If you love to travel like I do, you probably like finding clever ways to save time and money when booking your trip. Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive.
There are many ways that you can do a bit of research to find cheaper flights, use certain websites to locate better hotels, or create extra space in your luggage. I’ve scoured the internet to put together some of the best travel hacks so you can maximize your next adventure.
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What is a Travel Hack?
Travel hacks are simply tips for maximizing your money, time, and space when traveling. It can also mean “hacking” credit cards or other rewards systems so that you can earn “points” and get free flights or hotels.
According to Zero to Travel, “Travel hacking involves working within the existing rules set up by airlines, credit cards, and hotels, and using them to your advantage to earn free travel including flights, lodging, and other upgrades.”
What are the Best Travel Hacks?
There are so many! The best travel hacks depend on what you’re looking for. One of my favorite travel hacks is using Airbnb to find places to stay. When you’re staying on your trip for longer than a week (and preferably a month or longer), most hosts will offer a discount of up to 50% off the normal price.
You can also contact hosts upfront to let them know you are interested in their house/room and ask if they would consider a discount if you book for a week or longer. I’ve been able to score 10-20% discounts on stays by taking this approach.
Best Packing Travel Hacks
There are a lot of packing hacks out there to check out. One of the best packing hack I’ve found is rolling your clothes instead of folding. I really don’t understand the science behind this, but it really does create more room in your luggage!
Last year, I bought a Tortuga travel background, and it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made. This backpack is designed to maximize space and be the largest bag you can take on board a plane as a carry-on. It has tons of secret compartments to pack away toiletries, your passport, or medications. I swear I’m able to pack 20-30% more stuff now in my Tortuga pack than I was in my old traditional luggage.
How Can I Make My Trip More Fun?
There is tons of advice I can give to make your trip more fun! One tip I can’t recommend enough is to not over-book your trip. Even if you only have one week to get away, only tentatively plan 2-3 excursions or places to eat/drink.
I love getting to a destination and asking locals their best recommendations for what to do and where to eat. This lets you live in the moment and not get too rigid with your plans.
How Do You Hack Cheap Flights?
Google Flights has a brilliant feature that lets you track flight prices. If you set this tracker up, you will receive alerts when a flight fare drops.
Just go to Google Flights and put in your information: number of stops, cabin class, and how many tickets you need, also your department airport and destination. Then, turn on the switch next to “Track Prices” and you will set up a price tracker for that route.
How Can I Travel for Cheap?
If you’re looking to travel for cheap (or even free), there are tons of travel hacks you can use. Keep in mind, you will need to have some flexibility in order to travel cheaply, but it’s absolutely possible.
First, use Google Flights for booking all your flights and be flexible with your dates. Once you let Google Flights know which airport you would like to depart from and arrive, you can open up the calendar. Google Flights will give you an idea of the best dates to leave and arrive based on price.
Next, check out websites like Couchsurfing to find hosts who are willing to let you crash at their place for free. Couchsurfing has created a backpacker-like culture allowing people to experience new places in the world on a budget.
You can also do a bit of research to find opportunities for volunteering in exchange for staying at a hostel for free. Many hostels have a program where you can work doing chores (cleaning, cooking, etc) and get a free bed or room. Just email the hostel directly and ask if they offer this type of exchange.
For example, at Hotel Casa Rosada in Livingston, Guatemala you apply to can volunteer at the reception, in the bar, providing guests with information, answering phones, and booking tours. In exchange for volunteering, volunteers get a free bed and three meals a day. The requirement is a one-month stay and 6 days a week (5 hours a day), so it’s definitely a commitment. But what a great way to experience a new part of the world!
1 Use Travel Sites like Booking.com
Booking.com has become one of the largest all-in-one sites where you can search hotels, car rentals, flights, and event tours/activities. Whenever I book a trip, I always end up checking Booking.com first to see what kind of deals I can find.
They also make it easy to see the total price for a hotel so you can check comparisons. Booking.com will also give you notes to let you know if a certain hotel is a “Great Value” or has amenities like “Breakfast Included.” In addition, they will show if the reviews are “Awesome” “Very Good” or “Good” without you having to read through them all.
First, enter where you are planning on traveling to. Then, add your dates of travel and the number of people traveling. After clicking “Search” Booking.com will give you a list of all the available properties, along with the total base cost if you book. Click here to book your next trip over at Booking.com.
2 Find Long-Stay Deals on Airbnb
Airbnb is my second go-to resource when looking for a place to stay. On Airbnb, you can find amazing houses or rooms to stay in all around the world.
