Best Tips to Help You Afford to Travel in 2020

Best Tips to Help You Afford to Travel in 2020

Last night a business client asked whether I live in a cardboard box to afford all the traveling I do. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Instead, I’ve learned how to afford to travel by spending money efficiently. You don’t need to pinch pennies on your vacations to stay within a tiny budget while traveling. Learn the tips for affordable travel listed below to enjoy yourself on holiday while saving money for your next trip.

Looking for more advice to make travel easier? Check out How to Travel the Wold with Just a Carry-On Bag!

How to Book Affordable Flights

Flights are often the most financially prohibitive part of booking a vacation. Many people opt to drive or take a bus without considering the places to which they could fly because they think it will be cheaper. This not only limits you to a tiny corner of the world, it’s also not often true! Use the travel tips below to book cheap flights for your next vacation.

Be Flexible on Destination

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Being flexible on my destination last year brought me on a surprise trip to the Netherlands!

The easiest way to find cheap flights is to be flexible with your destination. Different locations are cheaper to visit at different times of the year based on their shifting shoulder seasons. For example, last year I spent months planning a vacation to Scotland without booking anything. The week before I was supposed to leave flight prices were triple the original price I had seen. Instead of sticking to my plan for thousands of dollars, I used Kayak’s Explore tool to see where I could fly cheaply and ended up in the Netherlands for a $450 roundtrip ticket! This tip will help you save money and discover new places you may not have otherwise considered.

Be Flexible on Dates

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Want amazing photos of places like Angkor Wat with no people in them? Visit during the off-season!

If your heart is set on visiting a particular destination, be willing to compromise on dates. Traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is almost always cheaper than other days. If you are planning on a four-day weekend, consider traveling Saturday to Tuesday instead of Thursday to Sunday to take advantage of lower flight prices.

Being flexible in the season you travel can also save you a lot of money. Off seasons and shoulder seasons offer lower prices not just on flights but also on accommodations and tourist attractions. The cheapest and least crowded weeks I’ve found to travel anywhere in the world are the first week of September (which also incorporates Labor Day), the second week of February, and the first week of May. Of course, these weeks are difficult if you are a teacher or have children in school, but that is part of the reason they are ideal for everyone else.

Track Flights Using Incognito Mode

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Keeping an eye on the flights you wish to book for a few weeks or months is always a good idea. Many people use tools like Kayak Alerts or Hopper to track flights without having to manually look each day. If you won’t remember to check yourself these tools can be useful. However, I’ve had the best luck checking manually two or three times per week at different times.

The key to getting the best flight prices when you check sites manually is to use your browser’s Incognito Mode to check. On Google Chrome you can access this mode by selecting CTRL+SHIFT+N with the browser open. Incognito Mode removes the cookie and history tracker from your browser. Travel sites use cookies to keep track of trips you are keeping an eye on, such as flights from Boston to Asheville from April 23 through April 27. If you constantly search for a flight or hotel on certain dates, websites will learn you want to make that trip and will raise the price each time you search. Using Incognito Mode eliminates this issue and helps you find the best possible price.

Book Travel Last-Minute

Even if you choose to plan your trip mentally weeks in advance, booking flights within a month or week of travel will often yield great results. Airlines would rather fill seats cheaply than let them go empty, so prices will drop shortly before a plane takes off. This travel tip works best if you are able to be flexible on destination or dates. You can also rely on this method if you have a stomach for high-risk trip planning and are willing to forego a vacation if you can’t find the flight you want.

Sign Up for Frequent Flyer Programs

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You should always sign up for free loyalty programs; this is especially true for frequent flyer programs. There is no penalty for signing up with a frequent flyer program, but there are many perks to be gained. Immediately you may gain access to early boarding or preferred seat choices. You can also start to build up airline miles. Even if you only fly once per year or don’t use an airline very often, you should sign up for the frequent flyer program. You will be surprised how quickly the miles add up, and before you know it you’ll be booking award travel and taking free flights!

If you have a choice of airline within an alliance, do some research to see which miles have the best value. For example, when I flew to Greece on Lufthansa last year it would have made the most sense to sign up with United’s program in the Star Alliance alliance. Instead, I signed up with Avianca, even though I never fly them, because they have the best redemption program in the alliance.

A Note About Frequent Flyer Mile Expirations

One big misconception many people have with frequent flyer programs is the expiration of miles. You may have received notices from your airline that your miles were about to expire saying that you either had to book a flight or buy magazines to stop that from happening. When an airline says your miles are about to expire, what they mean is that you won’t be able to use them to book rewards travel while they are expired. Once you fly with that airline and earn miles again, even if it is years later, all your miles magically reappear! I have had this experience with every airline except Spirit: with Spirit Air, your miles will actually disappear once they expire. Don’t let the threat of expiration prevent you from earning miles!

Want more tips for cheap flights? Check out How to Travel with Just a Carry-On and my Spirit Airlines Review!

How to Find Affordable Travel Accommodations

Once you reach your destination, don’t spend all your money on a hotel you may not see for long. Use the following travel tips to help pick the best travel accommodation.

Consider the Type of Accommodation You Need for your Purposes

If you plan on traveling to a resort and spending your entire vacation on-property, then your accommodation should matter a lot. In cases like this, look for an all-inclusive property so you can truly enjoy your vacation without worrying about the prices of food, drinks, activities, and entertainment. Surprise bills after vacation is over are the worst!

For any vacation where you will not be spending the entire time at your hotel, consider whether it is worth paying top dollar for a five-star property. If you’re going to be out and about from dusk to dawn, then your priority should be a clean, quiet place to sleep and shower. Resort-style properties are nice, but they can be a waste of money if you don’t take advantage of all the amenities that they offer, which you are paying for with the hotel price.

Stay Outside City Center

Hotels and local accommodations will be significantly cheaper if you stay away from the popular tourist areas of a city. Public transportation and taxi systems are very efficient in most parts of the world, so you won’t lose too much vacation time by staying a few minutes away from the tourist sites. You may also see an area of a city you wouldn’t have otherwise visited! Such neighborhoods also provide a quiet respite from a busy day’s worth of activities while traveling.

Visit People rather than Locations and Stay with Friends

bejing; great wall; china; visit the great wall of china

I never would have had such a fun day at the Great Wall without my law school friend and local Chinese resident Dong leading the way!

Local residents undeniably make the best hosts! They know the top highlights to see, tourist traps to avoid, and the coolest off-the-beaten-path places to visit. If you are fortunate enough to stay with friends, it also helps eliminate a huge travel cost. I am not recommending taking advantage of casual acquaintances, but if you plan trips around visiting friends with whom you can stay, you will extend your travel budget, see new places, and connect with important people in your life all at the same time.

Additional Ways to Make Travel More Affordable in 2020

When you reach your destination there is still much more you can do to economize your trips and use your travel budget efficiently to help make travel affordable.

