Here are some of my fave travel hacks to eliminate time/money wasters (ew) and stress inducers (yuck) to make your next trip the best one ever (yay)!
For a weeklong trip, I’ll usually pack three shirts/ tanks, one pair of jeans and two bikinis (depending on the location), one pair of black tights, one or two dresses, one pair of sandals, one pair of boots or running shoes and ONE pair of heels. I pack plenty of socks (if need be), enough underwear for every day PLUS one, and an extra black, white or beige bra, depending on my outfits.
If I run out of stuff to wear (which rarely happens), I go shopping (new clothes double as souvenirs anyway) or I send my clothes to a cheap local laundry service.
Throw lavender sachets in your suitcase
Though lots of peeps use dryer sheets to keep their packed clothes smelling fresh, I avoid them as they are non-vegan (most contain tallow, which is an animal fat), and contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Consider tossing in a reusable lavender sachet instead, which doubles as an insect repellent.
Roll your clothes
Rolling your clothes in lieu of folding maximizes space in your luggage. You can gain even more space by stuffing your shoes with your socks and rolled up belts. Packing slightly more clothes than you actually need has never been this easy!
Use laundry bags to organize your stuff
Separating your clothes in laundry bags can keep your luggage organized and easier to unpack, and prevents your dirty clothes from getting mixed up with your clean clothes if you’re living out of your backpack or suitcase. Opt for budget friendly mesh laundry bags over costlier laundry cubes.
Wear your heaviest clothes and clunkiest shoes on your flight
Hiking boots, running shoes, coats, jackets and sweaters take up tons of space in your luggage; layer clothes and wear your heaviest items on your flight, instead.
One week trips rarely require more than a good carry-on suitcase
This is the Anne Klein carry-on suitcase I took with me on a 10-day trip to Malaysia, Bali and the Gili Islands:
How did I manage it? I simply eliminated clothes. I brought one day dress, one pair of yoga pants, one night dress, one pair of shorts, one pair of sandals, two bikinis, one pair of heels, one pair of running shoes, one pair of boots, a few tanks and a shirt, and one casual-to-chic sweater. I wore my sweater and boots on my flights and layered as much as I could. I brought one book in my tote bag, and left my MacBook Pro at home (for those that need their laptops for work, Internet cafes, tablets and cell phones can sometimes be suitable or even better alternatives). I also treated myself to some local shopping, switching out my old clothes for my purchases.
As a result, I saved on baggage fees, skipped baggage claim, and was able to get around faster without dragging around a heavy bag. I felt safer, less sweaty and suffered from less body aches as a result. Total win.
I know the thought of not having that extra pair of heels you MIGHT need is scary AF – but just trust me. If I can do it – you can do it. Live on the edge and just try it!
If you want more specific advice on how to pack light for your next trip, feel free to contact me here.
Don’t pack more than two books
I used to pack four to five books on every trip I took, fearing that I would run out of reading material on the beach, flight or in bed.
Obviously, this never happened, and I brought along heavy books I didn’t read in my luggage for nada.
If you do run out of reading material, exchange your books with local travellers / friends, borrow some at your hotel / hostel, or better yet – use the opportunity to discover local bookstores! Shakespeare and Company in Paris, The Drama Bookshop in New York City and The Word in Montreal are some of international faves.
Always carry a pen
Just be prepared to lose said pen when everyone else on the plan asks you borrow it to fill out their own travel cards.
Always, always, ALWAYS have a portable cell phone battery power bank handy
Getting stuck in San Francisco without any means of contacting my friends who were supposed to pick me up, and having to beg a convenience store owner to use his iPhone charger so I could call them. Having to pay for an overpriced meal in a terrible restaurant just to bribe a waiter to charge my dead phone for me. Losing valuable time in a stopover city to steal electricity from an outlet in an airport because my phone was dead.
All of these annoying, stress-inducing situations had I simply carried a functional cell phone power bank.
We all like to think we don’t depend on technology. But Black Mirror is right.
And you do, too. And while our parents survived without cell phones back in the day, no one can deny that while annoying and soul sucking, they can also be useful as hell. Which is exactly why your parents jumped on the bandwagon and their texting and emoji game are as on point as ours.
Invest in a power bank.
Flight /Accommodation Hacks
Sign up for credit cards to get travel points AND insurance
Be on the lookout for credit cards that offer travel reward programs. Sign up, use the card for a year (annual fees are often waived the first year), score your welcome points and other points accumulated in the year – then promptly cancel it. Repeat as necessary (yes, it’s possible; no, it won’t affect your credit score. Yes, credit cards know about this; no, they don’t really care, because having you use their card and possibly accumulating interest is worth their while, anyway). There is a strategic art to this that others before me have perfected – read more about it here, here and here.
Some of these credit cards will also include travel insurance, so you may not have to pay for a separate travel insurance policy at all.
Make local friends and save money by trying Airbnb or Couchsurfing
Last year, I spent Christmas at a luxury location with a rooftop infinity pool in Malaysia. I could have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental for 200$ a night, but instead, I rented out a massive condo at the Regalia on Airbnb for under 50$. I also got to meet the owners, a lovely couple who gave me tons of local insider tips and served as my emergency contacts.
In Guam – an otherwise non-budget friendly American territory – I decided to try Couchsurfing for the first time. It turned out to be one of the most fun, exciting and memorable trips of my life. Not only did I have a lovely room stay in, I got to explore the island with an incredible group of locals who welcomed me into their homes and lives, asking nothing in return. Ironically, it was the kind of trip money couldn’t buy.
When using both of these sites, opt for a host or hostess that has been verified and read their reviews. I weeded out the males in favour of women, for safety; that said, I met the kindest, most incredible male Airbnb and Couchsurfing hosts out on my travels that I’d feel 100% safe staying with. In short, don’t let a few bad urban legends discourage you from staying with locals; you’ll miss out on some amazing connections with some really good people, which is what travelling is truly all about. If you do feel uncomfortable upon arrival, keep some emergency cash handy so you can high tail it to a backup accommodation.
Invest in a whistle
Pack a lightweight headlamp instead of a flashlight
A flashlight is an essential tool in more adventurous forms of travel – but carrying it in your hand can limit your mobility. Wear a lightweight head lamp like this one to keep your hands free, and simply carry it like a flashlight when it’s more convenient to do so.
Register yourself with your embassy/ consulate abroad
Register yourself with your government’s travel program for free in order to receive up to date information about countries you plan on visiting. Registration also allows friends and family to keep track of you in case of an emergency.
Invest in a collapsible water bottle
Besides the obvious cost-saving benefits, collapsible water bottles can easily be folded and packed away in your bag, taking up less space.
Take more photos, buy less souvenirs
In our ever increasing globalized society, you’ll begin to notice that you’ll find the exact same souvenirs in every single country you visit.
And they’re all made in China.
Nearly everything else is available online.
Save room in your backpack. Buy less junk, and make your photos your souvenirs instead.
Pack a good map
Free maps are also offered by tourism boards in major cities.
Bring Western medication
My friend Jen told me a horror story about having to buy cough syrup in Australia during World Youth Day. It was about four times the price she would have paid here in Canada.
Bring your meds with you. Price will be the least of your worries when some meds aren’t even accessible.
Learn a few phrases in the local language
Do not make the same mistake I did by heading to South Korea without a lick of Korean. It was a very stressful first few weeks, rife with misunderstandings, disorientation and very public crying. Google some beginner phrases and write them down before heading to your destination. Keep them in your wallet.
Replace your fanny pack with a money belt
My parents taught me this nifty trick in my teens. Ditch your conspicuous (and unfashionable) fanny pack and wear a money belt under your shirt to avoid stealthy thieves in crowded places.
Tell your banks about your travel plans
Call your credit card company and bank about your travel plans to avoid having your account frozen abroad (yes, it happens).
Use local ATM’s instead of airport currency exchange providers
Most ATM’s – especially ones in airports – will recognize your bank card and offer better exchange rates. Withdraw the money you need once or twice and use your credit card everywhere else (credit cards offer more competitive exchange rates).
Bring emergency cash
Shit happens. Have enough cash on hand in case you need back-up accommodations, an emergency purchase or anything else.
Leave your jewellery at home
Avoid theft by leaving your jewellery at home and buying less expensive jewellery from local artisans and merchants instead. Doubles as a stylish souvenir!
Invest in a multipurpose sarong
A four dollar tie-dyed sarong I bought at the Ubud Art Market was probably the best investment I made in clothing last year. I’ve worn it as a scarf, skirt, dress, beach cover-up, and shawl. I’ve even used it as a beach towel, and a blanket on flights. If you don’t have one, buy one from a local vendor on your trip (bargain down the price if purchasing at a public market).
…and Happiness Hacks
Unless you’re infinitely chill – be very careful who you choose to travel with
This will ruin your trip. Be especially wary of those who don’t share the same values as you do ( budget, ethics), are dependent on you for everything and are uptight / easily stressed. I once travelled with a girl who was more interested in pretending to be drunk to attract men than she was in the landscape of the paradise we visited. Though I get along with most people and am fairly chill, I was a perma-bitch the whole trip.
Travelling with friends is fun – but choose them wisely.
Spend less time behind your iPhone, and more time appreciating the moment
Spend less time worrying about the perfect hashtags to use on your IG account and more time appreciating that YOU’RE ACTUALLY IN BALI / MACHU PICCHU/ ITALY / **insert any location here**.
That’s a travel blogger’s job, anyways – not yours. 😉
What are some of your fave travel hacks? Share your ideas below!