10 Time & Money Saving Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

https://static.pexels.com/photos/297755/pexels-photo-297755.jpegFor over thirteen years of my career I was a “road warrior.”  As a CRM software consultant, I traveled 80% of my job – both domestic and international.  It wasn’t long before I would achieved “rock star” status among the rewards programs I had joined.  My membership status included such levels as United Airlines Premier 1K Star Alliance Gold and Starwood Hotels Platinum Preferred Guest to name a few.

As a result of my extensive travels, I picked up a few time and money saving tips along the way.  In this week’s post, I’ll share with you some of the vacation planning diagrams my husband and I used for a trip we recently took up the coast to the Pacific Palisades and North Hollywood area.

Important Note: Every airline and hotel has its own rules and restrictions so it’s best to contact them directly or refer to their websites before you begin your trip.  Any pricing or rates in this post are not current and were only valid at the time the diagram was created.  


Travel Tip #1: PACK LIGHT

When You’re Flying: The majority of airlines have checked baggage fees.  At first, these fees may appear minimal, but they can add up.  The less bags you pack, the less it will cost.  Keep in mind that it’s not only the number of bags that are a factor, it’s also the size and weight.   For example, to avoid overweight charges, bags may not weigh more than 50 lbs (23 kg).  To avoid over-sized charges, bags may not exceed 62 linear inches, including wheels and handles (158 linear cm).

When You’re Driving: You’ll want to pack the car as light as possible.  The more weight, the harder the car works and the more gas is used.

Vacation Packing Mind Map Diagram

At one point in my career, I learned to pack a bag within 20 minutes.   Now, that I travel for leisure opposed to business, there’s no rush yet there are a number of essentials that remain the same.  Here is the packing list that I use whether it’s a weekend getaway or a long relaxing vacation.  Before I print my packing list, I update the mind map with the weather information provided by The Weather Channel.

packing list2

Click to download the Packing Mind Map

SmartDraw Tip: To add the Weather Table, navigate to the Table Ribbon.  In the Rows and Columns fields, select the appropriate values.  Click the Table control and the table will appear in the Work Area.  Click and drag the table to the appropriate location in the mind map.


If you’re faced with renting a vehicle for a large group, it’s more cost efficient when it comes to gas mileage to rent one large vehicle, such as an SUV or van, versus renting two smaller vehicles.


Once my husband and I decided how many vacation days we wanted to take, the next step was to decide where to stay.  So, I went online and did some initial research.  As I researched each property, I decided to enhance my mind map by making it into an information hub.  I essentially associated each hotel listed with a link to their respective website.   When I shared the hub with my husband, he was able to look at each hotel with just one-click.

Hotel Information Hub Diagram

Accomodations by LocationClick to download the Hotel Information Hub Diagram.


When traveling with a large group or with kids, you may be tempted to book two adjoining or separate rooms.  Book a room that has been upgraded with two king size beds instead and cut your hotel bill by almost half.


If your trip includes visiting a major attraction, such as Disneyland or Universal Studios, you may want to stay at one of their partner hotel properties.  These partner hotels typically come with a number of perks.  Such hotel properties are known to offer early entrance to the park, complimentary shuttle service to and from the park, as well as concierge services tailored for the local attractions.

Accomodations Mind Map Table1Click to download the Accommodations by Location Hub Diagram

SmartDraw Tip:  To add a hyperlink to text, navigate to the webpage to which you would like to link the text to.  Use Ctrl+C to copy the url address.  Navigate to the Work Area, then highlight the text you wish to associate the hyperlink to.  Right+click and select Add Hyperlink.  The Hyperlink Dialogue window will appear.  Use Ctrl+V to paste the url into the Add Hyperlink field.  Click OK.  


One of the benefits of being a hotel or credit card rewards program member is that you have the opportunity accrue points over time.  Signing up for rewards programs is free.  When you accrue a certain amount of points, they can be applied towards free hotel stays or room upgrades.  If you don’t have enough points, many hotels offer the option to use “cash & points.”


  • Daily Newspaper: There are some hotel properties that will automatically delivery the daily newspaper every morning unless you opt-out.  This option is made available to you during the check-in process. Be sure to read the forms closely when you check in or you may incur additional costs.
  • Internet: Many hotels charge a daily rate for wireless speed internet access in guest rooms.  Avoid the charges by going to the lobby for internet access, its free.
  • Printing: Since airlines have allowed passengers to print their boarding passes in advance, it’s not uncommon for hotels to offer to print your boarding passes at no additional charge.  Save yourself the hassle of rushing to the airport to check-in, simply check-in using the hotel business center typically located near the lobby.
  • Room Service: Typically, a 15% service fee and an “in-room dining” charge ranging from $5-12 will be added automatically to the bill. Add in tax, you’re suddenly looking at a $25+ sandwich. Instead, take a trip down to the restaurant and enjoy the service provided by the wait staff.  You’ll be guaranteed a hot meal when it arrives and enjoy a full dining experience.



A refrigerator stocked with beverages and snacks in your hotel room is considered standard.  Yet, did you know that you can ask for the refrigerator to be emptied? You can stock it with the food and beverages that you and your family enjoy. Some hotels offer microwaves as well.  These amenities vary from hotel to hotel so it’s best to call ahead – especially during high seasons.


As a former concierge, it was not uncommon to make dinner reservations on behalf of our guests. Since our hotel had existing relationships with several restaurants throughout San Diego, our guests would receive such perks as preferred seating, a reservation even though the establishment is fully booked, or a complimentary appetizer or dessert.  In other words, it never hurts to ask for some assistance.



I’ve traveled with all sizes of groups from a single travel partner to 28 relatives on a cruise ship to 40 co-workers on a nationwide CRM training rollout over a 10 week period.  You can only imagine the challenges that the size of a group has on the dynamics of the trip.  With that in mind, it’s a best practice to brainstorm what you’d like to do on the trip with your fellow travel partners.

When you brainstorm in SmartDraw: Simply use the mind map template to capture ideas.  My husband and I were toying with a number of activities in the area.


Click to download the Activities Hub Diagram

SmartDraw Tip: To add a picture to a shape, begin by selecting the appropriate shape.  In the Insert Ribbon select Picture.  In the Add Picture window, select Replace Text.  Browse to locate the appropriate picture, then click Open.  

When you plan to share your mind map as a pdf: As a pdf with live links, you enable recipients to quickly and easily access the information that you have gathered.  As a result, you are able to facilitate the decision-making process.

activities informationSmartDraw Tip:  To add a note, simply right+click on the shape you wish to associate a note.  In the menu, select Add Note.  Enter the appropriate information into the window. Click off the window and a yellow box will appear.  

Exporting a diagram into a pdf is quite easy.  Once you’ve completed your mind map, navigate to the File Ribbon and select Print.  In the Printer drop-down menu, select SmartDraw PDF Export V2.  Adjust the Setting options as needed.  You can validate the layout in the preview area displayed to the right of the Print menu.  Click Print.


Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to travel.  Some want every detail planned down to the minute while others would rather “wing it.”  To prevent any undue anxiety or stress when planning a vacation, it’s best to have a general itinerary that meets everyone’s comfort level on the trip.

Here are the initial itineraries that we came up with during our initial vacation planning.

Itinerary Options2