At In The Loop Travel, we are always on the search for new ways to add comfort, save money and secure our health when we travel. We continuously discover -- or invent -- new tips and tricks for how to travel smarter and better. These travel hacks might come from trial and error, a jolt of common-sense inspiration or by chatting with fellow travelers who have some cool ideas.
Here is our list of 21 unique travel hacks that can help you travel like a boss. Please, please, please help us out and add some of your own tried-and-true methods in the comments below.
OK, let's get to the list! . . .
These items can can improve your travel experience ... really!
Digital Copies -- Make digital copies of your important documents like passports, driver's licenses, visas, itineraries, contact info and any other items that you would be a big hassle if you lost them. Many of these items won't stand as replacements for the originals but having the copies can expedite the process of getting a new passport, for example. Take picture with your cellphone or upload images to a secure cloud service like Dropbox.
Bag it Up -- Ziploc baggies can be among the most-versatile things to pack. Use them to pack up an extra snack for the road from a hotel buffet. Keep your cellphone or other items dry when you are out hiking in the rain. Or put the hotel room TV remote into a Ziploc as soon as you arrive. Grab a handful of the resealable bags because you never know what you might use them for. The remotes at hotels or Airbnb accommodations are gross germ farms. Ewwww! At hotels, an easy fix also is to wrap it in a shower cap that is often provided in your room's bathroom as part of a toiletries kit.
Backup Plan -- If you made arrangements for a stay at a place you reserved on Airbnb, VRBO.com or even a hotel and motel, research at least one more spot that can be your fallback if the hotel or other service screws up your reservation or doesn't give you a room that meets your satisfaction. We have heard of people arriving at their Airbnb to find it dirty or have some other aspect of the plan fall apart. Have a backup Airbnb place you can quickly book or use an app such as Hotel Tonight to secure your accommodations in a pinch.
It's Showtime -- Load up your phone or tablet with downloadable entertainment from Netflix or Amazon (the services offer downloadable content that you can watch offline). Having a batch of shows and movies is perfect for downtime in airports or on planes and trains and also a great way to unwind in your cabin or hotel at the end of the day if you're in a place with no Wi-Fi connectivity.
Airline Apps -- Similarly, make sure that you know what entertainment system your flight will have (if any). Some airlines use planes with no TV screens and require you to have their app to view entertainment options once you air in flight.
Lounge Around -- If you get a limited number of airline lounge passes -- maybe from a rewards credit card -- you probably will hold on to them and wait to get the best use out of them. I get one lounge pass a year from United for having a United Mileage Plus credit card, and I won't use it unless I have a layover of at least five hours at an airport. The tip here, though, is to always carry these passes because you never know when travel disruptions might leave you stranded at an airport. I have left mine at home and regretted not having it for just such a case.
Power Play -- Get a power block (picture at top) to charge your phone and other devices. These come with multiple ports to charge several items at once, and they are much more powerful, with a longer lasting charge that quickly recharges your stuff. They are not much larger than a big cellphone and work infinitely better than the charging sticks that charge one device at a time. I use the EC Technology Power Bank that costs around $25 to $30.
Volunteers Needed -- Many flights are overbooked. If you keep your travel schedule flexible, you can get great benefits by volunteering to be bumped. Arrive to a gate early, check with an agent about whether there is a possibility they will need volunteers, and plant yourself close to the desk so you're ready when they make the call. You get booked on a later flight (sometimes just a few hours later) and likely can get between $400 and $1,000 in airfare vouchers and even meal vouchers and a hotel stay (depending on when your new flight is scheduled).
Welcome Home -- I know most people like to squeeze out every possible moment from their vacations, but consider planning to come home a day early, if possible. That means flying back on a Saturday instead of Sunday, for example. This way, you get a full day back home to do the laundry, grocery shopping and ease back into reality instead of dropping your bags, going to sleep and getting up on a Monday to go back to work. Leaving an extra day on your weekend when returning means you can afford to volunteer to be bumped (and getting all those perks) or won't be faced with an overly stressful crisis (having to miss a day of work, getting the kids back to school, etc.) if weather or a mechanical issue puts your flight off for a day.
