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Top 10 Travel Hacks You Should Know

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Travel isn't just about reaching your destination, but also the journey you take to get there. Buying the plane ticket, booking accommodations, planning activities, researching things to see and do, all of this is part of the journey. For most of us, we want this process to be as stress-free and affordable as possible.

These are the Top 10 Hacks you should know and use:

PLANE TICKETS

First of all, be flexible with your dates! You will see often than not that you will find cheaper flight deals when you have flexible travel dates. With that said, sign up for newsletters that send out airfare deals daily or weekly such as Scott's Cheap Flights and Matt's Flights. You also want to utilize these deal finders' social media presence where they will post a deal when they find one! Airfare Spot and Secret Flying post flight deals quite frequently. Lastly, track airfare prices using Google Flights if you know the exact dates, destination and/or exact flights you want to follow. When the price increases or drops, you will get a notification via email or on your phone.

CARRY-ON LUGGAGE

You probably hear this a lot, but this travel hack is a real game-changer. Not only are you saving time spent waiting and looking for your luggage at baggage claim, but you are saving yourself from possibly with only the clothes on your back if the airline misplaces your luggage and you can travel more freely from city to city, country to country without lugging all the excess weight with you. With that said, if you think you need a little more room than just a piece of carry-on luggage, make sure you also utilize the "personal item" allowance which can go under the seat in front of you. This can also be another smaller size backpack which can additionally hold more clothes if you really think you need it. I like to throw all my makeup bags, my camera equipment and the little items that can take up room in my main carry-on backpack in my Osprey Daylite Plus 20L backpack, which is the perfect size to go under the seat in front of me.

GLOBAL ENTRY/TSA PRECHECK/CLEAR

If you don't have either of these....please do yourself a favor and get one! If you travel mostly international, get Global Entry which also includes TSA Precheck, Sentri for Mexico and Nexus for Canada. Having Global Entry means getting back into the States will be a lot faster than those without one! Having TSA Precheck will allow you to get through security faster for your outbound flights, this means you get through security faster because you won't need to take off your shoes, or take out your laptop, and usually those in the TSA Precheck line are well-traveled so you won't necessarily be stuck behind someone who doesn't know what they're doing. If you don't qualify for Global Entry because of their strict requirements, don't worry, you still options. Mobile passport, which is a FREE app that all U.S. citizens ca use when entering back into the States via air. Mobile Passport will allow you to upload your passport information prior to going through immigration when you return back to the States so that the system already has your information ready. Because it's still fairly new, often times the line for Mobile Passport users are so short that you may get through faster than someone with Global Entry! Remember, this is a FREE app that any U.S. Citizen can use, but for a small annual fee of $15, you can have the app save your information so that you don't have to upload it every time you travel.

Even if you don't qualify for Global Entry You may still qualify for TSA Precheck, so make sure you read up on their requirements and see if you should apply.

Clear is a private service that can work alongside TSA Precheck and they are less strict on qualifying requirements but also cost the most of the three. Note that Clear is only beneficial for domestic travel.

TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

If you have good credit and travel frequently, consider getting a travel credit card that will earn you points for the money you are already spending daily. Just remember that your credit card is not a LOAN, it's a way to build credit that will benefit you financially in the long run.

Travel credit cards not only earn you points that can be used to redeem for future travel, but most of them also do not charge a foreign fee when using it in another country. Some of the popular travel cards out there include Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Platinum, Capital One Venture, Discover IT. Note that some of these cards also come with travel perks such as travel credits and lounge access.

If you fly a specific airline frequently, it's also a good idea to get their airline co-branded cards. Reason being that airline credit cards come with their own specific perks such as priority boarding, possible upgrades, free checked bags (if you choose not to travel with just a carry-on), discounts on inflight purchases, to list a few. Some of my favorites are Jetblue, Southwest and Delta. Other airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines also have their co-branded cards.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Unless you have a relative or friend who lives in every city and country you visit, you will need accommodations. My absolute favorite is still hostels. There are still a lot of people who are hesitant to stay at hostels, which is totally fine because it's not for everyone. But do not pre-judge without doing some research. Forget the stupid horror movies made about them, be open-minded and do your research. Hostels are great because #1 they are very affordable and #2 you get to meet some awesome like-minded travelers like yourself! If you don't want to share a room with strangers, no problem! Most hostels offer private rooms as well! Don't want to share the bathroom with anyone? No problem! Some hostels offer private bathrooms as well!

Just like you would when you book a hotel, check out Hostel World, and read the reviews, look at the photos and see if a hostel fits your needs and budget!

My second favorite is Airbnb, especially if you are traveling with a group of friends and/or hostels are not an option. It's a great way to rent an entire place to yourselves and be able to cook while traveling.

