Travel Hacking Tips with Dr. Traci Giuliano
We all know those adventurous people who constantly travel to faraway paradises, coming home with amazing stories of sunsets and cultures and experiences. Ever wanted to be one of those people? I was able to get some tips from Dr. Traci Giuliano, a professor at Southwestern University who is always finding amazing flight deals and posting beautiful pictures of her adventures all over Facebook. The only time she isn’t planning a trip is when she’s on one. I have always loved when she’s shared travel hacks with me in the past, and now she has agreed to share some with Sojourner Tours Customers too!
Kayleigh: How do you find flights?
Traci: I always start with ITA Matrix; it's an amazing site that has cost comparisons by date. Then I go to the airlines directly to purchase. If I'm flying within Europe, I use "Skyscanner".
Kayleigh: When is the best time to buy plane tickets?
Traci: As soon as humanly possible. Prices are often lowest as soon as seats open (you can Google to find out when any given airline will release their seats); most airlines will refund the difference if the price drops, so I buy tickets way in advance and then check the price from time to time (especially when sales are announced). That way, I end up getting the lowest possible price.
Kayleigh: Any other general flying hacks?
Traci: I'm a nerd (and nervous flyer), so I use "Flightaware" to see my flight path, anticipated altitude and flight time, and track the inbound plane so that I find out about delays before anyone else. I also check "Turbulence Forecast" before I fly because it makes me feel better to know what's coming (even if I can't "control" turbulence, being able to predict it is helpful). I use "seatguru" (which has reviews and comments about seats on every plane configuration) to choose my seats as soon as I purchase my flights.
Kayleigh: What are some of the biggest hassles of traveling? How do you avoid these hassles? Can you?
- Personally, I hate packing; over time, we have gotten the process to be as efficient as possible (by having detailed "packing lists" on our computer that we print out, and by having doubles of most things--especially toiletries-- so that we are "already packed" as much as possible).
- I also hate the hassle at the airport, so we minimize that by having "Global Entry" (which includes TSA pre-check) so that we wait in shorter lines, don't have to remove our shoes, and don't have to remove our liquids or computers.
- I'm also a nervous flyer, so I find that using frequent flier miles to get business class seats makes international flights so much more enjoyable. They also come with airport lounge access, which is a really relaxing and less stressful place to wait before and between flights (and some lounges have showers, which are really refreshing after an overseas flight).
Kayleigh: What are some packing hacks/ must-have items?
- Packing cubes are an absolute must! Our family of 3 (all women) can easily spend 2 weeks in Europe with just a carry-on sized bag each. Ikea has them for much cheaper than other places.
- When we travel, we bring clothing (shirts, skirts, shorts, pants) that can go with everything, (mostly solid colors) so we can mix and match. We're also lucky that we wear the same size shoes, so we can bring 2 pairs of shoes each but really have 6 different options.
- Because we travel so much, we also have a completely separate set of travel toiletries (shampoo/conditioner, brush, mini-hair dryer, mini-flat iron, makeup, etc.) already packed and ready to go.
- When traveling internationally, I always rent a pocket Wi-Fi unit ("MiFi") so that we can have Wi-Fi anywhere (on all our devices) for a reasonable cost.
- Each family member has a multiple charger unit (for plugging in phones, Fitbit, Kindle, iPad, etc.) for their nightstand; when traveling internationally, we have a power strip that we plug into our adaptor, so that we have several US-ready plugs.
- I never go anywhere without my Travelrest 4-in-1 blanket - it's warm and soft, can be used as a pillow, goes around your neck so that it doesn't fall down, and has a pocket to keep your glasses, iPhone, eye drops, etc. It’s useful for national and international flights, and I also use it at the hotel on top of the bed covers because the air conditioning is so cold.
- Sunscreen packets (pre-moistened towelettes) are amazing (they don't count against your liquids, and they are not at all sticky or messy), but they are really hard to find.
Kayleigh: What was your best travel experience?
Traci: The two weeks we spent in Italy a few summers ago were amazing. It's the first time I used a local travel agent to plan the trip in advance (you can use "Zicasso" to find great local travel agents in most countries), and the itinerary, service, and experiences they provided were amazing because they knew the best local places and negotiated great rates. I highly recommend having private drivers--it's so much less stressful, especially after an overseas flight--to not have to figure out how to get to your hotel. Plus, I learn so much about the culture from drivers--I'm still Facebook friends with some of our drivers.
Kayleigh: What about your worst travel experience?
Traci: I can't remember a bad one. Even when things don't go as planned, you always at least have a funny story. I wouldn't trade any of my travel experiences for anything!
Kayleigh: What's the hardest thing about coming home?
Traci: Not being on vacation anymore, and shifting from 0 mph to 100! I never ever take work on vacation, so I completely unwind. But I'm super busy when at work, so coming home is like getting slammed. I also find that we "connect" so well as a family when we're on vacation, so I'm always slightly sad when we're all back to work and school and get wrapped up in our own lives.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and that you can put some of these tips to good use in the near future!