Everyone can travel, but does everyone travel smart? I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite travel hacks, sure to save you money, time and space. Here’s to one of the smoothest trips yet.
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TOP TRAVEL HACKS: PACKING
1. Pack enough clothing for one week only.
You can’t bring clothes for every possible situation so try to pack for only one week, even if you’re traveling for multiple weeks. Not only with this save you space and allow you to travel lighter, but it will also save you so much time and frustration in the packing process. It’s much easier to do a load of laundry than to have to carry an extra week’s worth of clothing wherever you go, especially if you’re going to be on the move with your luggage.
In order to avoid high laundry fees at hotels, bring a few travel-size detergent packets with you so you have the option of doing your own laundry in the bathroom sink of your hotel room. Or bring along a Scrubba Portable Wash Bag with you!
If you’re worried about the lack of variety, try packing versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. Accessorize with colors! Don’t know where to start? Prioritize items that you love and know will be useful for multiple occasions.
2. Pick the right bag, and don’t fill it up.
When it comes to packing, the size and shape of the bag plays a major role. Packing light is key. When you can, adopt a minimalist mindset and choose a smaller, more portable bag. A smaller bag forces you to prioritize your belongings and minimizes the temptation to bring unnecessary things.
My rule of thumb: Go with a carry-on or a backpack. Why? I like to be out of the airport in minutes upon landing (skipping the baggage claim wait is key), and I don’t like baggage fees. Carry-ons allow you to travel in a more comfortable manner compared to large pieces of luggage. Remember to save room in your pack for gifts, souvenirs, and other travel finds you may want to bring home with you!
3. Carry an extra bag with you.
If you end up with no room in your luggage and a ton of new travel finds, having an extra super-compactable bag with you will indeed come in handy. Instead of having to struggle to shove everything in your existing bag or having to buy a new one, just toss your excess items in your other bag and voila! No crushed items, no extra costs from buying a new bag. This can be carried onto the plane with you so you can even save on baggage fees.
4. Mark your luggage as ‘fragile’.
All the safety tips in the world can’t save your trip if your luggage is damaged, lost or stolen. Not only does marking your bags ‘fragile’ help ensure your luggage is handled correctly, it means the handlers will load them in last, making them some of the first bags released. Total score!
5. Pack smart to save space.
Roll your clothes instead of folding them. This saves a ton of space in your luggage and the clothes don’t wrinkle or crease. When you’re packing, you can stuff socks inside shoes. Saves a bunch of space. Don’t forget to take advantage of travel packing cubes to save even more space.
6. Pack one complete outfit in your carry-on.
If you do plan on checking bags, then be sure to pack one complete outfit in your carry-on bag in case your baggage is delayed. This way, you’ll have a spare set of clean clothing ready to go. If you do find yourself in this pickle, be sure to ask the airline about their compensation policies. You may be reimbursed for purchasing toiletries and other necessities.
7. Pack a few first aid essentials.
Pack a portable first aid kit with the essentials such as bandaids, antiseptic wipes, pain medication, and antidiarrheals for easy access if you happen to get hurt or get sick while traveling. This is especially useful if you’re traveling through undeveloped countries or remote areas as these items won’t be as readily available.
Just keep your first aid kit in your bag at all times so you’re sure to have it with you whenever you travel.
TOP TRAVEL HACKS: AT THE AIRPORT / ON THE FLIGHT
8. Never pay for water at the airport.
It sucks that you can’t bring your own bottled water into the airport due to travel regulations and liquid restrictions. What are your options then? $5-8 bottle of Fiji? No thanks. Instead of wasting your money on water, bring an empty water bottle to the airport and refill it after you’ve passed through security.
On-flight hydration tip: Bring these electrolyte packets and drink them on the fight. It’s a hydration multiplier– that way, you’ll stay hydrated without the constant pee breaks.
9. Save on in-flight alcoholic drink fees.
Did you know you can actually bring alcohol onto a plane, as long as they’re the right size? Buy those mini single-serve bottles of liquor from the corner/liquor store, throw them in a clear, quart-sized, ziplock baggie, and stow in your carry on. Order a free soda as a mixer and drink away (responsibly, of course).
10. Carry these essential items so you can sleep like a baby.
If you’ve got an international flight or other long haul flight, bring these extras in your carry on bag: a lightweight jacket, earplugs, eye mask, and melatonin/sleeping aid pills. Lightweight jacket: you never know when you’ll get cold on a plane. When your body is ready to sleep, it will naturally drop in temperature and this extra jacket will save the day when those thing airplane blankets just aren’t cutting it. If you don’t get cold, the jacket, rolled up, can be used as a pillow. You’ll want a multi-purpose jacket on your travels anyway.
The earplugs and eye mask are musts if you’re trying to get undisturbed sleep on a plane. Melatonin gummies and sleeping aid pills will help get you to a snoozy state faster— just take them 30 minutes before you want to knock out and let them do their magic!
11. Get through security like it’s nothing.
If you don’t have TSA Precheck, go with laceless shoes at the airport. Getting through security is way easier that way. Remove any belts and stuff loose items in your backpack or travel vest in advance in order to breeze through security and avoid holding up the passengers behind you.
Also, strategically put your laptop in an ultra-convenient place where you won’t be struggling to pull it out or stuff it back in while in the security line.
