Unpacking Travel Hacks: How to Make Your Next Trip Smoother!
Travel. It comes with its kinks and wrinkles but every experience makes us smarter, more efficient and confident for the next round. The headlines won’t let us forget that it’s more hectic than ever at the airports. Luggage is sitting in baggage claims unclaimed, for days. Travelers are being asked to pack their patience, and preferably, to do it in a carry-on bag.
We wanted to share a few travel hacks from our team to ensure that your upcoming trip is as smooth as a dolphin or Bushmills whiskey. From twist ties to speed dating your gear, we’re sharing some of our best travel hacks, no matter how much your cat protests your travel plans.
Carry-on and Carry On!
Always pack your can’t-live-without stuff in your carry-on. If you’re going on safari in Tanzania or India–that means your binoculars. It means your camera. Wear the trail runners or hikers you intend to walk the Camino in because, well, it’s a step in the right direction. If your trip involves a lot of time on the water, make sure your swimsuit, sunglasses and SPF shirt are on your back, packed alongside your paperback.
If you want to bring your hiking poles with you–most airlines require that they are checked. Alternatively, depending on your destination, you can opt to buy them when you arrive. Pick up a jackknife at a grocery store for impromptu picnics of baguette, salami and havarti too!
If you’re travelling with a friend or family member and checking luggage–totally take advantage of your odds! Split the content of your bags evenly so if one bag fails to arrive at your destination, both of you will still be at the ready for adventure. You will receive a packing list in your Trip Information Package three months prior to your trip. The items are tried and true and will help you start off on the right foot (provided you bring the right footwear!).
Paperbacks! If you are an old-school reader (ie. books not Kindles or Kobos), chat amongst your group’s private Facebook group (there’s more about that below!). Set up a book trade (or initiate a destination book club!) in advance to gain instant access to your next book without hogging all your luggage real estate. In a pinch, ask if your hotel has a book exchange or library for guests. Nearby hostels are another option to investigate for a dog-eared memoir or beach read.
Forgot your vital conversion plug at home or somewhere along the way? It happens to all of us (for me, it was in Zagreb and Pamplona). Again, ask at your hotel–you’ll be amazed at the lost and found box that they pull out, usually heaped with USB cables and plugs left behind by travellers. Hostels will have a similar cache and if you buy a coffee and pastry, they will be more inclined to help and allow you to rummage through their stash.
Eavesdrop and participate in the forums that are available–the Wild Women audience is waiting for your Bali or Banff questions! Pose your trip query to the Wild Women community (on WWE’s private Facebook page) and follow JourneyWoman (also on Facebook) to find some awesome intel on your destination, solo travel or where their next meet-up is in your area. Three months prior to a Wild Women trip you will receive a Trip Information Package with an invite to a private group of just your trip members. Here, you can connect, make pre-trip plans, share pics and debate over the merits of Smartwool or Darn Tough merino wool socks for the Inca Trek.
If you’re a traditionalist and carry a Nikon instead of an iPhone, it’s helpful to record your image file number at day’s end. Trust me. When you are on Day 4 of the Camino (when scenery and sleeps begin to blend) you will have a reference that will help identify where you were because those cappuccinos and tortillas all roll into one delicious and delirious blur.
There’s a supercool and clever outdoorsy company called Moosejaw. They have assembled a team of enchanters and soothsayers henceforth known as Gear Wizards. Moosejaw has a Knowledge Centre that you should go hang out in. Like REI and Mountain Equipment Company, they have a hyper-energized team of paddlers, cyclists, hikers and campers who are eager to help you choose the best fleece, base layer and hiking footwear. Plus, they are plain ol’ funny and experts with insights you’ll be grateful for when the rain is sideways in the Scottish Highlands or the sun is non-stop in Baja.
Thing is, you need to speed date your gear. Before your trip, become well-acquainted with your stuff—especially your hiking boots, poles (if desired) and backpack. Wear your day pack on training hikes and gradually increase the weight that you are carrying so when you strike off on day one, your pack feels snug like your favourite pair of jeans!
Leave a Paper Trail
While your phone may have all your vitals on it, if you lose your phone or power, you have no vitals. Be sure to always travel with hard copies of your passport, flight tickets, insurance policy and vaccine QR codes. AND, have copies of all of those things in at least one email account folder (if not two–just in case you get kicked out of your own account because you can’t remember the password or fail to answer the security question about the name of your first pet. It happens.).
Grab a business card of the hotel you are staying in, always–or definitely write down the exact address and name of the hotel. This one from Croatia (above) had the hotel’s secret key code on the back–the card did actually open doors for us! If you become disoriented, a taxi driver or local will be able to point you in the right direction with the exact address and name of where you belong. This is the adult version of having your name sewn in the back of your t-shirt at summer camp!
Sometimes surprises are great–but also not so great when you are charged for the bottle of water that was brought to your table at a restaurant. Always ask if the water is free.
If you arrange for an early taxi shuttle to the airport, be aware that the fee can increase (similarly, late at night) and that air-conditioning can be an extra charge in some countries! It’s wise to negotiate the fare before you depart and best to keep your bag with you in the back seat versus the trunk in case there’s any discrepancy when you are dropped off.
If you rely on prescription glasses or sunglasses for that matter, a tiny glasses-specific screwdriver will be invaluable if you sit on your sunglasses in the kayak cockpit and end up with a wonky arm.
Bits and Bobs
Ziploc bags, elastics, safety pins, carabiners, twist ties–these sorts of junk drawer things can be lifesavers on a trip. They take up zero space and will always have a purpose. Always pack a few Clif bars (or a protein bar of your preference–they come in birthday cake flavour even!)–they are indestructible and will still taste remarkable even when flattened.
My wife and I always buy a bottle of prosecco that we open while we are packing for our trip. It’s a long-established tradition that we love and the fizz adds to the fuzzy anticipation. We also enlarge our favourite photo post-trip and hang it in our gallery. I send postcards to our family members–it’s a fun connection for all of us to share snippets of our days with each other. We’ve met women who buy Christmas ornaments for their tree to commemorate their travels. Carolyn Ray of JourneyWoman has been collecting not just ink passport stamps but tattoos symbolic of her destinations as well!
What do you do? If you don’t have a tradition, it’s time to start one! What book(s) are you taking with you? Do you have a great travel hack or pre-trip tradition to share? Let us know! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org