31 Super Smart Travel Hacks

By Nick Wharton on 28 September 2015 0 comments

Since the dawn of exploration, travelers have been finding ways to simplify and streamline their adventures. Today, we call this "travel hacking," and a few important tricks can save you a lot of time, space, and money. I've traveled the world with my wife since 2008 and we've saved thousands of dollars and a lot of time by using these 31 essential hacks that every traveler should know. (See also: 25 Hotel Hacks From Professional Travellers)

1. Get Theft-Proof Luggage

There are a ton of brands out there that offer theft-proof luggage. I have a Numinous Theft-Proof Backpack which has anti-slash technology, puncture-proof lockable zippers, and a steel tie-down cable. This bag is like a portable safe, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that my valuables are secure while I'm on the road.

2. Use Packing Cubes

If you don't already have these things, I highly recommend picking some up. Simply put, packing cubes are small, zippable compression squares that help to keep your backpack and luggage organized and compact. You can separate your tops, bottoms, and underwear into different sized cubes so that next time you're at the airport and you need to take out a t-shirt, you'll know exactly where to look.

3. Roll, Don't Fold

I first heard of this trick on the Oprah show a few years back, but it really works. Rolling your clothes can save a lot of space — and having them rolled and lined up in packing cubes (instead of folded and stacked on top of each other) allows you to better see your traveling wardrobe.

4. Protect Your Toothbrush With a Clothing Pin

Who knows what kind of nasty bacteria and particulate matter has accumulated on that hotel bathroom sink and counter!? According to a hotel sanitation study conducted by Katie Kirsch and a team from Purdue University and the University of South Carolina, the bathroom sink is one of the "germiest" surfaces in the hotel room. Her team claimed that the same sponges are sometimes used to clean the toilets and the counters. I'm really sorry to be the one to tell you, but this is why the clothes pin toothbrush holder is so important. Don't ever rest your toothbrush on the counter again!

5. Charge Your Device on the TV

Newer LCD and Plasma screens usually have a USB outlet on the rear console. If you've used up all of the outlets in your hotel, or you forgot to bring that little USB/AC wall adapter, the TV in your hotel room could save the day.

6. Pack the Boil Coil

I love this little thing and I wouldn't travel without it. Basically, it's a small heating coil that you can place in a metal bowl or mug to boil water. It can boil a cup of water in a little over a minute. The boil coil is perfect for coffee, noodle bowls, hard boiled eggs, and tea! (Maybe even pasta?)

7. Cook in the Coffee Machine

Did you know that the coffee machine in your hotel room can also be used as a mini vegetable steamer or porridge cooker? Simply place your desired grub in the carafe, add some water, and let it cook.

8. Put Your Valuables in an Empty Sunscreen Container

Next time you're at the beach, don't worry about leaving your valuables behind while you go for a swim. Just create this brilliant little hidden container by cutting your sunscreen bottle in half and you can easily hide your iPhone, money, and wallet while you're out enjoying the waves.

9. Stay Fresh With Dryer Sheets

Stinky backpack? Toss in a Bounce sheet. Smelly dorm? Put a sheet on the fan or air conditioner. Nasty foot odor? You guessed it. Fill up your hikers with dryer sheets. These things can freshen even the most unsavory of situations. Never travel without them.

10. Carry a Portable Home Theatre

The newest DLP technology has shrunk down to a size that travelers can actually pack. The RIF6 is a Rubix Cube-sized projector that can fit inside of an empty shoe in your backpack. All you need is a device and a white wall and you've got your own personal cinema.

11. Carry a VGA or HDMI Cord Instead

Don't want to buy the portable projector? Just carry a VGA or HDMI cord so that you can hook your laptop up to the hotel room television.

12. Find Wi-Fi Passwords on Foursquare

This is a great hack to use when you stay at hotels and guest houses that are located in cities with lots of access points. Just search Foursquare comments for businesses around your hotel and you'll likely find that someone posted a Wi-Fi password near you. Help the community by posting passwords as you find them as well.

13. Plug a Drain With a Coin

Sometimes you just want to do a bit of laundry in your hotel room sink, but you didn't pack a plug or the plug you packed doesn't fit. Luckily, coins come in pretty much all sizes, so just dig into your wallet and pick out two that will fit the drain in your sink. Then wrap the first one in plastic, place it in the sink and put the other one on top to hold it down. Now you can fill up the sink and do your laundry!

14. Take a Picture of Your Travel Documents

It's always a good idea to carry your passport and important documents with you, but you also run the risk of losing them or having them stolen. Instead, take photos of them and keep them in your smartphone photo library. If a corrupt border guard asks for your documents, try to flash the screenshot rather than your actual passport. Also make sure to email the documents to yourself so you still have them, even if your smartphone is stolen.

15. Be a Signal Vulture

When you first arrive at a new destination, head into as many restaurants and cafes as you can, buy something small and get the Wi-Fi code. Hit up 10 to 20 places around your hotel and you'll soon have free Wi-Fi within a one mile radius.

