Q: What is a travel hack?
A: It’s a way to make your travel easier. A short cut. A cheat sheet to getting the most out of your travel!
After years of travelling all over the world on short trips and month-long ones, over packing, under packing (yes sometimes I forget to take a jacket), fiddling with gadgets and trying to get comfy in economy class on a long-haul flight, these are my best travel tips.
How to travel on a budget (or for free!)
I am a huge advocate of loyalty programs. I am signed up for airpoints on Air New Zealand (Star Alliance), Qantas (Velocity), Emirates and SouthWest.
I collect airpoints in NZ on my credit cards (I switched to Westpac from BNZ specially!) I collect airpoints instead of FlyBuys now at New World and other retailers like Mercury Energy and Z.
I never need to pay for domestic flights in NZ because the airpoints keep coming in – and that’s not because I fly often internationally because most of those flights tend to be contra’d so I earn nothing!
I add price alerts on websites like Skyscanner so that if I’m planning a trip somewhere and want to know when the fares drop, I’ll get an email.
I follow airlines and hotels and destinations on social media so I am in the loop when they promote a hot deal.
On the plane
No belts or chunky jewels. Actually this is a pre-plane tip. I never wear a belt as they have to be painstakingly (and time-consumingly) removed at X-ray screening, as do my silver bangles and shoes if they are anything more than a slip on. If I don’t NEED to wear my boots (because for once they fit into my suitcase!) I’ll wear an easy pump that I can kick off (and sometimes they wave me through with them on) and reduce the full undress and hassle at security.
Neck pillow. And not just any old neck pillow. It has to have a dome in the front so I can do it up to secure it around my neck so it stays put. The most common way I wear it is to spin it around so my chin rests on the pillow part and my head it not pushed away from the seat. I also just dome it around the wheelie handle of my bag so it takes up no space inside.
Pashmina or scarf. These are handy for so many reasons, but on the plane I like it to make myself a little nest with my neck pillow, plus any airline blankies or pillows I may or may not be able to use. They are also look great to wear when you’re out and about and are easy to pack even into a handbag.
Take a water bottle. I always forget this and regret it when I am dying of thirst on a long night flight and there is no crew to be seen. Just make sure your water bottle is empty when you go through x-ray screening and fill it up before you board, or even on the plane.
Sleeping tablets! And I’m talking the ones prescribed from your doctor. I have tried over the counter ones, but they just don’t cut it. If I’m flying a long haul night flight I’ll pop one after dinner. I ask my doctor for Temazepam or Lorazepam as one tablet will usually give me about 4 hours sleep with no hangover. I have also used Zopiclone, but hate the metallic taste that can last for 24 hours after. And here’s another tip: take another one (or just a half) the first night you sleep at your destination. I have learned that even if I feel tired and fall into bed by 8pm, I’ll often spring awake at 3 or 4am and that puts me behind for the entire holiday. A good night’s sleep the first night you arrive will set you up for the trip!
Noise-cancelling headphones. The trick is they have to be noise cancelling! A regular headset is ok, but to keep out the screaming infants and that guy behind you that sneezes like he’s been hit by a bus, you need the good ones. Most people recommend Bose, but if you can’t afford them, anything with a padded ear will help.
In the hotel
Multiboard power strip. I only travel with one power plug adapter (see my post here for what plugs are used around the world) and I can charge everything at once. It takes up almost no room at all and I can even use my hair straighteners if I need to be so flash.
Washing powder. If I’m travelling for more than about 10 days I’m going to need to do laundry, but buying laundry powder is pretty tricky in a small enough container and washing clothes with hotel shampoo just doesn’t cut it. I take a small bag of Persil (yes I know what it looks like!) and can wash my smalls in basins all over the world.
Drying laundry in your room. Most of you probably already know this, but it was a revelation to me when my cousin Kate started rolling her wrung out but wet laundry in towels and twisting them. I now lay them onto a dry towel, roll, and because it’s a huge bath towel, I stand on it to absorb as much moisture as possible, then hang them on coat hangers in front of the AC. It’s important the AC is on – they’ll dry in a jiffy!
