Traveling the world and experiencing new things is great, but do you know what’s better? Traveling the world and experiencing new things with a handful of hacks that will save you time, money, and stress along the way! No matter if you’re embarking on a year-long backpacking trip or a long weekend getaway, you’ll be wondering how you ever managed without them.
1. Tell Your Bank Where You’re Going
I’ve made this mistake before. I didn’t tell my bank that I was going to South Korea, so when I tried to use my debit card at an ATM in Seoul it was flagged as suspicious activity and my account was blocked. Cue a huge panic as I tried to access money for accommodation and food. Save yourself the stress and pop into your branch to let them know where you’ll be going and when you leave.
2. Don’t Bother With Incognito Mode For Flight Searches
You’ve probably heard that airline websites remember your searches and up the prices of the flights you looked at the next time you visit. This has created a popular belief that you should always use incognito mode to look for flights. It appears to be a myth I’m afraid. You can still save money on flights by using an app like Hopper though. It can predict future travel prices and send you notifications when your preferred flight is at a low price. Problem solved.
3. Try To Avoid The Seat Selection Fee
During the online check-in process some airlines will give you the option to select your seat, for an additional fee of course (rolls eyes). In some cases, you can just skip this section and you’ll be randomly assigned a seat at no extra cost. You might end up next to the bathrooms though…
4. Email Copies Of Important Documents To Yourself
Any scenario where you get your bags stolen is obviously less than ideal. However, if your passport, bank cards, and other identification get nabbed, it turns into an absolute nightmare. Trying to prove who you are without them can be a real headache, so protect yourself from that possibility by emailing copies of your passport and other important identification to yourself before you leave.
5. Download Offline Maps
Data roaming can add up to exorbitant rates and I don’t think that anyone can actually read a real map these days. So, in order to get around and find attractions, restaurants, and viewpoints while you’re abroad, you’ll need some form of offline map. Mapps.me is my personal favourite. You just need to download the map of the country or region that you’ll be visiting while you have an internet connection, and then you can get route navigation, maps, and landmark icons offline. Google Maps also has a good offline function.
6. Take A Reusable Water Bottle To The Airport
We’ve all been stung by the marked-up prices of food and drinks beyond the security check at airports. What’s worse is that you’re forced to pour away any water that you brought with you. So bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain afterwards. Take that airports!
7. Only Pack What You Need
It doesn’t seem like much of a hack, yet how often have you sat on top of your suitcase desperately trying to pull the zippers close? 9 times out of 10 you won’t need anywhere near as much as you think you will. Think about where you’re going and for how long. You are not going to need three pairs of jeans for a two-week visit to Thailand in March.
8. Pack A Tumble Drying Sheet
Sweaty clothes and footwear can stink up your suitcase or backpack, especially if you’re travelling for a long time. Nobody wants that. So pack a few tumble drying sheets in between layers of your luggage to keep your clothes and personal items smelling fresh.
9. Pack A Pen In Your Hand Luggage
The humble pen is perhaps the most underrated of travel accessories. Not only can you cure boredom with some in-flight doodling or pen the next New York Times bestseller on the train, you can fill out a landing card without scrambling around the cabin trying to find one to borrow. In my experience, the cabin crew rarely have pens, or enough pens to go around at least.
10. Pack Bobby Pins In A Tic Tac Container
I know first hand from living with girls that bobby pins get absolutely everywhere. Seriously, how do they end up in the places that they do? So ladies, try packing your bobby pins in a tic tac container to avoid them roaming around your entire suitcase, the plane, and half of Europe.
11. Store Jewellery In A Pill Organizer
A fellow traveller showed me this hack while I was backpacking in Asia. To prevent her jewellery from getting lost in the depths of her bag or becoming a big tangled mess, she kept it separated in a pill organizer in her backpack. Smart.
12. Keep Your Cables Together In A Designated Bag/Case
The downside of travelling with a whole host of gadgets and technology is the sheer amount of cables we have to lug around to charge them. I’m pretty confident in saying that almost everyone has been in this scenario on the plane: fishing for a cable that has managed to get lost in a bag somewhere. Avoid that from happening by putting all of your cables in a little bag, together, and use elastic bands to keep them neat and untangled.
13. Pack A Homemade Waterproofing Remedy
Some fancy backpacks and rucksacks have a built-in waterproof cover which can be unfurled when the heavens open. If yours doesn’t, but you still want to keep your phone, wallet, and underwear dry, pack a few bin liners in your rucksack to use as makeshift backpack poncho.
14. Always Carry A Small First Aid Kit
I always carry a little first-aid kit with me when I travel. It doesn’t need to be much: a few antiseptic wipes, a pack of waterproof plasters, and a bandage or two can prove useful. I was very thankful for my little kit when I sliced my foot on a bunch of razor-sharp mussels while climbing up a wooden dock out of the ocean in Cambodia.
15. Invest In Packing Cubes
To roll or to flat pack? That’s the age-old packing dilemma. To be honest, I’ve tried both and I’m not convinced that either one is superior in suitcase space saving (my experiments have been far from scientific, though). On the other hand, I would recommend packing cubes. Not only do they compress your luggage to make it easier to pack, you can compartmentalize clothing to make them easy to find later on.
