9 Items That Will Make Packing a Breeze
Packing can be a drag, but it’s much less stressful if you’ve got the proper equipment. From luggage racks to packing cubes, we’ve rounded up our go-to tools for making the experience easier, plus the non-negotiable items (think: a smart lint roller, a sleek electric toothbrush) that live in our suitcases year-round. Now all we need is someone to unpack for us.
1. For a Well-Organized Suitcase
Some of us stuff as many items of clothing into our carry-on as possible, even if we have to apply a knee to get it to zip. Others prefer a minimalist approach, and for that well-organized, streamlined experience, packing cubes are key. Shacke’s set of four comes in varying sizes that can be mixed and matched to hold everything you need for a short weekend hop or an extended 10-day stay, and your suitcase will be a Type A’s dream for the duration. (Pro-tip: Consider packing by day rather than by clothing category—i.e., all of Monday's gear goes in one cube, rather than, say, pants in one and socks in another—so you're not opening them all up every time you get dressed.)
Shacke Pak 4 set packing cubes with laundry bag, $30; shacke.com.
2. For a Hassle-Free Packing Experience
If you’re regularly on the go, packing can be a literal pain, especially if your suitcase is on the floor and you’re constantly bending down to do the job. (And if you’re putting it on your bed to load it up, stop immediately! Those wheels are just as filthy, if not more so, than airport security bins, and we all know how germy those things are.) A sturdy, no-frills luggage rack is a small luxury, but it’s one that’ll make a big difference. And as a bonus, your houseguests will surely appreciate it as well.
Wayfair Basics chrome luggage rack, $30; wayfair.com.
3. To Wring Out Every Last Drop
Americans are reluctant to take paid time off as it is—why squander those hard-earned days by not enjoying them to the full extent? Surely you can squeeze in one last dip in the ocean before you head to the airport—all you need is a place to stash your wet gear. ALOHA Collection’s splash-proof pouches keep damp bathing suits from leaking all over everything else in your pack, and with an array of extremely cute designs to choose from, they're functional and fashionable too.
The Mid-Size pouch, $40; aloha-collection.com.
4. For a Carry-All That's Not a Space Hog
Planning on doing some serious souvenir shopping, or just looking for a way to carry everything you need for the day without resorting to a massive tote? When it's folded into its front pocket, Everlane’s packable backpack measures just 9-½ inches by 6-½ inches, so it'll slide right into your carry-on, and it’s emblazoned with a cheery “bon voyage” that'll get your trip started on the right foot.
The packable backpack, $35; everlane.com.
5. To Wrangle Your Toiletries
(Courtesy Topo Designs)
Dopp kits are often a bottomless pit of toiletries and accoutrements, but the version from Topo Designs can help you avoid all that. Its unique triangular shape allows it to sit upright on narrow hotel sinks or shelves, and even though the interior is surprisingly spacious, the brightly colored lining makes it easy to find whatever you need. Whether you’re packing the entire medicine cabinet or traveling light, you'll have plenty of room.
Dopp kit, $34; topodesigns.com.
6. For a Deep Clean On the Go
Once you’ve switched from a standard brush to a water pick or an electric toothbrush, it’s tough to go back. Hardcore dental equipment doesn’t tend to be very portable, but when you’re on the road, Quip’s battery-operated electric model is just the ticket: With soft bristles and a sonic vibration motor, plus a sleek travel cover with a suction strip that adheres to any glossy surface, freeing up precious sink or shelf space, it’ll help you stick to your oral-hygiene regimen.
Electric toothbrush set, from $40; getquip.com.
7. To Keep Your Clothes Pristine
As much as we love our pets and miss them while we’re away, we really don’t need our apparel to serve as a reminder of the furry friends we’ve left behind. This clever lint roller from Flint is less than six inches long when closed, but it extends and retracts as needed and takes up next to no room while it’s at it. Refills are cinch, and it comes in so many colors and designs, you’re bound to find one that matches your luggage.
Retractable lint roller, $10; amazon.com.
8. For Cozy Toes
(Courtesy L.L. Bean)
Even in the sunniest of climes, hotel air conditioning can be excessive. Your favorite well-worn slippers should probably remain where no one else can judge—or see—them, but a pair of cushy, cozy socks will keep your feet from freezing, no matter how low your travel companion likes to set the thermostat. This super-soft cotton-ragg set from L.L. Bean won’t itch or stretch; they're also quick drying and moisture-wicking, and they won’t occupy much real estate in your suitcase either.
Cotton ragg camp socks, two for $20; llbean.com.
