Sometimes it feels like we may never get to roam free again, but as history proves humankind has been through worse before and come out the other side—so, all we can do is keep the faith and dream about the future, when we can once again hop on a boat, plane, train or automobile and explore this wondrous world.
In the meantime, you can try and satiate your wanderlust by planning your next great adventure, so you’re good to go the second you rip off the mask and dust off the passport. And, when that time comes we want to ensure that you make the most of your much-needed vacay, with these top travel tips and hacks that guarantee you’ll get to travel like a pro.
ALL DAYS ARE NOT THE SAME.
When you’re looking to book flights, always look for Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday departure dates as nine times out of ten they’re considerably cheaper. Most people like to leave on a Monday, and return on a Friday or Sunday, so you can score some pretty impressive savings if you’re flexible with days.
Time your trip
Years ago it used to pay to book flights well in advance, or, at the very last minute, but now that airlines often group together and share flights to reduce costs they’re frequently overbooked, so last-minute deals are a thing of the past. Your best bet now, if you’re looking for the best price possible, is to try and book flights about two months in advance. 6-8 weeks is the sweet spot if you really want to cash in.
Big tech tracks our every move, courtesy of our browser cookies, it’s why you get all those pesky ads that seem to spookily know exactly what you’re thinking and wanting. Airlines and travel sites are no different, they record all and any searches that you make for flights which results in them offering higher prices when you finally get around to booking. Travel companies want to trick you into splashing your cash as soon as possible and encourage impulse buying, so they increase the prices for returning customers—yep, really. At this stage, there’s pretty much nothing we can do about pinche Google, but you can still get one over the man airline company though. Always be sure that you clear your cookies cache and switch to “private browsing” or go “incognito” when you’re searching and booking flights.
Location, location, location
Just like the world of real estate, when it comes to travel it’s all about location, location, location. Download and install a VPN when searching for flights, as prices can vary considerably depending on which country you’re buying from. Thanks to the modern wonder of VPNs you can trick your computer into believing you’re in Mumbai, or Mexico City, or London, or wherever when comparing prices, all without leaving the comfort of your sofa.
Multiply your savings
Instead of booking a return flight with the same airline, look into booking two one way trips with different carriers, you’ll often get a much better deal. The same rule applies for long haul flights with stopovers or airport changes—research multiple airlines for each leg of the flight, and save yourself enough dollars for a Duty Free splurge or two.
Hedge your seating bets
If you’re traveling with a friend or partner always reserve the aisle and the window seat. If you’re lucky nobody will book the middle seat, allowing you precious extra room. If some bastard does take it, unless they’re a total psychopath they’ll happily swap with one of you, if you really have to sit together, so it’s well worth the gamble.
Fast & fragile
If you want to avoid being the last person standing at the baggage carousel be sure to mark your luggage as “fragile” as that means your bags will be placed at the top of the plane’s storage hold and therefore removed first. In theory, it also means extra care will be taken with your suitcases, but yeah, like we said, in theory….
These days it’s pointless locking your suitcase with any kind of padlock, as security measures mean you could be one of the unlucky passengers whose bags are opened for a random check, resulting in a damaged case and that fancy lock being ruined. There’s really no such thing as “protecting” your belongings post 9-11, the best you can do is secure your bag’s zipper with a paperclip—at least it will hold the zip together and keep your bag intact.
Prescription for travel
Always make sure you have a copy of your doctor’s prescription for any medications that you’re traveling with. Prescription laws vary greatly from country to country and you could find yourself in hot water if you’re stopped by customs with a bottle of Oxycontin or Adderall. Also, if you can’t fit all of your medications in your hand luggage be sure to have at least three days worth with you in the unlikely event that your bags go missing and you have to wait for their return or get a new prescription.
Before traveling be sure to take photos of your passport, credit cards, drivers license and other essential documents and upload them to your cloud, and email a copy to yourself or a trusted friend. It’s unlikely you’ll need them, but better safe than sorry as there’s nothing worse than attempting to replace a passport when you’re overseas and you don’t have a clue what the details are (I know, I learned the hard way).
