The Ultimate Guide to Realistic Travel Hacks

Travel hacks are clever tips, tricks, and techniques that travellers use to make their trips more efficient, enjoyable, and affordable. These can range from ways to save money on flights and accommodations, to tips for packing efficiently and navigating new places. Now that the threat of COVID is finally over and people are starting to travel again, I thought of putting together some travel hacks that I have used and some that I found online so that the next time you, or I travel, we can travel more efficiently, save money and have a better time during our travels.

The goal of travel hacks is to help travellers make the most of their trips while minimising expenses and avoiding common travel headaches. Here are some realistic travel hacks that can help you save money and make your trip smoother:

Some common travel hacks include using travel rewards credit cards to earn points and miles for flights and hotels, booking flights and accommodations in advance for better deals, packing light to avoid baggage fees and make travelling easier, and researching local transportation options to save money on taxis and rental cars. Other travel hacks might include downloading useful travel apps, like language translation apps or maps that work offline, avoiding tourist traps to save money, or using local services like Airbnb to save on accommodations.

Use incognito mode when searching for flights and hotels. Websites can track your searches and increase prices based on demand, but using incognito mode can help prevent this.

Use a travel rewards credit card to earn points or miles that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, and other travel expenses.

Book flights in advance to save money, but also consider last-minute deals for spontaneous trips. Usually, flights seem to be the cheapest around 2.5 to 3 months before a trip.

Travel in the off-season. If one is not constrained by school holidays and other popular travel dates, then travelling during non-peak times is better, especially if the destination can still be travelled to and explored. The weather would be still great but the destination would be less crowded and hotels would offer better rates too.

Most people do not purchase travel insurance because their credit card perks cover most of it, but it’s always wiser to have insurance than not. This is even more important if you’re travelling with valuables or changing your plans on the go most days. And today, with COVID still around, it’s better to have insurance so that if plans change suddenly, insurance will be there to save you.

If you have a Twitter account, tweet your travel troubles, and they get solved quicker as companies monitor social media for their organisation’s name and take action when they realise an issue has the potential to go viral, they will immediately make amends.

Visit destinations that don’t have a large tourism board. They tend to be cheaper and less crowded. This means one can explore so much more without going broke and also go someplace where not many have gone to.

If you can do it, book a refundable or changeable ticket so that in case of any emergency, tickets can be changed without much effort and also refunds easily processed.

If there is a chance that your credit card company will freeze your card because of transactions in a different place than you usually use it, then it is a good idea to inform them of your travel plans.

And if you can access it, it may be a good idea to get a multi-currency travel card. This works like a debit and credit card. I use one of these cards when I travel so I can control purchases because payments will be used only after I top up the card and in case of any fraud with the card, only the amount in the card will be compromised and not my usual credit card.

Bring an empty water bottle to fill up at the airport or hotel to save money on buying bottled water.

Use a shower cap to protect toiletries from exploding during flights. I also like to use cling wrap to seal the opening of liquid bottles before capping them to keep them safe while being held in the baggage hold.

Alternatively, invest in some small bottles and decant liquids into them so you don’t have to bring them back with you and finish them while on holiday.

By signing up for at least one travel credit card that includes some sort of lounge access you enjoy waiting at a lounge where you get to eat and relax before you board your flight.

Download movies offline on streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime or YouTube to watch on the flight without internet access. If you are travelling with children, this is a good strategy to keep them entertained for a while.

Always bring a change of clothes in your carry-on, especially if you travel in Europe and America where it is common for luggage to go missing. It’s not saying that this does not happen in Asia, but it’s not so common. So having some clothes with you along with some essentials will allow you to get by until you are reunited with your luggage.

If you’re travelling with kids, it’s a good idea to bring along a busy bag or two. A busy bag is simply a small bag filled with activities and toys to keep kids entertained during travel. Fill the bag with colouring books, crayons, small toys and maybe one or new toys that will keep your child occupied and entertained during the journey.

Babies and young children often cry during flights because the change in cabin pressure can hurt their delicate ears. Children are far more susceptible to this than adults, and they also don’t understand what’s happening or how to relieve the pain. So while travelling with children, carry their pacifier, if they use one or feed them during take-off and landing. A lollypop can also be used for the same reason during take-off and landing to help relieve the pressure on the ears. Even for adults who have issues with ears popping during take-offs and landings, encourage them to chew gum or even yawn and stretch their jaws when they start feeling the pressure to relieve it.

