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Tony
Seattle

General Travel

What's your best travel hack?

My wife and I traveled for 10 months and amassed a pile of little clever hacks around everything from booking tickets/hotels, researching a destination, getting to know the locals, finding the best food, navigating in strange cities and more...  But I'm sure there are travelers out there who have clever hacks that we never stumbled onto.  I'll show you mine if you show me yours.


22 Answers

top answer by
Benedict from Berlin

Here are just a few:

Airline Planning / Booking:

Hidden City Booking: Sometimes ABC - DEF is $500, but ABC - DEF - GHI is $100.  Book the ABC - DEF - GHI flight, but conveniently "miss" your GHI flight.

Fuel Dumping: Adding a tag on flight that "dumps" the fuel on your ticket.  Savings significant if fuel (YQ) is high.  (Eg. $300 off a US - EU Flight)

Hotel Planning / Booking:

IHG Friends & Family for Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn Hotles: 15% off advance purchase off any IHG branded hotel (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc).  Don't necessarily have to be "Friends nor Family" of IHG employee.

Better Bidding for Priceline / Hotwire: Better Bidding has most major U.S. cities' hotels unmasked given amenities displayed on Hotwire.

On the Ground:

Leftover Currency: Have leftover currency, find a Starbucks, and put it on your card.  No FX fees charged.

Phoning Abroad: Find an unlocked phone, use One Sim Card in, and use a call back number which calls you back.  Because of unlimited incoming, you'll get dirt cheap int'l calls. 

Here are just some that might be useful, willing to add a bunch more!

Update:

Question from Rudy A. : For hidden city bookings, I assume you are booking one way tickets?

Answer: Yes, that is correct. For hidden city bookings, you would want to make sure that it is (i) One Way and that there is (ii) No Checked Luggage

(i) One Way: Missing the last segment of your itinerary automatically invalidates all unflown segments. Let's say you booked ABC - DEF - GHI - JKL. Let's say that you "miss" your DEF - GHI flight. When you no show DEF - GHI, the GHI - JKL segments gets invalidated as well. 

(ii) No Checked Luggage: If you check luggage, your luggage will be checked to your final destination. So if your flights are ABC - DEF - GHI, your luggage will be checked to GHISo, don't check luggage. 

Please see further notes at the bottom for more details. Here's a case study so that everyone's on the same page.

Case Study: Let's say that I am currently in Raleigh Durham and want to visit my friend Chase during Christmas in Philly. I search online and want to book the following flight:As you can see, it's a bit expensive, pricing out at approximately $364on US Airways Flt 5747 leaving at 7:00am and arriving at 8:27am onSunday, December 21st. I do a little digging and find the following flight to Washington, D.C.: 

As you can see, there are two flights, the first, the exact same flight as above, US Airways Flt 5747 from RDU to PHL leaving at 7:00am and arriving at 8:27am on Sunday, December 21st. There is an additional flight on US Airways Flt 5834 from PHL to DCA leaving at 11:35am and arriving at 12:35pm. The total cost for the following flights is $112.60.

Hidden City Nets 70% / $252 in Savings: Booking the second itinerary to Washington, D.C. through Philly nets a savings of approximately $252 / 70% off the $364 given that you are only paying $112. 

----------------------

Further Notes: (i) Airlines Do Not Like Hidden City: Airlines do not like it when passengers book this since this represents loss substantial revenue to them. I wouldn't be doing this on a constant basis since they may start noticing patterns of you "accidentally" missing flights and may take action against you since this may technically break their terms and conditions. (ii) Watch Out for IRROPS / Irregular Operations: During irregular operations such as a snowstorm, your flight may get canceled. You might be re-routed, and put on a direct flight or a flight that does not stop in Philly, for example. You would want to make sure that you have a good story to back up that of why you need to connect in Philly. (Eg. I am meeting Aunt Sally at the airport to drop off my Xmas Present to Little Cousin Nick before heading off to D.C).

Hope this helps everyone! Happy traveling!


32 thankscomments (9)


answered by
Supun from Carson (California)

Here's a golden nugget to try and see if it'll work for you. I'm doing Kili in December!

I had booked a flight from Kilimanjaro International Airport to Julius Nyerere International Airport on fastjet.com. When I booked for 2 people, I paid $267 for the one way fare. But then my friend who's already in Tanzania said that when she looked at prices it was like $80 cheaper. 

