I've traveled off and on for my job in the last 6 years. At different points of time I stayed in Omaha for 7 weeks, Chicago for a month, and Sioux City, IA for 3 weeks. Right now I travel about once a month. Over the years I have found many helpful strategies and tricks to ease travel woes.
1. Always sign up for the frequent customer cards.
Hotels, airlines, and rental car companies often offer these types of cards. I do not always travel with the same brands because I have to pick the best option for price and location. I still manage to earn quite a few points. So even if you do not travel very often it's still worth it. Plus, many of these programs have points that never expire as long as you use your card every so often.
The hotels seem to have the best programs. I tend to favor Priority Club and Hilton Honors. The frequent flyer programs seem to the longest to earn anything. With the price of flights, I'll take a free flight even if it does take 5 years to earn it! There can also be tiny perks for joining these programs, such as free bottled water at a hotel or a free upgrade on your rental car.
2. Carry-on is not always the best option.
If I'm only going to be gone for a day or two I will try to carry-on. If it's much longer than that I usually check a bag. For me, it's not worth lugging a carry-on bag through the airport. Plus, I hate fighting for a spot in the overhead compartment. Not to mention you cannot bring liquids over 3 ounces through security. Also, if you're on a smaller plane they usually have you "gate check" your bag anyways so you do not save any time.
Paying an extra $50 round trip for a checked bag is not very fun either. If I'm traveling with others, especially my husband, I try to combine our stuff into one suitcase. I've heard some airlines are getting rid of the fees for the first bag anyways.
3. Spend the money on high quality luggage.
Whatever method you travel your luggage is going to go through a lot. High quality luggage can be expensive, but it's totally worth it. Macy's often has sales on nicer luggage and I'm a big fan of my Ogio carry-on. I often check my Ogio bag and you can hardly tell it's been used at all. Plus, they have unique patterns, making it very easy to recognize your own bag.
4. You can eat healthy on the road.
There are many way to eat healthy on the road. You can bring snacks from home such as granola bars, fruit, and cereal. If you are flying cannot take liquids, but if you are driving a cooler is also a great way to bring healthy food. Even if you are flying, you can also bring an empty water bottle with a filter such as a Bobble or Brita.
I also like to find a local grocery store once a get to my destination. This is a great way to get beverages, fruit, vegetables, and other food. It's hard to avoid restaurants completely when traveling, however doing a little grocery shopping can be both healthy and save some money.
5. Use traveler websites.
I always check out Trip Advisor and Yelp before traveling. These sites are very helpful for finding the best hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Even I do not get to choose my hotel I still check it out because often times other travelers leave tips and advise.
6. Download travel apps.
If you have smartphone there are endless travel apps out there. When flying I find the Kayak app to be very helpful. You can put your flight into the app and easily track the status. I find this extremely helpful when I have a layover. Once my first flight lands I can quickly check if my next flight is on time and what get it leaves from.
I also have several hotel and airline apps on my phone. Additionally, trip advisor and yelp have their own apps. Many of these apps use GPS to help locate nearby businesses.
7. Ask the front desk at the hotel.
Most of the time the hotel staff lives locally. They can give you advice on restaurants and attractions or just give you directions. We've all experienced some grumpy front desk staff, but most of them will try to help you find something nearby. They may also give you advice on areas to avoid.
8. Have fun!
Whether you are traveling for leisure or business get out and have fun. Go out and enjoy the area or spend a nice relaxing night in the hotel. Whatever you choose take time to enjoy your travels!