17 Really Fun Tricks and Tips Every Traveler Needs to Know

I love to travel, which is my favorite unintended consequence of becoming an author, speaker, and blogger.

I’ve learned that travel always involves challenges. That’s why I have adopted an attitude that no matter how well I’ve planned if something can go wrong it probably will. And if it doesn’t? That’s my travel bonus.

Woman carrying a red suitcase

Over the years I’ve collected a bunch of really great travel tips—some fun, some crazy but all of them very useful if only to avoid a headache or two. Here are favorites:

Backup critical info

Before you leave, scan the front and back of every item in your wallet including your passport. Email the images to yourself. Now you’ll always have a digital copy handy in case you lose something. This will not substitute for your passport, ID or credit card, but you’ll have all of the pertinent information you need to keep going.


MORE: Identity Theft is Hilarious but It’s No Laughing Matter


Make a list

Sounds so elementary. Mental lists are great, but a written list is there to keep things together when stress sets in the way it does right before its time to leave. I make a list of items I don’t want to forget—which I know from experience that I WILL forget if I don’t write them down. When I think of something, I need to write it down.

Pre-plan outfits

Take the time to plan what you’ll wear then pack in outfits—specifically. Write it down! You’ll be so glad you have this wardrobe plan in writing once you get to your destination or move from one accommodation to the next. You won’t be happy when you discover you brought 4 pairs of black pants but only two tops. What were you thinking?

Roll it

Instead of folding your clothes, roll them tightly. They’ll take up less space in your luggage and that can save having to pay extra baggage fees.

Bring it empty

Bring along an empty water bottle. Once you clear security, fill it up and you won’t have to pay $4.95 for a bottle of water. Refill as necessary during your trip. Just make sure it’s empty before you pass through security on your return trip.

Turn left

When deciding which security line to get in, keep this in mind: The majority of people, without thinking, tend to always turn to the right when there is an option. That makes those lines to the right longer. Don’t follow the crowd, don’t go with your natural instinct. Consciously turn to the left instead.

BYO disinfecting wipes

Airplanes are not clean. In fact, all they do between fights to clean the restrooms is restock toilet tissue and spritz into the air with Lysol. That tray table? The armrests? Rarely, if ever, cleaned.

You would not believe what passengers before you have done on that tray table and stuffed into the seat back pocket. It may have been emptied, but that’s about it. Bring your own fresh disinfecting wipes. Clean your space first thing once you sit down.

Don’t get in line

Stuff happens, flights get canceled. And when they do, most travelers get in line to get rebooked. But not you. Don’t follow the herd. Turn the other way. Find a seat, pull out your phone and call the airline.

The phone agent can do everything the gate agent can, and probably much sooner than for all those people standing in line. Or double dip and call while in line.

Secret USB port

If you should happen to forget (or lose) the wall plug for your phone charger, check the back of the TV in your hotel room. Nearly every hotel TV these days has a USB port where you can recharge your phone or other devices.

Make a note

Put your hotel address and room number in your phone. Am I the only one who can’t remember my room number? Or where I’m staying when the cab driver inquires where I’m going? I think not.


RELATED: How I Book Really Cheap Travel


Spare chargers galore

If you lost or forgot the charger for your computer or phone, go to the front desk. They will have a huge assortment that others have left behind. You should be able to borrow the one you need.

Double-duty shampoo

Need to wash out underwear or other clothing items? Shampoo is the perfect substitute for hand wash detergent. It’s great for getting out a grease spot, too. After all, that’s what shampoo is made to do—remove grease from hair.

Handy safe

A travel mug makes a great travel “safe.” If you must leave small valuables in your hotel room, pop them into the mug then apply the lid. It will be fairly inconspicuous and an unlikely target for thieves.

I’m in here

When you leave your hotel room, even if for only a few minutes, place the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. Now it appears to housekeeping and others that you are in the room for as long as the sign remains. This adds a layer of security should you have to leave your computer or other valuables in the room for a short time. Should you leave that sign in place for the entire day, drop by the front desk and ask for clean towels to be delivered to your room. Easy.

Clear your history

Have you ever noticed that every time you go back to check the price of a flight, the price has gone up? That’s because your Internet history is traced. When the website you’re checking realizes you want that flight they start upping the price—especially if it’s the tenth time this week you’ve checked.

Sneaky, I know. The solution is to clear your Internet browsing history for that website so you’re essentially starting again from scratch. (Google it if you don’t know how to do this. It varies slightly depending on the browser you’re using.)

Compare fares

When booking air travel, always use a flight or travel comparison website. There are several, such as FareCompare and Kayak. These sites help you find the best airline and the cheapest price for your dates and routes. But DO NOT BOOK your flights through these comparison sites.

Instead, delete your browsing history and then book directly with the airline. This way if you have a flight cancellation or other problem, you can rebook right there at the airport (or train station, etc.) through customer service. If you’ve booked your tickets with third parties (like travel agents or Internet travel sites) and you have a problem, good luck. You’re going to need it.

