In recent years, travel hacks have become my best friend, and it’s time you get acquainted with them, too.
Because no one likes paying more for travel (or anything really) when they could be getting the same products and services for less.
No one likes making traveling harder (except maybe masochists?) when it could be…well…easier.
I’m pointing out the obvious here.
Stick to these 15 travel hacks, and you, too, will save a considerable amount of money and stress!
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15 Travel Hacks for Budget Backpackers
1. Don’t pay for water at the airport…like ever.
If you ignore all travel hacks but one, let the exception be this:
Don’t pay for water at the airport!
I’ve talked about this in a few of my other posts, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop preaching the necessity of bringing your own reusable water bottle.
Make sure you empty it before going through security (I always end up guzzling down half the bottle while I’m in line), and then fill it up after.
Can’t find a water fountain? Use the bathroom sink.
If that weirds you out, you can invest in this Brita filter water bottle for peace of mind. (I used mine for about a year, and it worked like a charm.)
Save your money and the environment. Bring your own water bottle.
2. When searching for the cheapest airline ticket, make sure you’re in “incognito mode.”
Okay, I love cookies. Chocolate chip, Oreo, Girl Scout Samoa, you name it.
But when it comes to booking a flight, cookies are public enemy number one.
Cookies are like little markers that allow a website to remember that you visited their site.
They’re theoretically harmless (maybe that’s why they’re called cookies?). But when it comes to booking flights, you will want to avoid them like the plague.
This is because whatever website you’re using will see exactly what flights you’re interested in.
Which means they can (and likely will) ramp up the price the next time you visit, in an effort to pressure you into buying the ticket before the prices go even higher.
Some big-name travel companies deny this is a thing, but I’ll stick to my not-so-conspiratorial theory and steer clear of these cookies.
If you turn on “Incognito Mode” before you head to these websites, it’ll be like you were never there.
(This means the website won’t know to increase the prices.)
For more detailed information on how to save money on plane tickets, head over to the 12 Ways to Find the Cheapest Flight Possible.
3. Roll your clothes instead of folding.
Ahh, one of the most tried and true travel hacks of them all.
Whether you’re using a suitcase or a carry-on, you will want to roll your clothes instead of folding them.
For some reason, rolling instead of folding saves a lot more space (I’m still not sure why, but it really works!).
This will especially come in handy if you’re bringing only a carry-on.
For more tricks on how to fit everything into your one or two bags, check out How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro.
4. Use a TV to Charge Your Phone.
This is one of the more random travel hacks, as it’s only relevant in a specific circumstance. Still, it’s worth mentioning for the handful of people it applies to.
If you’ve lost and/or forgotten your charging cube (no shame), and if you didn’t bring your laptop, and if you’re staying somewhere that has a TV, then this tidbit is for you.
Most modern TVs have a USB connector, so not all hope is lost!
Do a little searching on the sides and back, and voila. You will find a connector where you can charge your phone.
5. Invest in a portable phone charger.
If, on the other hand, you often stay in places that don’t have TVs (think low-budget hostels), it may be worth your while to buy a portable phone charger.
You simply plug your USB into the charger, and voila.
As long as the charger itself has some juice, you can charge your phone from anywhere.
My phone always seems to be a percent or two away from imminent death when I need it most, so this gives me HUGE peace of mind, especially when I’m in a new city.
My portable phone charger is compact enough to take anywhere (I can easily fit it in my purse or pocket), and takes about 3 to 4 hours to fully recharge.
Although it’s an investment, this charger is one of the travel hacks that I can’t do without.
6. Email yourself a scan of your passport.
Unfortunately, passport theft (and loss) happens.
Having a scan of your passport will make the process of applying for a new one (especially when you’re abroad) much easier.
I also recommend that you print out two copies of your passport as well, leaving one at home and bringing one with you on your travels.
7. Turn your phone into an airplane TV.
I’m not the biggest fan of watching movies while in the air (I usually try capitalizing on sleep and/or reading), but if you are, then more power to you.
If, for some reason, your flight doesn’t have mini TVs for everyone, fear not.
Simply place your phone in a clear plastic bag. Then, hook it to the back of the tray table, and there you have it.
Of course, you will want to make sure you actually have something to watch (aka download shows or videos to your phone beforehand if your plane doesn’t have WiFi).
Last but not least, earplugs people.