There's a Firefox and Chrome extension called hola that you can use to spoof your location. When I booked using hola my my price for the same 2 tix dropped to 319,000 Tanzanian Shillings = $185US! So I booked that and canceled my previous booking. 

Leave a comment if this works for you too.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kilimanjaro International Airport (attraction)
  2. Julius Nyerere International Airport (attraction)
13 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Howard from York (Pennsylvania)

I have found the use of vacuum storage bags gives me 7-10 days worth of clothes in a small carry on bag. When you get to the hotel ask to borrow their vacuum and ask to borrow theirs to repackage you clothes


8 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Janelle from Charleston

1.  Buy a box of large size "magnum" condoms and roll them over bottles of sunscreen, perfume, lotion, toothpaste or anything else with a top (roll it top end first) that can come off in transit.  The tight rubber will hold the tops in place so the contents don't spill and make a mess in your luggage.

2. If you're a single female traveller and not travelling with a man, wear a ring on your finger to make it appear as though you're married.  You'll have much less risk of sexual harassment when you're out in public, and if you go out for the night hoping to meet guys you can always take it off. 

3. If you go to the beach in Europe, buy a cheap chair at a supermarket and bring it with you.  Most European beaches provide chairs, but there are never enough, and if the beach gets crowded people start fighting over them.  Save the trouble by bringing your own.  When it's time to go back home give it to a local or donate it to your hotel.

4. NEVER book transport or accommodation through third party sites such as Hotels.com, Expedia or Orbitz.  They're useful tools for finding options and comparing prices, but if you book with them and something goes wrong, good luck getting through to a live person who can resolve the problem, and you'll have little to no recourse.  Find the price you want on the third party site, then go directly to the airline or hotel and book through them.  At least 90% of the time you'll find that same price you found on the third party site.

5. NEVER book air transport on an ultra-LCC carrier (e.g. Ryanair, Wizzair, Spirit, Allegiant, Air Asia) if you're travelling with checked luggage.  The ancillary fees for luggage are so high you'll end up spending the same amount as if you booked on a full-service carrier.  Ultra-LCCs are good for short trips with minimal luggage but not worth the hassle for longer trips with more luggage.


5 thanks


answered by
Rakesh from Houston, Texas

One that I used a lot: If you fly to the same place a lot (in my case, it was from the United States to India) and round trip tickets from one city vs. the other city are less expensive, this is a good one.

I would start by buying a one-way ticket from Houston to New Delhi and then I would buy round trips from New Delhi to Houston... I might have 4-5 months between the New Delhi to Houston leg and the "return" segment (Houston to New Delhi).  The "return" segment of that ticket would be the beginning of my next trip.  Eventually, when I didn't have a next trip on the horizon, I would just buy a one-way ticket from New Delhi to Houston.


5 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Jaleh from Baltimore

I like listening to podcasts and reading blogs before I go to a new location when trying to find must-see things, restaurants, etc. because they tend to be more honest/reliable than anything that pops up on Yelp or TripAdvisor. If I'm staying in a small hostel, I tend to ask the person running it because they often give affordable, accurate suggestions, whereas a big hostel or hotel tends to give more generic, forgettable answers. 


As far as booking a ticket goes, I like to search incognito and go to a few different sites like STATravel or Kayak before actually making a purchase. I also try and book a flight midweek, like Tuesday, since that tends to provide me with better deals. 


4 thanks


answered by
Tereza from Prague

#1 When booking flights and hotels online enable private browsing. Travel sites often track your visits and will raise the price simply because you've visited before.

#2 When reserving seats for two people, choose the aisle and window seats. If no one takes the middle seat, then you get the full row, and if someone does, then just ask to switch seats so you can sit next to your partner.

#3 Put enough clothes in your carry-on bags for the first day or 2 of your trip. On long flights with multiple stopovers, packing a fresh change of clothes is a good idea as bags tend to get delayed or lost on long haul, multiple stop flights. You don't want to be hunting for a pair of shorts immediately after your arrival in a new city or country.

#4 Avoid jet lag by getting plenty of exercise the day before you leave, which will also help you sleep on the plane. When you arrive in your destination, get plenty of fresh air, to further stave off jet lag.