Avoid eating at restaurants near tourist attractions, which tend to be more expensive. Instead, look for local restaurants in less touristy areas.

Download offline maps and travel guides to save on data usage and avoid expensive roaming charges. Google maps allow you to download offline maps, though the offline maps will not have the current traffic situation, it should not matter when on vacation.

Google Translate is very useful in a foreign country so communication can become easier. Also shopping and bargaining will be a breeze if both parties can communicate with each other. Google Translate lets you take photos of text in a different language and translate what it means in real time and works in airplane mode too.

Exercise is a great way to combat jetlag. Light running, yoga or resistance band training helps ward off jet lag. It is also best not to fall asleep after boarding a flight or after reaching the destination to combat jetlag.

Don’t exchange money for local currency at the airport. The rates at airports are usually not in our favour, so exchange money outside, maybe at a money changer who may offer better rates. ATMs are also a better way to withdraw cash at your destination.

Using long layovers to explore a city. Many airlines have a layover programme when you transit through their hub city. So those flying Singapore Airlines, can get a transit visa to explore the city if they have a long-enough layover. Other airlines may have a holiday package in their hub while transiting the city. This is an easy way to maximise a holiday by seeing another city or even country while on transit.

Email a scanned copy of important documents, including passports, tickets, hotel confirmations and these days your vaccine certificates. This is very useful when these documents are misplaced, stolen or just needed when you are outside and don’t have access to them.

This one is something I have never tried, but apparently, putting rechargeable batteries in the fridge keeps them fresher and full of charge for longer. As strange as it may sound, most rechargeable batteries retain 90% of their full charge when kept in cold temperatures.

Roll your clothes for more space. One of the easiest and most effective methods of packing is to roll your clothes rather than to fold them. Not only does this save a lot of space, but it also keeps the clothes wrinkle-free. Rolling clothes is especially invaluable when you do not have access to an iron when travelling.

Carry extension cables or power strips. This is especially true when you are travelling as a family and need multiple power points which are not available. Power strips are also very useful when you travel to a country which has a different plug and voltage system than your home and so you will need multiple adaptors to charge each device. Using a power strip means you can use one adaptor and charge your devices in the strips which have the same plugs as your devices.

When travelling to a new place, it is better to use an anti-theft purse or backpack. These look like normal bags and help blend with the crowd. These anti-theft purses also have features like waterproof lining and RFID-blocking material that protects IDs and credit cards from hacker scanning.

Packing luggage scales inside is a good idea when travelling, especially when you are planning to do a lot of shopping at your destination. This allows you to be careful of your luggage weight so that they are within the airline’s weight allowance.

Using packing cubes help to compartmentalise belongings so that everything has a place, and nothing gets lost at the bottom of the suitcase. Packing cubes are one of the best luggage hacks if one is looking to pack more efficiently. One can simply pull out the cube containing whatever they’re looking for, rather than having to root through the entire suitcase. They’re also great for preventing clothes from getting creased and come in a variety of sizes at an affordable price.

Use compression bags to fit more in your luggage and save luggage space. Using compression bags reduces the volume of air within the luggage, freeing up space for more shopping.

Pack versatile clothing that can be worn in multiple outfits to save space and reduce the amount of clothing you need to bring.

Pack a lightweight, foldable bag in your luggage for souvenirs or laundry.

Stuff shoes with socks or underwear to save space and protect the shape of the shoes.

Use a shower cap to cover the soles of your shoes to prevent them from dirtying other items in your luggage.

Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you can. This is very useful to listen to music or watch movies on board. These headphones are expensive, but worth it as they block out the sound of the rest of the airplane so you can enjoy the movie or music or even sleep with them if you need quiet to get some naps.

Travelling is one of life’s greatest joys but there’s no doubt it can also get pretty stressful for any number of reasons. From planning and packing to dealing with jet lag and everything in between, there’s a lot that can go wrong on a trip. But with good organisation and the right attitude, one can avoid most of the stressful situations that travellers often find themselves in. By using the travel hacks above, travel will become that much more enjoyable.

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