Travel Hacking 101 for Awesome Adventures
I realized earlier this year that my readers needed a fresher course on travel hacking 101 and this my ultimate guide on how to travel hack. No matter how many articles are published about how to travel for free or get upgraded travel hacking is still super confusing. So if you’ve ever felt like travel hacking is something you just can’t understand, don’t feel bad at all. You are not alone.
I have spent countless hours reading various resources and connecting the dots for you so that you will not have to do all of the hard work. Most of the articles written about travel hacking don’t explain the basic mechanics, nor do they address people’s main pain points, fears, and questions. Click here to read How Safe Is It To Travel Mexico
21 Tips and Tricks For How To Travel Hack
I want to make the planning, packing, getting there and enjoying the journey better than you could have ever imagined.
Travel Hack #1 – Choosing and Booking The Perfect Destination
You have vacation time to burn and an itch to get away. So what’s the problem? You don’t know where to go or how to book your travel.
Because credit cards are scary. When everyone and your mom tells you how bad they are, how are you supposed to then magically see credit cards as tools that can help you?
Hack #1 – Set Goals. Decide the purpose of the trip by asking yourself, are you really seeking fun in the sun, tropical waters, and late night colorful drinks? Determine the objective of your travel first, and the destination will follow
Hack #2 – Check your calendar. Invest time in the research process, and if you want to save cash, don’t have your heart set on specific travel dates. Think about general shoulder seasons like fall when kids are back in school, or early winter when trips to Europe normally go on sale.
Decide how much money you will need, how will you save the money, how much time you will need to save the money, and again be flexible with travel dates.
Hack #3 – Consider the source. Always, always, always compare deals on multiple websites such as Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity. Before committing to either of these sites contact the hotel directly in case there are any hidden or seasonal promotions. Make sure you clear your browser when searching for airfare because as cookies track your searches you will inadvertently cause higher ticket prices.
Travel Hack #2 – Pack Only What You Need
If you have a habit of taking way more than you need whenever you travel, swearing you’ll “pack light” next time around.
Hack #1 – Leave the fashion show at home. Most travelers make the same mistake of over- packing, so go through each day of your itinerary and figure out what you will be wearing, down to accessories. Make sure you reuse the articles by mix and matching items toward the end of your trip which will cut down on packing so many items.
Hack #2 – Essentials only. Ask yourself if you really need to pack those stilettos, third pair of shoes, or those bulky bracelets that you are probably not going to wear. Keep toiletries down to a bare minimum by using travel size toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste. Ask yourself if you even need to pack shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap because most hotels will provide these items for you. Packing cubes are a great space saver.
Hack #3 – Pack wisely. Use your space wisely and fill every nook and cranny of your suitcase. That means filling your shoes with underwear and socks, rolling and stacking to save space. If you pack to capacity this will help you resist the urge to purchase souvenirs you really don’t need. I love the Delsey Luggage and it has compartments all over the place which is another great space saver.
Travel Hack #3 – Duty-Free Shopping
As you wait for your plane, you’re surrounded by stores filled with shiny new gadgets and fancy designer bags with claims of duty-free discounts. Should you splurge or not is the question?
Hack #1 – Be strategic. Are you really saving money on those “duty-free” shops in the airport? Pull out your phone and quickly research how much you can purchase those items for at home and is it really worth lugging the box through the airport.
Hack #2 – Don’t buy luxury goods in “duty-free” because most high-end labels like Chanel and Dior are price controlled so their prices will be the same no matter where you buy them so just wait and purchase those items at home. If you are looking for gift ideas for the traveler in your life. click here to read my Holiday Gift Guide For Women Who Love To Travel.
Hack #3 – Local finds. Make sure the food items you are buying is hard to find and specific to the region you are traveling.
Travel Hack #4 – Flying The Friendly Skies
The thought of sitting in a cramped space for hours on end doesn’t seem to appeal but you have to fly in order to get to your destination so here is my travel hacking 101 to get you through flying.
Hack #1 – Stay hydrated. Buy water once you get past security because once you are on the plane you will only be given a small amount of water the entire flight. Don’t drink alcohol before and during long flights
Hack #2 – Sleeping. If you are planning to use sleep aids (including “natural” methods such as melatonin, or drugs such as Ambien), try them before you fly with them because some of them may have an adverse effect if you have never used a sleep aid.
Hack #3 – Dressing for the flight. Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes — no skinny jeans or anything that could impede blood flow or cause your ankles to swell. I think this is the most important lesson in learning how to travel hack for women. We love looking cute but there is no need to walk around the airport in wedges. I personally wear a cute pair Tory Burch Flats because they are both stylish and comfortable.
Travel Hack #5 – Eating On The Road
You worked out and scrimped on calories to get in swimsuit shape, but don’t leave those healthy eating habits at home. How do you stay on track and avoid returning to work sunburned and bloated, or even worse gaining the 15lbs you lost prior to your vacation.