16. Drop A Pin On Your Accommodation
If you’ll be using an offline map app like we suggested in point #5, it’s always a good idea to drop a pin on the location of your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. By doing so, you can easily find your way back home in an area you’re not quite familiar with. It also helps a ton when you’ve had a drink or 7, too.
17. Use A Hotel TV To Charge Your Electronics
In the event that you forgot to pack a travel adapter (duh), or you’re on a layover in a foreign country, charging your electronics can be tricky. But get this, you’re phone, tablet, camera, etc. often use a USB charger, right? Most hotels have a TV in the room, which will have a USB port in the back. Put two and two together people.
18. Use An ATM To Get Cash
For a long time, the go-to way of getting the local currency for your destination was to visit a travel agent or a currency exchange bureau before you left. There are two problems with this method. 1. You have to take all of the cash for your entire holiday with you. 2. You get ripped off with the exchange rate. Instead, use an ATM at a bank while abroad. Yes, you’ll get charged a foreign transaction fee but you’ll end up better off, and you don’t have to carry a whole wad of cash at once.
19. Store Your Rechargeable Batteries In The Fridge
I know. It sounds a little crazy, but hear me out. Alkaline, NiMH and NiCd batteries self-discharge over time. However, they self-discharge at a much faster rate in hot temperatures. So, if you’re heading to a hot destination, pop your rechargeable batteries in the hotel fridge to prolong their life.
20. Eat Where The Locals Eat
Part of the fun of travelling is sampling amazing cuisines from around the world. In some countries the best food around is found at street vendors. If you want to eat at a street stall, have a quick glance at the clientele first. If the locals are eating there, you’re almost guaranteed that the food will be great.
21. Shower In Flip-Flops
Hostel washrooms can be grimy, and they’re shared by a whole bunch of people with varying levels of personal hygiene. Safeguard yourself from athlete’s foot and general germy-ness by hitting the shower block in flip-flops.
22. Help Yourself To Hotel Toiletries
It’s nice to treat yourself to a hotel room every now and then while backpacking. If/when you do, make sure to help yourself to the toilet roll, and those little bottles of shampoo and soap. The hotel will replace them anyway, and you never know when they’ll come in handy on your travels.
23. Use A Fake Wallet
Something I like to do to give myself extra peace of mind when travelling is to carry a fake wallet. It serves two purposes really. Hopefully, it never happens, but in a scenario where I’m being mugged, I can offer the fake wallet with just a few bills and none of my vital identification. Second, a fake wallet further safeguards me from pickpockets. They aren’t going to try to pickpocket me twice, right?
24. Pack Light And Buy New Clothes On The Go
Packing light is even more necessary for backpackers. You’re going to be carrying your stuff around on your back a lot of the time, after all. In some countries, especially those on the popular backpacking route of Southeast Asia, you can buy new t-shirts and clothes very cheaply at local markets. Instead of paying a lot for laundry each week, it can often work out cheaper to simply get your use out of a t-shirt and then either donate it or discard it and buy a fresh one along the way.
25. Carry Laundry Detergent With You
Alternatively, you can avoid pricey (by backpacker standards) laundry services, especially in the more touristy areas, by carrying your own laundry detergent. That way you can wash your clothes in a sink for free. Just make sure that the sink is clean first.
26. Free Pub Crawl
Now, this one is a little bit sneaky, granted, but it’s the definition of a hack. Pub crawls are a great way to meet fellow travellers and make a few friends, but they’re often run by hostels for a fairly high fee. You can avoid the fee, however, by researching where popular pub crawls start online and making your way there as the drinking commences.
It’s important to mention before we get too far into this one that haggling shouldn’t be used in every single country you go to. That being said, in many countries, especially those on popular backpacking routes, haggling is expected and you should definitely try to do it. Haggling can be a little awkward to start with, but the more you do it the more natural it will feel. Plus, it’s the only way to get really great deals at the market, for hotel stays, and for transport fares.
28. Break Bills As Soon As You Can
Breaking big bills as soon as possible is handy for two reasons. First, it will provide you with small change for things like bus fares and tips. Second, it can help with haggling too. If a vendor sees that you only have small change as opposed to a wad of bills, they might be more likely to accept your lower offer.
29. Take Advantage Of Twitter
“The airlines’ customer service line was so quick and convenient. My query was dealt with immediately!” Said no one ever. Trying to chase missing reward points, dealing with delayed flight refunds, or attempting to reschedule flight times can be a nightmare over the phone. So, turn to social media instead. An airline will usually respond much quicker to a direct Tweet. Probably because they want to avoid looking complacent in front of the whole internet.
30. Don’t Be Swayed
On several occasions, I’ve heard people tell others not to go somewhere because “we’ve been and we hated it!” Don’t let other peoples’ experiences influence where you go and what you do. Traveling is about exploring new places and forming your own opinions about them. Maybe you will hate it too, but you might also absolutely love it. You’ll never know unless you go and see it for yourself.