9. To Avoid That Rumpled Look
Who wants to waste precious time and energy struggling with an unfamiliar iron? A portable steamer is a no-fuss way to eliminate wrinkles—and it’s much more effective than hanging your clothes in the bathroom while you shower and hoping that does the trick. (...what, like you haven't tried it?) This compact number from URPOWER weighs less than two pounds and measures just over eight inches tall, produces steam in a matter of minutes, and comes with a heat-resistant glove and a pouch to stash it in.
URPOWER garment steamer, $25; amazon.com.
Why You (Still) Need a Travel Agent
Ask Aurelio Giordano why someone should use a travel agent these days, and his reply is reflexive: “Do you have a couple of minutes?” The Brooklyn-based travel agent founded his company, Ace World Travel, in 2012 and has seen his business grow exponentially in recent years. These days it’s easy to assume that a vacation is a DIY undertaking. At least that’s what the countless websites that allow us to book a flight, make a hotel reservation, buy insurance, and explore area restaurants and sites would have us think. Not so fast. While you might see fewer travel agency storefronts than you did 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean that the industry has gone the way of Blockbuster Video. That’s because travel agents provide a valuable service that can feel rare in our digital era: personal guidance. And that’s hardly all. According to the American Society of Travel Advisors, the top three reasons people go to an expert are to save planning time, avoid mistakes, and improve the overall vacation experience. ASTA studies show that on average people can save 3.5 hours in planning and more than $300 per trip by working with a pro. We spoke to some veteran travel agents to get a full understanding of how they can help us travel better. The Travel Agent Industry Is Growing (Iuliia Mazur/Dreamstime) Grand Canyon? Been there. Boston’s Freedom Trail? Done that. And your parents did it, too. And your grandparents. Travel today ain't what it used to be. “Travelers these days are looking for different, exclusive experiences. They don’t want the kind of cookie-cutter trips they’d get through Expedia,” says Aurelio. “My agency has grown tremendously because people are looking for more specified and personalized itineraries." For plenty of people, time off is a rarity. It could take three years to save the time and money for a vacation, and they don't want just any trip, he says. ASTA reports that the Census Bureau’s 2015 figures, the latest available, showed that U.S. travel agencies employ 105,085 people, an 8 percent increase over five years. It’s a growth that Paloma Villaverde de Rico, editor-in-chief of Recommend Magazine, a trade publication, attributes to the boom in younger travelers. “What I can tell you from writing about the travel agent industry for the last 15 years is that there is definitely a surge in interest among millennials and even Gen Z (the young 20-somethings) in this profession—and this in reference to an industry that everyone thought would go away due to the Internet,” she says. Hand-Crafted, Personalized Vacations “It all starts with a conversation,” says Aurelio (facebook.com/aceworldtravel/). “I think people miss the human connection. They wanna talk to someone, they’re tired of pressing ‘one,’ but we're conditioned to accept that as the norm. There’s a huge lack in customer service these days because everything’s so automated and accessible through the touch of screen.” That human connection is the travel agent’s stock-in-trade. The better Aurelio understands a client’s particular preferences and interests, the more exclusive and fine-tuned and authentic the itinerary will be. There’s also the fact that not every travel business sells their services or product online. Some tour operators, for instance, only work business-to-business, which means a travel agent can connect you to services that you wouldn’t find on the web. According to Margie Jordan, vice president of the TRUE network, a division of the trade organization CCRC, a travel agent's job is best explained as a concierge service. “What I love about travel agents is the personally built relationships. The places I’m recommending are the best, say, hotel I’ve slept in. I’ve been there, I know staff, I’ve talked to them.” The Immeasurable Value of Insider's Knowledge (Ifeelstock/Dreamstime) “You wouldn’t go on a DIY architecture website to build your home, would you?” says Paloma. And so it goes with travel agents. An agent spends her career learning the tricks of the trade and building an arsenal of insider knowledge, then advises accordingly. She’ll know, for instance, that the best deals for cruises are available during wave season, so that’s the best time to make your purchase. Or consider you’re in London and you want to see Paris. A website won’t necessarily suggest that you drop the idea of packing up your stuff and staying overnight. Aurelio will tell you to simply make it a day trip—it’s only a two-hour-ish train ride, after all. Of course, that insider’s expertise extends far beyond transportation logistics. Giordano’s recommendations are based off years of networking, going to conferences and expos, visiting hotels, going on cruises, and so forth. His vast knowledge of places and people make him a valuable resource when someone has a specific need, like dietary restrictions or a disability. Group trips can also be easier to plan when you sit down with someone who’s seen the layout of the hotels and restaurants you’re considering. And as the travel industry grows and becomes more specialized, an agent can tailor a trip to niche interests. “What good travel agents are doing is becoming experts in one specific type of segment," Paloma says. "For example, there are travel agents who specialize in family travel, and within that you can find travel advisors who sell to LGBT family clients, or family clients with special needs. There are other advisors who sell wellness vacations, while others dedicate themselves to booking cruises, and still others to destination weddings and honeymoons (there are many millennials, for example, that dedicate themselves to this for obvious reasons)."
