We love to travel, but sometimes it can be stressful. Here are 10 tips we hope will make your trip more fun and less stressful!

1. Beware of low-cost carriers when booking flights 

Sometimes a fare may look cheaper on the surface but there are usually hidden charges. For example, Frontier in the US will charge you $25 if you want to talk to someone on the phone, so if you have to resolve an issue it can get expensive.

Allegiant also in the US will charge you not only for checked luggage but even for a carry on item.

Fiji Airways often looks like a cheaper option if you are flying across the Pacific. However, they only offer one checked bag while most others offer two. Fiji Airways will charge an additional $150 for that second bag on a flight from LA or San Francisco to Nadi.

None of these things are necessarily bad. It can make your trip more affordable as long as you read the fine print.

2. Always talk directly to the hotel after booking a reservation

If you are booking through a third party or even through that hotels reservation service – what’s displayed on a website can be different to what you think you are getting. It always pays to call and talk to someone at the specific hotel location you are visiting. You may also be able to ask them to put you into a better room.

3. Know your airport

When flying to a location you haven’t been to before, look at the airport on Wikipedia to see what airlines fly to that location. There may be carriers that are not listed on the main travel websites that could be cheaper

4. Use search sites to compare flights

Start searching for flights through kayak, Orbitz or Momando. Then Book directly through the airline. If you end up paying more than the cheapest fare available, some international airlines offer a price match guarantee. They’ll give you a refund if you find the exact same flight at a cheaper rate on another website. The catch is you have to book the ticket first, then find the cheaper flight and provide proof to the airline (I have heard mixed reviews on how this plays out so make sure you review each airlines price promise.)

Booking directly through the airline also means it is easier to resolve issues with your flights – eg if you miss a connection…booking through other sites may mean that the airline refers you back to the company you booked with.

5. Tipping

If you are from the US the good news is that, unless you’re going to Europe, most countries outside of the US don’t do it! But if you are from a non tipping country, then it can be tricky figuring out when to tip, when not to tip and how much.

In the US it can vary state to state how much you want to tip as every state has different minimum wages for servers. But to keep it simple, if the person did a good job then you typically want to tip 20% of the total. If you are dissatisfied with the service then you could tip closer to 10%. I tip when there is table service, but not if it is counter service eg Starbucks, fast food etc. you’ll also want to tip at a bar, catching a taxi, Uber or getting a haircut.

It is also good to tip bus drivers at airports or shuttle operators, but I don’t tip bus drivers at places like Disney or public buses. If you are grateful for whatever service you receive you can always offer a tip and the server will let you know if they can receive it or not. It’s always good to have some one dollar bills in your wallet just in case (I fail at this regularly!)

6. Theme parks and attractions – always arrive early!

You’re on vacation/holiday – you don’t want to spend your time standing in line. Get there before the theme park opens and know which rides are the most popular so you can go to those first. Getting to the park early can mean the difference between getting through all the rides within a few hours vs standing in line all day and maybe even missing out on some rides.

7. Understanding customs and border control

You’ve just gotten off a long flight and now you have to stand in line and try and figure out you’re way through customs and border control…this process can be even more stressful if you have an imminent connecting flight. Stay calm and listen to the people directing you. Remember you are representing your country, so don’t push in front in line or be unruly – everyone around you is tired too and likely in the same situation…that and border control agents don’t have a lot of patience for people being unruly.

Every country is different, but thankfully getting through customs is getting a lot easier with new technology. Make sure you have completed all paper work correctly and have your passport and other relevant documentation ready to show. Typically these days you will get through customs faster than your bag gets to the carousel so there is little to worry about. Just make sure you have abided by the countries rules and declared anything that you are required to. Always read the declaration form carefully. It’s always a good idea to check border security websites of any countries you are visiting to avoid landing yourself in an interrogation room.

8. Look up local holidays and vacations to avoid peak travel periods

No one likes paying high prices, getting stuck in traffic or caught in crowds. One way to avoid this is to know when the local holidays or vacation times are for the location you are visiting.

For example, you want to avoid Disney World, Disney Land or any other major US attraction on American holidays. This includes the week of July 4, Thanks Giving or between Christmas and New Years. That said Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day itself can be quiet as people are usually celebrating at home. Of course, the attraction might be closed that day as well, so make sure you check ahead.

If you’re visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia you may also want to avoid the June/July School holidays. If you are going to Byron Bay or the Gold Coast you’ll want to avoid schoolies in November/December. Every location has its peak season, so it pays to investigate!

9. Get some local cash!

Take some time to understand the local currency before you arrive at your destination. I have been caught out with this a few times. Not knowing how much something should cost, or what value a particular note or coin represents.

As well as cash, you may want to look into travel money cards or credit cards. It pays to investigate which ones have the best international fees and prepare ahead.

On a recent trip to Australia from the US, I was really impressed with using my Amex as there were no fees. The downside was that not all stores in Australia accept Amex. Some credit cards will also give you free travel insurance or frequent flyer points if you book your flights and accommodation on that card. Make sure you pay it off right away though, you don’t want to get stung with a high interest rate!

If you are staying longer term or need to transfer money to a foreign account, then a service like TransferWise is a great way to move money internationally at an affordable rate.

10. Join a travel group or community

With technology and social media you can connect like never before. There are so many Facebook groups around today, including tons on travel and most people are more than happy to share their experience which helps to make yours a better one!

We’ve created a couple of groups to help you out:

Americans Traveling to Australia

Australians Travelling to America

Australians travelling to Europe