When it comes to creating a memorable vacation, splurging on a few creature comforts and travel extras can make all the difference.
Here are eight travel splurges for you to consider.
Not all hotel pillows are created equal. If you sleep better with your own pillow and can fit it into your suitcase, consider bringing it along, especially if you are driving or taking the train to your destination. If you are flying, you may wish to leave your big pillow at home and bring along a neck pillow or travel pillow for those long hours on the airplane.
Yes, slippers take up a lot of room in your suitcase, room that could be used for something else. But, after a long day on your feet, there's nothing nicer than taking off those walking shoes and sliding your feet into soft, comfortable slippers. So you can't buy one last souvenir because you brought slippers, but who cares? Your feet will be warm, even in Italian tile bathrooms and Canadian log cabins.
Extra Leg Room
If you can afford it, consider springing for extra legroom in coach (economy) class airplane seats. Five inches may not sound like a lot of room, and it isn't, but it can make all the difference on long-haul flights.
Summer travel can be a lot of fun; you can pack lighter, leave your heavy coat at home and enjoy colorful flowers and warm beaches. Without an air conditioned hotel room, however, summer travel can be a drippy, miserable experience. Ask about air conditioning when you book your hotel or bed and breakfast stay. If air conditioning is not generally available at your destination, ask about fans or bring a tiny portable fan of your own.
Taxis are definitely more expensive than public transportation, but they are comfortable and efficient. You won't have to trudge up and down staircases or stand at crowded bus stops. There will be room in the trunk for your suitcase and wheelchair. Particularly for short journeys, taxis might be a much better transportation choice than buses and subways.
Local Tour Guides
While it might seem counterintuitive to hire a local tour guide to save time and money, you might be surprised at how much you'll gain by taking a half-day or day-long tour with an expert. A good local tour guide knows the best times to visit every museum and can help you navigate the subway system. Some tour guides can even help you skip the long entrance lines (see below). Local tour guides offer a wide variety of tour options, including walking tours, taxi tours (in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for example), van tours and day trips.
Head-of-Line / Early Boarding Privileges
Sometimes it pays to buy your way to the head of the line. For example, if you are flying Southwest Airlines, meet the conditions for sitting in an emergency exit row and are seven feet tall, it is worth your while to pay for EarlyBird Check-In (currently $10 per flight) so that you can get an exit row seat and reduce your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis. Carnival Cruise Lines' Faster to the Fun program allows all occupants of a stateroom to board early, just after VIFP Club Platinum & Diamond Guests, in addition to other privileges, such as tender priority, during the cruise. The cost, as of this writing, is $49.95 per stateroom.
You may be able to buy museum and attraction tickets online, skipping the long ticket lines, or get earlier access by signing up for a guided tour. For example, visitors to the Vatican Museums can skip the ticket line by purchasing their tickets online, or, if they are visiting on the spur of the moment, by booking a guided tour of the museums.
Travelers should indulge all five senses, including the sense of taste. It's fine to save money on airplane food and eat most of your meals on a shoestring budget, but you should put aside enough money to pay for at least one nice restaurant meal and one grocery store adventure. You can enjoy local cuisine without eating in a Michelin-rated restaurant; check travel guidebooks, About.com travel Guidesites and online review websites to find restaurant suggestions.
You can learn a lot about local cuisine by shopping at a neighborhood grocery store. Follow the crowds to popular food items and sale tables. Remember to check out the bakery, cheese and sliced meat sections. If you're feeling adventurous, buy one food item you've never tried before. For extra fun, buy picnic food (meat, cheese, bread, fruit, cookies, beverages) and head to a park or recreation area to enjoy your outdoor meal. (Tip: Add plastic utensils, a small cutting board, plastic cups, a corkscrew / bottle opener and a sharp knife to your packing list. Pack these items in your checked baggage. You will use them all if you buy picnic food.)