Your seatmate probably doesn’t want to hear the millionth rerun of Friends (unless your seatmate is me, in which case, I’ll be there for you–see what I did there?).
For other tips on what to bring on your flight, check out 15 Essentials to Survive Long Flights.
8. Mark your checked bag(s) as fragile.
To be perfectly honest, I usually opt for just a carry-on, so I don’t know if marking your checked baggage as fragile would cost extra money.
This may depend on the airline.
BUT, I do know that “fragile” baggage is handled more carefully (at least in theory) and it will be placed at the top of the storage pile in the plane.
Which means you will likely be one of the first envied people to hoist their bags off the revolving baggage claim of doom when you finally land.
Enjoy the envy.
9. Cozy up to Skyscanner. Like right now.
Skyscanner is a website that compares every airline for you.
Find the cheapest option, but don’t book just yet!
Since Skyscanner may be directing you to third parties (like Expedia or Travelocity), which raise the cost due to commission, the price is likely more expensive than what the actual flight costs.
Take note of which airline has the cheapest ticket, and then go to that website on your own.
Chances are, it’ll be cheaper by at least a few bucks.
For more tips on cheap airline tickets, head over the 12 Ways to Find the Cheapest Flight Possible.
10. Don’t pay for a pub crawl.
I get it. You want to drink, and chances are I do, too.
But I certainly don’t want to pay for a pub crawl (and I’m assuming you don’t either).
This is one of my shadier travel hacks, but instead of paying for that glorious pub crawl, do some research on its route ahead of time, and head over to the first pub.
The group itself will likely be big enough to blend into (and everyone’s getting inebriated anyway), so chances are you can easily join the crawl.
11. Use someone else’s WiFi.
Again, another of the shadier travel hacks, but hey. Since when was stealing from the rich and giving to the poor a bad thing?
Maybe not the best example.
Anyway, if you’re not getting wifi in the airport and desperately need to save data, find the First Class Lounge.
Post up outside (discreetly), and browse for WiFi that’s hopefully not blocked.
If you’re no longer in the airport, you can do the same with restaurants for wherever you’re staying.
If said restaurants are password protected, you can always try your luck with FourSquare, where people share WiFi passwords (search under the “Tips” section).
Distribute the wealth!
12. Line your backpack with a plastic garbage bag.
Yeah, it sounds weird.
But this will save your bag from any spillage (whether it be from a loose water bottle cap or an exploded pen).
Not to mention, you can use this bag at the end of the trip to separate your dirty clothes from the clean ones.
(I talk more about the necessity of a plastic bag in The Ultimate Packing Checklist for International Travel, where you can find loads of other travel must-haves!).
13. Use Google Maps offline.
I’m a huge fan of paper maps, but sometimes they just don’t cut it.
If you don’t want to use your data, or again, if you’re abroad and can’t use your phone off WiFi, fear not.
You can save maps on your phone from Google Maps beforehand, so that when you inevitably become lost, the map will already be there to guide you back to the hostel.
Simply go to the area on the map that you want to save beforehand, type in “ok map” in the search, and download!
Genius, I tell you.
14. Leave behind the bulk.
This is one of the more self-explanatory travel hacks, but you certainly won’t want to be bringing your bulkiest clothes on your backpacking trip.
According to the weather, opt instead for layers that you can roll into your bag.
For more tips on what clothes you should pack, check out The Ultimate Packing Checklist for International Travel.
15. Download WhatsApp and Skype.
WhatsApp allows you to send texts to anyone in the world, free of charge.
And Skype does the same thing, but with video chatting.
Both of these apps were lifesavers when I was abroad, and I even use them at home, too.
Ahh, the beauty of technology.
These 15 travel hacks will keep you paying less and enjoying more:
- Don’t pay for water at the airport.
- Use “incognito” mode when searching for flight tickets.
- Roll your clothes instead of folding.
- Use a TV to charge your phone.
- Invest in a portable phone charger.
- Email yourself a scan of your passport.
- Turn your phone into an airplane TV.
- Mark your checked baggage as fragile.
- Use Skyscanner when booking flights.
- Don’t pay for a pub crawl.
- Use someone else’s WiFi.
- Line your backpack with a garbage bag.
- Use Google Maps offline.
- Leave behind the bulk.
- Download WhatsApp and Skype.
And as always, if you enjoyed this post, share the wealth by sharing this pin!