Travel Hacks - What Works, And What Doesn't?
Travel Hacks - What Works, And What Doesn't?

Travel Hacks - What Works, And What Doesn't?

Posted by Elle Waddington on 19th Nov 2017 8 mins

Around the internet, there are so many tips and tricks for anything in life, and travel is no different. If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to work out what could be useful in a wide sea of information - and are probably a bit stuck! The key things to remember are: go with your gut, as you know you better than anyone else (you will know if something is truly useful for you); and finally, remember that everyone has different needs and requirements!

Useful Hacks

My number one, best choice I’ve ever made for travelling is buying the right backpack: for me, this is the Osprey Farpoint 40. WHY, I hear you say?!

Well, the one I chose is carry-on sized and it opens like a suitcase - so you can easily find everything - and the back has a cover for the straps, so they don’t rip, should you choose the check it in. It also has pockets for water bottles and small items on the outside, and a laptop divider inside.

There were very few backpacks that fulfilled my two requirements of being hand luggage-sized and that opened out like a suitcase when I was looking, but several of my friends have since bought this backpack through my recommendations. It has waist straps so it’s comfortable for longer walks, and I use this for everything: from a weekend trip, to several months on the road!

A backpack is useful as you throw it on and go, and the hand luggage size is perfect for short haul budget airline flights that charge you an arm and a leg for checked baggage! Plus, I’ve had way too many suitcases go missing, so I very rarely check anything these days. When you’re travelling, you tend to move on quickly, so no one wants to wait for a missing bag. I’ve also found this to be very useful when I was at uni and didn’t have a car - supermarket trips became a lot easier!

Of course, there might be other brands these days that are similar, but having had mine for over 5 years, I haven’t needed to look as my current bag is still going strong (after 3 long trips and countless short ones!)

Next is money… because, well, money talks!

Travel money

Everyone has a different budget and requirements, so I’m not going to talk about that (I think having a clear idea is important, and of course look at what others have done, but take what you can and be realistic and you’ll be fine!) So, here I’m going to talk about travel money and what to take with you.

If you’re going to one place with the same currency (e.g. a lot of Europe), it’s sensible to have some cash on you. Beyond that, my biggest tip is to get a card (debit or credit) that has no fees for foreign use. No, you won’t get the same exchange rate as at home if you pop to your local Post Office or Tesco, but if you’re going away for longer than two weeks or are using more than one currency, then it’s simply not practical to travel with a lot of money - and not to mention how dangerous that is! Here, I’m speaking from direct experience as I did my first 3-month trip armed with three kinds of Krone/Krona, two kinds of Koruna, Złoty and a whole load of Euros…and worried about it all getting stolen most the way round. Of course, nothing happened, but if it had, it would have been a disaster, and the worry I felt every day put a dampener on my whole experience.

Since getting a credit card that allows me to withdraw for free, my travels have been a lot less stressful! Of course, not everywhere has a cash machine or takes card, but on my trips since, I tend to withdraw money at every city I stop at, where it’s easier to find a cash machine.

If you’re going for a shorter period of time, or are going somewhere with one currency (e.g. the USA), what I tend to do is go for a mix: some cash, some money on a Post Office Currency Card, and then my credit card for back up.

My fourth top tip might be a little unorthodox, as everyone does this differently, but I like to book my accommodation before I go, where possible, or at least a few weeks in advance whilst on a long trip. For one, I’m a planner and always have a clear itinerary of places I want to see before I go, so having my accommodation in place enables me to stick to my plans. This also makes budgeting easier, if nothing else!

I have met many travellers who have had to spend nights outside because hostels are full; I met a group of 8 in Slovakia who had slept on beaches in Croatia because there were few hostels with space for all of them, for example! A bit of common sense here is key: plan ahead, and if you feel as if there’s any way that your plans may change, check for cancellation or change fees – these can be minimal, but will save you on a whole lot of stress.

Some people see booking in advance as being a spontaneity killer, but I tend to travel solo and I think safety and comfort are paramount, so you can enjoy the fantastic places you’re seeing!

Pointless ‘Hacks’

Travel Sink Plugs/Detergent


Duck plug

So, this one might feel a bit controversial, because naturally we do need to wash our clothes, and you’re on a budget! But, in my experience, it’s typically cheaper and much easier to have your laundry done either in a launderette, or through a hostel laundry service, rather than to cart around your own travel sink plugs and detergents. By choosing laundrettes over sink-washes, you can wash all your clothes quickly and easily, and not have to worry about them not being completely clean - plus, if you’re in a place where, say, your clothes are getting particularly grubby (looking at you, Asia!), it helps to have a machine do it for you!

Some places are cheaper than others, so I did my washing in Poland instead of Denmark, but it also depends on how long you’re in a place and what you’re doing. I like to go on long trips with lots of movement, so can wait until that next destination. Some people prefer staying in once place for a while - but in this case, I’d still rather do it in one big batch! This was a top ‘hack’ when I was researching going travelling five and a half years ago, but I still have the same opinion - some things aren’t worth scrimping on!

Vacuum Bags


Packing with vacuum bags

These were highly recommended to me before I first went travelling, and, yes, I can see their value and use. However, they tend to be more of a hindrance than a hack for the following reasons:

  • They help you to overpack! I’ve taken my trusty backpack away with me on a 2-week holiday before and still not worn everything, so with vacuum bags I would definitely pack too much with them. For trips longer than 2 weeks, you’re going to want to do laundry anyway, so you definitely need less than you think. If you’re having to vacuum-pack your clothes, you probably need to have another look at what you’re wanting to bring. Cut down on clothes!
  • You won’t have a vacuum cleaner abroad! You could probably borrow the hostel’s one, I know, and some you can roll to get rid of the air, but this won’t be as good as the vacuum in the first place, so see point 1 in regard to reevaluating…
  • You will buy more stuff when travelling! Somehow, you do accumulate stuff whilst travelling, if not for yourself but for other people - and that’s great, so you need to leave space in your bag for these purchases!

If you need dividers, try packing cubes instead. I haven’t personally used them, but think these would be much better for keeping you organised if you're looking for that help! I did, however, see one person fold up a vacuum bag for their laundry, which could be one good use for them - who else has the issue of laundry taking up so. much. space?!

Bonus Hack

My second-best purchase (and tip!) has to be an adaptor that has options: mine is a multi-country one, with one function for a plug and two usb ports. It means you use less plug sockets, can charge multiple devices, or can share it with others in the dorm (useful, in dorms where there are only one or two plug sockets!) This has made me a friend in dorms, for sure! They’re more expensive than others, but you get so much more use out of them. Plus, I like that with mine the plug prongs retract, so it’s less painful if you accidentally stand on it!

I hope my advice has helped you to plan for your next trip away. Now that you’re a travel expert…where will your adventures take you? And which top tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments!

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