16. Use Fishing Line Security

If you're sleeping on an overnight train or bus, you're probably not paying much attention to your bag. If you don't have theft-proof luggage from the first hack on this list, tie fishing line to your important luggage and attach the other end to your wrist. If anyone tries to take it, they won't notice the invisible line, but you'll wake up when your arm jerks. You can then stop them in their tracks.

17. Record YouTube

Sometimes you just want to save that favorite video or music playlist to watch or listen to during a flight or long bus ride, but you know you're not going to have Wi-Fi. Head to savefrom.net and you can download your favorite vids and songs to watch or listen to later.

18. Hide Jewelry

Hide your beloved wedding ring and your favorite gold necklace in a Tylenol container instead of a Tiffany's box. No thieves are going to look in your first aid kit for a big score.

19. Practice the Secret Offline Google Maps Function

This is a very useful trick for those of us who don't want to spend money on data usage overseas. While you have Wi-Fi, open the Google Maps app on your smart device. Zoom into a map area that you know you'll want to look at later and then type "okay maps" into the search field. The app will then download that portion of the map for you to view later while offline.

20. Use Duct Tape to Fix Anything

This strong, sticky, grey adhesive can do so much for a traveler. Fix your broken shoes, seal up holes in window frames where creepy crawlers can enter, patch tears in your mosquito net, or temporarily cover a wound. Duct tape can do it all!

And there's no need to pack a huge bulky roll: instead just ditch the ink portion of a ballpoint pen, roll about 10 feet of tape around the outer casing, and cut off the excess plastic bits on either end of the pen.

21. Call Your Credit Card Company and Bank Before Traveling

The last thing you want is to be in the middle of your vacation and suddenly you're cut off from all of your accounts. If your credit card provider or bank sees random charges from Timbuktu, they'll probably freeze your accounts, forcing you to call in and sometimes order a new card. Don't let this happen to you. Simply call them before departing and let them know where you'll be and for how long.

22. Carry an Empty Water Bottle at the Airport

I hate spending $3 for a bottle of water that can be bought for 50 cents anywhere else in the country. But airport security will take your bottle if it has any water in it. Instead of paying airport prices, carry an empty bottle through security and then fill it up from a fountain or at Starbucks on the other side. Stick it to those airport overcharges!

23. Clear Your Cache or Browse Privately When Booking Flights

This is just one of several flight booking hacks I've got for you, but it's a goodie. Booking engines and airline websites store cookies in your browser so that they can jack up prices if they see you coming back to shop for the same flights over and over again. Clear your cache or browse "incognito" in Google Chrome (cmd-shift-n) to save yourself hundreds of dollars on airfare. (Ctrl-shift-n for PC Chrome users.)

24. Keep Your Collars Crisp With Your Belt

Roll up your belt and place it inside the collar of your favourite shirt to keep it from wrinkling and bending out of shape while in transit.

25. Seal Shampoo Containers With Shrink Wrap

Have you ever had your shampoo explode while in your luggage? It's a mess and the dyed liquid can potentially stain your cloths. To prevent this catastrophe, simply place some plastic wrap (or a Ziploc bag) over the opening and screw the lid on over top of it. Don't have cellophane wrap? Just tape the lids shut.

26. Ask Siri Your Flight Status

Hold the home button on your Apple smart device and say "Check flight status for (your flight number)" and Siri will list results with up-to-date information about your flight. If you don't have an Apple device, simply Google your flight number and you will see your flight info above the search results.

27. Put All Travel on Rewards Credit Cards

You might as well get some cashback and rewards from all of your travel purchases. Put your hotel rooms, restaurant bills, flights, and insurance on your favorite travel rewards credit card and earn some rewards for all of your purchases. Even better, use a card with no foreign transaction fees if you're abroad.

28. Get a Travel Debit Card

Some banks charge upwards of $5 for every transaction from international ATMs. Shop around and find an account that waives these fees so that you're not wasting money every time you withdraw cash overseas. In the U.S., the Charles Schwab debit system doesn't charge foreign ATM fees, while in Canada, the TD Canada Trust Select Service Account offers the same.

29. Ladies, Use the Diva Cup

If you're on a world trip, you're not going to want to carry a year's worth of pads or tampons in your bag, and in some countries it's hard to find tampons at all. Enter: The Diva Cup. This little thing will save you a ton of space in your luggage and it is much better for the environment and for your body.

30. Get a Range Extender

Wi-Fi in hotels and hostels seldom reaches the private rooms or dorms, but with this handy range extender, you can double the strength of the signal just by plugging it into a wall socket. It captures the signal from the router and magnifies it for you to use. It even has its own password so other people can't share the bandwidth with you unless you want them to.

31. Watch Inflight Movies on Budget Airlines

Carry a Ziploc bag big enough to fit your device and then clip the bag into the seat tray table in front of you. Hang the device down and voila! You have yourself an inflight movie, even when the plane lacks video on demand.

Did you find any new and useful hacks in this post? I must have missed some! What easy tricks have you used to make your travels cheaper, safer, and more comfortable? Please share with us in the comments below.

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