Tried and True Travel Hacks!

We all know the obvious travel hacks – pack a change of clothing in your carry-on in case you go to the Seychelles and your luggage goes to Mauritius, bring travel-sized toiletries, throw in a snack, etc..  Having lived abroad twice and visited 86 countries, I’ve picked up some additional valuable travel tips and tricks along the way.   I also crowdsourced my travel-loving tribe for their favorites. We love to share, so here you go!

travel hacks


  • Prepare a comprehensive packing list in excel.  Print it out each time you travel so you never again forget your toothbrush or noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Bring a power strip when you have several devices to charge but have few outlets. For example, in a cruise ship cabin.
  • When packing liquids, open the lid and insert plastic wrap (like Saran wrap) in between. Tighten the lid around the plastic – the contents are less likely to leak.  I wish I had known this years ago when my purple mouthwash leaked out all over my suitcase contents.
  • Place a cotton ball inside blush, eye shadow, and powder foundation so they don’t crack.
  • Pack Lysol wipes to wipe down the tray table on the plane and the hotel TV remote.
  • Pack everything you’ll want at your seat during the flight in a smaller bag or baggie inside your carry on. When you get to your seat, pull it out to keep with you while you stow your carry on.
travel hacks

International Travel

  • Order RFID protectors for your credit card and passport. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. A RFID protector keeps the information on your credit card and passport from being electronically ‘skimmmed’ by thieves.  We like these.
  • Wear a cotton money belt around your waist or neck wallet down your shirt to keep money, passport, and credit cards secure.  Rick Steves like this money belt,and we like this neck wallet.
  • If you feel naked without your wedding ring, buy a fun inexpensive looking ring to wear when traveling in risky hot spots.  Leave your wedding ring at home and avoid potential losses.
  • Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program when traveling abroad.  You’ll receive the latest safety and security information for your destination country so you can make informed decisions about your travel.  The information you provide enables the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you in an emergency.
  • Email yourself a scan of your passport and make a copy, keeping it separate from your passport.
  • Consider applying for Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck.  The cost is $100 for 5 years and is well worth it as it includes access to expedited entry and reduced wait times.  And if you’re a United℠ Explorer Cardmember, you get a $100 Global Entry fee credit every 4 years when you pay with your card.
  • Use to compare travel insurance policies side-by-side.  We typically take out travel insurance for trips abroad to ‘iffy’ areas and for expensive trips with multiple legs or modes of transport.  Many of us have aging parents, and having travel insurance that allows for trip cancellation gives peace of mind.  But before purchasing travel insurance, check what your employer and/or credit cards cover first.
  • Use your ATM card to get foreign currency at your destination rather than buying it ahead of time.  You’ll get a better exchange rate.  Also, consider a credit card with no foreign transaction fees such as the Chase Sapphire, United Explorer or Southwest Rapid Rewards, just to name a few.
travel hacks

Air Travel

  • Set up a price alert months in advance.  Track fares using tools such as Yapta, Hopper, Kayak, Sky Scanner or Google Flights.  The Yapta tool saved us $1,000/ticket on flights to Chile last year.  You simply choose your desired flights and set a target rate.  When the rates fluctuate you are notified so you can jump on that booking.
  • Food on board is not usually haute cuisine, so bring your own!  Simply freeze water in a disposable water bottle ahead of time.  Then pack your meal with the water bottle to keep it cold for hours.  TSA won’t blink an eye.
  • Bring your own refillable water bottle.  This will save you money and our planet from more plastic.  Make sure it’s empty as you pass through TSA then refill it when on the other side.
  • Scope out your seat in advance.  Enter your flight details on and you’ll never again choose the seat that doesn’t recline or is located across from the bathrooms.
  • Don’t be afraid to book an impromptu trip even while you continue to search for better fares.  It’s a federal rule that you can cancel within 24 hours of booking with no penalties and get a full refund.
  • Bring an eye mask, ear plugs, noise-cancelling headphones, neck pillow, and travel blanket or jacket for those cold, noisy or long flights.
travel hacks

Mobile Phones

  • Before leaving home, download the Viber and WhatsApp apps on your smart phone.  Viber lets you make free calls, send texts and pictures over the internet, while WhatsApp lets you instant message.
  • To save battery power, turn on airplane mode or low power mode on your mobile phone.  To speed up charging time, put phone on airplane mode.
  • Download Google maps offline prior to the trip.  Here’s how to do it
  • Download Google translate offline prior to the trip. Here’s how to do it.
  • Download music for offline use.  We like Spotify.
  • If you forget your plug adaptor or the wall charger for your phone but have the cable, use the USB input on the back of your hotel room’s TV to charge your phone.
  • To avoid international roaming charges while abroad, switch out your SIM card for a local one, or purchase an international package with your current carrier before leaving home.
travel hacks

Rental car

  • Book your rental car at Costco Travel for the best rates.  Check back several times because rates often fluctuate.  If they decrease dramatically, just cancel and rebook at the lower rate.  We saved $100 on our 15-person van rental in Charleston last year by doing this.


  • Slip the hotel front desk clerk $20-$40 while checking in and, you’ll likely receive a complimentary room upgrade.
  • Book your hotel through Hotwire.  Says a friend, “I have had amazing luck booking really great hotels thru Hotwire and have saved a ton of money. I choose a 4-5-star property in the specific area I want.  A newly added feature gives you a list of 4 possible hotels that it is guaranteed to be. So you can make sure you are happy with those options (and you can usually tell which hotel it is going to be based on the # of reviews). Only thing is that it is non-refundable, so I only use for trips I’m certain we are taking, or I book right before we go.   For example, I recently got the new Fairmont in Austin for about $100.”


  • Consider a cross body bag.  Many now have security features and locking compartments, slash-proof construction and RFID-blocking card slots.  Some may not be so fashion-forward, but they are practical.  We like Travelon and Baggallini, both sold on Amazon.

I hope these travel hacks help you enjoy your next trip with your tribe!  What are your favorite travel tips?  What travel tricks did we miss? Share them with us in the comments below!

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