If you decide to travel for an extended stay, most hosts will offer a discount. For a month stay or longer, hosts might already build in a 20% to 50% discount, and for shorter stays (a week or longer), the discount tends to be 10-15%.
However, you can always contact the host ahead of time. Let them know you interested in their property, give a quick 2-3 sentence background on yourself, and ask if they offer any additional discounts for staying a week or longer. If they decide to give you a discount, the host will send you a “special offer” that you need to accept within 24 hours.
Another Airbnb travel hack includes booking a property within a week or less of your trip. Yes, this can be a bit more stressful making last-minute arrangements; however, most hosts would rather book their property at a discount rather than leaving it vacant. Message the host to let them know you are interested in a last-minute booking at specific discount.
Finally, you can search for properties that are newly listed or that have only a few reviews. This can be a risky move since you won’t have a lot of customer reviews for verification, but it can be a great way to score a discount. These new properties are looking to get traction on the platform and are much more likely to discount their rate in exchange for a positive review.
3 Take Advantage of Airline Deals
Would you travel more if you could score cheaper flights? Of course you would!
When you sign up for Dollar Flight Club, you’ll join over 800,000+ members who receive notifications to their email or phone on flight deals leaving from their home airports. On average, members save $500 USD on average per ticket booked!
Dollar Flight Club uses big data and their “flight finders team” to help members save over 60%+ off flights. As a member, you’ll pick your departure airport and then wait to receive alerts when flight fares drop. They do all the hard work so we can spend less and travel more!
They have a premium membership for $5.75/month (billed annually), but they also offer a free 14-day trial, so it’s definitely worth checking out with no risk. Click here to find out more about Dollar Flight Club.
4 Plan Ahead with a Packing List
Are you the type that likes to pack in advance? Or do you wait to the last minute like me?
Well, it pays off to plan ahead with a packing list to avoid last minute stress and ensure you’ve packed all the essentials. There are many things you will want to consider when creating your packing list. What will the weather be? What types of excursions will we be taking? Will we be hitting up the beach or heading out on a mountain hike?
Next, lay all your clothes out on the floor before you start packing. Ask yourself, “Do I really need all of these items on my trip?” When you lay everything side by side, you might realize you really don’t need 7 pairs of shorts or 3 pairs of the same sandals. It helps to see everything visually before you pack.
5 Get Cash Back on Travel Through Rakuten
Would you like to get cash back booking travel? Rakuten (formerly EBates) lets you earn cash-back just for spending money on travel through their website. You can even receive welcome bonuses just for signing up and making your first purchase.
For example, when writing this article, I found Booking.com offering 2% cash back, Barcelo Hotels 3% cash back, and Dollar Rent-A-Car 3% cash back. That’s money back in your pocket just for booking through Rakuten! Click here to check out cash back deals on Rakuten.
6 Never Pay for Airport Water Again
Last week, I bought a bottle of water before my flight and paid $6! I was like “what!?” It’s no secret that buying water and snacks in the airport is a big rip-off and waste of money. However, since you can’t bring liquid through airport security, you’re forced to get rid of your water before heading through.
Want to save some money at the airport? Start bringing a water bottle and simply filling up once you pass through security.
Using your reusable water bottle is also a great way to reduce plastic waste and travel more responsibly. San Francisco Airport (SFO) recently set out to reduce plastic waste by banning the sale of plastic water bottles in the airport (glass and canned water is still legal). https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-climate-waterbottles/u-s-airport-in-san-francisco-bans-small-plastic-water-bottles-in-bid-for-zero-waste-idUSKCN1VB01T
7 Pack a Dryer Sheet in Your Bag (Fresh Smells!)
Nobody likes stinky luggage! How many times have you been on a 1-2 week trip and have no choice but to pack dirty shoes or clothes you didn’t get a chance to wash?
Here’s The “Travel Hack of the Century”…Pack a few dryer sheets in your bag, especially in the soles of your shoes or in between any dirty clothes. You’ll open your bag to fresh smells and smiles when you get home.
8 Get a Multi-Functional Carry-On Backpack
One of the best investments I’ve ever made into my travel gear is getting a Tortuga backpack. Tortuga helps its customers avoid the cost and hassle of unnecessarily checking their luggage by using one of their carry-on-sized travel backpacks (they’re amazing!).
Tortuga backpacks have tons of zippered compartments, pouches, and pockets perfect for stowing away toiletries, IDs, and medication. They also help maximize space in the bags so you can pack more. I swear, I’m able to pack at least 20% more in my Tortuga backpack than I could have in my old regular piece of luggage. The Wirecutter review site even ranked Tortuga as “The Best Carry On Travel Bag.”