#5 Have a secret stash of spare cash rolled up in an empty lip balm tube or lipstick.


#6 Send a postcard to yourself back home each day of your holiday. It'll be a nice surprise to come home to, and you can add them to any travel memory montage you create!

#7 Take photos, not photocopies, of your documents and email them to yourself. Will help you a lot if you loose any important documents or your bag on your travels.

#8 If you need someone to take a photo for you on holiday, pick a family with kids. They're almost guaranteed not to make off with your camera!


#9 On the last day of your trip to a foreign country, collect all of your loose changeand give it to the homeless.

#10 Make friends with a local! Why do you travel in the first place? To experience the culture of wherever you're going, right? If you want to experience a place like a local, you could spend some time asking the bar staff where the best restaurants and pubs are, but you could also actually have them show you around.

For more details & pictures. check out the original blog post: 17 Travel Hacks You Absolutely Need To Know

Happy travels!


3 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Ozgur from Istanbul

Some additional hacks


1. Read a book about architecture. After you learn, basic terms of buildings and arts, you will enjoy your trip more. You will get instant ideas while you are looking at that buildings. 

2. If travel means "inspiration" for you, i recommend to use "Noto" apps for iphone. If you want to take photos, write notes and record. Noto is the most convenient app. Alternatively, i recommend "Quip" for note-taking.

3. When you walk through x-ray at airport. Firstly put your coat, then put your luggages. Because, the first item you put the x-ray, gets out firstly. While you wait your luggage, you can wear on your coats again. You can save some seconds. 

... 

 


3 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Ed from Salt Lake City

I think I have three good ones.  First, Google to find charge cards with 40-50,000 bonus miles just for applying.  I currently have three and replace  them when the year is up and they want to charge the annual fee. Haven't bought an airline ticket with cash in five travel-heavy years.


Second, while you're out of the U.S., get your prescriptions filled and consider deferred medical procedures.  When I was on prescription Zantac for reflux, the difference in price for a years supply was enough to cover the entire cost of an annual two week vacation in a Mexican beach resort of my choice.  Based on experience, I've learned there is nothing to fear from seeing a country doctor in Uruguay, a Mexican dentist, or a Hungarian pharmacist.  I am writing this from San Miguel de Allende, where on this visit, a tooth broke.  Nine days and 3500 pesos later, I have a new crown and enough savings to cover my month-long stay in a VRBO apartment here. Quality-wise, my foreign experiences have consistently been superior to the U.S. 

Third, while at home, never throw out your underwear! Wash it one last time and pack it for your next trip.  With disposable underwear in your suit case, everyday you're making a little more room for the souvenir T-shirts you will be bringing home and not repacking dirty underwear.  And...there have been certain trips where I felt fortunate my undies were tossible!

Fourth, If you need to spend some time in Salt Lake City, you can't do better than book it at Off-Broadway Studios!


3 thanks


answered by
Jeremi from Lafayette

Check Living Social and Groupon for cities you will be traveling to to see if you can get deals on restaurants or attractions.


2 thanks


answered by
Courtney from San Diego

Buddy Up! 

A lot of people don't believe in hiring someone to hold your hand while traveling, but in a lot of situations, good guidance is a good idea.

You’re not the first person seeking escape from everyday life. The instinct is to do everything yourself. In some destinations, that simply isn't practical.

Two examples: 

1. Hired help for outdoor adventures

If you're visiting a National Park as massive and wild as, say Yellowstone National Park chances are you want to explore, wander around in nature, and get distance from visitor centers and tourist trails; I get it. Don’t assume that hiring someone to show you around is on par with group activities and singing Kumbaya around a campfire. In reality, local guides and tour groups are the gateways to the quieter terrain. You're paying them so you can tell them to leave you alone when you get there.

2. When you don't speak the language, meet someone who does. 

If you don't have time to learn Spanish before you go to Mexico, make a Spanish-speaking friend when you get there. I know it sounds obvious but most people find this to be daunting once they've arrived. They're secretly embarrassed if not shy. Having a bilingual buddy not only helps you get around, it helps you pick up the language faster. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Yellowstone National Park (park)
2 thanks


answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

After being robbed of my passport once while in a foreign country, I learned the hard way to always travel with passport replacement pictures in the size required by your country. Finding a place that can do that outside your own country, at least, if you're an American, can be VERY, very difficult! 


