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How to Simplify Travel in 5 Steps

simplify travel
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Remember your first international trip, the one you took when you were in your teens or twenties? You may have carried a guidebook, a phrasebook and a battered map. If you lost your tickets, you were out of luck. You didn’t have high-performance clothing, multi-function travel gadgets or a mobile phone. And yet, somehow, travel seemed simpler then.

You don’t necessarily want to go back to the days of traveling with a backpack full of dirty socks — but have you felt that yearning to simplify your travel experience? It’s possible. You just need to change your approach.

1. Simplify your travel planning.

Travel aggregators and trip-planning apps were supposed to make it easy to book a trip. Instead, they can be overwhelming. If travel planning stresses you out, consider putting it in the hands of a pro. Travel agents are invaluable for organizing complex vacations that include several destinations, multiple generations, or any kind of special accommodations. Having traveled all over the world themselves, they can suggest itineraries you may never have considered. Not only that, but they’re expert problem-solvers who can intervene and find a solution when things don’t go as planned.

Another tried and true way to simplify travel planning is to choose an all-inclusive tour, resort or cruise. Book everything in one shot, and you’re done.

Read more: Why More People Are Using Travel Agents for International Trips

2. Simplify your packing.

Instead of trying to plan for every possible occasion, “think about moving lightly through the world,” suggests travel blogger Courtney Carver.1 Your goal is a suitcase or bag that’s easy to carry, roll or stow without a struggle.

The very best suitcase packing tip we’ve heard is the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule. This means, for a week-long trip, you need 1 hat, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 skirts or pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 5 pairs of socks and 6 sets of underwear.2 (Wait, what about the seventh set of underwear? You’re wearing it.)

Shoes typically take up a lot of room in a suitcase, so you may want to invest in a pair of awesome travel shoes that adapt well to every situation: walking tours, fine restaurant, and unexpected 200-yard dashes through the airport terminal. Tieks, Clarks, and Born are some favorite brands for comfortable travel shoes that can be dressed up or down.

Many expert travelers have a simple secret for packing light: Plan on doing laundry. If you’re staying in one place for an extended time, you can launder your clothes at the hotel or local laundromat. Otherwise, hand-wash your clothes — it’s not hard to do! Pack a clothesline and some laundry soap; soak, scrub and rinse clothes in the sink, then hang them to dry outside or over the bathtub. 

Read more: How to Pack a Suitcase Like a Pro

3. Simplify your itinerary.

Here’s a novel suggestion in a time when everyone loves to research, review and document everything: Don’t. Don’t search for the very best restaurant in Medellin. Don’t be the 130,000th person (seriously!) to write an online review of the Eiffel Tower. Don’t plan every minute of your trip.

Instead, rediscover the delight of discovery. If you’re in a new city, find a neighborhood where you can wander without a set schedule or list of sights to see. If you can (we know it’s hard!) try to soak in the atmosphere — the sounds, the smells — without taking any pictures at all. Relinquish the idea that you must capture every moment.

When you’re planning your days, build in time to rest. “Rest” means different things to different travelers — you may want to sit on a park bench, meditate on a mountaintop or just take a satisfying nap on a beach chaise. Just don’t skip this time to recharge.

4. Simplify your accommodations.

One recent travel trend is “luxurious simplicity” — rustic resorts that exist in harmony with nature, but still offer the very best hospitality, food, and amenities.3 These are places like Ladera in St. Lucia, which has open-air suites and stellar service but no TVs or air conditioning, and Winvian Farm in Connecticut, a rural retreat with hiking, fishing, and five-star dining.

Another trend: Luxury hotels that feel like home. That is, they furnish everything you could possibly need to be comfortable, and do their best to fulfill any special requests. The best example may be La Réserve in Paris, which offers “the subtle luxury of refined simplicity.” Your room can be set up to match your tastes, with favorite flowers, books you might enjoy, or even (for longer stays) original works of art. You enjoy the services of a dedicated housekeeper, who handles your laundry, ironing, and shopping, as well as a personal butler. This kind of elegant simplicity isn’t cheap, of course; rates for the Presidential Suite can be as high as 8,000 euros per night.

Travelers on a budget can simplify their travels merely by choosing a small, boutique or family-run hotel over a large chain. At these hotels, the service is likely to be more personal, and the experience more individual, than at a large chain.

Read more: Discover Six of the World’s Most Luxurious Hotels

5. Simplify your travel insurance.

Even if you pare down your packing to get everything into your carry-on, there’s one thing you absolutely can’t omit: travel insurance. Travel insurance can give you peace of mind, because you know you’re protected from the most common travel mishaps — covered travel delays, covered trip cancellations, covered medical emergencies and more.

If you’re planning more than two trips in the coming 12 months, the simplest travel insurance solution may be an annual plan. Multi-trip travel insurance, such as the AllTrips Prime plan, can give you affordable protection for a full year of travel. Buy it once, and you’re set. Find a plan and get a quote!

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