Fight back

AirHelp, a for-profit organization that helps air passengers around the world get paid for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights (they do all the work and take a 25% cut of the amount awarded), says that on domestic flights, passengers may be entitled to up to twice the cost of a one-way ticket if a flight arrives two hours late and up to $1,350 if it is more than two hours late.

Keep your boarding pass(es)! That’s what you will need when you contact AirHelp should you have a delay or problem. You have up to three years to seek compensation.

AirHelp does all the work to get you the compensation you deserve, for 25% of the amount they recover. Seems fair in that 75% is better than nothing, which is what you’ll likely get otherwise.

Question: Got a great travel tip, trick or hack? Tell us using the comments feature below.

PREVIOUSLY: How to Stop Worrying That Your Housing Bubble Is About to Burst


First published: 11-18-15; Revised, expanded, and updated with new information 5-17-19

 

 

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32 replies
  1. Henry Killingsworth
    Henry Killingsworth says:

    I like that you mentioned that it is important to create a list so that you don’t forget any items that you want to bring. My wedding anniversary is coming up next month, and I want to take my wife on a nice trip. It might be helpful for me to find some kind of travel guide that has a list of local attractions for the place I am wanting to go to. https://washingtondctraveler.com/

    Reply
  2. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I leave an extension cord in suitcase. It always comes in handy because outlets seems to be few and farther away than convenient.

    Reply
  3. Naomi Wheeler
    Naomi Wheeler says:

    Take a photo on your phone of your rental car, including the license plate and any notes damage. That way you will be able to find your car. I also take a photo of the dashboard so that I know where I started with mileage and gasoline.

    Reply
  4. Cathlina
    Cathlina says:

    I’m a sucker for good travel tips! Most of my travel is to conferences or professional workshops, and I often have a roommate.
    Here are a few of my tips:

    —Buy a luggage scale, and take it with you. I got one for $10, and it’s a great way to help avoid overweight luggage fees. When I travel to conferences, all my friends/colleagues/roommates borrow it, too.

    —Buy a good portable charger. Based on Mary’s recommendation, I got an Anker charger for around $25. I can charge up my cell phone 0% to 100% with it four times (so, usually, four days) before I need to recharge it. WONDERFUL investment.

    —For longer trips with one place to stay, pack a cloth hanging shoe organizer. You can even pack items in it at home and place it in the suitcase already loaded! Hang that up in the closet so you can easily see underwear, socks, pjs, workout clothes, and, yes, shoes. The added bonus is not dividing up drawers with a roommate.

    —As soon as I arrive at the hotel room, I commandeer the tray that sits under the ice bucket and glasses or coffee maker. I load up my getting-ready-in-the-morning stuff, which makes it easier to carry everything in and out of the bathroom when it’s mine turn. If there is a second tray, I use it for the next tip:

    —I read this one somewhere: Take a washcloth or handtowel from the bathroom, and lay it on the bedside table or TV table. Make yourself put little things here: keys, watch, earrings, etc. That way it’s easy to see them all and less likely that you’ll accidentally leave something behind.

    —The more I travel, the more I use my phone for everything. Photo information (instead of writing it all down), look up tourist information (instead of carrying travel guides), watch movies or shows to distract me from turbulence (instead of an tablet or laptop), reading ebooks (instead of magazines or books), etc., etc. It’s small, pocket-sized, and serves many functions.

    Reply
  5. Betty Thomas
    Betty Thomas says:

    I love these tips, many of which I already do and some really good new to me tips, thank you. I am a list maker and one thing I do is make a master list that I keep in my main suitcase. This is a list of items I need for every trip. Believe me if you are packing in a hurry for an unexpected trip even the things you take every time can slip your mind. I pull that list out when getting ready to make my current travel list, make a copy of it and then add to the copied list whatever the new trip requires.

    Reply
  6. Joanne King Guerriero
    Joanne King Guerriero says:

    When traveling alone as a woman, I run the shower with the bathroom door closed when hotel staff needs to come into the room for an issue, room service, or similar. I casually mention that my husband is in the shower, so they don’t know I’m alone. I also ask for two keycards when I check in.

    Reply
  7. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use for every trip and it has columns for the date of travel, weather prediction, what I’m doing that day and columns for my clothing – i.e. top, bottom, shoes, jewelry. Underneath the grid is a reminder list of things I always need to pack – toiletries, curling iron, tennis shoes, cellphone charger, sweater, sunglasses, ipad/charger, computer/charger, snacks, workout clothes, umbrella, rain jacket, vitamins, etc. which I cross off as I pack them. We travel quite often and this has helped so much – I never have to run out and pay too much for something I forgot and I have planned all my outfits so I don’t end up bringing things I don’t need.

    Reply
  8. OCJane
    OCJane says:

    Spring for the $100 Global Entry (it includes TSA Pre-Check); it expires in five years, so it runs $20/year. The last two years, I’ve travelled with my elderly parents (both over 80) overseas and they had the “random” TSA-precheck on their boarding pass too.

    Also, when my toothpaste tubes (or shampoo/moisturizers) are nearing empty, I set them aside for travel. I don’t throw away old toothbrushes; I save them for a trip. I pack the almost used-up items, use them on travel and discard (making for a lighter return luggage/carryon). Same for clothes and shoes nearing the end of their useful life; pack, travel and discard/donate without bringing them back.

