Whether it’s for work or pleasure, traveling is always a little bit of a gamble, rife with a sense of possibility and wonder, yet subtly lined with preparations for the worst (airlines don’t spend money on putting a barf bag behind every seat simply because they have a macabre sense of humor, for instance). But a savvy traveler knows how to minimize risk and maximize the magic of being able to fly through the air at 500 miles per hour (ideally while drinking a bloody mary and watching old episodes of MasterChef Junior) to arrive hours later in a new and distant city. Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite tips for making your travel experience more efficient and less stressful, so you can spend more time living like those unflappable jet setting women that have mastered the art of the travel blanket/scarf/sarong/emergency parachute and somehow trained themselves to keep their mouths closed while sleeping in an upright position.
1. Skip the lines with TSA Precheck. The security line at the airport is a little like what I imagine purgatory to be: there’s the distinct smell of feet permeating the air, toddlers are throwing tantrums all around you, and you can’t really have anything to drink until you pass a carefully guarded threshold into the promised land of $5 bottled water. Mercifully, recent years have brought us TSA Precheck—a security clearance of sorts that allows you to bypass the standard line, keep your shoes, jacket and belt on, and keep your laptop stowed away. Apply online, pay the $85, attend your in-person interview, and once you’re approved, you’re good for five years. Global Entry, which enables you to breeze through customs on international flights and comes with all the domestic perks of TSA Precheck, is $100.
2. Shop for plane tickets and hotel rooms on the DL. Who would’ve guessed that something as innocuous as trying to book a plane ticket would one day require you to channel your inner Anonymous in order to avoid jacked-up pricing? But here’s the sad (and creepy) thing: It’s been observed that travel websites monitor your search activity and adjust prices according to how likely it is that you’ll be going on a particular trip. And a few years back, Orbitz admitted to offering different hotel options to users based on the type of computer they’re using—Mac users were seeing pricier rooms because they tend to spend more on hotels, for instance.
While these methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to combat for everyday users, there are a few basic precautions you can take. Make sure you clear your cookies in between searches so the travel website doesn’t detect the fact that you’re shopping for a trip you’ve previously searched for (searching in “incognito mode” on Chrome or “private browsing” on Safari will have the same affect). Similarly, there’s speculation that some sites are even tracking your IP address, so it may be advisable to browse from a coffee shop or a friend’s house, or search on your smartphone using your data plan (not your home wifi, which will utilize the same IP address as your computer).
Almost@home Lounge in the Helsinki airport
3. Survive your layover in a fancy(ish) lounge on the cheap(ish). Unless you fly a ton, it’s probably not worth it to drop $400-$500 per year on an airline-lounge membership, and even then, that price tag can be pretty prohibitive for budding entrepreneurs and creatives. But how many times have you stood on a moving walkway staring longingly at whatever serene, mysterious paradise lies beyond the doors of the Delta Sky Club or the Virgin America Loft? If you’ve got a doozy of a layover ahead and spending six hours in the Burger King food court doesn’t sound ideal, many lounges offer day passes for $30-$50. Keep in mind that you’ll generally have access to complimentary food and booze, and if you were planning on having a meal and a drink or two, you’ll probably make up that cost (and if you have more than two drinks, well, you’re practically making money).
4. Lastly, genius is in the details. It’s 2016 and we can basically hold the world’s knowledge in palms of our hands via our cell phones, and yet some of the most effective methods of taking jewelry on a trip with you is to secure your earrings in the holes of a button and to run your necklaces through drinking straws to keep them from getting tangled. If you’re the ambitious type that plans on shaving your legs while you travel, stick a binder clip on the end of your razor so it doesn’t nick you while you’re rooting around in your toiletry bag.
This article was originally published on July 5, 2016 and has since been updated.