12. Be prepared for paperwork, bring pens.
Stick pens in all of your bags, there will always be a need for them. And especially pack a pen for international flights! It’ll come in handy when you need to fill in the immigration slip and may save you time queuing for one within the airport.
Extra tip: once you hop off the plane, go straight for immigration, even if you need to pee. Go to the bathroom after you get through immigration/customs so you don’t have to deal with being in the back of that long line for passport checks.
TOP TRAVEL HACKS: WHILE TRAVELING
13. Print everything out.
Printing out copies of your itinerary, hotel reservations, plane tickets, passport, etc. might sound like a pain, but you’ll be thankful if anything goes wrong while traveling. Even if you booked online, having hard copies to show to the agent at the desk ensures you’ll have minimal problems. I’ve experienced some trains in Europe requiring paper copies of tickets if passing through another country. Same with some low-cost airline carriers. Remember, not every country is as tech-savvy as your home country. Definitely better to be safe than sorry! Take it from someone who’s been through it, hunting for copy/print shops after business hours is no fun and just a complete waste of precious travel time.
14. Back up your critial documents.
I also highly recommend scanning and storing copies of your passport and identification cards in a folder that’s accessible from the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). Should your important documents ever be stolen, you’ll have access to copies, which will significantly expedite the process of replacing your stolen documents.
15. Download maps offline on your phone.
Did you know you can download Google Maps ahead of time for specific destinations? Once downloaded, the map works offline which can come in handy if you don’t have Wifi or a data plan while abroad. Once offline, the map works as it normally would, offering you walking/driving/transit directions to landmarks. This comes in handy especially when you’re taking different forms of transportation.
16. Download Google Translate offline, too.
Download the appropriate language beforehand on Google Translate. That way you’ll be able to use it and communicate, translate menus and signs, etc. even when you don’t have internet.
17. Carry a small lock on hand.
Staying at a hostel? Bring a lock– lockers and safes are useless without them! Use a combination lock so you can’t lose the key. No lockers? Consider leaving valuables at the front desk. Bring a smaller lock so it can double as a lock for your luggage if you’re leaving your hotel room and want housekeeping services.
18. Charge your devices with the in-room TV.
Lost or forgotten your wall plug for your charger? Didn’t bring a converter? No worries, most modern TVs have a USB connector on the back/side of it. Just plug in your device and charge away.
19. Carry a portable power bank with you while you explore.
Bring an external phone battery to keep your phone charged at all times, especially if you rely on Google Maps or other travel apps to navigate throughout new cities. It’ll also save your life if you find yourself in a situation where your phone dies just before your cab/Uber/Lyft driver arrives to pick you up.
20. Stay clean, bring wipes.
Bring baby wipes and hand sanitizers, you just never know when these will come in handy. And they will.
21. Grab extra hotel toiletries and keep your travel kit stocked.
Option 1: Refill travel-size toiletries with your own at home.
Option 2: Save on your own resources and take the ones offered at the hotel rooms. As long as you keep them in your toiletries bag or Dopp kit, they can be used in emergency circumstances. Come across a hotel room that doesn’t offer lotion? Not a problem, you’ve got one in your travel kit!
22. Use ATMs around town to get local currency.
The age-old question– when and where should I exchange money? It’s definitely best to obtain local currency from ATM’s once you’ve landed, rather than in your home country or through foreign exchange kiosks. Money converters usually have their own fees and bad exchange rates, very likely to be far worse than your bank. If you can, obtain a debit card that provides fee-free ATM withdrawals (such as through Charles Schwab – Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account). It’s life-changing!
23. Take advantage of free walking tours.
This is a cheaper alternative to formal tours that cost an arm and a leg. A simple google search for “[destination city] free walking tour” will result in a bunch of companies that offer local-led tip-based walking tours. I find that smaller companies often provide more entertaining and intimate tours, so don’t shy away from them. Throughout the tour, feel free to ask them questions about local culture, food, lifestyle, etc. It’s a great way to meet other travelers and locals alike. Don’t forget to tip, though!
24. Fight jet lag with exercise.
Feeling a little sluggish and fatigued after an international flight? Get a workout in or go for a run– just get that heart pounding. It’s been proven by science that the best way to get your circadian rhythm back in tune with itself is some good ol’ exercise. And don’t forget, when you arrive at your destination, refrain from taking a nap until the sun goes down in order to reset your internal sleep clock.
25. Keep instant oatmeal in a bag for an easy and nutritious breakfast.
Keeping instant oatmeal in a Ziploc bag along with your preferred toppings (dried fruit, chia seeds, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon) makes for a super convenient and nutritious meal when you’re on the go. By keeping them all in the same bag, you won’t have to do any prep work other than adding water. Hot water is accessible in a lot of places, so just ask for some water, or boil some at your Airbnb/hotel. Enjoy your cheap, easy, and healthy meal in a coffee cup!
Another nutritious option: Pack powdered superfood supplement and a blender bottle for smoothies. To prevent getting sick during your trip or after your trip, keep your nutrients in-check while traveling with a superfood green juice powder. This equally as good option by Naturelo claims to be able to boost energy, detox, and enhance health.
What are some other travel hacks and tips you live by? Share below!