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My ultimate travel tips

Also known as Travel Hacks – things 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 save money for travel

Work the system!

I am a huge advocate of loyalty programs. I am signed up for airpoints on Air New Zealand (Star Alliance), Qantas (One World), Emirates and SouthWest.

I collect airpoints in NZ on my credit cards (I switched to Westpac from BNZ specially and I’ve never paid for a domestic flight within New Zealand!) I collect airpoints instead of FlyBuys at supermarkets and other retailers like petrol stations and my online power bill.

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 as most of those flights tend to be contra’d so I earn nothing!

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 have alerts set up now for flights to the US, flights to Bali and anywhere else I’m vaguely keeping an eye on.

I follow airlines and hotels and destinations on social media so I am in the loop when they promote a hot deal. Like their Facebook pages, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Top tips for on the plane

Tracksuits or leggings are the short cut for airport terminals! Pic Sergey Zolkin

Avoid wearing belts or chunky jewellery. Actually this is a pre-plane tip. I choose leggings over pants with 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.

Take a neck pillow. And not just any old neck pillow. It has to have a fastener 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.

Update: After running the Travel Store for two years and selling more of the Cabeau pillows than would fill up my entire house, I tried one out myself. I’m sold! These fit more like a neck brace and allow you to relax the neck and get some sleep sitting upright in economy class!

Wear a 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 also look great to wear when you’re out and about and are easy to pack 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! If you’re like me and live at the bottom of the world (New Zealand!) you know what it’s like to take gruelling 12-17 hour flights (in economy class) before your next stop! I make no bones about it, I get sleeping tablets prescribed from my 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 sleeping tablet 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.

Neck pillow travel hack
A much easier way to sleep!

My best travel tips in the hotel

Bring a 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 with my multiboard. 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 beyond and emergency stop gap. I take a small bag of Persil (yes I know what the white powder 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!

Pack a plastic (or eco-friendly) bag. One or two plastic bags are handy for things like dirty shoes, wet togs (bathing suits!) and dirty laundry.

travel hack power strip
This, my friends, is why I need a multiboard!

My best tips for when you’re out and about

Travel with 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 is to leave one card in your safe or with your partner in case your wallet is stolen.

Have a photo of your passport on your 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.

Cell phone security
Load your emergency deets here!

Fill in your emergency contact info on your 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 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 I can roam in many countries for $5 per day. That gives me access to my full data plan from home so I often use 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.

*Speaking of roaming data, you might like to read my post on 11 things NOT to do on a cruise >>

Make 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 WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.

What to pack when travelling

My tips for what to pack – or NOT pack!

Do pack a folding umbrella. This is one of Newstalk ZB radio 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! Personally I don’t bother. If it rains I’ll do an indoor activity – like shop!

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!

What’s in my toiletry 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 (Ibuprofen) – in fact some in my toilet bag and some in my handbag. I even have a throat spray and lozenges kicking around in there.

Hair 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! (Just make sure they are packed in your checked in luggage).

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!


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Monday 22nd of April 2019

Would love your newsletter. Luv your travel tips


Wednesday 20th of February 2019

I swear by a nasal spray while on planes. Keeps the airways from not drying out and protects from some bugs. Always notice a huge difference when I use one, especially on long flights.


Wednesday 20th of February 2019

That's a great tip. Any particular brand you like?

Karon johnson

Thursday 29th of November 2018

I have already booked my holiday next year but would love to travel to America the next year - please keep me informed


Thursday 29th of November 2018

Will do. What's on your Bucket List for America?

Kathryn Enright

Wednesday 24th of October 2018

I take a zip lock bag... add water, soap and my small or light tops .. zip up .. slosh around while I’m in the shower... .. my own mini washing machine !! Works a treat !!


Thursday 29th of November 2018

That's genius Kathryn, did you do this on our tour in Italy?!


Sunday 16th of September 2018

That folding umbrella is great for hot sunny weather too as you can use it for shade wherever you go. saves sunburn and that blinding glare

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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!