    Reply
  9. Pat
    Pat says:

    Every year I fly delta to Germany to see my mother. When my points are high enough to get a half price ticket I reapply for the American express card to get a half price ticket. After I get my flight I pay the card in full. When I get my bill it has a zero balance. I cancel it after a few months an then in a few years I do it all over again. I hate paying annual few an I never carry a balance more than a month

    Reply
  10. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Establish an e-mail just for travel; one that linked/connected to your banking and other financial information. I leave copies of my passport with my sister, a friend at home or my travel agent. Granted, the agent isn’t working 24/7 but it’s better than e-mailing copies into cyber space. The travel e-mail is used to keep in touch with family and friends to let them know all is well. I also use an RFID wallet and keep it in a Pacsafe purse which I carry at all times. If I want to leave the purse behind, the wallet is small enough to put into a pants/skirt pocket.
    I travel with a mini-laptop and use a security system that’s made specifically for travel security. If I have to do business while traveling, the security system blocks others from picking up my information.

    Reply
  11. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Pack your telephone charger in a small clear plastic baggie – and put a note in the bag that says “DON’T FORGET THE CHARGER”. Leave the baggie sitting on a desktop or nightstand in the room, so you will see it when you are packing to leave. That will remind you to unplug the charger and put it back in the baggie – so it isn’t left behind. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years – and haven’t left my charger anywhere since then!

    Reply
  12. Anne
    Anne says:

    Email is easily hacked. I would never email a copy of credit cards, passport or other such items. Nor would I leave valuables in an hotel room. If they are stolen your are on your own. The hotel has no responsibility.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Excellent point, Anne. Perhaps snap a photo instead. Or just leave that scanned copy at home in the care of someone who’ll be available should you need the information.

      Reply
  13. Jenners
    Jenners says:

    Make sure that your carry-on has a change of underwear in it in case your checked baggage gets lost (not to mention other things you can’t go without, like prescriptions).

    Reply
  14. Sue Reinhardt
    Sue Reinhardt says:

    When my husband traveled for work – he would always leave the tv on in the hotel room – that way people would think you were in the room. This proved to be very valuable when our daughter when to a sports camp and all the kids stayed in hotel rooms. We told her to be sure to leave the tv on when they left the room. There was a break-in of all the campers rooms and many things were stolen – their room was the only one that wasn’t broken into. We always do this =) Just one more safety precaution =)

    Reply
  15. Sue in MN
    Sue in MN says:

    We often travel by car, with only a general idea of where the next night’s stop will be. About midday we discuss how far to continue. Then the passenger uses her/his smart phone to review hotel options on Trip Advisor and the discount lodging sites. Once a likely hotel is identified, we use the other person’s phone to call the hotel directly for their best rate. This works especially well for “Mom & Pop” run motels, who are happy to not pay the booking site’s fee. We almost always get a better-than-published prices, and talking directly to the hotel we can make sure we will get the amenities we need and a smoke-free room. Note: If 2 or three hotels in the town are sold out, we ask what is going on and adjust our destination as needed. This DOES NOT work on peak travel days/weekends, but it’s great the rest of the year. Works for small groups too, as long as you don’t need more than 2-3 rooms.

    Reply
  16. Karen Shepard
    Karen Shepard says:

    A body wallet is the safest place to keep cash, passport, credit card and other ID. A friend who was travelling in Europe had his luggage stolen, but thanks to the body wallet, he was able to return to the USA without any problem.

    Reply
  17. Lynne S.
    Lynne S. says:

    I always travel with a hooded rain jacket with removable liner. It is the most versatile and well-traveled garment I own. No need for an umbrella and a rain shower doesn’t spoil an outing. My airline carry-on is a medium-size, good-quality backpack. I can use it for any day-long outing, from beach to city shopping. I got both from L.L. Bean and they have traveled well for many years.

    Reply
  18. Amy Sheehan
    Amy Sheehan says:

    I am surprised you recommend emailing scanned copies of pertinent identity that you carry in your wallet. I have too many things lost in cyber space and it is frankly too easy to hack email. Do you feel it is safe to email a photo copy of credit cards with numbers, security codes, etc., as well as insurance cards, drivers license, passport….all items used in identity theft?

    Reply
  19. Beck
    Beck says:

    We take instant coffee and tea bags plus snacks with us all the time. We keep a cooler with bottled water and soft drinks that way we don’t have to pay the high prices. Most hotels anymore have free coffee but we have on occasion not had some in the room so better safe than sorry. We use our points for free nights at our favorite hotel chain there are lots of those options out there as long as you pay your card off each month same for frequent flyer miles.

    Reply
  20. J. Jensen
    J. Jensen says:

    If you have food sensitivities, take along snacks and bars that work for you. And if taking a long flight where meals are served, call the airline ahead to order the best meal option.
    On an overseas flight I packed bags of dehydrated foods (from Honeyville.com) for the times when my kind of food was not available. With turkey stew in a bag, all I needed was a cup of hot water to rehydrate.

    Reply

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