12 Ingenious Travel Hacks Everyone Should Know
Photo: Brian Doben
1. "Pick a hotel or cruise with a no-kids-under-18 policy. That can be particularly nice for moms who want to temporarily leave that part of their life behind," says Stacy Small, founder and CEO of Elite Travel International. "And go off the beaten path," says Danielle Thornton, cofounder of the women-only travel agency WHOA. "That's where you'll find your adventure."
2. Splitwise: This organizing tool lets you calculate everyone's fair share of meals, hotel stays, tickets, and more—so you can spend more time having fun and less time divvying up checks and expenses.
3. Plan a few things in advance. "Prebook any unique activities that require coordination," says Small. "If you want a private visit to the Vatican or surfing lessons in Maui, you should arrange that ahead of time." Check out the free app Viator to reserve spots on handpicked tours up to a year before your trip.
4. "I always bring a portable speaker and a really killer playlist," says Allison Fleece, Thornton's WHOA cofounder. "There's a lot of laughing and goofing around when a bunch of ladies get together, and impromptu dance parties have been known to break out."
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5. Be sure to ask how your resort or cruise line defines "group": "The minimum number of people to qualify for group rates can be as low as eight or ten," says Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, About.com's family vacations expert. "And never be afraid to negotiate."
6. GateGuru: When you're at the airport with a stroller or a wheelchair in tow, the last thing you want to do is blindly navigate the terminal. This free app shows you the closest ATMs, electronics charging stations, escalators, transit access, and more—not to mention the nearest Starbucks.
7. Plan a game that everyone can play during your trip. Kelleher recommends a destination-themed version of a white elephant exchange: "Everybody finds a cheap souvenir and then swaps. It's a good icebreaker for when you're reconnecting with relatives you haven't seen in a while. The more hilarious the memento, the better."
8. Don't forget to snap one really great group portrait. "Ask whether your resort has a staff photographer," says Kelleher; you might be able to book a session during your stay. Another option she likes is Flytographer, a service that connects travelers with a local photographer in at least 160 destinations around the world.
9. Before you decide where to stay, ask about couples-only perks like room upgrades and free spa treatments, says Mary McGrath, founder of the Travel Bug Vacation Planners. And clue in a concierge: "Hotels will usually try to make your stay extra special if they know there's an anniversary or a birthday," says Johnny DiScala, founder of travel site JohnnyJet.com.
10. Find My Friends or Glympse: These two apps let you share your location with any contact so he knows where you are without having to call or text. "If you lose your spouse in a city like Venice, you could wander around in circles for months and never find him," says Carin Kiphart, half of the Adventure Couple.
11. Book a roomier flight. "Most airplanes are configured with three seats on either side of the aisle," says DiScala. "When my wife and I fly together, we book the window and aisle seats in the same row. Chances are the middle seat won't get booked, and you'll have much more space! But if it does, the person will be more than happy to trade with you."
12. Mix up your baggage. DiScala and Kiphart both swear by half-and-half packing: "Take two suitcases and pack half of each person's stuff in each bag," says Kiphart. "If one piece of luggage gets lost in transit, you'll at least have some of your things."