Maintain Your Eating Habits from Home

Vacations will often be an occasion for a special meal or two. You should definitely treat yourself during your trip! However, every meal doesn’t have to include a 3-course sit-down menu at a local restaurant. If you’re on the move in the morning, stop by the local bakery or grocery store to grab something to eat on the go. If your hotel offers free breakfast, take time to fill up there so you can skip lunch: this will also help you get the most out of your time on vacation. Staying in a cabin or AirBNB gives you the opportunity to visit a local grocery store and cook a few meals at your accommodation.

Quick casual meals in your destination are just as worthwhile to experience as the meals at fancy restaurants. Some of my favorite vacation meals have come from street vendors and innocuous-looking cafes. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing quick meals while sight-seeing so you can save time, money, and calories for a couple of big meals out during your trip.

Look for Free Local Events

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In Barbados, I stumbled upon this local horse race, which led to an unexpected afternoon of fun

Did you happen to visit an island on the night of its Fish Fry Festival? Have you ended up in Europe during the month-long Carnevale celebration? If you can find local events to attend during your trip you will save money on entertainment and experience a destination like the locals do. There’s no better way to learn about a new culture than to participate in events as you would if you lived in a place.

Research and Take Advantage of Discounts

Many museums in Europe are free or steeply discounted for individuals under 26 years old, students, and teachers. If you are a student or graduated recently, keep your student ID with you when you travel to get discounts at museums and landmarks. Cities and countries may also have a free museum day or time. All the government-owned museums in London are always free! Museums in France, including the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, are free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month. With just a little research you can find any similar opportunities of which to take advantage wherever you travel.

There’s no reason to limit or avoid travel because of a small travel budget. Just use the travel tips enumerated above and soon you too will be jet-setting around the world!

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Best 12 Travel Tips for Millennials to Afford Travel in 2020
Best 12 Travel Tips for Millennials to Afford Travel in 2020
ETIAS: The New European Travel Requirement for Americans

ETIAS: The New European Travel Requirement for Americans

BREAKING NEWS: you will soon need a visa to visit Europe!

Actually, despite all the recent news headlines, this is not quite true.

The truth is the European Union ("EU") is creating a new travel authorization security system for travelers arriving from its sixty visa-waiver countries. The system will be implemented in 2021. It will require proof of pre-approved travel authorization. Though this system is not a new visa, it means there are some immigration changes you'll want to know about.

N.B. While part of this post addresses legal requirements, nothing written here should be construed as legal advice. The information in this post is accurate at the time of publication. For the most up-to-date information, please see the government websites at the bottom of this post.

Current Status of European Travel for Americans

Visa Waiver Program for Americans

The US has agreed to Visa Waiver Programs ("VWPs") with 25 of the 26 Schengen Area member states, with Poland being the exception. It also has a VWP with the UK, Ireland, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino. This means that citizens of these European countries can enter the US visa-free. American citizens may do the same when arriving in any of these countries.

For more information on VWPs, see the "What is a Visa?" section below.

Travel within the Schengen Area

One of the major commitments of the EU is the free movement of people. The current system almost reflects this ideal. Instead of the free movement within the EU, there is free movement within the Schengen Area. The EU consists of 28 (soon to be 27) European member states, while the Schengen Area has 26 slightly different member states. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland are not EU members but they are Schengen Area members.

The 26 Schengen Area member states are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. If you are an American citizen entering Europe through any of these countries you do not need a visa.

Once a traveler arrives in a Schengen country, he or she may travel between the other Schengen countries for up to 90 days without encountering immigration authorities. This is true for both visa-free travelers and travelers with a formal, pre-approved Schengen visa. It is comparable to when a foreign visitor enters the US at New York's Laguardia airport and goes through immigration there but then takes a road trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois to reach Chicago without encountering any additional immigration stops.

This visa-free travel situation and free movement within the Schengen Area will not change with the new EU travel authorization system.

European Travel Information and Authorization System

On September 14, 2016, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a speech advocating for an increased European security system. He said "We need to know who is crossing in our borders. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here". Two months later, the European Commission proposed a new travel authorization system called the European Travel Information and Authorization System ("ETIAS").

Origin of ETIAS

On July 5, 2018, the European Parliament adopted ETIAS in agreement with the European Commission. The adopted law permits the establishment of the ETIAS under the purview of the newly-strengthened eu-LISA security agency. The Parliament has tasked eu-LISA with making ETIAS operational by the end of 2021. Many news outlets are reporting that the system will be in place by January 1, 2021.

What is ETIAS?

The European Commission is emphatic that "the ETIAS authorization is not a visa." After many false news reports this past week about a new EU visa, the EU Ambassador to the US, Stavros Lambrinidis, posted on Twitter that "[n]either the #ESTA nor the future #ETIAS (EU equivalent) are visas. They carry out pre-travel screening for travellers benefiting from visa-free access."

ETIAS is a pre-travel authorization program designed to reduce immigration procedures and wait times, as well as help improve the security of the EU. It pre-screens travelers for security, health, and migration risks. The system will allow the EU to keep track of visitors from countries that otherwise do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area. The European Commission believes the system will be affordable, simple, and fast. It will allow cross-checking of EU information systems and provide clear rules for refusals with an appeals process.

Potential travelers will have to submit a short online application and pay an application fee of 7 euros. The EU estimates that 95% of applicants will receive an approval by email within minutes of submitting the application. Once a traveler receives an ETIAS travel approval, they can travel freely to and from the Schengen Area using that approval for up to three years. The approval is connected to your passport, so if your passport expires before the three-year authorization expires you will have to re-apply.

What this Means for Americans, Brits, Australians, and Other Visa-Free Country Travelers

The ETIAS travel authorization will be required for visa-free travelers, which will likely include UK citizens post-Brexit. Travelers that are entering Europe visa-free for tourism, business, or just in transit to another region will need an ETIAS authorization. This means if you have a flight from New York to Dubai with a connection in Frankfurt, you will need an ETIAS authorization even if you never intend to leave the Frankfurt airport.

If you are coming from a country that requires a formal Schengen visa, you will not need to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization. If you are a dual citizen with citizenship in a Schengen Area country, you will not need ETIAS authorization if you enter Europe using your European passport.

Using your ETIAS Authorization

When the ETIAS system enters into effect, travelers will need to receive authorization prior to arriving in Europe. When you first use your authorization, you will have to enter the Schengen Area through the country you indicate in your application. If you enter through a different Schengen country the authorization will be invalid and you will be denied entry. Note that most travelers pass through European immigration at their port of arrival. For example, a traveler flying from Boston to Rome with a connection in Madrid usually enters Europe in Spain, not Italy. After your initial use of the authorization, you may enter through any Schengen country you would like using your valid authorization.

N.B. the ETIAS authorization will not be required for travel to UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, or the former Yugoslav countries (except Slovenia) until they join the Schengen Area.

After receiving your authorization and using it to enter the Schengen Area for the first time, travel to and from the EU will be no different than it is today until your authorization or passport expires, at which time you will need to reapply. This means ETIAS will be a slight inconvenience for those of us traveling from visa-free countries the first time we go to Europe, but otherwise will not change our travels very much.

