Travel Hacks Everyone Should Know
From around-the-world adventure to an off the beaten track holiday to a country you’ve long wanted to explore, the lure of the open road is calling, and you have finally decided to book that dream overseas trip.
We all know that travel broadens the mind and brings a whole host of adventures if you are willing to go off exploring. But you also need to be prepared. As well as the obvious such as booking your flights, deciding your route and sorting out all your paperwork, there are a host of smaller ways to ensure you really do have a holiday of a lifetime. To help, we’ve put together a tried tested list of 20 amazing travel hacks to ensure you get the very best out of your overseas trip.
1. Use Google Maps Offline
Paper maps are so yesterday and with Google Maps you can always be on track even when the Internet isn’t. One of the best-kept secrets of smart tech travel is that you can use Google Maps offline, which can be a real lifesaver when you need to find your way around. Exploring a city isn’t so much of a problem when Wi-Fi is easy to access (think café, coffee and route planning and you get the gist) but when you go more off grid it’s reassuring to know you can still pull up a map on your smartphone. Here’s how:
First, make sure you have enough data available on your phone to download Google Maps.
The latest versions of Google Map for Android and iOS now have a save map offline function but if yours doesn’t here’s what you need to do
- When you have Wi-Fi, go to the map of the area you want to save
- Now type ‘ok maps’ into the search and download
- While still connected, add in any pins or mark locations you need
You are now good to go, even when the Internet drops out. For extra security, zoom in on key areas on the map and take screenshots as a back-up.
2. Scan In All Your Travel Documents
This is a key trick that all road-weary globetrotters do to make sure they have all their essential travel documents to hand, with a Plan B just in case. First up, scan your essential documents (or take photos with your smartphone) and then email them to yourself, ensuring you can access your inbox via your phone or tablet when on the move. This includes your passport so that it will be easier to replace should it go AWOL while you’re on the road. Other key documents include your travel insurance, driver’s license, travel, and flight bookings. For extra peace of mind, make your Plan B by storing them all in the Cloud so should you lose your luggage and phone, you can still access your documents. Now consider a Plan C – print out your travel documents twice and stash a copy in your hand luggage and main travel backpack. This way, you pretty much have everything covered.
3. Mark Your Baggage As Fragile
I’m sure your mom told you to never lie, but sometimes you can get away with a little white one, especially if it means your gear gets through your global exploring relatively unscathed.
This hack is simple – mark up your hold luggage as ‘fragile’ when checking in at the airport. Mark it up clearly, and then act as if it is carrying something super-precious and with a bit of luck it will be treated by the baggage handlers with some extra tender, loving care.
Bags marked up as containing fragile items also tend to get a prime spot in cargo, meaning they are usually among the first to be offloaded, and so the first to reach the baggage reclaim carousel. This is a win-win: not only do you have an intact bag to claim, but you’ll be heading off to the taxi rank while your fellow passengers are still waiting at the carousel!
4. Charge Your Devices Through A Hotel TV
We’ve all been there – you get back to your hotel room after a hard day traveling or sightseeing to find you’ve forgotten the plug for your phone charger. You now start getting twitchy at the thought of not having enough juice in your phone to get you through the night. Relax, it’s most likely your hotel room will have the answer!
Most modern TVs now have USB input ports in the back so you can simply plug in your phone (or tablet, camera or laptop for that matter) and you’ll be powered up and happy in no time. Don’t have a USB cable for your phone? Pop down to the hotel’s front desk and ask if they have any you can borrow. They tend to have a stash made up of cables left by previous guests.
5. Pack A Dryer Sheet
An inevitable consequence of long periods on the road is a less than fresh whiff from your backpack as you pack and unpack your clothes. With a little planning, you should be able to regularly do your laundry but there are some smells that need some extra attention, particularly from the inside of your luggage. This is where the humble dryer sheet can be your savior. Pack a sheet or two (or a whole pack if you can if you are on an extended trip) inside your backpack or suitcase and they can help to keep your clothes smelling sweet. Or pop a sheet inside your footwear overnight to help deodorize that stinky feet smell or add inside a hotel pillowcase to freshen it up. Plus, for those times when you have no choice but to carry your dirty clothes with you, tie them up in a bin bag with a dryer sheet and stash away in your suitcase and those icky smells will be kept at bay until you get to the nearest laundromat.
6. Keep A Toothbrush And Your Smalls Close
This is a super-short tip, but if you only do one from our top 20 amazing travel hacks, make it this one. Pack a toothbrush, a set of underwear and a fresh T in your hand luggage and you will be ready for anything. This will set you up for that traveler’s worst nightmare of lost luggage, meaning you can at least freshen up and have a basic change of clothes when you have nothing else. But even if your hold luggage is safe, a few basics in your daypack on a long-haul flight gives you the chance for a quick change and freshen up before you land, meaning you are totally ready to head off into your travel adventure.