My third option is hotels, even though we typically don't use them unless we are traveling with people who would rather stay at hotels rather than the options above. Hotels.com is favorite booking site we like to use but if you have any type of status with a chain, make sure to utilize their special low rates just for members.

ACTIVITIES

Don't think that ALL activities or tours will cost an arm and a leg. When we travel, the first thing we like to look for is FREE WALKING TOURS. Yes! Those things exist! They can't be completely free, right? Well, of course not unless you want to be a total cheap-ass but most of the free walking tour guides work off tips. So if you want to give them $5, $10 or you only have a handful of change...give what you can. Majority of the tours last between 2-3 hours and are usually very educational. So tip them based on the value you receive.

Sometimes tour companies that offer free walking tours will also offer other types of tours such as pub crawls, food tours, specific location tours...etc. It' always a good idea to Google free walking tours in whatever your destination is and check out their Google reviews or TripAdvisor reviews.

If an activity you want to do requires a fee, such as zip-lining, any adventure tours...etc, ALWAYS check the company's website and see if you can book it in advance. Some times you get a bit of discount for booking online and/or in advance.

If an activity you want to do requires a fee, such as zip-lining, any adventure tours...etc, ALWAYS check the company's website and see if you can book it in advance. Some times you get a bit of discount for booking online and/or in advance.

PACKING LIST

Your packing list will be dependant on your destination and what you are traveling for. A general rule of thumb is don't overpack! There's no need to pack 3 pairs of jeans or 7 tops for a 1-week vacation. Think about what you would wear on a daily basis, not what public areas you will be at daily. For example, for me I wear workout clothes pretty much daily when I'm at home, so why would I pack dresses, jeans, and nice tops when I travel?

Keep it simple! If you are going to a location that will be hot most of the time, pack a couple of pairs of shorts and 3-4 light tops and tank tops. Simple colored sundresses can be worn multiple times without anyone knowing. if you start wearing colorful clothing with various prints, then yes, SOMEONE might notice but most likely only the people looking at your photos. Sandals and simple walking shoes are really all you need, so don't pack 10 pairs of sandals, heels and running shoes. You won't wear them all!

If you are going somewhere that's a bit colder, pack as if you plan on wearing a jacket most of the time! So a couple of pairs of jeans, 3-4 tops and a jacket. If you wear the same top two days in row...guess what? No one will know because your jacket is covering it! For shoes, just wear what you plan on wearing every day and is comfortable to walk in.

What happens if you are on a long trip, like 2 weeks or more? Simple, do laundry! Yes! Other countries do that too! Most of the time wherever you're staying will offer laundry service. Hotels, hostels usually offer this service for a fee and if you're staying at an Airbnb, perhaps the homeowner has a washer and maybe a dryer that you can use! Worst case scenario, find a laundromat where you may have to pay a small fee per load.
 

PASSPORT

Take a photo of it! Send it to your friends or relative in the event you lose it.

SPENDING

Use your credit cards to pay whenever possible and always ask to be charged in their local currency. Reason being that it's easier to track your spending and you know you won't be scammed for a higher exchange rate when they charge you the amount in their currency. Some places will charge a higher exchange rate if you ask to be charged in USD. So keep that in mind.

Of course, you want to carry some cash with you as well. Prior to your trip, always find out from your bank if you can order some currency for the country you are visiting. If you are unable to do this prior to your trip, you can always take money out from the ATM's wherever you go. Just keep in mind of ATM fees and exchange rates. The best ATM's to use are the actual bank ATM's, not the private company ones you see sometimes on the sidewalk or in a liquor store. Try to always walk into a bank to use their ATM's.

FOOD

Most of us want to try local cuisines and some people want to eat at famous restaurants. Whatever your taste buds desire, be mindful of your budget if you have one. Most of us want to eat as cheap as possible so I recommend finding street foods, local hole in the wall restaurants and checking out Yelp or the country's equivalent restaurant review sites/apps. The best way to find a good spot is always asking a local!

When staying at hostels, you can ask the hostel staff for their recommendation, usually, the staff working there are locals, sometimes not. But they always know the best cheap spots to hit up! If you happen to meet another traveler, ask them where they've visited or if they have any recommendations. We've found some amazing dining spots asking locals where to go and usually it fits right in our cheap budget!

Street foods are typically very affordable, especially in Asia, so don't be shy to try it. If you think it's too dirty to eat street food, then don't. Just note that part of traveling is also trying the local cuisines and if the locals can eat street foods without any issues, then maybe it won't hurt for you to try. If you consume alcohol, here's a tip.....drink alcohol with your meals. 9 out of 10 times, your stomach will be fine.

And there you have it, our top 10 travel hacks all travelers should try!
Do you have a travel hack you swear by? Have you tried any of these hacks? If so, let us know!

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