How to Apply for an ETIAS Authorization

Once the system goes live, citizens of visa-free travel countries will be able to apply online. The application will include questions about basic biographical information, such as your full name, country of residence, date of birth, and similar information about your parents. It will also ask questions related to health, security, and migration, such as drug use, terrorism links, travel to conflict areas, past EU travel, criminal history, and employment history. No biometric data like finger prints will be required, though it will be beneficial to apply with a biometric passport.

After completing the online application form you will provide an email address and pay by credit or debit card. When payment is received, your information will automatically be cross-checked against security databases including Interpol and Eurpol. If there are no "hits," you should receive your authorization by email within minutes of applying.

ETIAS; schengen; application; immigration

ETIAS Application Process; graphic source:

How Far in Advance Should You Apply

Though most applications are expected to be approved within minutes, the length of the refusal process means you should apply at least five weeks before your travel will take place. Carriers will not allow a passenger to board their transportation to Europe without proof of authorization. Even if you are certain you will receive travel authorization mistakes and false hits can happen. You may need the full five weeks to clear up any issues and receive valid authorization.

What to do If You're Refused an Authorization

If your information produces a hit on one of the information security databases, you will receive an email stating your application has been refused. At this point, your application will be manually reviewed by ETIAS staff and additional documentation may be requested. You will have 96 hours to provide the requested documentation. The national authority of the Schengen Area country to which you apply then has four weeks to make a decision on your authorization. The European Commission assures travelers that an appeals process will be available for individuals who are refused authorization after the manual review.

How ETIAS Authorization is Different from a Visa

The EU has made it clear that an ETIAS authorization is not a visa. It is the European equivalent to the current ESTA authorization required by the US for travelers taking advantage of a Visa Waiver Program. ETIAS authorizations will facilitate immigration procedures upon arrival in Europe because the cross-checking of individuals against international security databases will have been done ahead of time.

What is a Visa?

A visa is "an endorsement issued by an authorized representative of a country and marked in a passport, permitting the passport holder to enter, travel through, or reside in that country for a specified amount of time for the purpose of tourism, education, employment, etc". Visas may be granted before travel, with a permanent visa stuck to a page in your passport. Others are received upon arrival at a country's border. Some countries have implemented Visa Waiver Programs ("VWPs"). Regardless of the type of visa, foreign travelers must be pre-approved for travel by through one of these three methods.

Formal Pre-Approved Visa

When you think of a visa, you probably think of the fancy certificate stuck to a page in your passport. Maybe you received one when you studied abroad in college. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate travelers to have a ten-year, multi-entry tourism visa for China. You may have opted to obtain a pre-approved visa before traveling to a country like Vietnam.

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Pre-approved visas require a lengthy and costly application process. Applicants fill out a multi-page application with biographical, financial, and travel information. The applicant then sends a paper copy of the application to the relevant consulate along with passport photos, his or her passport, and the application fee. Application fees range from $20 USD to hundreds of dollars depending on the country and type of visa requested. Sometimes applicants have to appear in-person at the consulate to receive the visa and collect their passport. If you live in a major city this may only require a few hours off work. Alternatively, imagine living in Alaska and having to appear in person at a consulate in San Francisco!

Formal, pre-approved visas are the most difficult to obtain. They are usually required in reciprocity. If the US requires citizens of a country to obtain a formal visa before visiting, US citizens will have to receive a formal visa before traveling to that country as well.

Visa on Arrival

You may have previously received a visa on arrival and not even known it! Visas on arrival look similar to entry stamps received under VWPs. The difference is visa-on-arrival stamps lay out the visa requirements and restrictions for the traveler in the stamp. The stamps are often accompanied by payment of an entry or exit fee. You must also fill out a paper with your travel details and provide it to immigration officials upon arrival. This paper is cross-checked with another similar paper turned over when you leave the country.

ireland visa; etias; immigration; travel authorization

Example of visa requirements included in a visa stamp

Countries implementing visa on arrival programs do not have bilateral treaties with your country of citizenship to provide visa-free travel. They have nevertheless decided not to require the process of applying for a visa before traveling to their country.

Visa Waiver Programs

Visa Waiver Programs ("VWPs") allow citizens of participating countries to enjoy visa-free travel to other participating countries. VWPs are established with bilateral treaties allowing reciprocal treatment for citizens of each country involved. There are thirty-eight countries currently participating in the US VWP, including most EU and Schengen Area member states.

Traveling to a VWP country requires nothing beyond speaking with an immigration officer upon arrival. By virtue of being a citizen of a participating country, you may enter another participant country without a visa as a tourist or business person. If you plan to study or work in a foreign country then you will probably need to apply for a visa.

When you arrive at a visa-free country, you will likely receive a stamp in your passport showing port of entry into the country. This stamp is not a visa. It is proof that you entered the country legally. Most immigration authorities will check for this stamp when you leave the country.

german visa; etias; immigration; travel authorization

Port of Entry/Exit Stamp

The ETIAS Difference

ETIAS does not provide automatic immigration authorization as a visa does. It also does not lay out requirements and restrictions for travelers to follow as visas do. It is merely a first-step authorization for traveling to or through Europe. Visitors with a valid authorization may still be denied entry by immigration officials for other immigration-related reasons. ETIAS authorization merely proves to carriers like airlines and to European immigration officials that you do not pose a security, health, or migration threat to Europe. This is only the first step in being allowed to enter Europe, which is currently done when you arrive at the border. Starting in 2021, this check will be completed ahead of time. I'm hopeful this will mean shorter immigration lines at European airports once the program is in place!

For more information, see the following websites used to write this article:

12 March 2019: This post has been updated for clarity, and to add information about travelers transiting through Europe.

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Do Americans need a visa to visit Europe or the EU? No! Find out the truth about the new ETIAS authorization and how to get one in this article.
Do Americans need a visa to visit Europe or the EU? No! Find out the truth about the new ETIAS authorization and how to get one in this article.
My Experience with Spirit Airlines

My Experience with Spirit Airlines

Thinking of flying Spirit Airlines? Then this review is for you!

Last month I took my first flight on Spirit Airlines, an American "ultra-low-cost" or budget airline. I am not a stranger to budget airlines. When I lived in Europe, I took dozens of flights on airlines including RyanAir and EasyJet. I also used budget airlines to travel around Asia. However, my experience on Spirit was my first with an American budget airline.

*N.B. this article contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!



Being a budget airline means you the passenger get a really cheap base-price ticket on Spirit, but then have to pay for any and all extras that may typically be included by a mainstream airline. This is true of most budget airlines: for anyone that has flown on RyanAir, perhaps you remember the flight attendants selling lottery tickets during the flight to increase revenue. I'm glad Spirit doesn't try that, but I've heard rumors they may start charging a fee to use the lavatories.

