Our Travel Expert Rose Jacobs travels the world on a frequent basis. Here she shares her top advice and secret tips she's discovered along the way.
As the Travel Expert for Lifestyle.com.au it kinda means I hit the road on a fairly regular basis. I also have a blog poopypropeller.blogspot.com.au that gives advice for parents travelling with kids… which also means I’ve done a bit of that myself too. And, like most people these days, especially Aussies, I’ve spent as much of my youth getting as far to the other side of the planet as my little legs (and student budget) could carry me.
So, let’s just say I’ve picked up a few little tricks of the trade along the way that make the journey a whole lot smoother and more comfortable.
Here are my top 12 winning travel hacks to help you save time, money and plenty of headaches:
1. HOW TO PACK
Unzip your packed suitcase before you leave home. Take out almost half of what you’ve put in there to start with. Now, zip your bag up and get out the door without looking back!! Obviously, leave your electronics and your medicines. The creature comforts, including most of our heavy toiletries, jeans, books etc. simply weigh us down and prevent us from expanding our horizons when we explore a new destination.
2. STAY IN THE ZONE
Sort out your global roaming before you leave home soil. There’s nothing worse than returning home to a bill from your mobile company that outweighs the cost of the actual trip! And there’s no worse feeling than being on the other side of the world and feeling like you can’t contact loved ones, research the place you’re in, phone a cab, book tickets, check flights, or reply to urgent emails.
3. BAG PREFERENCE
Your bag must weigh next to nothing when you leave home (so you can excuse yourself for more shopping when you’re away!) but it must also be marked “fragile” as obviously as possible. The reason for this is that it will be loaded last, and unloaded first, without being thrown around like a rag doll in the pouring rain. It also means that the airline can’t dispute any damage to your bag you may notice (always check it over immediately after retrieving it from the carousel). Once you leave the airport, it’s very hard to make a damaged bag claim. In many cases, they must provide you with a replacement bag if the damage is significant. Hello new Samsonite upgrade!
4. BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
This one is VITAL. When you are checking in, if you don’t already have a seat allocated from booking, now is your chance to request a seat as far forward as possible please. Point out your lovely long legs for an exit row, your preference for an aisle seat if you suffer motion sickness, your screaming child with gastro for a spare seat between you and other passengers, and if you’re desperate to escape the kids on planes, say so and request not to be seated near the bassinets or the far back of the plane where large families are often grouped. A nice smile and using the check-in agent’s name is never a bad idea.
5. AT THE READY
Fill out your departure / customs card while you’re checking in. It means you can focus on skipping the long customs queues when the time comes. Keep your pen handy in your pocket also. You will want it to be in your seat pocket, along with your passport when you are finally seated on the plane, in order to fill in your landing cards. This also applies to your credit card for any inflight purchases. (Be sure to do a thorough checklist of the above when you’re getting off the plane!)
6. GET A SOUND SLEEP
Have your sleeping tablets ready to go for your long haul flight. I personally only take sleeping pills when it’s for a major time difference shift, and potentially hitting the ground running for work. But man, do they make the world of difference, especially if you’re stuck in an upright seat and you’ve got more than ten hours ahead of you. A good one to look out for is called Unisom. It works within half an hour of taking it and will give you a comfortable rest for eight hours, waking up fresh, not dozy.
7. APP APP AND AWAY
Do your research before you go, for the best restaurants, shops and sights for your destination. Make a list of the top five of each, including a total cross-section of high end to budget. You never know what mood you’ll be in! Tripadvisor isn’t the only site to use these days! A favourite is concreteplayground.com and Yelp is also great.
8. LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Think outside the square with your accommodation bookings! An awesome idea is to search apartments for rent if you’re going to a reasonably large town or city. It helps you live like a local, doing your own groceries, having your own kitchen, meeting neighbours, a laundry, privacy and often far better rates than hotels.
9. HOLIDAY OFFSET
Offset your trip by leasing your own place out while you’re gone. Airbnb is has come a long way and offers greater security as a home-owner than you’d imagine. If you’re not keen on that but do have pets, plants or post that you want looked after then housesitters.com.au is a fantastic option (you don’t get paid by the people staying at your house, but you save a fortune on dog sitters) and you know your house isn’t open to burglary. These are professional house-sitters who know that they’re doing and respect your property immensely. It’s more for peace of mind than for money-making.
10. NO BUMS ALLOWED
Leave the bum-bag at home. And the large guide maps. And the crocs. And the socks under the crocs. Just saying. If you want to get the most out of your trips away, then don’t scream “tourist” to everyone you meet… or won’t meet, because you look like a bogan Aussie tourist. Just because you are in a foreign country, doesn’t mean you have to advertise it. Speak at your normal octave, continue dressing and behaving as you would at home, and you’ll find you meet more locals and are allowed into more restaurants and bars than you would otherwise!
11. SPEAK NOW OR FOREVER KEEP YOUR BAD ROOM
If you are staying at a hotel and you find that your standard of accommodation is below expectation, say something. Too often we miss out on the better accommodation because we don’t speak up. Do it without attitude and ask if there’s something that can be done, like a room “change” or “upgrade” for a valid reason if you can pinpoint it. It’s worth it and it’s your time away. Make it count.
12. EXTRA WEIGHT GAIN
For the return journey home, if you’re concerned about your baggage weight, grab a sturdy hand luggage bag and fill it with your shoes, your books, your technical equipment, denims and heavy gifts. It’ll be a pain to carry through the airport but it may save you a fortune in oversize fees. You are allowed to carry this, along with a handbag onboard. And for your standard check-in weights, it’s safe to add two extra kilos above what the airlines advertise, before they start to charge for excess. It also pays to be early to check-in if you know you’re going to be over. An agent will get stricter on the limit the fuller the flight becomes.