Be sure to call your bank and credit card companies before you travel and tell them where you’re going and how long you’ll be away for. It’ll save any fraud security alerts being issued and your cards being stopped.
If you’re a frequent traveler it’s really worth applying for a Transferwise account and card—and no, this isn’t a sneaky “content marketing” advertorial. Transferwise are awesome, they’re like the anti-PayPal (who are the devil IMO) and they offer local exchange rates at ATMs in addition to super cheap international transfer fees on money that clears into your account immediately, in case you find yourself in financial trouble and in desperate need of cash being sent to you.
Just say no
On the subject of bank fees, when you’re using a foreign card at an ATM NEVER accept the conversion rate they offer first. It’s a total rip-off that many unwitting customers are totally unaware of. When the ATM brings up the screen with the conversion rate and asks if you accept it, select “no” and then you’ll get the local rate instead, which is way more favorable. Banks ripping people off? Who’da thunk it? Ka-ching!
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
The best advice when it comes to packing is to lay out everything you want to take with you on your bed, and then halve it. But, if you’re one of those people that just can not travel light then make sure you get maximum package space by rolling your clothes before placing them in your case (it has the added advantage of minimizing creasing too). Also, be sure to stuff your shoes and boots with smaller items like underwear and socks.
Keeping it creaseless
Another tip for avoiding wrinkles is to turn jackets inside out before rolling them. I have no idea why, but trust me, it works. Oh, and if you don’t have an iron at your final destination and you really can’t stand creases, hang the offending item on a hanger in the bathroom and turn the shower on full heat. After five minutes or so the steam will help smooth out any offending wrinkles.
Fresh as a daisy
Always be sure to include a tumble dryer sheet in your suitcase when you’re packing, it’ll ensure there’s not even a hint of old sock or sweaty shirt odor clinging onto your clean clothes. If you’re going to be away for a couple of weeks take a small pack with you to replenish when necessary.
Stay DNA free
ALWAYS remove the top cover that’s on the bed in any hotel or hostel you stay at—duvet, blanket, bedspread, it doesn’t matter—trust me, remove it. Even many of the very best hotels don’t launder the top bed covers between each guest stay, and a CSI team would have a field day with the DNA that’s lingering. Ewww, just… ewww….
I got the power
The travel tip that changed my life…a little dramatic, admittedly, but still, it’s goooood. Always pack a power strip. Hotel rooms are notoriously measly when it comes to electrical sockets and it’s a pain in the ass having to charge your phone in the goddamn bathroom.
Tardy for the party
If your flight is post midday always ask the hotel for a late check out. Unless they are packed to the brim they will always allow you one or two extra hours over the usual checkout time, meaning you can laze around in bed, nursing your hangover and indulging in some room service before rushing to the airport.
If you’re traveling solo and fancy some socializing, or want to get some local insider travel trips, join the Facebook “expat” groups for the country you’re traveling to. They prove to be a wealth of useful information and support and even offer the chance to make some new friends.
Crayon in the wind
If you’ve ever travelled in the developing world then you’ll likely be aware of pesky power cuts and outages. Instead of weighing down your bag with heavy candles to tide you over if the lights go out, pack some crayons instead, they’ll usually suffice for long enough until the power returns.
Offline is fine
Both Google Maps and Translate can be used offline, in case you find yourself out of data and without WIFI. You can download and save maps for different areas so you’ll always be able to get around if you’re lost, and you can set Google Translate to “offline use” so you can hablar con los lugareños.
Finally, ALWAYS tip the maid. Please. Just do it. Sure, you don’t get to feel all warm and righteous as you watch their delighted and grateful face when you hand them five or ten bucks, or whatever, but still. Hotel maids are notoriously badly paid, they work their asses off, and people rarely tip them. So yeah, just do the right thing. Seriously. Just leave some cash in an envelope on the side for them.