If you are willing to forego or pay for flight extras, Spirit Airlines is worth the low price. Many people falsely believe that budget airlines lack safety features that mainstream airlines provide. They do not. All airlines operating at U.S. airports must pass the exact same safety tests. Airlines cannot cut corners on safety for price savings. Instead, they pay lower airport "rental" fees which means they will be last priority for take-off if there is a delay, for baggage claim after a flight, and for other similar operations. There is no need to be more concerned about safety when flying on a budget airline such as Spirit Airlines than you would be on any mainstream airline.

Purchasing Flights

My experience purchasing flights on Spirit Airlines was as easy as with any other airline. I needed two seats on round-trip flights from Hartford, Connecticut (BDL) to Orlando, Florida (MCO). When I searched for one seat, the price was $409 USD, but when I searched for two seats, the price was $472 USD each!

Note: this will happen on any airline selling a set of seats at one price and the next set of seats at a higher price if there is only one seat left. All seats in a purchase will be quoted at the higher price.

Knowing this, I booked the two seats separately for an average price of $440 USD. The next cheapest flight for my itinerary on a mainstream airline was over $600 USD, so the savings were significant. The purchases were made smoothly. I did not experience any glitches with the website or issues with the purchasing process.

The BAG Decision

Most travelers in America are used to being charged extra for a checked bag, while being allowed to bring a personal item and a carry-on into the aircraft cabin for free. Spirit Airlines only allows one personal item for free. You must pay for your carry-on item in addition to any checked bags. The fees for these bags are much higher than mainstream airlines as well.

The one upside to Spirit's baggage policy is that the personal item allowance is very generous at 18 in. x 14 in. x 8 in. My standard long-weekend Longchamp travel bag is 17.75 in x 13.75 in x 9 in, with soft sides. With a little squishing I could get it to qualify as a personal item on Spirit and avoid the baggage fees. This is true of many small backpacks and large tote bags or purses. If you are going on a short trip to a warm locale, you may not need to pay for any bags on Spirit.

Check out my post on How to Travel the World with One Carry-On to get more tips on packing light for any vacation!

Spirit charges different bag fees depending on the flight you book. Their website offers a bag fee calculator for your specific flight. For the Hartford to Orlando flight, a carry-on selected during booking would cost $32 per passenger, and a checked bag would cost $37 per bag. My travel companion and I decided to purchase one checked bag to share and no carry-on bags. The price to check a bag or carry it on increases at each process point until you board the plane, so it is beneficial to decide early. I've heard stories of Spirit Airlines charging almost $100 for a carry-on when the passenger decided she needed it as she was boarding the plane!


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Bag checkers near the boarding gate




Online check-in for Spirit begins 24 hours before the flight departs. This is typical for most American airlines. When I travel, I almost always check-in online and use a mobile ticket. When I do this, I sometimes get worried about losing my Internet connection just as I reach the front of the security line, so I save my mobile boarding pass to my Apple wallet, take a screenshot of it, use the airline's app, and make sure the email is loaded. I assumed I would do the same for my mobile boarding pass with Spirit Airlines.

My travel companion always prefers printed hard-copy boarding passes, so he printed his out. I did not. On the drive to the airport, I tried to pull my boarding pass up on my iPhone. The emailed boarding pass would not show the QR code (similar to a barcode on paper boarding passes). I checked online and found that this is a common error with the Gmail app. I tried to open the boarding pass using Gmail on the Safari web-browsing app but had the same issue. Forwarding the boarding pass to my ancient Yahoo! email account did not help either. The Spirit app was completely defunct so that wasn't an option either. It was starting to look like I was out of options.

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This is all my boarding pass on my phone looked like: not very helpful.

At the Airport

At this point I was worried I'd have to pay a hefty fee to have a Spirit agent print my boarding pass for me. I saw a number of Spirit check-in kiosks in the arrivals terminal, so I gave one of them a try just in case. As with all mainstream airline kiosks, I pulled up my reservation and printed my boarding pass for free! I used this same method on my return flight from Orlando to Hartford, and it was once again free.

I highly recommend printing your Spirit boarding pass before arriving at the airport just in case, but know that you should be able to obtain one for free at an airport kiosk if necessary. Either way, you probably will not be able to use the mobile boarding pass option.

Dropping off the checked bag was a breeze. There is a 40 lb weight limit. Our bag was weighed for both flights, and I saw one woman trying to readjust her belongings to make the limit, so it is enforced.


The boarding process was a bit of a fiasco. I have no idea how we left on time. My travel companion and I were in Zone 2. When we arrived at the gate, we  had at least five minutes before boarding began. Despite this, the entire plane of passengers was crowded around the boarding lane. The agent at the desk was simultaneously telling them to move back and trying to handle pre-flight issues. Nobody would listen to her. I understand if you are a Zone 1 passenger milling around the lane entrance, but there were too many people for that to be the case.

When boarding began, the standard "passengers flying with small children and those who need extra help boarding" were invited on the plane first followed by military personnel. Seeing as Spirit does not have a "First Class" section, Zone 2 was called shortly after these passengers. My companion and I made our way through the sea of passengers surrounding the boarding lanes to get on the plane.

On the Flight

The three-hour flight experience was reasonably pleasant.

BIG Front Seats

I was planning to sit in a normal economy seat. I booked a ticket for an (unassigned) economy seat. However, over Christmas dinner a well-traveled family member recommended upgrading to the BIG Front Seats. I was hesitant, seeing as I was flying Spirit Airlines in an attempt to save money, but my travel companion convinced me the upgrade was worthwhile. He was right!

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We paid $55 per person per flight for the upgrade. This was the price quoted us after booking the flight but before check-in. I expected seats similar to "Premium economy" on mainstream airlines. This would provide another 2" or 3" of pitch and 2" of width on the seat. Instead, we were treated to large, comfortable First Class type seats. Yes, they looked old, worn, and a little dirty, and no they did not recline, but for $55 I couldn't complain. Plus, every other economy seat on the plane also had those attributes. I have yet to sit in the economy section of a Spirit Airlines flight, but this review from The Points Guy explains that the BIG Front Seat is worth the upgrade.

spirit; spirit air; spirit airlines; review; airline review; budget airline; ultra low cost

My travel companion - my dad - and I enjoying our BIG Front Seats!


Spirit offers refreshments for purchase on their flights. These include the standard non-alcoholic beverages that are free on mainstream airlines. The menu offerings and prices look similar to what's available on mainstream airlines. Though $3 for a can of Coke seems expensive, knowing they have a monopoly in the sky Spirit could have charged $10 for that same can of Coke and people probably would have purchased it.

Being aware of this issue, my travel companion and I purchased sandwiches in the airport to bring on board with us. I also made sure to fill up my water bottle, since even water was not free on Spirit. My travel companion purchased one soda on the flight using his credit card. He was given the entire can plus a plastic cup with ice in which to pour his drink.

spirit; spirit air; spirit airlines; review; airline review; budget airline; ultra low cost

In-Flight Experience

As a "no-frills" airline, Spirit provides no in-flight entertainment. There are no seat-back multimedia screens. A flight tracker is not available. The flight attendant does not play a 20-year-old classic film for the entire plane using drop-down screens. There isn't even a ten-song rotation on an obscure airline radio station to plug in and listen to. It's how I imagine flying in the 1970s may have been.