How to Do Greece on a Budget
Dreaming of lazy afternoons on the Aegean, and mornings spent wandering ancient ruins and quaint cobblestone streets? You’re not alone: Greece is a hugely popular tourist destination, welcoming some 30 million visitors in 2018. But even though demand is high, a Hellenic vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are three tried-and-true tips for stretching those euros as far as they’ll go. 1. Spend Up Front to Save Later A good travel agent will worry about the details for you, freeing you up to explore. (Maya Stanton) We were sipping Aperol spritzes and watching the sunset at an oceanfront café on the island of Naxos when the call came in: The ferries, shut down for the past few days due to high winds and turbulent seas, were up and running again. At this point, we’d already had to rework our itinerary, flying into Naxos instead of taking the boat from Athens and skipping our day in Mykonos, and if we wanted to be on the ferry to Santorini the next morning, we’d need to book it to the nearest ticket office on the double—a chance we would’ve missed without that alert. In most cases, I prefer to DIY my travel, but for this trip, we worked with an agent for just such an occasion: Given the probability of ferry strikes and weather-related cancellations, not to mention a serious lack of communication from the various companies about said cancellations, hiring someone to look out for your interests is a solid investment. Before you plunk down that credit card, though, contact a few places to get quotes (we used Dolphin Hellas; dolphin-hellas.gr), and pay close attention to how quickly they reply, and how thoroughly they address your questions and concerns—you want someone who will move quickly and efficiently on your behalf, and a high level of care and a speedy response time in the planning stages forecasts the consideration you’ll receive on the ground. 2. Travel at the Right Time Sights like the Parthenon won't be deserted in shoulder season, but they'll be much less crowded than they are in the summer. (Anyaivanova/Dreamstime) Looking for a great summer getaway? This is not the place for peaceful days at the beach or leisurely strolls through postcard-perfect villages and towns. Greece is at peak capacity from June to August, meaning overflowing crowds, high hotel rates, and packed-to-the brim restaurants and attractions. To bring down your bill—and avoid the mobs—visit during shoulder season, when the streets may be bustling but elbow room is far easier to come by. In spring and fall, the weather’s just as idyllic, and though you’ll still file in with the hordes to see the Parthenon and navigate the narrow footpaths of Oia, on Santorini, it’s much worse in July. 3. Pick Your Priorities Go cheap on accommodations so you have more to spend on food and drink. (Maya Stanton) The bad news: You probably won’t be able to find a travel agent who’s willing to book your ferry tickets alone. The good: In addition to taking care of the nitty-gritties, like transfers and hotels, as well as last-minute schedule changes, like putting you on a flight when the ferries are canceled and extending hotel stays when necessary, an effective agent will help allocate your dollars to align with your personal priorities. Can’t get a good night’s sleep without downy pillows and luxe linens? They’ll book you in at five-star hotels (and charge you accordingly). Prefer to spend less on accommodations so there’s more in the budget for dining and activities? No judgement—or flea-trap motels—here. Of course, you can do this on your own as well, but since you’re paying for the service, let them reserve your rooms and buy your museum tickets while you do the important work of restaurant research and souvenir shopping.
