Skip to Content

19 clever travel hacks

If you’re thinking about international travel again, post Covid, you might be a little concerned wondering what’s changed and how difficult it might be to get the best deals, and get where you can go with ease.

I’ve spoken to several people who are feeling like they’ve lost their travelling mojo and are a bit nervous about it – some even saying they won’t think about travelling until at least next year.

That makes a bit sad, to be honest. But I totally get it. I have two international trips coming up and I’m not as excited as I normally would be about flying to the United States and then to Thailand the following month. I’m a bit unsure of what to expect.

Trying out the new Air New Zealand sleeping pod
Trying out the new Air New Zealand sleeping pod

So I’ve put together this list of great travel hacks (also known as travel tips) and I’ll keep adding to them as more things occur to me, or I hear about some cool little travel tip you might want to know about.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Use an Air Tag to keep track of your luggage

We’ve all read the horror stories of luggage not arriving when you do, so I’ve just bought myself an Apple Air Tag to put inside a zipped pocket of my luggage, which I can track via Bluetooth on my iPhone. This will allow me to see where my bag is through the Find My Phone app, in the same way I can track my husband!

While it might not ensure your luggage actually arrives, at least when you fill out your form you will know where it is and is the best way to get some action.

Photo of passport on phone + email yourself

This is one of my best travel hacks: take a photo of your passport photo page and keep it on your phone. Tap the heart (if you have an iPhone) and it will save to your favourites in your Photo Library, making it easy to find.

This is helpful not just if you lose your passport, but if you also need to email your photo ID anywhere at any time. Having a copy of your passport is also a great way to show your ID while you’re out and about.

Book accommodation to block out dates

I got a bit of jip for this when I posted it on my Facebook page, but here’s a clever travel hack: if you are wanting to go to an event but are not sure what dates it will be yet (like say, King Charles III coronation, or the next Olympic Games) but you have a bit of an idea, you could go to hotel booking websites like Booking.com and reserve hotel rooms across a few weeks.

Make sure you book rooms with free cancellation, and when the dates are announced, you can cancel the ones you don’t need.

Be sure to book in small chunks though, as if you book for the whole month in one booking, you can only cancel the whole month and your week might not then be available.

Hotel room

Adding a bag to your booking

This has now become one of my top travel hacks, after I found out by experience:

The other day I was flying domestically and when I got to the airport I realised I’d booked seat only, no bag. I could add a bag at the Air New Zealand check in kiosk for $45, but instead opened the Air New Zealand app on my phone and added a bag there for $20.

Buy skip the line tickets

Time is short when you’re travelling so don’t waste time standing for hours in queues to get into attractions you want to see, instead pre-book your tickets online and skip the line when you get there and right to the door.

Vatican queue
Some of these people won’t even get in!

Book window and aisle seat

My husband and I are flying to the US in a couple of weeks and few know the seat configuration is 3-4-3 on the plane. We were able to book the window seat and the aisle seat, leaving the middle one available.

People booking their own seats won’t choose the middle if they don’t have to. And if someone is sitting between us, you can offer one up – or not!

Empty seat on plane

Use a travel agent

I didn’t take my own advice, instead booking online for my next trip, but I had a friend tell me just the other day that they used a travel agent who were able to find more flights than we, the public, can find online. AND they found the best price – it was cheaper than they could find online.

Get best rate on hotels by going direct to hotel website

When you do a search for hotel prices, don’t just rely on the big hotel booking sites. Also log into the hotel website and check the dates. Not only will it be cheaper (most times anyway), but it also means more money in the pocket of the hotel than the big online travel agents.

Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell
Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

Buy foreign currency at Travelex

In New Zealand our banks no longer sell international currency. (Actually I think Westpac might still sell currency). So we need to buy our dollars and euros and pesos and lira from Travelex, but then have it sent to the airport to pick it up there airside. Airside means through customs.

Another tip is to just draw out local currency when you arrive in a new city. I’m never taking too much cash with me, so a couple of cents extra on the exchange rate – even if using an airport ATM, is neither here nor there. I just use ATMs while I travel and get chunks of cash out at a time to save on the bank fees.

Currency

Inform your bank you are travelling

Just send a quick message online in your banking app, to let them know your travel plans and which countries to expect to see transactions coming through from, so they don’t block your card on your umpteenth purchase!

Avoid Uber surge pricing

I discovered this the other day, I checked the Uber app to see what it would cost me to get into the city for a meeting at about 10.30am. It was about $46, so I thought, ok that sounds good. I went and got ready and then, about 20 minutes later, when I was about five minutes away, I jumped on to book – what?! $57.

Did you know if you check the price, then log back in later it will surge because it tracks your phone (ISP)? I have Ola as my alternative when Uber does this and switch companies. Ironically it’s often the same driver just switching between apps too!

Ideally you’d use a private browsing window, but as the app is installed on my phone, I don’t know how you could do it in this case.

Check the Uber price on your phone
Check the Uber price on your phone

Take to Twitter

If you have a travel problem which you can’t seem to resolve and you’ve emailed and maybe been on hold on the phone for days, take to Twitter. Their social teams seem to respond faster than the phone, and they also don’t want the negative publicity oftentimes.

Getting around a new city

In a new city I like to get a Hop On Hop Off bus pass for 2 days. The first day I go round to get my bearings and figure out where I want to come to. Then the second day I use it as my means of transport as it’s an easy way to travel from A to B to C.