This is not a problem so long as you are prepared for it. In my purse I brought my iPhone for music, my iPad for a offline games (both charged ahead of time, since there are no in-seat charging ports on Spirit's flights), an eBook on my iPad and a hardcover book. I also had my Harry Potter coloring book and set of 50 colored pencils in case the plane hit bad turbulence and I needed a distraction. I was determined to keep myself occupied on the flight. It turned out not to be an issue because I fell asleep within a half hour of take-off and awoke as we were making our descent. Had that not happened, I am sure all the items I brought with me for entertainment would have kept me busy for hours, or at least the three hour duration of the flight.

Looking for more must-have travel items? Check out my post on 15 Luxury Travel Essentials!

Baggage Claim

Baggage claim was the worst part of my Spirit Airlines experience. I never check bags, so I don't usually have to deal with baggage claim. I did not know what to expect for timing of retrieving our bag. Because of its low airport "rental" fees, there are only two Spirit baggage claim carousels at Orlando International Airport. Bags from all of the incoming Spirit flights arrive on the same two carousels. You never know when the new set of bags is from your flight.

It took over an hour from the time my travel companion and I left the aircraft to the time we retrieved our bag. To me, that was an unreasonable amount of time. When time is money, you should compare the cost-savings of checking a bag with the time-cost of standing in an airport's baggage claim area. It may not be worth it.

Our bag arrived with our flight and everything was in one piece, so it could have been worse. It was not the best start to the vacation, though, and something that could have easily been avoided with a carry-on.

Spirit Airlines Review Conclusion

I was not deterred by the minor hiccups during my first Spirit Airlines experience. As I normally do, I signed up for a frequent flyer number with Spirit. I intend to fly them again soon. I will be testing the personal item versus carry-on strategy and hopefully will not have to pay $100 at the gate to bring my bag with me! Regardless I don't think I would check a bag again. So long as you know what you are getting into, are aware of the rules that could cost you extra money, and are willing to pay for all extras, flying Spirit Airlines is a great deal.

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My first experience flying with Spirit Airlines, a low-cost American airline
My first experience flying with Spirit Airlines, a low-cost American airline
Best Christmas Gifts for All Types of Travelers

Best Christmas Gifts for All Types of Travelers

Black Friday is here! The holiday season is upon us! If you’re looking for the best Christmas gifts for your traveler, you can’t go wrong with any of the following options.

Looking for more recommended travel products? Check out the post 15 Luxury Travel Essentials.

For the One who Loves a Weekend Getaway

Does your traveler seem to visit a new city every weekend? If your traveler is able to see the world without using all their vacation time, the following items are essential Christmas gifts this year.

Weekender Bag

longchamp; bag; weekender; travel

The perfect bag to take on weekend getaways will fit three or four outfits and a few essential products without being too cumbersome. Any carry-on sized bag will do, but this Longchamp travel bag fits the bill perfectly. Its soft sides are flexible so the bag will fit anywhere: stuffed into a trunk for a road trip, in a train’s overhead compartment, or under the plane seat in front of you. The nylon of which it is made cleans up easily, making this bag low maintenance as well.

Travel-sized Versions of their Favorite Toiletries

perfume; rollerball; travelMost weekend travelers getting on airplanes will only be bringing a carry-on bag with them. This means they will be subjected to the 3 oz or 100 mL liquid restriction. This year for Christmas, pick up some travel-sized versions of your traveler’s favorite toiletries and give them one less thing to worry about while packing. A roller-ball perfume of their favorite scent is perfect because it is long-lasting and spill-proof.

For the One Traveling the World for Weeks at a Time

Shopping for gifts for the experienced traveler who takes off around the world for weeks at a time may leave you lost and confused. What do you buy for the person who prefers experiences to things? Any of the items below, of course!

Extendable Bag

longchamp, carry-on bag, carry-on, travel bag, luxury travel essential, travel essential, travel tip

Like the weekender above, a soft-sided nylon carry-on bag is the perfect Christmas gift for any traveler. Unlike the weekend traveler, though, the globetrotter will need a bag that will fit weeks worth of clothing and all their souvenirs while retaining its carry-on compliant size. This extendable bag can be packed in its smaller state before hitting the road, and then expanded while traveling to fit an extra 1/3 of items! Even in its expanded state, this bag is still carry-on size. Pick one up for your worldwide traveler today!

Passport-Sized Money Belt

moneybelt; worldwide travel; travel gifts

Most worldwide travelers are likely to visit at least one country or city where they need to keep an eye on their belongings at all times. While I am usually a big fan of cross-body bags for this purpose, a money belt that can be worn under clothes is even more secure. Get one that fits your traveler’s passport, phone, cards, and cash. It is stylish enough to be worn outside of clothes of you so choose, and flat enough to be worn under clothes without detection.

Worldwide Outlet Adapter

power adapter; worldwide travel; universal adapter

Did you know that the different plug types throughout the world are a result of international trade restrictions? For the traveler planning to visit many different regions with different outlets, help them pack as lightweight and compact as possible with this universal outlet adapter.

For the Study Abroad Student

Is your child, relative, or friend heading off to live and study in a different country after the holidays? Help them adjust to life abroad by picking up the following essential items as Christmas gifts this year (I would know, I’ve studied abroad twice!).

Eyewitness Top 10 City Guide

travel guide; top 10; eyewitness travel

I picked up an Eyewitness Top 10 travel guide eight years ago before a trip to Amsterdam. Since then, I have sworn by this series when visiting a new city. These books include the top 10 of everything in a city, including restaurants, nightlife, and off-the-beaten-path attractions. Your study abroad student will easily be able to find the famous monument, museum, or church in his or her new town: help them experience the ins and outs of their new city with this in-depth travel guide.

Home Country Flag

american flag; flag; dorm room; travel guide

From what I’ve seen, most expats and Erasmus students hang up a flag representing their home country in their bedroom within a month or two of arriving in a new country, even if they are not overly patriotic. It is a symbol of pride for many people and also provides a sense of comfort and familiarity to the owner.

Home Country Food

peanut butter; american food; travel guide

Perhaps even stranger than the idea of gifting a country flag is the idea of stuffing your study abroad student’s suitcase full of peanut butter or other local foods from home. The number one care package request for American study abroad students seems to be jars of peanut butter. Buying them as a Christmas gift will be considerably cheaper than shipping tubs of peanut butter internationally when you receive a call that the half-cup jar of peanut butter costs $10, or worse, peanut butter doesn’t exist in the country in which your student is living. Other popular American foods to request include pop tarts, Kraft mac & cheese, and chocolate chips. Alternatively, Australian students living abroad will need their Vegemite and French expats should bring French Nutella with them (the stuff sold in the USA and Canada is made with a different recipe and just doesn’t taste the same).