Plastic bag. One or two plastic bags are handy for things like dirty shoes, wet togs (bathing suits!) and even dirty laundry.
Out and about
More than one credit card. In the past 12 months I have had my credit cards stopped by the bank twice due to fraudulent transactions. The first time it happened was two days after returning from Hong Kong. Fortunately I was home and could access my money, but if I had still been away and maybe just starting a long trip, I would have been stuffed needing a new credit card to be issued! I always travel with more than one card, and another good tip would be to leave one card in your safe or with your partner in case your wallet is stolen.
Photo of passport on my phone. This has been handy more than once when I’ve needed to send my passport info to a travel agent and I have it right there on my phone to email from anywhere. But mainly it’s going to come in handy should your passport ever get stolen and you need to report it.
Contact info on phone. Not many people know that the little red heart app on iPhones can be accessed when your phone is locked. This is a brilliant little app that stores your emergency contact details, but only if you fill it in! Handy for if someone picks up your phone (i.e. not a thief) and is trying to reach you to get it back to you. Yes it does happen – there are some honest people in the world! But also essential if you should be in an accident and first responders can make contact with your partner/friend/spouse or whoever you’ve added in there.
Avoid data roaming. Unless you have a plan. I use Vodafone from New Zealand and on the Red Plan I can roam in many countries for $5 per day. That more than covers me for as much data as I need – including using my phone as a hot spot to blog and use the internet on my computer. If you don’t have this plan, make sure you have turned data roaming off and use free Wifi spots.
Free phone calls. Of course most of us will know this, but there are several apps – including Facetime – that you can use to phone your mum. It uses data, but whenever you’re using free Wifi (say in your hotel or at McDonalds!) you can phone home for nought. Other apps to try are Skype and Viber.
What to pack – or NOT pack!
Do pack a folding umbrella. This is one of Newstalk ZB host, Andrew Dickens top tips! He reckons always pack a small umbrella as it will probably rain on your parade and you won’t need to be wet!
Gadget bag. I have a little soft bag that zips open and in it I keep one power adapter plug, all my chargers (laptop, phone, camera), memory sticks and if I’m speaking anywhere it’ll have my clicker for presentations and connector cables. It’s pretty much always ready to go. I pack this in my cabin bag with my multiboard – and slippers!
My toilet bag!
I am an overpacker when it comes to toiletries because I HATE being sick or even just under the weather when I’m travelling, so I typically have medication and a remedy for just about everything. But my essentials are:
Eye drops. I try not to use them everyday, but there is nothing that makes you feel (and look) worn out like red eyes. Especially if you are meeting with people or even presenting to a room, as I sometimes do. Clear, bright eyes hide a multitude of sins!
Throat. This is my absolute hate. If I’m getting a cold or worse, it always starts in my throat so I travel with Betadine throat gargle to hit it immediately the scratchiness starts. I ALWAYS have a huge pot of Neurofen – in fact some in my toilet bag and some in my handbag. I even have a throat spray and lozenges kicking around in there.
Conditioner. I’m not as fussy about shampoo as I am about a good conditioner. If I really can’t take my bottle from home, I will use the hotel shampoos that I have collected (half used!). But I need a good conditioner or my hair will dry out and misbehave.
Nail scissors and file. I pretty much ALWAYS snag or break a nail when I travel. I think it must have something to do with the dryness of the aircraft making my nails brittle. Take an emory board and you can carry that on you, or a steel file in your packed luggage. Scissors or clippers are also handy for cutting labels off your shopping!
Of course I also pack cleanser, moisturiser, toothpaste and brush, floss, cotton buds, tampons, Claritin for allergies and sunscreen.
And no, I can’t ever travel with carry-on only!
Need new luggage?
Shop in my new online store* for top quality hard shell and soft cases, neck pillows, day packs and cabin bags. Jump here to have a look >>
*Shipping only available to NZ addresses.