After taking a long unplanned hiatus from travel, we're all a little bit rusty. And even now that travel is back on the table, some of us only take one or two trips a year, leaving plenty of time for us to forget all the insight we picked up on our last trip. As amazing as travel is, packing up everything you need into a suitcase and jetting off to an unfamiliar destination is stressful. Here, the Escapism team rounds up our best travel tips — and we travel A LOT — to help ease the uneasiness of travel.
You don't have to be planning a packed itinerary or a multi-destination tour to use these travel tips — even relaxing on one of the world's best beaches on a beautiful Caribbean island can be made all the better. Of course, if you are trying to fit in a whack-load of Canadian natural wonders or eat your way through the best food cities in the U.S., these travel tips will take some of hassle out of travel. Basically, no matter where you're headed, knowing the pack hacks and pro travel tips will come in handy.
It also helps to look out for yourself and use your common sense. Travel isn’t a vacation from who we are, it’s taking ourselves on a holiday. If you wouldn't behave that way in your hometown or city, then you probably shouldn't be doing it on holiday. Wear layers (airport and airplane temperatures always fluctuate), pack your reusable water bottle, bring your patience and an open mind — and follow our top travel tips. Happy travelling.
Katie Bridges's travel tips
1. Leave more than you take
Travel isn’t the most sustainable thing to do but we can still be responsible citizens of the world. Don’t expect that travel owes you something — destinations existed before you arrived and they’ll be there when you leave. Try to gain something from your travels, beyond just checking something off of an arbitrary list.
You don’t have to go to the Amalfi Coast just because literally everyone on your Instagram did last summer. Over-tourism is a real problem and will leave you feeling frustrated and more tired when you return. Volunteer at a dog shelter, take a trip off the beaten path or learn about Indigenous culture. Listen to your cabbie’s pearls of wisdom (in my experience, they are some of the sagest city guides I meet on vacation), be mindful of people's customs and traditions, and for the love of god, lose the selfie sticks!
2. Unless you really, really, really have to, don’t bring checked baggage
Most airlines make you pay to check a bag nowadays, and when you’re paying for each leg of the journey, it can really add up. Not only will bringing a carry-on save you money, but you won’t run the risk of losing your suitcase. Spending precious vacation time scouring graveyards of lost luggage, or on the phone with AirCanada’s help desk? No, thank you.
Prostock-studio via Shutterstock
The prospect of fitting your entire vacation attire in a cabin bag might seem scary, but you’ll be surprised how little you actually need. If you’re an anxious packer, preplanning outfits and shoe combinations, and choosing versatile accessories can streamline the process and give you structure — versus throwing your entire closet into a bag. Once you arrive, you can rent items or shop local to pick up anything you forgot (plus some fun souvenirs), making packing overload a thing of the past while supporting the local economy — win, win! Bonus: your laundry basket will thank you when you return.
3. Download the airline app
It’s simple, it’s free and it could rid your airport experience of unnecessary hassle — yet, so few of us remember to download the app of the airline we’re flying with. Delays, gate changes and boarding times will appear on your phone as a push notification, helping you make tricky connections and stay up to date with the latest info.
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There are options to upgrade, change your seat, and even follow your baggage’s progress. Most airlines track your bags in-app now as well, so you know your suitcase has made its way onto the plane, plus some airlines will even give you a nudge when it’s about to hit the carousel — meaning you can take a post-flight bathroom break in peace.
It’s also handy for airlines without TVs in the back of their seats, as you’ll still be able to access shows and movies from your phone once you take off.
4. Book with TICO registered agencies and sites
Accidents happen, but failure to prepare is preparation to fail. TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario) is Ontario’s travel regulator, and provides consumer protection at no additional cost. They monitor and inspect travel agencies and websites to ensure that they’re living up to Ontario’s travel laws and regulations. If anything goes wrong while you’re travelling, you’ll have access to assistance and guidance if you book with a TICO registered agency or website.
5. Read the small print
Airport delays and cancellations seem to be part and parcel of travelling these days, but there is some recourse for those who’ve had their travel plans altered. Under new airline requirements, if a passenger’s flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours or more for reasons outside of an airline’s control, the airline must offer the passenger a reservation on a flight operated by the airline or one of their partner’s within 48 hours of the departure time on the passenger’s original ticket.
Taylor Newlands's travel tips
6. Use packing cubes to stay organized
Packing cubes may be the most underrated travel hack. It’s easy to get disorganized and lose items, especially if you plan on staying at more than one accommodation during your trip. Packing cubes help you keep everything together, and will save you time when getting ready.