Hide This (Language) Phrase Book

phrase book; translation; foreign language dictionary

If your student will be living in a country where the common language is not English, they will probably need a foreign language dictionary. Instead of buying them a boring [language]-English dictionary with each word and its translation listed in alphabetical order, pick up a phrase book from the “Hide This Book” series. Not only will your study abroad traveler learn useful phrases in context, but the series also provides cultural notes to help your student assimilate quicker and avoid cultural faux pas. Despite what the cover and advertising says, most phrases presented in the book are benign and used in everyday conversation.

For the One who Needs the Luxuries of Life with Them on the Road

If your traveler is the one who packs a giant suitcase for four days away because they never know when they must use their personal hair dryer, they will appreciate the following Christmas gifts under the tree this year.

Travel-Sized Luxury Hand Cream

hand cream; lotion; travel sized

One of the worst-yet-inevitable parts of travel is the dryness experienced on airplanes. Instead of stranding your luxury traveler without lotion 38,000 feet in the air, buy them a high-end travel-sized hand cream this Christmas. Tocca sells sets under 100 mL with floral scents named after European sites. Their hand creams include ingredients like avocado oil and shea butter so your luxury traveler won’t miss their full-size bottle for a few days.

Travel Jewelry Organizer

travel jewelry organizer; travel guide

Arriving at your destination and having to spend a half hour untangling all your necklaces and bracelets and then having to find that missing earring that made its way to the bottom of your bag is not the best way to begin a vacation. If this scenario is familiar to your luxury traveler, buy her a travel jewelry organizer this year for Christmas so she never has to go through this again!

Looking to supplement this gift with a piece of jewelry? Check out the collection at Use the code FFT30OFF for 30% off anything on the site now through Cyber Monday, or the code FFT15OFF for 15% off any other time!

Bath Bombs

bath bomb; lush; travel guide; luxury travel

After many hours of traveling, there’s probably nothing your luxury traveler would enjoy more than to spend some time soaking in a relaxing bath. Help enhance that experience with the gift of a scented bath bomb, filled with skin-softening oils and soothing colors that will diffuse into the water. Bath bombs are small and non-liquid so they are easy to pack and take anywhere your luxury traveler may go.

For the One who Will Actually Lose Weight on Vacation

Fitness on vacation can be fun! If your traveler is the one who fits in fitness everywhere he or she goes, surprise him or her with one of the following Christmas gifts this year.


fitbit; fitness; fit travel; travel guide

Perhaps your fit traveler already has a pedometer. If not, pick one up for them this holiday season. Most people visiting a new city will walk over 20,000 steps per day! Anyone who is into health and fitness will want to track this metric, even if its only purpose is to enjoy the local dessert without guilt later that evening.

Drawstring Bag


This versatile drawstring bag will be essential in numerous fit-travel situations. Whether your traveler is going to spend the day hiking Machu Picchu or taking a bicycle tour of Havana, a drawstring bag will allow them to take all their necessary belongings along while keeping their hands free. Pick up a deluxe version with a front pocket and space for a water bottle for the ultimate fit-travel Christmas gift.

Class Pass Membership or Gift Card

classpass; travel fitness

ClassPass is the perfect gym membership for your fit traveler. Membership is not limited to a single studio or even a single city. ClassPass is connected to studios throughout the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia. It is currently focusing on expansion around Asia and Europe within the next year. This means your fit traveler will be able to pop into a fitness class no matter where the are for the cost of a single gym membership! Membership is quickly and easily transferable between cities, so your traveler won’t feel restricted with this Christmas gift.

For Everyone!

No matter which category above your traveler fits into, everyone can benefit from the following items!

Memory Foam Travel Pillow Kit


I cannot emphasize this enough: a memory foam travel pillow, like this one from Cabeau, is life-changing for any traveler. You or your traveler will get the best sleep they’ve ever had on an airplane with a memory foam pillow. The newest version also includes straps to attach the pillow to the airplane seat, so your traveler won’t end up on the shoulder of the stranger next to them! If you’re looking for a great travel Christmas gift, purchase the entire travel pillow kit, including a sleep mask and ear plugs.

Compact Digital Camera


Digital cameras went out of style with the advent of the smartphone. Recently, they’ve become an important travel companion again for the serious traveler. Smartphones are great for capturing many photos throughout a trip that can be shared quickly, but for the really great travel photos a digital camera is a must. Unless your traveler is a travel photographer, don’t weigh them down with a large camera. Instead, pick up a compact digital camera that is easy to throw into a carry-on bag and pull out at any time to capture the best moments of your traveler’s trip.

Happy shopping!

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This year's best Christmas or holiday gifts for your traveler: the weekend, the world traveler, the study abroad student, the luxurious traveler, the fit traveler, or whoever may be on your list!


N.B. This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of the links in this article, I receive compensation at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways

Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways

New England ski resorts are open for 2018! For anyone looking to get away for a ski weekend in the Northeast from now until March or April, check out the resorts below. Each resort listed has great terrain, many accommodation options, villages offering you a break from your boots, and price points that won't break the bank, at least as far as ski weekends go.

Looking for more things to do in New England? Check out these posts about a Weekend in New Hampshire, Fall in Connecticut, and a Day Trip to Salem, MA!

Mount Snow

West Dover, Vermont * Opens for the season November 4, 2018

mount snow; ski; vermont

The Mountain

Mount Snow is the closest Green Mountain ski resort to both Boston (2.5 hours) and New York City (4 hours). It runs 20 lifts for its 600 acres of terrain, including the Bluebird Express that provides a front cover to cut the wind as you ride to the summit. The mountain provides mostly intermediate terrain, with a few steep diamond trails and a nice long, easy beginner trail down from the summit.

mount snow; ski; resort; new england; vermont; mountain


Two on-site accommodations are available at Mount Snow. The Grand Summit Resort Hotel provides ski-in ski-out privileges for the mountain. If you are looking for something more budget-friendly, stay at the Snow Lake Lodge across the street from the mountain, which is accessible by shuttle. Both locations offer hot tubs to enjoy during your après-ski time.

Village and Town

Mount Snow doesn't have a contained resort area, but it doesn't need one. The town of West Dover, Vermont, is a short drive away from the mountain and provides everything you would want in a ski town. If you want to be a part of mountain history, head for TC's Restaurant, home of Gold-Medal Olympian Snowboarder Kelly Clark. For something more upscale, sit in the dining room at West Dover Joe's. Looking for nightlife after dinner? The Snow Barn, a few feet from the mountain, provides drinks and live music most nights.

Overall Review: Given its location and size, Mount Snow is great for a short weekend ski trip or a long day of skiing if you're coming from New England or Eastern New York.


Killington, Vermont * Open NOW for the season! *

killington; ski resort; vermont; new england

The Mountain

Nicknamed "The Beast," Killington offers the biggest ski area in New England. Its size means there are enough trails to satisfy skiers of all levels. Thrilling black diamond trails challenge the best skiers, while beginners can stick to the numerous bunny trails or try a run from the summit entirely on beginner trails. Lift tickets are also some of the most expensive in the area at full price, but Killington often offers discount tickets if you spend time investigating.


