I was able to do so much amazing traveling this year + learned a lot along the way! However, I wanted to share my top 5 tips to hopefully make your 2020 travels even easier!
1: Brand Loyalty Has Benefits
I grew up staying at Marriott brand hotels for the majority of my family’s travels, so when it was time for me to travel solo for work, I immediately created an account with Marriott Bonvoy. Just like other hotel brands (Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, …), the more you stay at Marriott brands, the more points you earn. Eventually, these points can be used + traded for stays at their hotels. Also, as you climb the ranks of membership status (based on nights stayed and points earned), Marriott provides different benefits – access to member rates, free room upgrades upon check-in, early/late check-in or check-out, welcome gifts (varies by brand), lounge access, and MORE!
The same goes for flying – most major airlines offer rewards programs with similar features. I have grown up typically flying Southwest + they continue to be my first choice. However, when I went to Atlanta, I flew Delta + had a really good experience! Delta also has an amazing app!
Both Southwest + Delta have rewards programs. Similar to Marriott, the more you travel with these brands, the more points you earn that you can redeem for flights. I now have rewards accounts with both airlines. From my experience, I think it’s a little harder to travel consistently with one airline considering price, times, + direct flights vs. flights with layovers.
When I travel, I always check Marriott availability first to continue accumulating points. Whenever I have to fly, I compare the flight prices + times between Southwest + Delta.
Ultimately, find one or two hotel + airline brands that are the best for you + travel with them as often as possible! There are long-term benefits for brand loyalty!
2: Use Instagram + Google Maps to Your Advantage
On Instagram, I started “saving” posts to organized collections by city. This is great to see where everything is + also to get ideas for taking pictures when I get there. Also, these pictures tend to be more candid than the venue’s website or Instagram so you can get a better feel of the venue!
On Google Maps, you can “save” locations as well. You can also see pictures uploaded by other Google Mappers. The added bonus is being able to run the directions!
I know so many people prefer Google Maps, but I prefer to use Instagram because I can organize folders by city. I definitely recommend testing out these features on both apps to see which you prefer!
3: Concierge Knows Best
Another great way to get top-notch recommendations is to ask your hotel’s concierge. They tend to know all of the hot spots in the city you’re visiting because, well, they live there! Concierge can also provide tips + tricks for transportation, making reservations (potentially even make the reservations for you), + other activities that are a ‘must’ while you’re in town. I always call a day or two in advanced to confirm my reservation + update my check-in time, if needed. This is a great time to briefly ask for the concierge’s top recommendation – or, you can always stop by to ask when you get to your destination!
Pro Tip: Try to pick their brain on recommendations when the lobby is not super busy! If you ask when it’s quieter in the lobby, concierge is able to have a much more in depth conversation with you + provide recommendations that are more specific to your interests, food preferences, + itinerary!
To thank your concierge, tips are always welcomed. Alternatively, most hotels send a survey after your stay so take note of their name(s) so you can give them a shout out in said survey! Also, if you frequent a city, you can work with them directly when making reservations in the future!
4: Streamline the Packing Process
With traveling so much this year, I found that I tend to bring a lot of the same pieces every time. This has made packing so much easier to reach for my travel staples. Creating a travel wardrobe that you can mix+match makes it so stress-free.
Some of the pieces that get packed every time are…
- Medium-wash skinny jeans from J. Crew (these go great with any top!),
- A jean jacket (an effortless layer to throw on),
- My black Le Pliage Neo Longchamp tote bag (which works great as a carry-on bag for flights),
- Gold New Balances (comfy + stylish for any adventure),
- A pair of Athleta Elation tights (for in transit or squeezing in a quick work out!),
- My Tory Burch Millers and/or Monroes (super comfortable sandals for any occasion),
- For colder weather, Marc Fisher booties (extremely comfortable but still stylish),
- For warmer weather, a black romper (super easy to throw on + dress up),
- For any weather, an off-the-shoulder top (I always bring a black + white striped top + a solid white top, both from H&M a few years back),
- My Kendra Scott jewelry (Elle earrings in black onyx & white pearl + Chelsea necklace in white pearl) (beautiful, easy to pack + can dress up any outfit!),
- A pair or two of Balega socks (this specific style is great for sneakers, booties, + boots), +
- A black quarter-zip (a light layer is always great to have on hand)
All of these pieces (+ more) fit easily into a carry-on suitcase – especially if you wear the sneakers + use a tote bag as your personal item to carry-on.
Once I have my staples, I throw in a few trend pieces + my cosmetic bag + off I go!
Additionally, I keep a second cosmetic bag stocked with the essential minis. I use a Scout cosmetic bag because if something leaks, it’s super easy to clean! From Target, I picked up minis of… shamp + conditioner, comb, band-aid pack, wet wipes pack, nail clipper, deodorant, tooth paste + a regular toothbrush (instead of my electronic toothbrush). These are all separate from the items I use at home regularly. This way, I know the essentials are already packed + ready to go – I just need to add my daily cosmetics!
5: Take Notes
Whether you take pictures, write notes in your phone or a notebook, take videos, or some other medium, take notes of everything you did, saw, + ate!
I am basically a paparazzo when I travel because I take so many pictures. I know people say to put the phone down + live in the moment BUT I love to be able to go back later + reflect on my trip. To me, having the pictures + videos can also help when providing recommendations or recounting stories of my adventures later.
Taking notes from each trip also helps me to plan my next trip better. I can look back on my favorite places from one city + see if I can find something similar in the next.
I try so many new foods + beverages when I travel that having notes of what I chowed down on also helps me with cooking when I get home. I can (try to) recreate meals I loved or add new ingredients to my meal-prepping.
I hope these tips helped to give you ideas for traveling in 2020! I’d love to hear your packing advice – share in the comments below!