1. Start by giving yourself permission to take vacation. Simple as it sounds, taking a much-deserved break can be a surprisingly hard thing to do once you get caught in a busy schedule. Americans are taking off work less than ever, forfeiting hundreds of millions of paid time-off days each year. Planning your days off earlier in the year can make the decision easier.
2. Enjoy the positive effects right away. Studies show that simply anticipating a vacation can bring as much happiness or more than the trip itself, and that this boost in mood can last for up to 8 weeks.
3. Get the best deals on flights. Some studies show that the best and cheapest time to buy airline tickets is at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.
4. Be savvy with your research. Enable private browsing when you’re booking flights and hotels online. Some travel sites track your visits and will raise the price because you’ve visited before.
5. Stay in places you’ll love. Never forget to read the reviews when you’re booking a hotel or hostel. They will either confirm that you’re making a great choice, or will save you a lot of headaches by telling you to avoid certain places at all costs.
6. Travel light. Keep in mind that the U.S. standard carry-on size is a lot larger than the standard size for most other carriers. Do your research beforehand to figure out if your carry-on will be allowed on the plane.
7. Keep your fragile things safe. Perfume and cosmetics can be kept in the center of your suitcase, padded by clothes. This will keep them from being damaged while you’re moving from place to place.
8. Make the most of your suitcase. Travel vacuum bags like this one save you a surprising amount of room and are carried at plenty of stores, such as Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store.
9. Create more packing room easily. If you aren’t into the vacuum bag idea, you can always roll up your clothes instead of folding them. It’s another great way to save space.
10. …Or, to make things even simpler, you can just travel the world with no luggage. This guy did a ‘No Baggage Challenge’ for 6 weeks, covering 5 continents.
11. Keep your clothes smelling fresh. Grab some dryer sheets before you leave home and toss one in your suitcase with your clothes at all times, switching them out as needed.
12. Make sure your stuff stays clean. Having a couple of plastic grocery bags in your suitcase takes up little room, and you can always pull them out for leaky shampoo bottles, wet bathing suits, dirty shoes, etc.
13. Stay on top of your funds. Remember to call your bank ahead of time to let them know your travel plans. That way you won’t try to withdrawal money and then realize your card has been canceled when you’re halfway around the world.
14. Relax on your flights. Set a timer as soon as the captain tells you how long your flight will be. That way, when you’re getting restless, you can view your timer and see exactly how much time is left on your flight.
15. Sleep easy on a long flight or train ride. Warm socks and a neck pillow are not to be underestimated.
16. Breeze through baggage claim. Buy a unique-looking suitcase. It will be easier to find on luggage carousels and to keep track of at all times.
17. Rent a bike. This gives you access to certain locations that you can’t get to by train or bus. You can also save a surprising amount of money!
18. Make new friends. Couchsurfing.com or Meetup.com are fast and easy ways to meet people with similar interests.
19. Be a master navigator. When you have Wi-Fi, look up your destination on Google Maps and type “OK Maps” in the search box. This saves the visible area so you can access it later when you are offline.
20. Make your life easier. Create a color copy of your passport and store it in a safe spot. It can save you a whole lot of trouble if you ever lose it.
21. Blend in wherever you are. Avoid wearing gym-shoes or any clothing with a giant logo on it. And, fanny packs are a negative, Ghost Rider. They scream American.
22. Talk to locals. Many people can speak a little English, but it’s polite to attempt to speak a bit of their native tongue if you’re going to ask for help. And, when you attempt to use their language they’re more inclined to help. Downloading translator apps can make this easier.
23. Stay hydrated. Pack a reusable water bottle. You can dump it out before you go through airport security, and refill it once you get through. It will also save you from having to buy ridiculously overpriced water bottles while you’re out exploring a city.
24. Be prepared wherever you go. Buy a portable charger so that you’re never stuck without power in a foreign country. Some are as cheap as $15 and will save you a lot of anxiety.
25. Stay safe. Hold your wallet and other important or expensive belongings in front of you at all times to prevent pickpocketing, especially when on public transportation. If you’re using a backpack, hold it in front of you while on a train or bus. If you’re using a purse, keep your hand over it during the journey so that no one can sneak a hand into your bag without you realizing.
26. Cover all your bases. Keep a small amount of cash in a hidden compartment in your suitcase. If your purse or wallet does get stolen you will have a small amount of money where you are staying to keep you going until you get a replacement card.
27. Communicate easily. Take photos of important signs before you leave an area. That way, if you get lost and don’t speak the language, you can ask locals for directions by showing them photos of a sign.
28. Be generous. If you hire a tour guide, tip them well and thank them for their help. They’ll be much more likely to want to show you a good time and go above and beyond, instead of just giving you the standard tour that they’re required to give.
29. Get creative with your surroundings. Forget the wall plug for your phone charger? No problem! You can always use the USB port on the side of a hotel TV to get some juice back into your phone.
30. Remember that exploring new territories is always better when you can listen to music. Create a makeshift speaker by placing your phone inside a cup. The power of the amplified sound will probably surprise you and your friends!
31. Be smart when you dine out. Sitting on the patio of a corner restaurant means you’re at a greater risk of having a wallet, purse, or phone swiped off the table if you look away for even a second.
32. Send postcards. It’s an easy way to feel more connected to friends and family, and to get them more excited to hear about your trip once you get home.
33. Stay healthy. Carry hand sanitizer and some packs of Emergen-C. If you feel a cold coming on, using these products is a great way to avoid having to spend your precious travel days in bed.
34. Soak in everything you can at all times. Appreciate the fact that you’re on an exciting journey, doing things you would have never done at home or in your office. Enjoy every moment of your trip, and keep these tips with you to help everything go as smoothly as possible. Cheers!