Skip to content

Key travel tips you need to know — whether you're a beginner or expert traveler

September 10 2022
11 min read
father and daughter run on beach
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

At The Points Guy, our staff of writers and industry experts travels the world in pursuit of news and trends, plus a bit of rest and relaxation while on vacation. Over the years, we've accumulated and shared many essential travel tips on how best to book and enjoy a trip, be it a cruise, flight, hotel stay or road trip.

Some of our tips are helpful for those who may be new to the world of cruising or international, business-class flights. Others are geared toward seasoned travelers.

To help you stay safe, and travel smart during the holidays and beyond, we compiled this comprehensive list of top travel tips. Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced traveler who's been at it for years, these TPG-backed tips can help you avoid any unnecessary headaches as you spend time away from home.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

Beginner travel tips

WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

At TPG, we strive to provide expert advice on how to maximize miles and leverage hidden tips to get the best out of your travel planning. We also aim to help new travelers get a sense of what to expect so they can be prepared no matter what may come up during their travels.

Here are some key learnings for less-experienced travelers:

  • Make digital and hard copies of your important documents. When traveling, do as TPG editor Kristy Tolley does and store the hard copy in a separate place from where you're keeping your passport in case you lose a bag. "I also leave a copy of it at home if I'm traveling alone," she says.
  • Double-check your passport to make sure it won't expire soon. Some countries require six months of future passport validity to allow entry. Be sure to look at the dates far in advance of your trip and build in plenty of time for renewing your passport (if needed), as there have been delays in getting passports renewed.
  • Purchase travel insurance, even if you already have credit card travel protections. This is to ensure you're covered no matter what situation you may find yourself in.
  • "If you check a bag, make sure to have extra medicine or medical supplies in your personal bag in case your luggage goes missing or is delayed," advises TPG senior writer Tanner Saunders. "As a diabetic, I keep a tiny emergency kit in my backpack with enough supplies to keep me going in an emergency."
  • Regarding baggage, TPG credit card writer Ryan Smith suggests that "the last items you pack in your carry-on will be most accessible, so use this for your passport, ID, ticket, headphones or whatever else you need during the trip." By making sure those items you'll use most are easiest to reach, you'll save yourself the hassle of having to dig around (or partially unpack) your bag to grab what you need.
  • After a summer of baggage delays and luggage disasters, TPG senior director of marketing and communications Becca Manheimer suggests you put Apple AirTags (or the Android equivalent) into your luggage so you can track your items if they go missing.
  • Becca also suggests using Google Flights or another preferred flight search engine to manage the fluctuation of prices. "Always turn on notifications for these engines so that you can jump on any price drop or a good deal — they go quick," she says.
  • Try to find a nonstop flight rather than one with connections, even if it costs a little more. You'll eliminate the risk of missing connections and lessen the chance of losing your luggage during a transfer.
  • For beginner cruisers, TPG principal cruise writer Gene Sloan suggests arriving in port at least a day in advance (if not several days ahead of time) to eliminate the risk of missing your ship's departure time. This will also help you get acclimated to the local time zone.

Expert travel tips

Use maps and other tools to help you plan your trip. JACOBS STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

Do you have a mastery of the basics and want to vacation smarter as an expert traveler? Check out these expert-approved travel hacks from TPG:

  • Those who frequently travel abroad may want to consider purchasing an annual travel insurance policy instead of one bought on a trip-by-trip basis. TPG's Ryan Smith says he purchases an annual policy because of the cost savings it offers him for multiple trips. He also finds that having an annual policy is easier than juggling separate policies or various credit card coverage terms and conditions.
  • "Just because something has less than 4.5 stars on Google (or Yelp or Tripadvisor) doesn't mean you should avoid it," says TPG senior director of audience development Taylor Jenkins. Your criteria for a five-star experience may differ from that of the general public, so read reviews carefully to find people with similar interests and take public ratings with a grain of salt. You may even want to consult a travel agent to get those insider tips that review-based sites don't provide.
  • An expert family travel hack from TPG editor Erica Silverstein is to leverage airlines' typical free baggage allowance for car seats by stuffing the car seat bag with your bulky coats and laundry. This allows you to pack more items for free while also providing extra padding for the car seat.
  • When taking road trips to out-of-the-way destinations, go old school and bring paper maps with you. Or, do what Taylor suggests and download offline maps from Google. Using a paper map or offline version means you always have a way to navigate around your chosen destination, even if you lose cellular service.
  • A favorite expert cruise tip from Erica is to bring magnetic hooks or hangers on the trip with you for extra storage. Since cruise ship walls are magnetic, those magnetic hooks or hangers come in handy to help with storage issues in cabins. "It's a fun way to amaze your first-time cruise companions," she says.
  • No matter how much you think you know about redeeming miles for flights, there are always new and evolving tips and tricks for turning those earnings into dream trips. Turn to TPG for guidance on sweet spots for redemptions on domestic flights and sites like ExpertFlyer (a Red Ventures property, like TPG) to find additional redemption deals and steals.

