Whether you’re a seasoned veteran with more passport stamps than a diplomat, or a novice who just bought their first backpack, it’s always fun to exchange travel tips and learn something new that can save you time, stress and cash. Travelling is about making memories and having fantastic experiences, not about worrying whether you can drink the tap water or that there’s no seatbelt in the tuktuk. Take these tips from the experts and apply them to your trip to make it all the more enjoyable.
1. Travel in stretched out style…
If you’re planning on spending your hard-earned cash at the destination rather than on the journey, you’re most likely travelling cattle class. What a lot of travellers don’t know is that emergency exit rows and bulkhead seats are generally blocked until customers physically check in three hours before the flight. Check-in staff are looking for people that fit the profile of someone able to assist in an emergency, so if you look the part and need some extra leg room, get to check-in early and ask at the desk for a bulkhead or emergency exit seat.
2. Get the best card
Well-travelled James from nomadicnotes.com shared a tip on how to save on bank fees when travel. For Australians the best international bankcard he has found is the Citibank debit card. There are no international transaction fees on this card, which most banks charge 3% on top of international purchases.
Travel writer Chris at theaussienomad.com suggests to look into getting a 28 Degrees MasterCard when travelling abroad. They charge no fees on international transactions so you can pay with card for most things and avoid carrying a lot of cash.
3. Get some info from those in the know
Inevitably, you will find yourself ON the beaten track, particularly if you are ticking off popular sights or experiences before you embark on a more intrepid adventure. When you start to sense you’re in tourist-trap-mecca and can’t bear it any longer, log into tripadvisor and get some perspective. The Near You function lets you get some candid reviews (the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright hillarious) of restaurants, activities and things to do from those in the know.
4. Ask your flight attendant
You might not know the turf, but you can bet your friendly flight attendant has been to the destination you’re headed before – probably countless times – or is even based there. Take a minute to ask for a few local recommendations.
5. Make the most of your stopover
If you’re on a budget, you might find yourself with a ticket that has a stopover or two. Rather than whiling away the hours in an airport, take a look at the city you’ve landed into. Some airports offer free city tours (Singapore, Amsterdam and Istanbul to name a few), or you can pay a fee for a short tour that will have you back in time for your flight and save you from hours of airport boredom. Read more about free tours in Singapore from Jade Johnston of ouroyster.com. Alternatively, make a deal with a cab driver or tout to show you around for a few hours.
6. Tripit app
Do yourself a favour and download the TripIt App. Absolutely free (unless you want to splurge a whole $4 for the premium service), this is just like having a personal assistant. Forward all your travel bookings to the app, which will magically create a flawless itinerary for you. An added bonus is you have all your travel plans in one place, and can access them even when you’re offline.
7. Pack a pashmina or hoodie
This is a tried and true rule that every seasoned traveller lives by. Pack a hoodie, a sarong or a pashmina. The number of things it can be used for are endless – need a pillow? beachtowel? A makeshift curtain? A scarf? A laptop bag? A blanket? To protect the snow-globe you just bought? You got it. It’s light-weight, doesn’t take up space and will be invaluable.
Travel bloggers Nick and Dariece suggest on their blog goatsontheroad.com that if you fold your hoodie in the way shown above, you’ll have a nice, comfy pillow that can rival those in nice hotel rooms. And if you want to know how to make a laptop bag out of a hoodie then watch the video below.
Take a moment to download the MapMe app, and update it with maps of the place you’re about to visit, whether it’s a tiny village, an island or a bustling metropolis. Once the app is downloaded, you won’t need an internet signal to find where you are or search points of interest. If you’re a fan of GoogleMaps and don’t want to stray, search for your destination, and then type ‘okay maps’ in the search function. The map that is on your screen at that time will be preloaded and saved, and you’ll be able to access and use it later – when you’re offline.
