Monday Morning Moving: The 5 Things Smart Travelers Do

Just because you enjoy the occasional spa day doesn't mean a wellness vacation is right for you.
Smart travelers know when it’s time to unplug — physical and mentally. (Body Holiday photo.)

By Cat Zuniga

Travel experts are epic wanderers whose journeys are ever fresh. They hold fast to a smart, new-wave set of travel rules that are not outdated or outmoded. We can all learn from them, and refresh our approach to travel.

So what do smart travelers do that the rest of us don’t? The answers might surprise you.

They take advantage of their credit cards. Many credit cards offer travel rewards and incentives; just make sure that they’re TRUE travel rewards that you want. Don’t automatically assume that an airline-miles credit card will play fair. These cards like to sell you on the idea of being able to cash out on airline tickets, but the selection is very limited and the fees are killers.

Even so, and even though it might seem like there are a thousand credit cards out there, it’s easier than you think to find the right card for you. Aside from the many benefits of American Express, my advice is to look at how you travel most often, where you travel most often, and where you want to travel to, and then find a card that fits with those. Personally, the Alaska Airlines and Southwest cards work best for me – but as we all know, no two travelers are alike. Do some research, find what works best for you, and then milk the system. Systems are in place for a reason! And finally, always remember: Like any other type of credit card, travel credit cards work best when you pay off your balance.

They apply the 80/20 rule. One of the best travel tips I ever received was to carry 20 percent of your necessities to cover 80 percent of possible travel scenarios. Packing for every possible situation or travel scenario can be suicidal; instead, look up the weather in advance, ask the experts (like – ahem! – your favorite travel agent/expert/consultant), talk to friends and family who have been there, and pack accordingly!

Buying travel-size anything is not an option. You can save a penny or two (okay, more like tons of money) if you don’t buy a bunch of travel-size bottles, deodorants, tooth brushes, and so forth. If you buy reusable mini bottles that you can just refill, you’ll be saving hundreds of dollars in the long run.

They disconnect. This is a must! Did you know that 38 percent of Americans check their work emails while on vacation? Expert travelers know better; they know what a tech-free vacation can do for your mental health. Putting your brain on vacation along with your body can boost melatonin production, increase feelings of satisfaction, and give you focus for longer periods of time when returning to work. Travel experts do this right! They only send critical messages and set their out-of-office email response before ever board the plane.

Smart travelers know: Interacting with the locals is the only way to travel.
Smart travelers know: Interacting with the locals is the only way to travel.

Along with unplugging from technology, travel experts unplug culturally. They talk to the locals. Have you ever talked to the locals about great places to eat or go? You’ll find that after you unplug from your travel book and all its canned tips, consulting locals can actually be a break for your pocket book. It can make a huge difference in price, and deliver real quality! Good travel involves meeting people, talking to people, and learning about people.

They welcome rain or shine. Wasting a vacation day by letting your emotions take over is not a concept expert travelers understand. Everyone knows that when you travel, things can go wrong. Your flight can be canceled, you can be left at the airport, or the hotel might lose your reservation. So what? Don’t feed into the abnormality of the situation. Don’t let it affect you physically or mentally. Instead, embrace the change. Use ingenuity and make the best of it!

Now, as much as I tried to stick to five things travel experts do. I have to include a sixth item. I think it’s okay to include this, because this is a no-brainer, and it does not take a travel expert to know that. Travel experts know that travel insurance is a must! We strongly recommend it, and can’t emphasize it enough. You never know what can come up or happen in life. I can share countless situations that were unexpected, and clients either thanked me for encouraging them to buy travel insurance, or pleaded with me to see what I could do after the fact. Be wise. It doesn’t take an expert to know that you worked hard for your money. So why wouldn’t you want to protect that?

Cat Zuniga is an award-winning travel specialist. She specializes in tropical vacations for families, groups, destination weddings, and honeymooners. Visit her today at