The Killington Grand Resort Hotel at the base of the mountain is the perfect place to stay if you want all the comforts of a ski hotel. However, ski cabins are much more popular at Killington, as many of them have lift access, offering ski-on/ski-off capabilities. Killington's Managed Condos website or AirBNB can help you locate your ideal accommodation, whether it's a 12-person cabin with a private outdoor hot tub and indoor sauna, or a single-family two-bedroom bungalow.

Village and Town

Killington's Base Lodge offers numerous dining options for hungry skiers. Favorites include Preston's and Killington House of Pizza. If you want to venture into the cold for some nightlife, you must check out the Wobbly Barn, Killington's infamous music house and nightclub.

Overall Review: While Killington doesn't offer the on-site resort experience you may expect out West or in Europe, it has the best mountain in the area, so it's the best destination for serious skiers and their friends.

Jay Peak

Jay, Vermont * Opens for the season November 23, 2018 *

jay peak; snow; ski; resort; new england; vermont

The Mountain

Jay Peak offers 385 acres of terrain with 79 trails. However, it boasts the encouragement of off piste skiing as well, with 100+ acres of glade terrain. Advanced skiers looking to challenge themselves can take advantage of this additional acreage, while advanced-beginner skiers will find the intermediate trails accessible.


Jay Peak offers numerous accommodation options, all connected with their convenient shuttle service. For a hotel-like experience, stay at the Hotel Jay, Tram Haus Lodge, or Stateside Hotel. Many condos and cabins are available for larger groups who prefer their own private residence.


The New England ski resort with the most options available when you're ready to give the skis a break is Jay Peak. The Pump House indoor water park is a guest favorite with water slides, a lazy river, and indoor surfing. Access to the Pump House is included in your Ski and Stay ticket. The Ice Haus indoor ice skating rink lets you brush up on your other winter sport while you are on vacation. With 16 on-property restaurants, there is something to accommodate everyone's tastes at Jay Peak. At night, a few of the bars provide live music. If you want a quieter evening, see what's playing at the Movie Theater next to the Stateside Hotel.

jay peak; pump house; waterpark; indoor water park; vermont; ski resort

Inside the Pump House

Overall Review: A large mountain near the Canadian border, Jay Peak offers a full day of skiing and plenty of dining and entertainment options off the mountain to keep you occupied for a long vacation. 


Carrabassett Valley, Maine * Opens for the season November 19, 2018 *

sugarloaf; maine; mountain; new england; ski resort

The Mountain

Sugarloaf is one of the most popular mountains in Maine. Though somewhat difficult to reach, traveling on about 30 minutes of dark, local roads after you pass Portland, the journey is worth it. Sugarloaf Mountain offers 162 trails, which are evenly divided among beginner, intermediate, and expert options. The signature feature at Sugarloaf is its summit lift that is the only lift to bring skiers to trails above the treeline in the East.


Sugarloaf Mountain is in the middle of nowhere, so you're going to want to stay on the mountain. The Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel offers beautiful rooms at the base of the mountain. If you don't want to stay in a hotel, your other option are the ski-in/ski-out condos and cabins on the mountain.


Because of its remote location, Sugarloaf offers plenty to do on its property, and provides frequent shuttle buses to bring visitors to all its dining and entertainment options. The premium restaurant for a nice night out is 45 North. During the day, pick up a quick snack at Hunker Down or Alice & Lulu's between runs. If you're looking for a nice drink, The Widowmaker or Shipyard Brewhaus has got you covered. At night, take the shuttle to The Rack to grab a drink while listening to live music.

Overall Review: Sugarloaf's remote location mandates great customer service, a standard that the resort definitely lives up to. 

BONUS REVIEW: Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada * Opens for the season November 22, 2018 *

mont tremblant; ski resort; canada; quebec

While this post is meant to focus on New England ski resorts, I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolutely best ski resort in the Northeast, just over the border in Canada. A 6-hour drive from Boston, or a quick flight from New York City, Mont Tremblant ski resort is absolutely worth the trip.

The Mountain

With 102 trails on four separate slopes, you could spend your entire trip covering new terrain with every run. The slopes are well-maintained with packed powder. Just remember to pack all your cold-weather ski gear: temperatures at the summit when I was there were below zero degrees Fahrenheit, without a wind chill!


There are cabins and condos available in the area of Mont Tremblant, but with such diverse options in the village, you should pick one of the official lodgings for your stay. The Fairmont and Le Westin provide the high-end, luxurious options. Homewood Suites and the Holiday Inn Express round out the hotel chain options with hotel suites including gas fireplaces and kitchens. For a more traditional experience, look into the Sommet des Neiges, Ermitage du Lac, and the Tour des Voyageurs.


When you arrive at Mont Tremblant's village, you will think you've been transported to a European ski village in the French or Swiss Alps, and not just because everyone speaks both English and French. The village was built in 1939, creating Canada's first ski resort area. As you walk through the lower and upper villages, you will pass many shops, restaurants, bistros, and bars. Make sure to stop into a shop for your traditional Canadian maple taffy, freshly made on Mont Tremblant's snow!

mont tremblant; canada; ski resort

Overall Review: If you want a proper European ski resort experience, take the time to visit Mont Tremblant. Also worth noting for American visitors, this luxury ski resort is a bargain due to our favorable exchange rate! It is also advised to take advantage of American bank holidays to visit this Canadian destination: many Montrealers venture to Mont Tremblant on the weekends, but it is virtually deserted during the week. I had an entire trail to myself on Martin Luther King Day a couple years ago!


Ready to plan your ski weekend? Find some of my favorite ski gear, like goggles, helmets, jackets, and base layers here!

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*Note: some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through them I may receive some compensation, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.Thank you for supporting this page!


Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways
Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways
15 Luxury Travel Essentials for your Next Vacation

15 Luxury Travel Essentials for your Next Vacation

Which luxury travel essentials are key to bring with you on a trip to ensure a luxurious experience from start to finish? As much fun as traveling can be, I always hear complaints about things like long uncomfortable plane rides, difficulty with carry-on bags, too many liquids to bring the luxuries of home along, and trouble packing enough items into a small bag for a long trip. I always bring the following 15 small, lightweight items with me when I travel. They solve all of the problems listed above and more! Don’t leave home without them.
Want to see how I fit all the following items in one carry-on bag? Check out this previous blog post!
*Note that this page contains affiliate links. This means if you purchase something after clicking on the link I will receive commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you! 

Helping you pack

1. Soft-sided Bag

longchamp, carry-on bag, carry-on, travel bag, luxury travel essential, travel essential, travel tip

Expanded Longchamp Carry-On

I see so many travelers wheeling their hard-sided bags through the airport only to get stopped at the gate to see if it’s the proper size for a carry-on. Often the wheels cause the bag to be outside the carry-on parameters. Hard-sided bag that are allowed on the plane are the ones most passengers struggle to fit in overhead compartments. Save yourself the hassle and get large, soft-sided weekender that is easy to pack, carry, and will fit anywhere! My favorite: Longchamp Le Pliage XL Nylon Tote.