Hack #1 – Don’t let all of your hard work go down the drain. Ask yourself is this worth the calories? If you are in Italy and you know you will be eating rich pasta every night for dinner, skip the heavy breakfast for fresh fruit and maybe a smoothie. I am not saying if you’re in France don’t indulge in eating great baguettes and cheese but anticipate your schedule and plan meals so you don’t overeat.
Hack #2 – Sometimes bigger can be better. Be careful about sampling street food; while we all watch Andrew Zimmerman eat all kinds of unknown things that might not be the best idea if your tummy is not made out of steel. You can still have authentic food of the region you are traveling without dying from food poisoning. If it doesn’t look right or smell right please use your judgment.
Hack #3 – Squeeze in exercise. Vacations are a great time to run on the beach as the sun rises, take a walk along a scenic trail, or tap into anything that gets you moving. Try to plan movement into your daily vacation routine. “Swim, walk, explore, kayak—all of these are great. I actually lost weight while I was in Rome last year because of all of the walking. I was averaging 20,000 steps per day which I tracked on my Apple watch. Vacation exercise can easily be fun. So, do it!
Travel Hack #6 – Hotel Drama
You pored over online reviews before booking what seemed like the perfect room. As you pull up to the hotel lobby, your excitement diminishes because this is clearly not what you signed up for.
Hack #1 – Pack a positive attitude. If you’re experiencing a hotel drama, do not overreact! A smile goes a long way. Rude and nasty behavior will have you looking for another room without being compensated or refunded for the whatever error occurred. Remember class will get you to a quicker resolution and isn’t that what you want?
Hack #2 – Money Talks. Tipping generously, especially here in the US can’t hurt. Become friendly with the hotel staff and keep plenty of small bills on hand to reward excellent service. I don’t mean you have to make it rain on the staff but a small gesture will get you very far.
Hack #3 – Double-Check your hotel bill. Sometimes advertised “freebies” don’t translate into the real world when making reservations online. Make it a habit to bring a copy of the hotel listing and your confirmation number with you. This will provide documentation that you are promised things like free breakfast or wifi and you will be more effective in getting results.
Travel Hack #7 – Staying Happy on your vacation.
Your vacation is finally here after all of the planning and dreaming to finally get some rest and relaxation but you are not in the mood. How can you be cranky going on vacation?
Hack #1 – Keep up your daily routine. If your food and exercise plan works well for you at home, keep it up while you travel. Drastically changing your daily routine can result in low energy and gastrointestinal problems. If you take vitamins and supplements regularly at home use a Ziploc bag and take them with you. Don’t give up healthy habits just because you are traveling.
Hack #2 – Find Your happy place. Maintain anything positive that you do regularly to start or end your day. Whether it’s prayer, meditation, positive affirmations or reading. If you don’t want to haul books, download meditation apps, relaxing nature sounds or podcasts to keep yourself in good spirits.
Hack #3 – Bring a small Health kit. Forget sneaking bottles of alcohol onto the resort but make room in your suitcase for a few select pharmaceuticals, like decongestants, pain relievers, and Pepto-Bismol, along with antibacterial wipes to clean tray tables, tv remotes, and hotel phones. Remember, always wash your hands!
Bonus Hacks 101
Surviving Holidays On The Road
Along with seeing friends and family, the holidays mean crowded airports and packed roads. Lessen the aggravation by following these stress-busting strategies.
Travel On Less Busy Days
Avoid the crowds by not driving or flying on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or on December 24, they are traditionally the heaviest travel days. Consider departing early by plane or car on the actual holiday if you can make it to your destination for the heart of the family celebrations. The actual holidays also tend to be the cheapest days to fly.
Lighten Your Load
Mail your gifts ahead of time. This adds room in your car and can save you money on luggage fees when flying.
Consider A Smaller Airport
Regional airports, as opposed to major hubs, come with the conveniences of easier parking and smaller crowds as well as shorter check-in and security lines. These advantages can outweigh any added drive time required to get from the gate to your downtown destinations. This is another Pro Move when learning how to travel hack! Always search surrounding airports when booking flights.
Bring The Correct Documents
When crossing an international border- heading to a Mexican beach, Canadian ski resort, or other international destinations it is wise to bring a copy of your birth certificate and if you are traveling with a child you will need a birth certificate and a notarized letter of consent from the stay at home parent authorizing the travel. Click here to read my guide on How Safe Is It To Travel Mexico.
Make “What If” Plans
When meeting friends or relatives at a destination or airport, don’t rely only on cell phones. Go low tech just in case your phone dies or service isn’t available. Develop a plan B on how to meet up and what to do in case of missed connections.
Pack Insurance Cards and Permission Forms
If your daughters friend tags along and she breaks her leg falling off a horse, you will need a copy of her family’s insurance card plus a notarized statement from her parents authorizing you to obtain medical help in case of an emergency. Without those documents, the hospital may only make her comfortable until her parents can be contacted.