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Travel Tips

9 Smart Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful

This year, we vowed to be better travelers by upgrading our battered old suitcases and opting out of unnecessary airport security lines. Little did we know, changing just a few of our travel habits would result in a new, near stress-free routine. Here, 9 smart ways to eliminate travel-related stressors.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Sign up for Global Entry

Guys…we’re serious about this one. Global Entry is a steal at just $100 for a five-year membership. It comes with the same perks as TSA Precheck—expedited security screening for all flights leaving the U.S.—as well as expedited US customs screenings when you arrive back in the U.S. after international travel. If you can spend $5.50 on a daily Starbucks latte, you can spend $20 a year on avoiding airport security lines and customs paperwork (yes—it’s paperless!).

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Pack a Smart Carry-On

In the name of stress relief, there are a few essential products we refuse to travel without. Dig through our carry-ons and you’ll find noise-cancelling headphones, travel pillows, and portable chargers—at minimum. These little creature comforts help us establish a baseline of calm.

Ask for a Free Upgrade

Turns out, the quickest way to get a free upgrade is to just ask. How and when, of course, is an art form that often takes practice. Our best tried-and-true tips? For airline upgrades, dress the part, travel light, and get your timing right. Gate agents are much more likely to to upgrade those who slip in before the crowds in order to ensure everyone is boarded and off the runway in time. For hotel room upgrades, avoid asking during rush hours and sign up for (or at least flirt with the idea of) hotel rewards programs.

RELATED: Jetsetter’s Guide to Getting a Free Airline Upgrade

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Download Apps That’ll Help You Every Leg of Your Trip

Thanks to 21st-century technology, travel has never been easier. Maps, guidebooks, travel agents, and more are right at our fingertips, after all. Helpful apps are a dime a dozen these days, but we love Shoeboxed for storing digital copies of our receipts; Entrain for conquering jet lag by resetting our circadian rhythms; XE Currency for calculating currency exchange rates on the fly; and Flushd for finding clean bathrooms in a pinch.

Invest in Tech-Friendly Luggage

Is it essential that your luggage be GPS-trackable and able to juice up an iPhone while you wait at your gate? No. But are these investment-worthy bells and whistles? We’d wager yes. Kick your tired suitcase to the curb in favor of an Away or Raden—two revolutionary brands that have disrupted the luggage scene with tech-friendly but seriously stylish 360 spinners. Between the two, you’ll find built-in USB chargers, impenetrable polycarbonate shells, interior compression systems, integrated weight sensors, and Bluetooth GPS tracking.

RELATED: The Best Carry-On Luggage

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Splurge on First Class if You’re Flying Long-Haul

While we wouldn’t advocate dropping a pretty penny on a first class seat from NYC to Chicago, we do encourage upgrades on international flights. More than just a little extra legroom, flying business means you’re the first on and off the plane, your bags are the first to hit the baggage claim carousel, you’ll enjoy a real meal (and some bubbly), and you’ll have plenty of room to recline and get in some good shut eye. If you’re part of a frequent flyer program that values points rather than miles, the upgraded ticket will also help you quickly rake in perks and higher status.

Avoid Checking Bags

There’s no greater headache than landing at your destination, waiting at baggage claim for what feels like an eternity, and never seeing your luggage round the carousel. Avoid lost baggage and delayed baggage by opting for a carry-on only. While this may seem like a tall task for everything-but-the-kitchen-sink packers, we swear it can be done.

RELATED: 8 Days, 7 Nights, 1 Carry-On

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Check in for Your Flight Online

Nowadays, almost every major airline allows online check-in up to 24 hours before your flight. Plug in your name and confirmation number and you’ll be able to change your seat, pay checked baggage fees (if there are any), and opt for upgrades. From there, you’ll receive an email with a printable or scannable boarding pass. Five minutes online could save you hours in lines at the airport. Still need to check a bag regardless? Consider going for curbside service to bypass the line indoors.

Get a No-Fee ATM Card

If you’re a frequent traveler and you rely on your debit or credit card abroad, foreign banking fees can add up quickly. Avoid additional ATM penalties by signing up for a card that will reimburse you for such charges at the end of every month. Ask your bank if they have a card that fits the bill, otherwise, Charles Schwab, Capital One 360, and Fidelity are good places to start.

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