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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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