Safety travel tips

A tourist arrives at a hotel room. BOY ANUPONG/GETTY IMAGES

Safety is a key concern for many travelers. From potentially getting robbed while on the road to experiencing bad weather or natural disasters while traveling, there are many scenarios that could arise when you're away from home. How should you avoid or mitigate these risks?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pay attention to The U.S. Department of State warnings about a destination you plan on visiting, and check local sources for the latest news from that country or region for additional context. Although the State Department tends to err on the side of caution with its warnings, it's still best to be aware of what you may face during your trip.
  • Use your hotel's travel safe to store your valuables in your room. "I always leave one credit card in the hotel safe just in case I lose the ones on me or they get stolen," shares TPG newsletter editor Becky Blaine. Just be sure you remember to empty the safe before you leave the hotel. Becky recommends leaving another item you won't forget, such as a single shoe, in the safe to serve as a backup hint to empty it.
  • Let people at home know your itinerary and stay in touch with them throughout your trip. If something goes amiss, at least someone will know where you're supposed to be or the last place you visited.
  • "If you're arriving at night, contact your hotel to ask about the best way to get there at the time you're arriving and specifically ask about cheap versus safe (transportation options)," says TPG's Ryan Smith. This will save you from getting stuck in potentially unsafe situations like being locked out of a hostel, which happened to his wife once when her flight was delayed and she arrived after hours.
  • Be strategic about how you check into a hotel. "When I travel alone, I always request two keycards so people think I'm traveling with someone," says TPG's Kristy Tolley. She also places a hand towel over the security swing bar of her room's door to prevent anyone outside from being able to slip a credit card in to try dislodging it.

Holiday travel tips

Holiday stalls beneath the Christmas tree in New York City's Bryant Park. JOHN HICKS/GETTY IMAGES

Traveling during the holidays can be one of the most challenging times for travelers. Travel costs are high, hotel and tour availability is low, weather events are more common and everyone is seemingly on edge as they're racing to get home to see loved ones.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make holiday travel more affordable and less stressful. Here are a few of them:

  • Flexibility is key when it comes to finding cheap holiday airfare. Changing your arrival or departure date by a single day can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare. If you don't mind altering your family's plans slightly, consider booking travel directly on Thanksgiving and Christmas for cheaper prices and thinner crowds at airports.
  • Don't travel with wrapped gift items in your carry-on or checked baggage. The Transportation Security Administration may want to inspect the presents, meaning the time and effort of wrapping them nicely may have been for nothing if a TSA agent wants to take a closer look. Consider shipping gifts to your destination ahead of time, as the shipping charge may be cheaper than any extra luggage fee.
  • Reserve airport parking ahead of time during peak holiday travel times. Some airport parking areas fill up fast around the holidays, so reserving your spot ahead of time will save you from wasting time looking for a space when you need to catch a flight.
  • Trusted Traveler Programs like TSA PreCheck, Clear and Global Entry are vital to have during peak holiday travel periods, as security and customs lines can be unbearably long. Make sure you're prepared when the holidays roll around by applying for one (or more) of these programs well in advance of the busy travel season.
  • For popular long weekends like Labor Day weekend, download your airline's mobile app to keep track of potential flight delays in real time. Also, have alternate plans in place in case a flight is canceled.
  • If you're stuck at an airport for an extended period of time during the holidays (or any time of the year), seek out your airport's secret quiet spaces for a brief escape from the travel chaos.

Bottom line

Whether you're fresh to the world of traveling or a seasoned expert, there are always new tips you can learn to maximize your time away from home. TPG's staff of frequent flyers, cruisers and road trippers always has some suggestions on how you can better book and enjoy your travels.

The more research and preparation you do before your trip, the better your experience will be — especially if things go wrong, as they often do.

Featured photo by GARY JOHN NORMAN/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points75,000 points
Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

Annual Fee

$125

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees