Frequent travelers know a lot of tricks that don’t quite hold up over time (like the old rule that you should book flights on a Tuesday afternoon). However, there are some great, never-ending travel planning hacks that are still excellent options to save you time, money, and unforeseen mishaps or headaches.
From booking your flights and hotels To the right To ensure you get there and back without a hitch (and even have some extra room in your suitcase!), here are some of the best travel planning hacks you need to know about right now. And for more, don’t miss the 10 Best US Cities Every Traveler Must See.
Most travelers have a way of researching good flight deals themselves, although they don’t necessarily have to. In fact, Hopper reported in 2015 that travelers spend 10% more from finding their flight to purchasing it. Using an app or website like Hopper (free) to monitor your upcoming trip will let you know when is the best time to buy. Their algorithm scanned millions of data points to roughly estimate when the most money could be saved.
Hopper said their algorithm is right 95% of the time. Of course, this is not a guarantee, but it saves you time doing price comparisons yourself.
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Aside from the obvious problems that third-party booking sites pose, they have been sued for deceptive business practices in the past. Pricing on a third-party site can be convincing, but unless you work directly with a hotel, a lot can go wrong. The hotel could end up being overbooked, you could get the wrong room or several other unforeseen issues could derail a trip. Unless you book directly with a hotel, there is often little they can do to help you.
Additionally, if you are a rewards member of a hotel chain such as Marriott Bonvoy, you will not earn these points for your stay. They are also not eligible for free upgrades and are very unlikely to get a room transfer at the front desk if you request one. (You’ll know if you don’t book direct.)
Mid season is the time between high and low season. You won’t get the cheapest prices like if you were to travel in the off-season, but that’s probably better when you consider that the off-season usually means the weather isn’t ideal or something at the destination is causing tourism to drop.
Nerdwallet studied 100 airfares on popular US routes across eight airlines and found that low-season airfares were around 23% cheaper than peak-season fares. In other research, Nerdwallet found that it was cheaper to use miles to fly during the off-season. This research included finding flights reduced from 30,000 miles to 22,500 miles.
Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the week is not only a cheaper time to fly, it’s also often less crowded. TSA checkpoint numbers often show that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are busier nationwide than any other day of the week. If you book a flight during the week, you have a better chance of upgrades or seat changes – even at the last minute – as these are less likely to be fully booked than flights on Friday, Monday or Thursday.
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No matter where you are traveling in the world, before you leave, make sure you have a photo or scan of your ID just in case something happens. You could lose that ID or get it stolen, and without a photo or scan of your citizenship or residency it could be much more difficult to fly home or even check into a hotel. While not ideal, this documentary might at least get you home.
This hack is my personal favorite as a frequent traveler. Using every available nook of your luggage will keep your belongings tidy, but it will also help you pack a little more without taking up space! Pack your socks in your shoes, use this hat to hold small items in your suitcase, and if you have a belt to roll, put some socks or underwear in the middle too! There are many creative ways to use the space you’re already using.
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This advice changes a lot depending on who you ask: people tend to be very “team roll” or “team fold.” In my experience, rolling is the best way. Not only will you save a lot more space in your suitcase, but you’ll also keep your clothes wrinkle-free if you roll them up tight enough.
Packing cubes are also a great alternative. When using them, folding can be more successful than rolling – although that really depends on what you’re packing. Bulky sweaters tend to be bulky… no matter what.
From phone chargers to toothbrushes, we’ve all forgotten something when we travel. For example, once in Europe my socket converter didn’t work. Before heading out to buy one I asked the front desk if they had any that people had left behind or that I could borrow for a few days. They had a whole box of them! It’s often best to ask before spending money on something you may not need.
If you have a charging cable but no plug, check the TV or desk lamps. Many TVs now have plug-in sockets, and lamps with built-in chargers are becoming a common feature in hotel rooms around the world.
For more travel tips, see What you need to know before you travel to Mexico now.