calm Your Travel Anxiety

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