33 Travel hacks: From my own experiences

I’ve traveled alone and in groups. Via plane, boat, train, bus, car, and….Well, I think that covers it. I’ve come to know myself pretty well along the way–as well as seven beautiful Asian cultures. But, whether I find myself without a bottle opener anywhere from Vancouver to Singapore, I can’t always depend on that hotel receptionist in Connecticut who ripped the cap off with his teeth. (See hack #9.) So, here are 33 travel hacks that I’ve developed along the way!

  1. Lost or forgot your travel lock for your luggage? Use a keychain ring last minute to make sure your stuff won’t fall out of that old duffle bag.
  2. Need lumbar support in your airplane seat or at the airport? Use your coat. Don’t leave it behind—tie the sleeves around yourself before rolling the rest up to fill the gap between your back and the chair.
  3. Need to wash your face or remove makeup on the go? Bring a spray water bottle and a wet microfiber towel. Spray your face, apply cleanser, and then wipe with the towel.
  4. Stressed or tired? Use (inner ear) ear buds to block out noise (and stress) at the airport. Also, these can double as earplugs so you can sleep on the airplane or at least block out the annoying noise of the engine and chatter of the passengers.
  5. Need to reduce your toiletries? Instead of carrying face makeup remover, eye makeup remover, anti-dandruff shampoo, and hair conditioner—pack pure jojoba oil, which can serve as all four. As a plus, this oil even helps treat and/or prevent stretch marks.
  6. Forgot your towel? Dry yourself with your clean clothes if there’s time to let them hang to dry. If there’s no time, dry yourself with your used clothes. (I won’t tell if you won’t.)
  7. No floss? Pull a loose thread from your clothing and use that. Yes, kinda gross…
  8. Forgot your toothbrush or toothpaste? Rubbing your teeth is better than nothing, so rub paste or water on your teeth with your finger in a circular motion, even on your gums.
  9. bia hanoi vietnam life hacks
    My first time trying Bia Hanoi on my first night of my first trip in Vietnam, during my first trip abroad.
    Looking for a bottle opener? Use your wedding ring to pop open a bottle of beer. If that hurts too much, look around your hotel room for anything strong enough with an edge to pry open the bottle cap. I’ve personally used the lid of a metal ice box, for example.
  10. Gaining over a few thousand feet in elevation within one day? Prevent leakage by packing all your toiletries and liquids in squeezable bottles. Leave a space when filling them. Before going up, squeeze as much air as possible out of the bottle and screw the lid on tight. Put all liquids inside two plastic bags, likewise with the air squeezed out. When going down, leave as much air as possible within the bottles and bags, as they will compress with the increase in pressure. If you don’t follow these steps, your bottles could explode or implode all over the place.
  11. Contact lens container broke open before you plan to use it? It won’t dry out if you seal it inside a plastic bag by itself!
  12. Got to take lots of outfits for an extended trip? It’s time to invest in a vacuum bag. Plan enough outfits for the entire trip, and in which order you will wear them. Lay each clothing item out flat and roll them up as tightly as possible. Put them in the bag in backward order—from the last day to the first day. You can increase luggage space by cutting the amount of clothes in half. Plan to wash everything halfway through your trip. Then repeat—put them in the bag in backward order according to your outfit plan. This is a great way to stay organized! I did this for my 3-week trip on the east coast, in New York and Connecticut.
  13. Hemline falling? This life hack is a classic. Bobby pins may be easy to lose track of, but they’re worth your effort. Not only can they keep your hair in place, but they also can be used to pin up falling hems on skirts or pant legs.
  14. Uncomfortable to wear foundation in a dry climate? Keep a spray bottle with you to set your makeup at the beginning of the day, and to hydrate your skin throughout the day. This will also help you keep cool if the weather is hot. Note: I find that applying a 100% witch hazel hydrosol in between my toner and serum helps my makeup melt into my face better. During my stay in Lee Vining, I found that I even had to reduce the times I washed my face each day from twice to once.
  15. Debating how much luggage space to dedicate to jackets and sweaters? Here’s a fact—you can never pack too many in your carry-ons! You could get very cold on the plane, and your body temperature will drop even further if you fall asleep during the flight. Each of your jackets, sweatshirts, etc. could double as blankets, back supports, or pillows. Keep the right stuff with you, and you’ll be ready for any long-haul airport wait or flight.
  16. Concerned about your lashes? Collect mascara samples and use them as your travel size (not to mention carry-on-friendly) option.
  17. Don’t know how to barter? I’ve had the best luck when using as much of the language as possible and smiling. Try to make them like you! But it helps to be genuine.
  18. Easily dehydrated? Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Instead, take in as much water content as you can by means of juice (especially coconut juice), fruit, and soup. More sodium intake could help, as well.
  19. Waiting a long time for your luggage? Check the other circles repeatedly. Sometimes the pickup location changes.
  20. Need to pack scissors? I’m talking about the type for trimming facial hair and eyebrows. The best ones have sharp tips, I know, but those will get thrown out of your carry-on at some airports! (Hint: Hong Kong) Pack blunt scissors instead.
  21. Need secure Internet? Subscribe to a VPN service such as TunnelBear for secure internet everywhere you go, even over data connections. As a plus, this is a great way to get past free Spotify’s rule of only 15 days of usage abroad. Note: you’ll have to turn the VPN off to access Netflix though.
  22. Taxi drivers in Thailand refusing to take you to your location? Well, they could be refusing because the destination is farther out of the way than they want to drive. (Odd, I know.) Just take 2 halfway taxis, if possible.
  23. Need a slip for your dress but forgot to bring one? Well, the right skirt can double as a slip. Keep this in mind when packing, if you’re desperate to save space.
  24. Need a consistent number that can be reached worldwide at no cost? Check out Google Voice.
  25. Fair-skinned? Pack a sunscreen stick. This will reduce taking up liquid space. Plus, these sticks are super convenient to keep with you at all times, in case you forgot to apply sunscreen before leaving your house/hotel.
  26. Misshapen hats or bras from packing? Stuff clothing inside and around hats and bras to help them keep their shape. If you pack this way, you’ll be surprised how little space even large sun hats actually take up.
  27. Need a lift but can’t afford it? Keep an eye out for taxi, Uber, Lyft, or Grab promos at the airport or even on the plane. That’s where I’ve seen most promo codes.
  28. Hungry? Some airlines will let you bring food on board. Use a cardboard takeout container for a pre-packed home meal to bring on the plane—so you can easily throw out the container when you are done eating.
  29. Thirsty? Bring an empty water bottle to fill up when past airport security. This saves a lot of money, since airports up the prices of everything by a large percentage.
  30. Have a travel blog? Keep contact or business cards with you at all times—to keep in touch with anyone you meet on your travels and to network your travel blog. You never know who will be the most interested! I’ve barely made it out of Seatac before giving my card to a TSA officer.
  31. Trouble sleeping? Always pack an eyeshade—for the airport, in case of late night hostel roommates, in case of catching up sleep during the day, or even in case you can’t figure out how to turn the hotel room lights off. (True story—I slept with my eyeshade on for the first 4 nights in the Philippines until someone told me how to turn off the lights.)
  32. Sensitive to the sun? Protect yourself by taking fern pills and eating tomatoes. These help to decrease sun-exposure-induced inflammation.
  33. Want to be prepared for anything? Bring the following: your hotel’s location written VERY CLEARLY AND LARGELY in the local language, a pen, a notebook, a regular deck of cards, a deck of UNO cards, and one or two powerpacks for charging your electronic devices. Trust me on this. Also, check out my backpacking list guide for more pointers.

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