9 Bring a Battery Backup
How many times have you been traveling on a plane, bus, or train and pop open your laptop to find that “low battery” notification? Or maybe you’re trying to get some work done in a coffee shop and can’t find an outlet? (side note: I swear coffee shops in Puerto Rico don’t believe in power outlets.)
Bringing a backup batter pack will make your life so much easier without having to reply on finding an outlet. I recommend the Jackery External Battery Charge Giant for phone charging which has massive power and a built-in flashlight if needed. For laptops, I recommend this Jackery AC Outlet Portable Laptop Charger.
10 Book Aisle & Window Seats if Traveling with a Friend
Nobody likes the middle seat on an airplane. They just don’t. Usually the window seat is the most envied, but I like the aisle seat because I can stretch my legs a bit more.
Here’s a travel hack for you: If you’re traveling with a friend, book tickets together with one in the aisle seat and the other in the window seat. Most people don’t like to book the middle seat, so you and your friend have a better chance of getting the whole row to yourself if you get a bit strategic.
11 Use Credit Cards to Hack Points
One of the best travel hacks around is maximizing credit cards points. Certain credit cards offer reward points that you can exchange for miles on major airlines or for free hotel stays. Many of these credit card companies will offer major sign-on bonuses when you open the card and charge a certain amount within the first few months.
For example, I have the Chase Explorer credit card which offers a 65,000 United airline miles sign-on bonus. Some of the best cards with sign-up bonuses include the Delta American Express which usually offers around 70,000 Delta airline miles and the Chase Sapphire card which gives 50,000 in rewards points (this equals $750 in airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises.
If you’re looking to start hacking travel points, follow my friends at Penny Caravan who are experts in booking amazing travel based on points.
12 Scope Out Your Seat in Advance on SeatGuru
How would you like to scope out your flight before you hop on board? SeatGuru will let you do just that!
SeatGuru is a website that shows aircraft seating charts along with seat reviews. It has a color-coded system to help you identify the best seats for every flight. The website also lets you perform due diligence on airlines, see comparison charts of different types of flights, and search flights and rental cars. Take some time to do your research in advance, and be sure to pick the best seat for your next trip.
13 Download Google Translate for Use Offline
How many times have you been in a foreign country and went searching through your bag to find that little pocket translator you bought in the airport? Did you know Google has an amazing language translator app that you can download for free?
The Google Translate app lets you type or dictate phrases to be translated into different languages. The only problem with the app is that you need reliable WiFi to make it work. But now you can download the offline version of the app and translate thousands of phrases without the need for WiFi. (How did we survive before Google??)
14 Pack Baby Powder to Freshen Up Shoes
Nobody likes stinky shoes! And it seems like my shoes always get the dirtiest when I travel.
Do us all a favor and dust a bit of baby powder in your shoes before you pack them. This will help keep them fresh and kill any odors when you open your bag. You can even bring a small travel size of baby powder along with you and lightly dust all around your bag before you pack. This will help keep your luggage smelling clean and fresh overall.
15 Use Hotel Tonight for Last Minute Cheap Hotels
Hotel Tonight is awesome money-saving app/website that lets you check for last-minute deals in hundreds of cities. I always pull up this app before I book a hotel to see what kind of deals are available. I’ve been able to score 30-50% off hotel stays when I’m booking the same night or day before.
The more you book with Hotel Tonight, the higher your “level” will be. As your level gets higher, you will get even bigger discounts on hotel stays. Even more of an incentive to travel more often!
16 Shop Local for Cheaper Meals
Checking out new restaurants is one of the best ways to explore a new city and get a feel for its vibe. However, eating out every night during a trip can get expensive.
I love booking my stays through Airbnb so I can be sure my new place has a kitchen. That way I can visit the local markets and stock up on fresh produce, fruits, and snacks. Not only am I able to eat healthier by controlling what goes into my food, I end up saving a TON of money by making my own meals.
Of course, I still enjoy eating out when I travel, but when I shop local and use the kitchen, I have more options for when I want a quiet (and cheaper) night in.
17 Stay at “Upscale Hostels” like Selina
The word “hostel” can sometimes have a negative connotation. Most think of a hostel as a backpacker’s haven with broke college students making their way through a country on the cheap.
Well you need to meet Selina! This company has revolutionized the hostel scene by offering more upscale options (private rooms, private baths) along with the traditional bunk style accommodations. They also offer special experiences you can book through them to join a group and see a new city.
Selina is growing rapidly and available in more than 15 countries and counting. In addition, they cater to the digital nomad and most have a co-working space you can book alongside your room, so you can get work done while you travel.