10 Apps You Need For Your Next Trip
If you sometimes feel as if your smartphone is becoming your travel BFF, you’re not alone. Consider that nearly half of all travelers have used a mobile device to plan or book a trip, a 2016 global survey from Apteligent found. Mobile apps have also enabled travelers to find hotel deals, dine with locals, and even overcome jet lag. Ready to load up your smartphone for your next trip? These 10 apps will address many of your most pressing travel needs. (And we assume you’ve already heeded our suggestion to download our parent company Lonely Planet’s indispensable inspiration and planning apps Trips and Guides.) 1. NETFLIX: Binge your favorite TV show while you're in the air Missed the latest season of Stranger Things? Catch up on your flight using the Netflix app’s “download” feature, which lets subscribers watch select TV shows and movies on phones and tablets without an Internet connection. To see if the series or movie you want is available for download, you can search the title you want and look for the download icon (the arrow pointing downward to a horizontal line). Not looking for anything in particular? The Netflix app also features an “Available for Download” menu that displays all downloadable content in one place. One caveat: Netflix says that downloading and streaming consume similar amounts of data, so you may want to use a wireless connection, rather than a cellular one, while downloading. Available on iPhone and Android. 2. 7 MINUTE WORKOUT: Squeeze in a quick morning workout To stay in shape on your trip, use the 7 Minute Workout app from Johnson & Johnson. Designed by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the company’s Human Performance Institute, the app offers more than 20 pre-set workouts that vary in intensity and duration, and can be customized to fit your fitness level. Also, the app talks you through proper form, and recommends different workout programs as your endurance increases. Available on iPhone and Android. 3. EATWITH: Break bread with locals Want an authentic dining experience while you’re traveling? Eatwith can connect you with locals in more than 130 countries for truly immersive cuisine. From dinner parties to food tours to cooking classes, the app has a variety of culinary events that let you wine and dine with hosts at your destination. The app lets you search for food experiences by price range. It also enables you to filter based on dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, vegan, and Kosher meals. Available on iPhone and Android. 4. NEARIFY: Find live music, comedy, film screenings, and other entertainment on the go One way to discover cool events near you is by using Nearify. The app uses your location to show you happenings like concerts and festivals to cooking classes and sports games. Offered in New York City, London, Boston, Mumbai and hundreds of other cities around the world, Nearify will also send you a personalized list of events at the location of your choice based on your preferences and tastes. Available on iPhone and Android. 5. ROOMIER TRAVEL: Nab sweet hotel room deals from people who can't use theirs Plenty of apps let people book hotel reservations at discounts—HotelTonight, One:Night, and HotelQuickly are a few of them. But Roomer Travel lets travelers score special rates by buying non-refundable rooms from other consumers. The app lets you search for deals based on your destination and travel dates. In addition, the folks at Roomer will automatically double check to make sure your reservation is transferred to your name. Available on iPhone and Android. 6. LOUNGEBUDDY: Escape noisy, overcrowded airport terminals Good news: you don’t need to have an elite status or first-class ticket to access those coveted airport lounges. With LoungeBuddy, members can kill time in more than 280 airport lounges across the globe. Passes start at $25, but the app also lets you gain complimentary access based on credit cards or frequent flyer programs you belong to, so you can make the most of your loyalty rewards. You can even filter by lounge amenities such alcoholic drinks, showers, or kids’ play rooms. Available on iPhone. 7. ROME2RIO: Get around without wasting time or stressing out To maximize your vacation time, use Rome2rio. This app will get you from point A to point B fast and easy. Just enter the town, address or landmark you’re going to and Rome2rio will display flight, train, bus, ferry, and driving options with estimated travel times and fares. A nice bonus: the app will also show you cool things to do when you get to your destination. Available on iPhone and Android. 8. DUOLINGO: Talk like a local Learn how to speak like a native with duolingo. This app shows you how to enrich your vocabulary by offering bite-sized lessons in Spanish, French, German, and more than a dozen other languages. To stay engaged, you’ll play games where you earn points for correct answers. And, unlike a lot of other language apps, duolingo is free. Available on iPhone and Android. 9. SOLOTRAVELLER: Find like-minded individuals Hitting the road alone? Find travel buddies using SoloTraveller. The app lets you make new friends during your trip by connecting you with other solo travelers in your city in real time. It also helps you save money by pairing you people to share taxis, tours, or other travel expenses. You can find a travel mate nearby by searching for people based on age, gender, and interests. Available on iPhone and Android. 10. JET LAG ROOSTER: Beat jet lag Adjusting to a new time zone can zap your energy at the beginning of your trip. One solution is Jet Lag Rooster. The app provides a personalized, hour-by-hour plan to help you overcome jet lag. After you enter your flight details and sleep pattern information, the app will create a customized guide suggesting the best times for bright light exposure (e.g., sunlight) and melatonin to help your body clock adjust. Available on Android.
Watch Budget Travel on Facebook Live: 'U.S. Road Trips'
Budget Travel's editor in chief, Robert Firpo-Cappiello, will be live on Facebook on Wednesday, March 27, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern presenting “U.S. Road Trips.” (Can't watch it live? No worries - all of our livestream segments are archived on the Budget Travel Facebook page for bingeing whenever the mood hits you.) JOIN US ON FACEBOOK To join our fun, informative discussion, go to Budget Travel’s Facebook page and “like” us. Then, sit back and learn about affordable and scenic drives, from the Pacific coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond. SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS! One of the most informative and entertaining portions of our Facebook Live segments is when readers share their travel questions for our editors to answer live on camera. There are three ways to share your questions with the Budget Travel newsroom: Email us at info@BudgetTravel.com.Post your questions on Facebook during our livestream on Wednesday.Post a comment below.See you LIVE on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, March 27.