6 tips for better summer travel

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- When traveling, pitfalls lurk behind every corner.

From planning, to booking, to flying, to lodging, one wrong step and your vacation could be ruined by a filthy hotel room or an overnight flight crammed in the middle seat.

Guarantee a smooth trip by planning thoroughly and making the right moves. Here are six tips for better travel from the Grand Junction Regional Airport.

1. Read Traveler Reviews
Look to reviews before booking! User-review sites have changed the way most people plan their travel, giving us an enormously useful tool for evaluating hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and more. TripAdvisor.com is the biggest, with more than 20 million reviews.

2. Buy Insurance
Travel insurance is worth purchasing for big-ticket trips that are largely non-refundable. The typical plan will cover emergency medical expenses and baggage loss and delay, and recover at least some of the cost of your trip if your vacation has to be canceled or cut short. You'd be wise to choose a large, established company such as American Express, instead of one you've never heard of. Other reputable travel insurers include Travel Guard, Medex and Travelex.

3. Reserve a Seat
Always reserve a seat at the time of booking, and if the airline or booking engine won't let you, keep revisiting until you can. The longer the flight, the more attention you should pay to getting a decent seat: resources with detailed seat info include SeatGuru.com, SeatExpert.com and FlyerTalk.com. Don't like the seat options? Select one anyway, then check back every spare minute to change it, including when you're on the plane. To snag a coveted exit-row seat, arrive at the airport early for check-in, since you can't select those seats online. Some airlines charge more for window seats or seats with extra legroom (including the exit row); whether it's worth paying depends on the cost, length of flight and your tolerance for discomfort.

4. BYOE – Bring Your Own Everything!
Bring your own everything. It's safer than putting yourself at the airline's mercy. Bring a travel pillow, a blanket or sweater if you tend to get cold, entertainment (PSP, iPod), headphones (preferably noise-canceling ones). And, of course, food: while on-board prices can be extortionate, the quality is iffy, and the selection meager.

5. Look into Alternate Dwellings
There's nothing wrong with traditional hotels and resorts, but you shouldn't feel limited to them. Alternatives like B&Bs, house rentals and farm stays may offer more value — and certainly more personality. Check out resources such as BedandBreakfast.com, DudeRanch.org,HomeExchange.com, Agritourism.net, and UHOTW.com, or Unusual Hotels of the World, where lodging options include train locomotives, lighthouses, caves, old jails and treehouses.

6. Join the Club
Airline and Hotel-loyalty programs are worth joining because you get perks, but car-rental clubs are essential and most of the time for free. Loyalty-program membership often means you don't have to wait in insane lines, fill out annoying forms or get relentlessly up-sold.

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