15 Travel Hacks That Will Save You Money, Time, And Stress

Travel Hacks Miriam Ballesteros.jpg

Christmas is finally here – weeee!!! Well, *technically* it’s the 25th… but I’m going back home to Barcelona and who’s counting? 🙂

I never (ever) thought something like an adventure abroad would be feasible without years of planning and saving. But after living in London for a year, staying in Hawaii for almost a month, many trips around Europe, and going through the process of moving to Ohio, I like to think I’m becoming a pro traveler. HA. 😉

Give me an apple cider + a travel book, and I’m good to have the time of my life without totally breaking the bank! 

So, in this blog post I’m sharing 15 of the best travel hacks out there when it comes to saving $$$, time, and stress.

Ready, set, go!

 

☞ FOR BOOKING FLIGHTS ☜

 

1. Plan smart from the start

I always use travel sites like Skyscanner or Kayak to find the best of the best flight deals.

But here’s the thing:

When booking your flight, *always* browse in incognito web windows. Otherwise, any cookies on your computer can indicate things like how badly you want a particular flight, and your rates might be increased accordingly. No bueno.

Also, if you know where you want to go, and you are at least a few months out, set up price alerts!

 

2. Know change + cancellation fees

See these two sentences from my American Airlines confirmation email?

 
American Airline Cancellation Fee.png
 

Well, I didn’t. And I ended up paying an extra fee of $450 for a flight that originally was $368,37.

So please, please, puh-leeze:

Take advantage of my mistake and make sure you know the change and cancellations fees of the airline you’re flying with to avoid nasty surprises when modifying your booking

 

3. Think twice before flying with low-cost airlines

I used to be a big fan of low cost airlines. The ones I’ve used in Europe have been bountiful in terms of cheap travel deals. 

However, I believe that cheap fares aren’t always worth it- especially when it comes to:

  • Checked baggage (it can be an expensive nightmare!).
  • Stringent carry-on limits.
  • Legroom (although not really my issue because I’m fashionably short 😊).
  • Turbulence. You feel it more, and that’s a FACT.

Talking about low-cost airlines, this fun video could pretty much summarise my first (and last) Spirit Airlines experience: 

 
 

 

4. Have a hard copy of ALL your reservations

And by hard copy I don’t necessarily mean printed. I just mean that you don’t have to use data to access it

Because what happens if your phone can’t connect for some reason, and then you don’t remember the number of your reservation, addresses, and all the stuff? 🤷‍

You need these things handy. Period.

 

5. Check your travel docs

No matter where you’re from, there will be a country that requires for you to get a visa

Check that out before you go, and check it out in quite a bit in advance because it’s *hard* to get a visa. 

Also, check the requirements that the expiration date in your passport needs to have. Some countries require even six months validity!

 

☞ FOR PACKING ☜

 

6. Long live the carry-on

Unless the trip is two weeks or longer, I’ll alwaysalwaysalways use a carry-on because 1) you don’t have to pay extra to check it in and 2) you don’t have to wait till your bag arrives.

And typically what I do with a checked bag is: I’ll pack for two weeks, and if my trip is longer than that, I’ll plan to do laundry at some point.

 

7. Two words: versatile pieces

As a former over-packer who now only brings the essentials, I say to pack in outfits:

  • Two tops for every bottom

  • Neutrals that mix and match (and layer as well)

  • Only two or three pairs of shoes

You just spend a few more minutes planning the outfits when you pack, but then we’re you’re traveling you actually don’t have to think at all what you’re gonna be wearing every single day.

Bottom line is to choose items that you can wear in more than one look.

 

8. Cases and cubes and bags, oh my!

Bags and packing cubes can literally be a life saver if you’re one of those people who have a hard time staying organized.

There are so many styles and sizes to choose from and these will help immensely when opening a suitcase and trying to find something quicklyAmazon has a great selection to choose from.

 
 

 

9.  Multi-purpose chunky scarf

I bring a scarf on every.single.trip.