7. Beat Jetlag
There’s a huge amount of advice on combatting the dreaded jetlag out there and our advice is to go with the solution that works for you. But a top list of travel hacks would not be complete without at least some tried and tested remedy to keep you on track, wherever in the world you land. We have two hacks that work for us, that we’d like to put your way – exercise and food!
OK, the last thing you may feel like after you complete a long-distance flight is a workout but trust us, a short burst of cardio will work wonders with that sluggish and foggy feeling you get with jetlag. Exercise that makes your heart rate rise has been scientifically proven to get your circadian rhythm – your body’s natural 24-hour cycle – back on time.
Add to this, your eating pattern – in short, start eating in line with local time, not the time you think it is, as soon as you land – and you’ll soon send jetlag packing.
8. Skip All The Travel Gear
If there is one travel behavior you should try to change it is the desire to overpack. And that means taking an honest look at what you really need. For a shorter trip in particular, if you can avoid checking in a bag, your trip will be a breeze. But that does mean leaving some of your travel gear behind. The trick is to look at where you can double up with items or shrink the size of the item you would normally bring. Do you really need those expensive, noise reducing headphones, or would a pair of small, disposable ear plugs work just as well? And instead of that flight pillow, take off your coat and roll it up, you will sleep just as well. Be disciplined, be realistic and be practical when it comes to packing and not only will you travel lighter, you’ll find you will actually need and use everything you take.
9. Roll Rather Than Fold When Packing
This hack is an old favorite when it comes to top tip lists and it’s there for a reason – it works! Luggage space when you travel is a premium and you need to be savvy to make the most of it. And that means getting into rolling. Instead of folding and stacking your clothes, which sit and fill your suitcase space instead of maxing out on it, rolled clothes really make the difference. Rolling clothes enables you to fit so much more into your bag and also helps to reduce travel creases and crinkles to boot. Pop in a few packing cubes to segment your toiletries, gadgets and travel hardware and you’ll have an efficiently packed, space-optimized bag to be proud of.
10. Tell Your Bank And Credit Card Companies You Are Traveling
With all the excitement of prepping for an awesome trip or round-the-world adventure, the admin will be the last thing on your mind. But this small, simple detail could well save you a whole host of hassle when you are finally on the road. Just like you should never forget to sort your travel insurance, telling your bank and credit card companies you are off on your travels should be a total no-brainer. With today’s tightened banking security, any unusual activity on your bank or credit card account (eg. One day you are in Chicago, the next you are popping up in Chile) could be a red flag to your bank and result in a freeze on your cash. If your bank has a note that you are traveling, to where and when you can avoid this unfortunate delay. To make sure you are extra covered, always take enough cash with you that will cover your essentials for your first 48 hours of your trip so you are not temporarily left short.
11. Use An ATM For Cash Instead Of Exchanging Money
And, while we are on the subject of money, every global explorer knows it’s better to get cash out of a local ATM than from the airport’s currency exchange kiosk. First, you will avoid a stack of service fees and avoid getting more currency than you actually need (so lose on the exchange rate when you cash it back in). It also means you are not carrying large amounts of cash at one time, making it safer for you and your money. Just check ahead that your bank has international branches so you can easily get hold of your money via an ATM. You can also consider paying by credit card, safer and cheaper (just check that the credit card company doesn’t load on any international transaction fees).
12. Pack A Clothes Peg And Bulldog Clip
When enjoying your life as a global explorer, it helps to be resourceful and creative with the seemingly ordinary items around you. Our two favorite household items that double up as awesome travel hacks are a peg and a bulldog clip. No, really!
The surfaces of your accommodation while on the road are not always going to be, well let’s just say it, the most hygienic and not the place you would like to rest your toiletries. But use a clothes peg as a DIY stand and you can keep your toothbrush upright and not touching the bathroom top. Simply lie the clothes peg flat and clip on to the base of the toothbrush to prop it up. Genius.
And if you have ever fumbled in your wash bag and nicked your finger on the uncovered blade of your razor blade, then you’ll love this one. Simply pop a bulldog clip over the razor’s dangerous end and you can keep your digits safe and the blade clean. Or use the bulldog clip to keep your earphone wires tangle-free and clipped out of your way as you listen to your favorite tunes on your smartphone.
13. Eat Local
Travel broadens the mind, and also makes you step out of your comfort zone – which is why we love it so much. One way to make the most of your experience of a new place or country is to avoid the international food chains and make a real effort to eat local. Not only are you adding to your understanding and appreciation of the area, but it is most likely going to save you money too. Eating in local restaurants and cafes also takes you off the tourist trail and into the community where you can meet new people, get great insider knowledge of the area and potentially make new friends. Great if you are traveling alone.