18 Roll Your Clothes for More Space
There are two types of packers. (1) the uber organized packer who maximizes every nook and cranny of their bag with immaculately folded clothes. (2) then there’s people like me who basically throw everything in a bag and hop it zips up!
If you’re one of those organizationally-challenge people like me, take my advice and begin rolling your clothes. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but more space magically appears in your bag when you roll clothes instead of folding them!
19 Charge Your Phone Through a TV
Have you ever been traveling and get ready to charge your phone, but alas! you forgot your phone charger at home? It’s a common mistake from many travelers.
Never fear! Did you know you can charge your phone with a USB cable through most TVs? Just look on the back of the TV for a USB plug-in, and plug in your USB cable and phone. Once you turn on the TV, your device should begin charging. This can also work for tablets, Direct TV boxes, and game consoles. Older TV versions might not have a USB plug-in, so only expect this from newer models.
20 Email Yourself a Photo of Your Passport
There’s nothing scarier than being in another country and suddenly realizing you can’t find your passport. Images start flashing through your head of being stuck in customs trying to explain your situation to security and hoping you don’t end up airport jail!
Think ahead of take a couple pictures of your passport before your trip. Email these pictures to yourself along with a few trusted friends or family members. This won’t completely solve your problem if you do lose your passport, but it will help verify your identify in case you need it.
21 Mark Your Bag as Fragile
Once you drop your bag off with the kiosk attendant, it takes this long and winding trip through the airport until it (hopefully) makes its way to your plane. Luggage can take quite a beating during the trek.
If you’re worried about your bag getting a little too beaten up, you can mark “Fragile!” on it or place a few big “Fragile!” stickers on it. This won’t guarantee your bag will be treated with extra care, but most carriers will try to be a bit more careful when they see a bag marked “Fragile!”
22 Use ATMs for Local Currency
After you land in a new country, you’ll need to exchange your current money for the local currency. Most airports will have a few money exchanges who will take care of this for you. However, they tend to charge a hefty fee for the exchange and typically offer poor exchange rates.
I recommend getting money out of a local ATM as soon as you land in the airport. This will let you solve any travel issues with your credit card company (if needed), and give you cash on hand to pay for expenses right away, like a taxi.
23 Book a Local Experience through Airbnb
If you’re looking to experience a new destination like a local, just open up the Airbnb app and look for the “Experiences” section. Airbnb recently launched this feature where locals can offer services and tours, just like they list a house or condo for rent. The experiences can vary from anything like cooking lessons to walking tours, boat rides, trips to an island, or going out to see the nightlife.
When I was visiting Puerto Rico, I took a cocktail tour around Old San Juan, and it was amazing. The tour guide was also a history student, and she gave a mix of history on the area along with taking us bar to bar to try out local rum cocktails. Especially if you don’t have a long time to visit somewhere, taking one of these tours is a great way to see the city and interact with locals without trying to figure it all out on your own.
24 Be Ready for an Emergency
Nothing is more frightening than being in a foreign country and either getting sick or having some type of an injury. In case this happens, it’s a great idea to be prepared for an emergency by packing plenty of meds and even a mini first aid kit.
I always travel with Dramamine (because I get sick on boats), Advil, Antihistamine, and Cipro (a serious antibiotic). If you get a cut or a minor injury, it can be a hassle to try find a pharmacy, especially if you are in a remote location. I recommend getting a mini first aid kit like this one here so you can be extra prepared.
Need more reason to pack meds ahead of time? Claire from Claire’s Itchy Feet shares an intense story of when she was traveling to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. She got stung by a scorpion in the middle of the night in one of the more remote towns where you can only get back to a pharmacy via boat. No boats run in the middle of the night. You can read more on that story here…
25 Save Money by Refilling Mini Toiletries
Travel restrictions only allow bottles to pass through security that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. The easy thing to do would be buy a new set of toiletries for every trip or just buy them when you get to your destination. However, if you travel frequently, this can add up to a hefty expense!
Why not buy reusable toiletry bottles and just refill them when you pack? You can have separate bottles for your face wash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. By using this approach, you can bring along your favorite toiletries and avoid unnecessary costs by buying new toiletries every time you travel.
What’s Your Favorite Travel Hack?
With a little preparation, it’s easy to save time, money, and space when you travel. If you plan ahead, you can score awesome deals on flights and hotels by doing some research on booking websites or setting up a plane fare notification. You can also “hack” credit card points to earn free flights and stays.
The best packing hacks include rolling those clothes, dust a little baby powder, and get fresh smells with dryer sheets. And don’t forget to email yourself a picture of your passport just to be safe.
Have you tried any of these travel hacks before? What is your favorite travel hack? Leave a comment below and let me know!