Big bus tour
Take a city bus tour over 2 days

Mailing lists

Sign up for airline mailing lists to be first to know of great deals. Also destinations or tour companies or hotels. That way you’ll be able to snap up a bargain before they sell out and save a lot of money. Hopefully!

Become a Frequent Flyer

There’s a method in the madness of why airlines have Frequent Flyer programs, it keeps us insanely loyal! I have a trip to Thailand coming up and while Air New Zealand doesn’t fly there, it will get me close, so that is my preference as I hold onto my Gold status by the skin of my teeth.

Meanwhile I also accumulate my Air New Zealand airpoints on my credit card balances and that’s enough to get me a free flight domestically every couple of months or so.

Take a water bottle

But remember to empty it before you go through airport security. However once through, fill your empty water bottle up at water fountains and don’t pay for water on your travels, using free water in hotels and malls.

Also, don’t drink the tap water if you can help it. Certainly not in Indonesia and not even in Rarotonga. Make sure it’s drinking water you are filling your bottle with.

Filling up my water bottle in Rome
Filling up my water bottle in Rome

How to whip through airport security

I never wear a belt when I travel. In fact, I rarely wear a belt anyway – preferring pull up pants! But to have the least stressful time getting through airport security, wear easy to remove shoes, or none with metal in them. Airports in the US will require shoes off, but in New Zealand you only need to remove them if they beep, and I make sure mine don’t!

I don’t wear chunky jewellery, I have my laptop ready to pull out of its zip case, and these days I don’t even bother removing my lipsticks, as the X-ray staff seem to know. On saying that though, in Fiji they were super strict last time I was there and you HAD to have a plastic baggy for them – which they did not provide and as I was only transitting through, I had no Fijian currency to pay $1 and buy one! Fortunately I was able to squeeze them into a colleague’s plastic bag.

Beware hidden luggage costs

Cheaper airlines might look like the best option, but often they’re too good to be true once you add on the extra fees. You’ll pay more for luggage, more for your seat, more for food, and don’t even think about watching a movie on your long flight!

I’m a fan of Southwest Airlines when flying through the US as they are a budget airline, but also have a free bag for each passenger which means they offer a good deal on cheap flights.

Check WayAway for cheap flights, and make sure you compare Southwest. They’re not found on lots of aggregator websites.

luggage on carousel

Book the sleeping pod

From 2024, you will be able to book about four hours in Air New Zealand’s new, patented, sleeping pod on their longest flights. These bunk beds can take six people at a time and you book them alone with your regular seat.

Here’s a tip: if you’re travelling with a friend/partner, book them at separate times so you also get two seats to yourself for another four hours while they’re taking a nap.

More travel tips and hacks

I like my creature comforts for what to take when travelling economy on a long flight. This post lists my must-haves to put in my cabin bag to ensure I can tuck down and get a little sleep and avoid jet lag.

Plus I’ve written this post on my best tips for packing light. How to take a trip without too much luggage, the rolling v folding debate and whether it’s really true that rollers can fit more in.

This post is great if you a reeeeally long flight. Like the new one from Auckland to NYC: 17 things to do on a 17 hour flight. It’ll break it down into bite size chunks to get through.

This post is filled with great travel hacks for family travel, from how to pack for each person, to things to do to keep everyone happy.

And I love this post with 52 fun games to play on a road trip or just on family games night!

And finally, if you want some packing lists for what to actually take with you, or my packing list for an island holiday, or my packing list for a cruise, I have written these packing lists. You can also download my ultimate packing list for free, just by signing up to my newsletters, and then print it out to make sure you don’t leave anything behind.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Meredith

Monday 3rd of October 2022

Hi Megan, thanks for all the hacks. I like your tip on booking small chunks of dates for accommodation before knowing the exact dates! I would never use booking.com though. In 2021, I had money withdrawn from a visa debit account that I keep in the UK, without any booking to align with it. In fact I had not used them since 2017. Trying to get hold of booking.com was impossible without a current booking, so I tried their facebook page, and found that I was not alone in my experience. Fortunately my UK bank were awesome, and in one phone call they arranged to refund the fraudulent transaction. Next time, I'll use your other tip - contact the accommodation provider directly! Thanks again, appreciate your cheerful blogs and emails. Cheers, Meredith

Megan Singleton

Monday 3rd of October 2022

Woah!

Sue

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

Book window and aisle seat

I tried this, booking on the Air New Zealand app, for myself and partner on the one booking for our two trips to Australia this year. Would not let me do it when it came to seat select, said I must select two seats together. Looks like ANZ is on to that travel hack.

Megan Singleton

Monday 3rd of October 2022

I spoke to a person at Air NZ who booked them for me over the phone. But I think I might have tried to do it online and also failed a few years back, now you mention it, so I opened two computers and booked husband and my seats separately. Of course if one is Gold, the other doesn't get the benefit if you're on separate bookings.

Gary

Monday 26th of September 2022

what was the place near LAX that you recommended to go while waiting for flights? ...Citadel...?

Megan Singleton

Monday 26th of September 2022

Hi Gary, yes that was Citadel Outlets. Get the VIP pass. I've written about it here https://www.bloggeratlarge.com/the-best-shopping-day-in-la/

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!