14. Take That Free Walking Tour
And while we are looking at ways to quickly get to know your new travel location, a tour of the city is a good way to go. But our tip is to avoid the glossy (and therefore expensive) day trips touted by the private tour companies and find a tour organized by the local tourist office or even your hotel, as they are often actually free. Walking the city on a tour on your first day in town will help with any jetlag (see tip 7) and will give you space and time to get a lay of the land. Asking questions will help you to work out where the best places are to eat, the best times to visit attractions (ideally to avoid the crowds) and to put together a cunning plan for the next few days ahead. Now, this is insider knowledge that is worth a tip at the end of the tour as you’ll get invaluable advice to really enhance your stay in the city.
15. Get Snap Happy
We all have cameras in our phones now and the image quality is pretty rather good. So, while this is a great boost for your tourist photos, you can also use your phone camera for something altogether more travel-practical. Use your camera phone to snap pictures of anything you need to view quickly or to act as proof if you are challenged about anything as you travel. Here are a few examples of how you should be snap happy on your travels:
Where you park – if you are leaving your car at the airport carpark, take a quick picture of where it is and any identifying location signs. Makes finding your car after a long trip home easy and stress-free
Your luggage – take a photo of your check-in luggage and luggage tag in case it gets lost in transit. These photos can prove invaluable in helping to track your baggage down or speed up any claim paperwork
Your hire car – when being walked through the car check before you are handed the keys, take quick pictures of the scratches and dents that are already there as well as a photo of the mileage before you set off. This could save you when it comes to challenging any unfair return fees.
16. Give Up Your Seat
We applaud anyone who has manners and is polite, but there are other reasons to give up your seat, and we are talking about your flight seat. If you are not on a strict travel itinerary and you find yourself on an overbooked flight, consider volunteering to be bumped if the call goes out. Bumped passengers can benefit from a host of extra benefits including free meals, drink and nearby accommodation and there is the real possibility you could make business class when you finally get re-booked onto a flight. If you are in no hurry and fancy a bit of pampering, it’s worth a punt.
17. Get The Airport’s Wi-Fi Password Before You Show Up
Downtime at the airport is a great way to catch up with emails, social media and messages home, after all you want to let everyone know just how amazing your trip is! But when it comes to free Wi-Fi, the downside is running the gauntlet of passwords and access which can be time-consuming to sort. But with a little prep and one of the password Apps out there, you can have the right password for any airport’s Wi-Fi at your fingertips! Plus, Google Maps holds the Wi-Fi passwords for 266 different international airports – just type in ‘wireless password from airports and lounges around the world’ into the search box. Then set yourself up and you’re ready to airport surf.
18. Avoid A Leaky Mess
We’ve all been there…you get to your hotel after a tiring flight and need a shower. You open your luggage and your shower gel is there to meet you, not in its bottle but all over your clothes. Avoid a leaky mishap you can do without by carefully prepping your toiletries before you pack. For shampoo and shower gel bottles put some plastic wrap over the opening of the bottle and screw the cap back on. For extra security pack your bottled or liquid toiletries in a plastic bag or secure zip lock bag so should the worst happen and they burst open in cargo, the spillage will be contained and kept away from your clothes and gear.
19. Wear Your Heaviest Clothes
Reduce the amount of clothes you pack in your luggage by wearing the heaviest items on the plane. You may feel a little bulky (and perhaps a tad warm) but you can remove outer gear when you get on board. Not only that but they can also be re-purposed meaning you can cut back on packing other things. For example, rolled up your jacket can double up as a pillow and a jumper can be wrapped around your feet to keep them warm when the plane’s air con gets a little cold.
And when it comes to packing warmer clothes, cut back on the expensive heavyweight padded jackets and go for the layering system. With the right clothes, you can be just as warm, but they can also be used on their own when the temperature rises.
20. How To Hide Your Valuables
Our final hack is to help you prevent what could well be a trip-ender – the loss of your money or your valuables. Being wise to the ways potential thieves work and being creative in the way you hide your precious items can save you a lot of travel heartache and hassle.
Our tip is to hide your valuables in plain sight. Bear with us, we are not asking you to make them obvious but to think where a thief would not look or cannot go. Toiletry bottles, hygiene products, inside books, wrapped inside your underwear – these are all great places to tuck away your cash, your jewelry, passport, travel documents or your expensive gadgets. A thief will most likely want to grab and go rather than rummage, so you can also look to throw the thief off the scent by using a fake wallet in an outside pocket with a few bills and an old library card to look authentic. And finally, ‘spread your wealth’ and don’t keep all those valuable or essential items in one place in your luggage and certainly don’t keep your passport with your credit cards. And keep a small emergency stash of money inside a packed shoe, so should the worst happen, and your real travel wallet is stolen, you have a cash back up to get you through.