Travel hacks every wanderer should know but many don’t

They say when you become an expert at something, it means you have comprehensive knowledge or skill when it comes to that thing. Now, travel isn’t exactly something you learn, so it may not seem like a subject you can exactly have “expertise” in, but you can.

Savvy travelers have all number of tips and tricks for getting through adventures as smoothly and efficiently as possible, and though you may have heard some of the basic ones before, like roll your clothes for more room when packing, stuff socks into your shoes, start sleeping in the time zone you’re in to avoid jet lag, and so on, there are other travel hacks that’ll make you have that mind-blown-why-didn’t-I-ever-think-of-that-this-changes-everything kind of moment.

And those are the ones I want to share with you. So here they are—ordered from booking to packing to arriving at your destination—the travel hacks I think every traveler should know in order to be living their best adventurous lives.

1. Sign up for airline emails

I know we’re all bombarded with more emails that we ever care to read, but when emails come in with discounts that will help you travel, I’d say those would be the ones worth opening. If you sign up for airline emails, they’ll send you discounts or alerts for flash sales. I’m signed up for JetBlue’s emails and they do sales pretty often, and they’re usually pretty good sales but you have to stay on your game because more often than not, the sale hardly lasts more than 24 hours from the time the email arrives.

2. Stash cash in chapstick tubes

There are a number of tricks for hiding cash from people who might want to take it from you, but the best one I’ve heard in a while is to put it in a lip balm tube. Empty it of the balm and you’ve got a sleek, small, totally unsuspecting place to put rolled up cash. If you happen to be walking with a lot of paper money, spread the love around and put it in multiple places (preferably in multiple places that don’t all happen to be in one bag or backpack). For ladies, the other clever option I’ve seen is to put the dough in a sanitary napkin package. The cash can’t be seen at all there, and most people will have no interest in stealing that.

3. Pack a potholder for hot hair stuff

This is one of those things that seems genius to me, though I never thought to do it. If you’re anything like me and are all for maxing every last minute of a vacation, like going for that last dip in the morning before a flight, sometimes that will mean things like curling irons or flat irons are still hot when it’s time to pack up. If you throw a potholder in your suitcase, just slide the iron into it, put it in the suitcase and proceed to go about your business.

4. Put foundation or creams in contact cases

For those of us who don’t wear contacts, tapping a contact lens case for something other than contacts wouldn’t be at the forefront of our minds. But if you’ll just be away for a few days and don’t want to drag along a full bottle of foundation or eye cream or moisturizer or anything else liquid-y that you only need in small doses, they’ll fit perfectly into the lens case and stay neat without leaking.

5. Use belts to line dress shirt collars

This one may be more for the men out there, unless you’re a lady who travels with a lot of collared shirts (I am not). If you want to keep the shirt as unmussed as possible with the collar still crisp and in place, roll up a belt and put it inside the collar. This hack both saves space and keeps shirts fresh for arrival.

6. Take pics of important things you’re traveling with

No one wants a hassle when they’re traveling, so let’s set ourselves up to at least minimize the drama should a setback present itself. Always keep a scan or photo of your passport in your email so that in case it’s ever lost or stolen, it’ll make the process of replacing it much easier. Same goes for your luggage. There are endless black suitcases living out there, but if you have a picture of yours, it’ll help speed the process of finding it if it ends up somewhere where you’re not.

7. Speaking of issues, head to Twitter when you have one

If you manage to travel without having any issues with an airline, you’re probably the one unicorn in the world. It’s going to happen. And it’s probably going to make you at least a little angry. And it’s going to seem like no one at the airline really gives two craps. Because most of them really don’t. So, that’s when you tweet at the airline and put all their business out there. I’ve done this before (only in a highly unreasonable situation) and the response is usually pretty immediate since there are clearly people whose job it is to troll for these types of things and minimize the brand’s bad press. When I’ve done it, I’ve usually gotten someone to reach out to me and in both cases, I’ve gotten travel vouchers (as in money for more travel) as an apology.

8. Get your own departures and arrivals board

You know when you get off the plane in an airport and you’re connecting but you have no idea whether to go right or left and sometimes you can’t see the flight board right away so you walk the way most people are walking and then when you find it there’s a gazillion people and as soon as you see your flight it disappears to show another flight before you see the gate info? Well, now you can skip that whole mess. There’s an app called FlightBoard you can download onto your phone to get your own personal departures and arrivals board to view at your leisure.

9. Find a TV if you’ve forgotten your phone charger

If you don’t have the wall charger part of your phone charger, head to the TV in your hotel room, turn it around and use the USB port to charge your phone. If you’ve gone without any parts of the charger at all, ask the front desk as they’ll usually have spare USB cables on hand to help you out of what will be a pretty big bind.

10. Use Google Maps even when you’re offline

Didn’t pay for international data on your trip? Me either. But there’s still navigational hope for those of us not inclined to spend one more cent on our phone bills. When you do have Internet and are signed into your Google Maps account, open the app as normal and type in the name of the place you’re trying to get to. Once you have it, hit the three dots in the top right corner of the screen and you’ll see options pop up, including “Download offline map.” Proceed with downloading and then when you’re out without Internet, open the Google Maps app, hit the triple bar in the top left where you’ll see your personal maps stuff, including an option for “Offline maps.” Click it and Google will still tell you how to get where you’re going.

11. Get foreign cash from local ATMs

Changing cash from one currency to another in an airport, a bank or any currency exchange place, really, is kind of a racket. To save on the service fees, just put your ATM card into a local machine and let it give you local currency. The fees tend to be much smaller and if you have a travel credit card (if you don’t, you should get one), you won’t pay any fees at all.

12. Eliminate tourists from your fab vacation photos

OK, I have to admit that I haven’t tried this one because I just came across it in my research for this piece and let me say, mind = blown. Turns out, if you set your camera or phone on a tripod and have it take a photo every 10 seconds until you’ve got about 15 shots, you can open all of the images in Photoshop, select File > Scripts > Statistics, choose “median” and select all of the photos you took, and Photoshop finds what’s different in the photos and just deletes it! This must definitely be how all these bloggers manage to find themselves on The Great Wall of China when there’s “noooooo one else” there.