Anywhere in the World -- Let's stick with the notion that you are a flexible adventurer. If your bucket list is limitless, perhaps you might like the idea of planning your vacation in reverse. Search for the cheapest flights to any number of destinations that interest you. Can you travel at a moment's notice? Pick a location, a flight, a date. Then, pack your bags and go! You could save thousands on trips.
Cash Stash -- I carry a backpack as one of my luggage. In one of the pockets, I have a 20 British pounds note and a 20 euros note. This is my emergency money in case I need it in a pinch. I use credit cards whenever I can (get one that has no foreign transaction fees), and I also bring some cash in a wallet, but my secret stash is for emergencies -- maybe I need a taxi ride and am out of other funds, for example.
Lost and Found -- Put a label on your devices -- e-reader, tablets, cellphones, computers, etc. -- with your name, contact info and address. If you forget one of these items anywhere along the way -- the main culprit is in the seat pocket on a plane (don't ever use the seat pocket of a plane!) -- you have a better chance of your lost item making its way back to you.
Luggage Limbo -- Place a business card or a sheet of paper with your name, phone number and address on it inside of your suitcase or backpacks in case any luggage tags are torn off during transit. This helps if your bags are lost or delayed by the handling service. Or if another traveler unwittingly grabs your bag off the carousel.
Clean and Comfy -- Bring a pair of travel socks for your long-haul flights. You can slip off your shoes and keep your feet warm and comfortable onboard the plane. When your trip is done, slip off the socks and toss them (Because, airplane floors. Yuck!).
Bubbly Quenchers -- When ordering bottled water in less-developed parts of the world, go with the fizzy stuff (picture at top). The sparkling water with "gas" or bubbles is much more difficult to counterfeit. This means you are not going to get local tap water in your bottle (yes, this happens), which can make you sick.
Fresh Laundry -- Bring along fragrant dryer sheets and a clean bag to segment your suitcase when you repack your clothes for the trip home. Because you have packed efficiently (right?), you will have maybe only a few items of clean clothes left. Keep those in the clean bag, away from your dirty, stinky clothes. Place a couple nice-smelling dryer sheets on top of your packed dirty clothes and then lay your clean clothes bag on top.
Screen Time -- You know how you had that boarding pass loaded on your app or browser and then it disappeared when you lost connectivity at the airport just as you were approaching the agent in the security line? Take a screen shot of the boarding pass on your phone, and this will never be a problem again. You can just retrieve the image from your phone's picture gallery and not worry when you lose Internet connectivity.
Roll It Out -- Cut a small section of a pool noodle (picture at top) and bring it along to use for lumbar support on your flights. Your back will thank you. You can also use the piece of foam as a roller for exercising the bottoms of sore feet or massaging any other tired muscles.
Save Your Memories -- Offload pictures and video from your cameras at the end of each day. Use a portable drive or your laptop to store and organize the days of your trip. This helps you stay on top of documenting your travels so it's not an unwieldy task when you return home. More importantly, you are backing up your images in case your memory card is lost or damaged. That way, only one day's worth of images are lost, not the entire trip.
Sneaker Toss -- Going on an active adventure, maybe with hiking in dirt and mud, or daily bike rides (maybe in the rain)? You probably will be working out at the hotel gym or getting in a run outside a couple times. Bring a pair of old sneakers -- the ones that are on their last legs -- and give them one last hurrah. I have used a pair of old sneakers on my more active outdoor trips and simply tossed them out at the end (picture at top of this post). This keeps stinky shoes away from my luggage and clears up the space needed for a couple souvenirs. (I reclaim more space than most when I do this because of my size 12 feet.)
What do you think? Used any of these tips? Have more to add? Let us know.
Thanks for reading,