Travel Hacks Before You Leave
- Instead of a hotel, look into reserving a home if traveling with a family, or a single room if alone. Websites like AirBnB can provide homes and private rooms from home owners who are renting them out, usually offering better accommodations than hotels.
- Roll your clothes when packing. Instead of creating a folded pile in your suitcase, rolling allows you to fit more things in. Plus, you can even roll underwear and socks within your clothes for optimal space-saving.
- Scan your passport, identification card, and itinerary and email them to yourself. This provides an extra copy of each in the event of loss or theft. As an iPhone user, once I email the documents to myself, I usually open the email on my iPhone and save them onto iBooks. This provides me with an offline record.
- It’s important to remember to call your credit or debit card company before you leave to ensure that you have your card authorized for your foreign destination. This prevents them from suspecting suspicious activity.
- Mark your baggage as fragile. This is a tip I learned a while ago from a friend who found it to be a great way to ensure that your baggage is handled correctly. Your luggage is kept at the top because of this, which will make it one of the first bags to be released.
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Travel Hacks For the Departure
- Bring your own water bottle. Depending on the airline’s own policies regarding drink costs, the amount of times water is offered may not be to your liking. Having your own water bottle ensures that you have water when you want it. When they do come around, top off your bottle with what they give you.
- Never underestimate the value of a fanny pack. Yes, they can be embarrassing and seemingly out of the mid-to-late 1980s, but trust me—every time I travel, even domestically, it has ensured that my valuables are safe, and it expedites security checks.
- Splurge on Internet service if your flight is more than six-and-a-half hours long. You’ll thank me when you find that sparking conversation with your seat partner is harder than pulling teeth. Plus, you can complete work for the last time before you hit your destination.
- Ensure that you have a pen before leaving home so you can complete customs forms. Fill the forms out when you get them, and ensure that your family members have theirs filled as well. People will clamour for your pen; flight attendants rarely have them.
- 20 minutes before you land, sprint for the bathroom. Usually when the seatbelt light comes on, I’ve found that you still have 15 minutes of leeway until you truly have to be seated. Use this opportunity to relieve yourself to prevent fighting for restrooms when you land.
Travel Hacks When You Arrive
- Dart directly for baggage claim. It is amazing how many people seem to lollygag after landing. Save that for someplace else to save yourself time and to prevent any arguments with fellow travelers.
- Use ATMs to get local currency. Using money converters in the airport usually come with their own fees and the exchange rates are a rip-off. ATMs always dispense local currency, of course, so use your debit or credit card and get your money there.
- Ensure that you have Yelp downloaded for domestic travel in the US. This is a great city guide for both travelers and locals alike, and is best way to find the most amazing places to eat and sightsee.
- Shop for groceries when you arrive. You don’t have to shop for a feast, but getting basics like water and a few snacks in local stores instead of at the hotel can save you a ton.
- When in your room, remove only the necessities from your luggage. Trying to make yourself at home by taking out every pair of shoes and all of your toiletries will only make repacking a living hell, and it increases your chances of forgetting something when it’s time to go home.
Exploring Your New Location
- Use guidebooks sparingly. I recommended Yelp because it allows you to discover a few places off the beaten path. Guidebooks only presents you with tourist spots; even those that advertised themselves as being off the beaten path.
- Use the local language as much as possible. It reflects well not only on you, but also on Americans/your nationality in general. It shows you are willing to make the effort, which can work in your favor in some situations.
- Have a souvenir list prepared, and stick to it. This will save you money and prevent you from purchasing something that “you’ll find someone to give to another time”.
- Eat locally only. Save McDonald’s, if you have to eat it in any location, for when you’re home. Trying the local cuisine will save you more money and allow you to experience new and flavorful meals.
- “When in Rome, do as the Romans” is a general saying that I like to translate it as, “don’t be a stubborn traveler, and get out of your comfort zone”. If a country advises modest dress, for example, follow through. It can even ensure your safety as a foreigner.
Travel Hacks for Returning Home
- If you are a frequent traveler, live out of your toiletry bag and keep it packed. This will allow the packing process to be a bit easier and will prevent you from having to make expensive toiletry purchases if you forget something.
- Use IFTTT when sharing traveling photos to make it seamless and easy. “Recipes” like sharing automatically to Dropbox or Evernote will allow you automatically to have a copy of your precious photos.
- Unpack immediately when you enter the door. You may be tired out of your mind, but you’ll be glad you did it in the morning. Plus, it saves your luggage from smelling like soiled laundry.
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