If you’re going somewhere cold, wear your bulkiest items onto the plane. But even if you’re not heading anywhere cold, bring a scarf – it can double as a blanket or extra pillow on the flight.

 

10. Take one last look at your packing list

Having a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.

This is the one I typically check before leaving the house:

 
 

☞ For the flight ☜

Confession: the more I travel, the more scared I become.

Flying gives me a lot of anxiety. And I’m not alone: about 25% of people have some level of fear when flying.

My typical airport experience goes like this:

  • Before the flight: “I can’t wait to get on a plane and finally relax. This is going to be great!”

  • During takeoff: “Why are we turning like this?! I don’t like this. Get me off!”

  • During the flight as I read or watch a movie: “I can’t believe we’re flying. Science is amazing. Look at all the pretty clouds!”

  • During turbulence: “Why is this so bumpy?! That was a big drop! Are we all gonna die?! Breathe. Breathe. Breeeathe. It’s going to be fine.”

  • After the flight: “I love flying. Let’s go do it again!”

This year alone I’ve flown around 50,000 km (30,000 mi), so I’ve learned these few tips as to how to cope with the fear of flying (or, at the least, reduce the anxiety):

 

11. Remember that the pilots want to land safely just as much as you do

Just after the tragedy of Germanwings, where an aircraft crashed in the French Alps, I had a flight to Milan for my mom’s birthday. And truth be told, I was scared to death.

When you think of statistics you know there’s a super tiiiiiiiny little chance that something wrong happens (roughly one in 11 million to be exact). 

But because of that accident, when my mom and I got on the plane, the pilot said: “My wife and daughter are waiting for me at home. I do want to land safely as badly as you do.” 

And that simple reminder actually helped calm my nerves. Pilots are human beings with families and hobbies and Netflix-bingeing habits just like you and me.

 

12. Get a badass seat on the plane 

The question is: where’s the perfect place to sit?

According to what flight attendants told The HuffPost:

  • For safety, pick an aisle seat in the rear, behind the “trailing edge of the wing”
  • For a smooth ride, pick a seat over the wing
  • For a quiet ride, pick a seat toward the front of the cabin
  • For sleeping, pick a window seat on the left side of the plane, near the middle of the aircraft
  • For storage, pick a seat in the rear
  • For legroom, pick an aisle seat in the exit row

Fun fact: I always try to sit by the window and if turbulence is heavy I close the blind to trick my mind that I’m on a train instead. It sounds ridiculous, but it helps. 💆‍♀️

 

13. Look at a flight attendant. If they're calm, all is well

When I’m nervous, the first thing I do is to look at the flight attendants. 

If they’re pretty calm, I know it’s not going to be a disaster because they fly an awful lot so they know what’s dangerous weather.

 
 

 

14. Dress like an air travel pro

Which means knowing what will keep you comfortable on the plane. Which can be translated into the following: 

  • 💁‍♀️ DO'S: Natural breathable fabrics, comfortable shoes, freshly washed clothes and layers, layers, layers.
  • 🙅‍♀️ DON'TS: Tight clothing, high heels, strong perfume or cologne, and warm-weather clothing.

Remember: looking stylish is nice BUT being comfy is a must

 

15. Entertain yourself

I’ve found that one of the best ways to get over a fear of flying is to distract yourself like crazy on the flight, so I take it to the extreme by carrying all of my tech on the plane with me. 

Many but not all airlines have a plug in the back of the seat in front of you, to charge up the electronics. But in case it’s not offered, bring your tech topped up, or your own portable battery.

After we take off, I throw my headphones on and watch a movie. Or I’ll read. Or I’ll journal. Or I’ll write a blog post.

 

Anything you’d add to this list of travel hacks?

If you’d an expert traveler, I’d love to hear your best travel tips and tricks in a comment below!

Also, quick poll: 

Where’s your DREAM vacation? I’m fleshing out a master travel bucket list, so if you’ve got recommendations, help a sister out and let me know. 🙂

Have a really, really great week. Sending Spanish sunshine your way!