2 thanks


answered by
Jade from Texas City

Rolling my clothes instead of folding them. Transferring shampoo, body wash, handwash and lotion into smaller containers. I bring a pair of foldable ballet flats in case my flip-flops or shoes break. Choosing to go on a dental holiday for major dental treatments as it allows me to save a fraction of the cost. I had my dental implants at Thantakit Dental in Bangkok. Also, booking for a Tuesday or Wednesday as the day of departure is oftentimes cheaper. An extension cord really come in handy as well.


2 thanks


answered by
Tony from Connecticut

If you really want to learn how to hack well, you can go to the forum in travelcodex or flyertalk. Hacking is a serious hobby over there.


2 thanks


answered by
Michelle from Oregon

We've recently gotten into "travel hacking" with airline award programs and credit card bonuses. This year my husband and I are both flying round-trip flights to France/Switzerland and Jamaica completely on award miles. Many of these miles have been accumulated with the Alaska Airlines award program, which is one of the best out there (we also get companion tickets on Alaska which allow us to visit my husband's family in Hawaii over the holidays for almost a $900 discount). If you are responsible with credit and do your homework, this is a valid way to increase travel. Our credit scores have actually gone up since we've started.

I put together a whole guide on my blog which is currently available for free: Guide to "Travel Hacking" With the Alaska Airlines Award Program

I also highly recommend comprehensive guide by Chris Guillbeau (not free but worth every penny): Frequent Flyer Master


2 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

Take a backpack put medications in it. Watch youtube videos on Altoids emergency kit. Buy what you need when you get there. Wear pants that unzip into shorts. TShirt, Shirt, Parka. pack .99 cents flip flops for showers.


1 thanks


answered by
Kelly from Massachusetts

Take along a 3-way plug with you so that more than one person can charge phones, etc. Comes in handy if there is limited outlets in hotel room. 


1 thanks


answered by
Kelly from Massachusetts

Here's a small travel hack but worth it...pack a clothespin to hold those darn hotel drapes closed, so you wake up when you want to. 


1 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Robert from Gilbert

One is to use a soft-side cooler with a plastic tub (not the leaky foldup ones) as one of your carry on items. I would have my g/f put her purse inside. The one I've used around the world is from California Innovations. It works perfectly for drinks at the beach, a picnic, or added cool storage in your room if there isn't a fridge. In addition, next time you buy a 25lb bag of ice from a Water N Ice type store, don't just rip the bag apart but insead cut the tie or slice one end if it's still in good shape and of a thick mil plastic. Then put that bag in the pockets of your carryon cooler or other carryon and use it to fill ice at the hotel ice machine instead of that tiny bucket. I have one in every piece of luggage and my cooler and they've lasted for years. In an emergency they can become a decent size sheet of plastic to cover items or yourself, make a water still, or transport water etc. On road trips to hot destinations such as Las Vegas I'll use it to keep a large rolling cooler I keep in my room full of ice instead of paying for expensive bags from the hotel or having to make an extra stop somewhere. 


1 thanks


answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

l try and pack a month early. l try and keep a suitcase packed. In case l have to leave in a hurry. l always buy new toothbrushes at 1$ store. l do not pack meds, they can be outside suitcase. If l am going South, l wear shorts under long pants or l fry, plus 2 shirts and jacket.

Basically l travel with all new clothes, etc. l leave there, what l travel with. Just gave a bunch of new clothes away last month. The gift that keeps on giving. l will give more away next week. People keep giving me things and l cant give it away fast enough. Pack everything to leave it.

I like a package of socks and a package of unders in suitcase.

l always pack a swimming suit. I get a new suit every spring.




answered by
Hazel from Port St. Lucie

l carry empty water bottle through security and fill it up on the other side. I like $100 in $5&$1 for tipping as l travel. l tip the maids $5. As my mother traveling with 7 kids taught us.




answered by
Blochin

If you go to Italy, you can urchase a local Vodafone SIM-Card with a special tariff that enables you to use the SIM-Card for the same price in almost 40 countries, for 3 € per day, including 500 MB, 50 SMS and 50 minutes. You can buy it in Italy for 10 €, including 5 € credit.

How to buy it? The instructions can be found at www.europasim.net






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