Essential Pre-Departure Travel Tips
Reading, researching, and investigating into your dream destinations or future travels are important and exciting steps in the planning process of a seasoned traveler. Months before I depart, I do intense research about where to go and what I want to do when I get to my destination. Technology has put any piece of information we may need at our fingertips. Scrolling websites and downloading apps are all part of the pre-plan before departure, and I’d like to share a few that have made my travels smoother, more enjoyable, and allow me to relax with no worries before and during my travels.
SeatGuru – It all starts with the flight
I care about where I sit, and I will go out of my way to fly a newer aircraft and find the perfect seat. This app gives you an overview of the airline, the plane configuration, seating details, and a key to picking seats in a premium location and avoiding those in a bad location, i.e. near the lavatory or galley. I never book a flight without viewing the plane details on SeatGuru first to assure I will be flying in comfort.
Kayak – who flies where
JFK or EWR. CDG or ORY. Lots of times you just need to check if a non-stop flight exists, which airlines fly where, or what are the top hotels in a particular city. I find Kayak is one of the easiest to use, since it searches hundreds of other travel sites. The category of search engine sites for travel is vast, so find one you like which gives you an array of options. For me, I am partial to Kayak.
Conde Nast Traveler – My bible
There are so many types of publications out there, but it’s important to always have one source you trust, and for me it is the Gold List, and every other list from the Condé Nast Publication. I have relied on their lists since my amateur days, and I almost always agree with their ranking and assessments when it comes to hotels or destinations.
Sunrise Sunset – The best part of the day (when on vacation)
Nothing beats watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset while on vacation. The best part is, you can get up for the sunrise, have a mimosa, and hopefully go back to bed for a nap before hitting the surf and sand. Happy hour is my favorite time of day, and I search out the best cocktail locations facing West to get a great vantage point to sip my mai tai, kick back, and watch the sunset to unwind from the hard day under my palapa. This app makes sure you never miss the exact timing to catch this amazing daily occurrence.
Google Earth – I love a bird’s eye view
I am heading to Bali in a few weeks for my first time and I am not very knowledgeable of the island or where I am staying. Google Earth has amazing satellite imagery through aerial images on a 3D map. I first check out the town from above, then drill down to the streets so I can locate what areas look happening for my meal adventures, or what beach bungalow looks enticing for a day by the waves. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s a great way to get a sense of where you are going so you can feel a bit safer before you get to your final vacation destination.
LinkedIn – Who’s who
OK, I am a bit nosy, but I like to know who the GM, Director of Sales, or Maître d’ of the restaurant is at the destination where I will be staying. LinkedIn is such a great source to learn more about an organization and the people within. I enjoy learning about the inner workings of the resort where I will be spending 7 days of my hard-earned vacation.
Google Translate – Where’s the toilet?
Yes, I can order a glass of wine in a dozen languages, and you can too. I am usually traveling to non-English speaking destinations, and this multilingual machine translation service has helped me through many binds, especially when needing to make sure I am ordering my burger medium-rare. (In case you’re wondering, it’s moyen rare in French.)
WhatsApp – Call you from overseas?
I struggle with affordable communication options, living in Europe with friends and family based in the United States. Every month I am stuck with overage charges from my phone plan’s astronomical costs due to “chatting” with my loved ones too long. While its popularity is not as big in the U.S. (but growing fast), WhatsApp is regularly used in other countries to communicate through text, voice, and video using Wi-Fi. The app must be downloaded by both parties and is a convenient, free way to keep in touch with loved ones when jet-setting to your next far away destination.
TV Guide App – What’s on?
I stay in many hotels, and after spending the day causing trouble to my wallet in the department stores of Fifth Avenue, I love to crawl into bed and find a good sitcom or cop drama on the TV. A guide of show listings is not always provided, so I just open my digital TV guide app, punch in the zip code and immediately I know which channel and what time I can catch up with Claire Danes and the most recent episode of Homeland.
Wallet – Where’s my boarding pass?
I have the app for every hotel, airline, and movie theater that I visit. After a purchase, I always download to the Apple Wallet, which allows you to store everything from coupons to loyalty cards, event tickets, and boarding passes. The days of printing and carrying piles of paper with confirmation numbers are gone. Storing them in one place is easy and sensible, and the Apple Wallet provides that place.
Travel should be stress-free, relaxing, and enjoyable. Make research part of the adventure before your vacation begins. Take the extra step to find out where you want to sit on the plane, or make sure you get the most direct flight to your dream destination. Pre-planning is part of the vacation journey, so I hope a few of the above tips can help you get to your destination with all the knowledge you need, in the handy form of an app.