A piece of luggage

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.

A piece of luggage

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.

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.


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



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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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).

  4. 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 =)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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