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6 Items That Have Made Me a More Efficient Traveler

Brett Holzhauer's image
Brett Holzhauer
Brett Holzhauer's image

Brett Holzhauer

Content Contributor

51 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 22U.S. States Visited: 29

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he's had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards.
Edited by: Chris Dong
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Chris Dong

Editor & Content Contributor

88 Published Articles 74 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 54U.S. States Visited: 36

Chris is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on timely travel trends, points and miles, hot new hotels, and all things that go (he’s a proud aviation geek and transit nerd). Formerly full time ...
& Jestan Mendame
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Jestan Mendame

Compliance Associate

32 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 12U.S. States Visited: 3

Since 2016, he has embraced the life of a digital nomad, making the world his office. He has built a career in social media marketing and blogging for various travel brands, which is also his bread an...

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Travel can be a headache and even downright stressful. While talking with friends, family, and colleagues, I’ve found that it often comes down to a few common themes. That includes the overall cost, the effort of getting from point A to point B, hauling your items around, and unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

All of these points are valid. Travel can be expensive, require more effort than you may have thought, and come with many challenges. But with the right tools and accessories, your wanderlust can flourish with fewer headaches.

Since 2016, I’ve been on a travel binge: I’ve been to 25 countries, 5 continents, taken hundreds of flights, and even lived out of my backpack for a short stint in 2019 as a digital nomad.

I’ve experimented with many different travel essentials, and these are the ones I can’t travel without. Here are 6 strategies that I have used to make my travels a breeze.

1. Backpack Rather Than Luggage

We’re often told that having more choices is a good thing. However, it’s often not necessary to bring the whole closet (and kitchen sink) on your travels.

Rangeland backpack with shell
My smaller weekend backpack. Image Credit: Brett Holzhauer

For context, I have 1 backpack for shorter trips and an Osprey 55L backpack for longer adventures. Rather than diving into the theory behind it, there’s something about having a backpack that I’ve found freeing on my travels.

Efficient Traveler Brett Backpack
My Osprey 55L with a daypack on the front. It looks uncomfortable, but it surprisingly isn’t! Image Credit: Brett Holzhauer

Your Hands Are Free To Do Other Things

Having your hands free to move is essential when you’re on the go. Whether it’s using your cell phone, holding a coffee, or getting out your wallet, using 1 hand to pull your luggage around is a drag (pun intended).

Avoids Checked Bag Fees and Lost Items

The debate of being “team checked bag” or “team carry-on” will always be hotly contested. For myself, I only carry on for several reasons, but the main one is to avoid checked bag fees.

Airlines make a huge profit on checked-bag fees, and I find it to be easily avoidable. Now, many travel credit cards offer checked bags for free (along with having airline status). Occasionally, I will use this benefit if it makes sense. However, I’d much rather have my bag with me to avoid wait times and any potential damage or loss of my bag.

Makes You More Intentional

Yes, a backpack has less space than traditional luggage — and that’s the point. You likely don’t need that extra space.

With a backpack, it has forced me to become very intentional about every item I take. And yes, I’m still guilty of occasionally bringing a few things I may not use. But the punishment of having to carry the weight of each item you pack makes you much more aware.

When I traveled for 112 days straight in 2019, I brought way too many items. I got rid of many things because lugging my belongings from country to country became too burdensome.

2. Global Entry Membership

Navigating the airport can be stress-inducing. Yelling officials and long lines could make even the strongest traveler emotionally crumble.

One of the best solutions I’ve found is having a Global Entry membership that comes with TSA PreCheck. By having this, I’m able to go through expedited security lines, which has cumulatively saved me hours of waiting in lines throughout the U.S. And when coming back from international travel, Global Entry security clearance makes returning seamless.

I recently used my IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card to renew my Global Entry membership as the card comes with an enrollment credit. And since I sign up for travel credit cards regularly, I give away my extra airport security clearance credits to friends and family.

3. Travel Credit Cards for Protection and Benefits

Travel credit cards aren’t just for earning rewards to redeem for trips. They can also help you score some money-saving perks along the way, and even protect you if your travels go awry.

Many premium credit cards offer lounge access where you can grab snacks and drinks throughout your travels. My primary spending card is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, which comes with access to Capital One Lounges and the Priority Pass lounge network. I use these spaces to save on food and drink costs, rather than paying elevated airport prices.

Main lounge area at Capital One Lounge Dulles
The new Capital One lounge at Washington-Dulles (IAD). Image Credit: Katie Seemann

As for credit card travel insurance, several of my cards protect me in case something goes awry. Recently, I was in Denver, and a sudden hail storm severely damaged my rental car. Thankfully, I used my Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, which covered the damage thanks to primary rental car insurance.

4. Portable Travel Pillow

There are plenty of opportunities while traveling to close your eyes for a quick snooze. But carrying a regular pillow around is not convenient or portable. During my travels, I came across the TRTL travel pillow, and I’ve found it to be the best, most portable solution out there.

5. Metal Water Bottle

A long flight in economy can be draining. The lack of moisture in the cabin, as well as sitting in one place for an extended period, is often dehydrating and exhausting.

Instead of spending a small fortune on a bottle of water at the airport, or settling for the small cup of water from flight attendants, invest in a metal water bottle. You don’t have to spend a fortune; I found this two-pack at Costco for less than $20.

Flight attendants are typically okay with filling your water bottle, and there are plenty of refill stations at U.S. airports.

6. Power Bank to Never Lose Charge

Our phones are the best resource when traveling, which means you can drain your battery quickly. An external power bank can be a lifesaver for you and even your group. I recently upgraded to the MyCharge PowerHub Max 15,000mAh All in One from Costco, and it’s been a fantastic addition. This will give about 3 to 4 full charges to a smartphone.

Bonus: Have The Right Mindset

Approaching travel with a positive mindset is vital to being successful. The more you travel, the more likely something will go awry. Whether it is transportation issues, weather delays, unavoidable long security lines, leaving something behind, or a crying child sitting behind you, it’s vital to know what to do through it all.

As for my own experiences, I’ve been injured, slept in questionable hotels, lost important paperwork for a visa, and had weather drastically impact trip schedules. After a while, I learned to appreciate the silly moments once the headache subsided.

Final Thoughts

My advice for making travel easier: solve the easy problems, and laugh through the unpredictable ones. Don’t let the bumps and bruises take away from the adventures of seeing new places, exploring new cultures, and embracing everything that travel offers.

The information regarding the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Brett Holzhauer's image

About Brett Holzhauer

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he’s had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards. He learned the tricks of the trade from his mom, and has taken many steps forward. He wasn’t exposed to much travel as a kid, but now has a goal of reaching 100 countries in his life. In 2019, he sold all of his possessions to become a digital nomad, and he says it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He plans to do it again at some point in his life.

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