2. Travel Luggage Scale

travel scale; luggage scale; travel essentials

We in the United States are lucky that the weight of our carry-on luggage is not regulated. In the rest of the world it is. You will often be asked to put your bag on a scale before checking-in. Avoid surprises and extra fees at the airport as you move from city to city by bringing a luggage scale with you. Weighing only two ounces the Etekcity Digital Luggage Scale scale is a necessity for multi-city trips.


On the go

3. Memory Foam Travel Pillow

memory foam pillow; travel pillow; travel essential

Even if you already have a cheap, bean-filled or inflatable travel pillow, you need to get this memory foam one. I never had trouble sleeping on planes, but when I was in the airport getting ready for my first super-long haul flight from Boston to Beijing, I invested in a memory foam pillow. It was one of the smartest decisions of my life. I have never fallen asleep faster or slept better while traveling than when using this pillow. I have lent it to many friends for their travels, and they all agree! You can’t go wrong with the Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow.

4. Noise-cancelling headphones

headphones, beats, beats by dre, travel essentials

Headphones are a must while on-the-go for listening to music, audio books, television shows, and movies. Noise-cancelling headphones will make your experience even more enjoyable by blocking out any extraneous engine or passenger noise. You can escape into your own world while you await your arrival at your destination. My go-to headphones are the BeatsX Wireless In-Ear Headphones.

5. Sleep Mask

sleep mask, eye mask, travel essentials

Along with a travel pillow and noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs, a sleep mask is essential for good sleep while traveling. Most airlines hand out their own cheap version on long-haul flights – the Japan Air one is actually rather nice! – but in case your airline does not, or you want to get some sleep on a shorter flight, this is a worthwhile investment. No need to buy something high-tech when you just need it to block out the light; try the Copebri Natural Silk Sleep Mask.

6. Tablet

tablet, fire, kindle, ipad, amazon fire, travel essentials, travel items, luxury travel essentials

You would think most airplanes would have back-of-seat entertainment systems at this point. Many new planes do. But what if you get stuck on a small McDonnell Douglas or an old Boeing for a 3+ hour flight? Bring your own entertainment on a tablet just in case. You can download a book to the Kindle app or a few movies to pass time on your way to your destination. There are many great options on the market, but I am especially a fan of the Amazon Fire Tablet.

7. Coloring book and pencils

coloring book, harry potter, fear of flying, travel essentials

An odd addition, I’m sure many of you are thinking. Believe it or not, despite the hundreds of flights I have taken, I still have a fear of flying. A remedy I recently discovered is putting on some music or a movie for background noise and pulling out an adult coloring book. It helps your mind focus on something other than the plane, and helps the time pass until you reach your destination. My first adult coloring book was the Harry Potter Coloring Book.

8. Sandals

havaianas, sandals, slim havaianas, brazil, flip flops

No matter what you are wearing on the plane, or what weather is concurring in the city you are leaving or your destination, pack a pair of sandals for the plane. Your feet will swell while in the air, making you want to remove your shoes. Plane etiquette dictates that you do not go barefoot. Oddly, no one seems to mind if their fellow passengers are wearing sandals. I try to wear sandals to the airport, but if you don’t have room in your bag for another pair of shoes, or are in a cold climate, change into sandals as soon as you board your flight and stuff your other shoes under the seat in front of you. For a cute, sturdy, light-weight pair, check out Havaianas.


In the Hotel

9. Solid Shampoo and Conditioner

solid shampoo, solid conditioner, shampoo bar, conditioner bar, travel shampoo, travel toilettries, travel essentials, travel conditioner, luxury travel

Not only are these products eco-friendly, as they don’t have disposable packaging, but they are perfect for travel. Solid shampoos and conditioners (or combo bars) effectively wash and condition hair while not adding to your tiny liquid or bag weight allotment. They last for hundreds of washes, so you don’t have to worry about running out like you would with travel-sized containers. Pick up a bar (or two) on Amazon or at Lush Cosmetics!

10. Dry Shampoo

dry shampoo, batiste, on the go, travel essentials

The current theory on hair care is that you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. I don’t know about you, but while I prescribe to this regime, I still need to do something for my hair on off-days. Enter dry shampoo. In either aerosol or powder form, dry shampoo will pick up your hair on in-between days. It is especially helpful on days when you have to get out the door quickly for a travel excursion and don’t have time for a full wash and dry! I love Batiste aerosols, which also come in travel sizes.

11. Laundry Bag

laundry bag, vineyard vines, luxury travel essentials

When all your travel clothes go in the same bag, you need something to separate clean or reusable clothes from the dirty ones. Limited space requires an efficient solution. Pack a lightweight laundry bag in your travel bag to re-pack dirty clothes and keep them away from the rest of your wardrobe.


Out and about

12. Portable Phone Charger

charter, portable charger, travel charger, iphone charger, travel tip, travel essential

How many times have you tried to take a video or send a picture and realized that you’d be using the last of your phone battery to do so? What about all those times you’ve run low or out of power on a flight on a plane that doesn’t have outlets when you’re watching a movie or listening to music? If you pack your portable phone charger on your vacations you’ll never have to experience that again!

13. Warm, Lightweight Jacket

northface, thermoball, jacket, travel jacket, travel essential, travel tip

If you’re traveling from one climate to another (like when this New Englander heads to the Caribbean in the winter) or visiting multiple destinations in one trip, it can be difficult to decide what type of outerwear to pack. Most jackets and sweaters take up a lot of room. Pick up a warm-yet-lightweight jacket like the Northface Thermoball to solve this issue. I am comfortable wearing this jacket unzipped in temperatures up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also warm enough to comfortably bundle up in visiting climates that drop below freezing.

14. Cross-Body Bag

cross body bag, crossbody, travel bag, travel essential

Small, spacious shoulder bags are great no matter where you travel, but a cross-body bag is essential when visiting developing nations. Mine has traveled across the world with me from Greece and Ireland to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. If you invest in one of these bags, make sure you always wear it across your body to deter thieves from an easy snatch. Pick up a super cute bag from Kate Spade to complement your travel wardrobe!

15. Multi-purpose Black Leggings

leggings, lululemon, travel fashion, travel essentials, luxury travel

This is mainly a suggestion for the women, though these would make a great gift for any well-traveled women in the lives of the men reading this! A simple pair of black leggings is the most versatile piece of travel clothing options I can think of. Depending on how active my travel schedule is, I always pack a pair of either cotton or lyrca capri leggings. This one pair will get me through any sudden physical activities and then transition for a casual afternoon or nice night out by pairing them with a sweater and boots or flats. Any plain pair would do, but I always bring my black Lululemon Wunder Unders for this purpose.

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luxury travel essentials

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