9. Shop in Duty Free
If you are flying with a low-cost airline and don’t want to pay extra to check-in luggage, make sure to read through the airlines on-board luggage policy. Some airlines, like Tigerair or European Easyjet are quite strict with your second carry-on and will demand you to compile your two bags into one. If it is not feasible and you simply have too much luggage use this hack. Stop by any airport or duty free shop to make any purchase and make sure you pick up a carrier bag, bigger is better. Put your smaller items or second bag along with your purchase(s) into the carrier bag and you will board the plane with no problems: most low-cost airlines are now allowing 1 duty-free bag on board with no charge.
10. Fishing line
A fantastic, little-known trick to keep your luggage safe and sound is unbelievably simple. Take a length of fishing line with you on your travels. If you find yourself sleeping in an airport, nodding off on a long train trip or just aren’t great at keeping track of your belongings in public places, tie the fishing wire to your bag, and then to your leg, wrist or belt loop. This will stop would-be bag snatchers in their tracks, AND you’ll get the chance to give them a stern talking to.
11. Freshen up
Travelling light is always great in theory, but can also mean that the clothing you did pack is in high rotation. Pop a few scented dryer sheets in your backpack or suitcase, between the clothes. They weigh nothing and take up no space at all, but will give your clothes a nice, fresh scent. And let’s face it – that can make ALL the difference.
12. Need some entertaiment?
Sometimes you need a bit of entertainment, and if there’s no people-watching available, you need to use your resources. Did you know you can watch YouTube clips while you’re offline? It’s as easy as copying the URL of the video you’re interested in and saving it in KeepVid.com or similar. Save the video to your desktop and enjoy it later!
13. Free hotel for a Long layover
Long haul flights with long layovers are a great way of getting cheap flights, but they can be a real struggle. If sleeping on the airport floor, eating snacks from vending machines and not being able to shower for over 24 hours is not such an attractive prospect, you might want to know that many airlines have policies in place that allow you to get accommodation, transfers and even meals for free for layovers longer than 6 hours. It is worth checking with your airline before you decide to book. Blogger maphappy.org has put together a simple guide on at least 15 airlines that provide flyers with free hotels.
14. Treat yourself to a lounge
Travelling couple Simone and Dan theaussieflashpacker.com have found that more and more airports today have lounges that you can pay to enter without being a member and regardless of flight class. Sometimes booking into a lounge is cheaper and makes a much more relaxing, enjoyable airport experience. Everyone knows that airport food is expensive and we like to have a few drinks to celebrate before setting off on our holiday. If you count the cost of food, drink, and WiFi (we always like to be connected and it is not free in all airports) then we find the lounge can often be cheaper than the rest of the airport.
15. Carry a pen
A pet hate of flight attendants is people who don’t travel with a pen. At some point in your travels, you will need one, whether it’s to jot down a thought or an address, reset your combination padlock or use it as an emergency splint for a broken finger: you WILL need a pen. Pack one.
16. And some paper
Got all your travel plans and documents saved in your cell phone? Or in the cloud? Great! Until you run out of battery or can’t get connected. Grab a pen and paper and take a few notes – hotel addresses, phone numbers, airline ticket number etc so that if you’re really caught out, you have an old school back up that won’t run out of battery or get stolen.
17. Duplicate your documents
Anthony, the author of thetraveltart.com strongly recommends taking a scan or photocopy of your passport, driving licence and any other important documents you need for travelling, and keep them in a safe place. If you are opting for photocopies, stash them AWAY from the originals. If you run into trouble, back-up copies of your essential documents will be invaluable.
18. Get fed faster
If you’re travelling on an airline that has complimentary in-flight service, order yourself a special meal. Options range from medical meals (diabetic, low-sodium, low-cholestorol etc) to food preferences (seafood, fruit platter…). Not only are you going to get something your seat neighbour will be jealous of, you’ll get served first.
19. Cheap accomodation
Few tips from world-explorer Maddi at alifepassport.com: accommodation prices will drop significantly if you stay outside of the central business districts in major cities. Take advantage of the public transport to get you to where you want to go. Also, make use of last minute accommodation websites and apps like Hotel Tonight in order to get the best price for a room.
20. Peace of mind, for free
It’s boring but take a moment to check the conditions on your credit card – you may be eligible for free travel insurance which will save you time, money and any niggling concerns about what will happen if you break your leg or lose your luggage.