Instead of digging through your suitcase to find that outfit, use your cubes to organize your clothes by occasion (like evening wear, beachwear, day wear, etc.) so you know exactly where to look for. Plus, you can easily see all the outfit options you have to choose from and pick the best (read: most fashionable) one for the occasion.
7. Pack essentials in your carry-on
If you need to check a bag on your flight, pack at least two days’ worth of essentials in your carry-on. Sometimes bags get lost, but oftentimes they’ll be found and arrive at your destination a few days into your trip.
Pixel-Shot via Shutterstock
Any jewelry, valuables or medication should always go in your carry-on. Add onto that two changes of clothes and any essentials for your trip, like a swimsuit, sandals and a phone charger. If your baggage arrives late, at least you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself — and sometimes the airline will even give you some cash for your troubles if you ask for it.
Taylor Newlands, digital editor
When I'm going on an overnight flight, I pack my toothbrush and toiletries in an easily accessible place like an outer pocket on my carry-on so that I can freshen up before "bed." Doing my night routine before trying to catch some z's helps prepare my body for sleep, and it just feels better — no one wants to keep the taste of airplane food in their mouth for an entire eight-hour flight. I also like to freshen up in the morning on arrival.
Going on a tropical vacation in the middle of winter is great — except for when you arrive to blazing hot temperatures in long pants and a sweater. When I'm travelling to a different climate, I pack a change of clothes in my carry-on so I can switch into shorts and t-shirt as soon as the plane lands.
8. Have an airport security strategy
There’s nothing worse than standing around barefoot in the airport with your laptop in your hand, waiting for your shoes and bag to come out of the baggage scanner. Then there’s the fumbling with it all while you try to put yourself back together.
Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock
If you send your shoes through first, you can put them on while you wait for your other items. Next put your bag through the scanner, followed by your loose electronics. This way, you can be ready and waiting with your bag, then just slide your items in and go.
Meredith Hardie's travel tips
9. Use the Mobile Passport Control app
I've never heard someone say, "You know, I really love waiting in this line." Personally, I loathe lines and will try my hardest to avoid them, especially when I'm travelling. NEXUS is great for speeding up border crossings between Canada and the United States, but the process to get a card has been backed up since Covid (applying is still very much worth it though).
Pressmaster via Shutterstock
No Nexus? No problem. If you're a U.S. citizen or Canadian visitor travelling to the U.S., download the free Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app for faster U.S. Customs clearance.
Open the app to create a secure profile with your passport and personal information. From there, select your arrival airport, take a selfie, and answer some Customs and Border Protection questions. You'll then receive an electronic receipt, which you will show along with your passport to a border officer to finish up the inspection for entry to the States. Yes, you'll still need to go through customs, but look out for or ask to be directed to the faster processing lane for MPC users.
Meredith Hardie, staff writer
MPC is currently available at 44 sites, including 32 U.S. International Airports and eight Canadian pre-clearance locations like Pearson International, Vancouver International and Montreal Trudeau International.
For more information, go to cbp.gov
10. Book a reservation with YYZ Express Lane
Streamline your security wait times with YYZ Express Lane, a free online reservation system for domestic and international departures at Pearson’s Terminal One and Terminal Three (not currently available for flights departing to the U.S.) You can make a reservation by adding your flight details, the number of people in your group and contact information up to 72 hours before your flight or even while you're at the airport. When you're ready for security, go to the assigned checkpoint with your snazzy QR code and speed through screening. Appointment times are limited so make sure to reserve your spot early.
To book your spot, go to torontopearson.com
Hunter Gutman's travel tips
11. Fly out of Billy Bishop
We dream of a day when travelling through Pearson is always a breeze, but today is not that day. If you want to avoid crowds, ghost Terminals (we’re looking at you, Terminal 2) and long security lines, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is your best bet.
This small but mighty airport on Toronto Island offers service to 20 Canadian cities, from Sault Ste Marie to Moncton, as well as transport to major American destinations like Chicago and Boston.
Hunter Gutman, editorial and social media assistant
There are ferries and shuttles available, but we’d recommend taking the underground pedestrian tunnel — it’s only a six minute walk from the mainland to the airport. We do love Porter Airlines (once the sole airline flying out of Billy Bishop), but as they say, variety is the spice of life. With Air Canada now an option at the airport and Connect Airlines on the way, you’ll have more departure times and destinations to choose from than ever before.
12. Research hidden gems in any area you visit
Even if you’re a spontaneous, carpe diem type of traveller, a light amount of research can be the difference between an incredible experience or a trip riddled with tourist traps.
Sure, you may want to visit some of the world's most famous attractions, but every country is teeming with hidden gems that are often only frequented by locals. Explore the underrated and under-the-radar spots that won’t be mobbed with tourists, and will give you an authentic experience.
Editorial and Social Media assistant