13 Travel Hacks You'll Actually Use


Ahhhhh, sweet, sweet summertime. What a beautiful thing.

Mine is filled with a ridiculous amount of time by the water and obsessing over the progress of our tomato plants. We're living life big here people, holler atchaya girl.


Is it just me or does summer give you a bit of wanderlust? I think it's the warm weather that makes me want to take off and go. Near and far and anywhere really, I want to see it all.


And that got me thinking about some of the best "travel hacks" I've learned from my days of roaming this beautiful world. If we were sitting together in a coffee shop it'd go something like this "Hey (insert your name here) AWESOME! You're going on a trip, oh my goodness, tell me more! I just know you're going to have the BEST time. Ok, so I'm not an expert buuuutttt I've discovered a few things that have really helped me on my own journey. Let me tell you about them."


And so, without further ado, whether you're gearing up for a weekend road trip or heading overseas, here are 13 travel hacks you should know.

1. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS BRING A SCARF
10 times out of 10 I bring a scarf when I travel.

If I could only tell you one travel hack, it would be this: make sure you bring a go-to, multifunctional scarf for your trip. The bigger the better in my opinion. It's more than just an accessory to an outfit, trust me on this one, a good scarf can be used for almost ANYTHING!


It will keep you warm at night when the sun goes down and it cools off and you're out exploring the new place you're visiting or you can use it as a blanket, towel, pillow, or any other creative way you can think of.


I can't tell you how many times a scarf has saved me from freezing my bum off but also been used as a blanket for an impromptu picnic in the park, pillow on the plane, or blanket in the airport (ahem....see the picture below).

See, you can use a scarf for ANYTHING!

I also like that they scarves don't take up much room. If you bring it with for the day but don't need it, you can tie it around your waist or attach it to a bag you're carrying.


I generally take a lighter scarf, like this one, for warmer destinations but if I know I'm going to a place that's cooler, I'll bring one like this.

2. PACKING CUBES WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Look how organized that is. Woohoo!

Yes. I’m obsessed.I mean I did dedicate an entire blog post to them for a reason.


Use packing cubes to keep your clothes and bag/suitcase organized. It doesn't matter what type of trip you're taking, when you need that pair of socks at the veeeeery bottom of your bag, you’ll be thankful you got yourself some packing cubes! We use them for every. single. trip. we go on.


These are the packing cubes I would buy. You can read that post I wrote about packing cubes here.

3. ROLL YOUR CLOTHES

There is some sort of wizardry that happens when you roll your clothes when you pack them and yes. it really does save space. Not that I'm telling you to pack more things but you’ll be surprised how much more you can fit just by rolling your clothes while packing!

4. BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE (AND DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN BRING ICE THROUGH TSA!?)

Pack your own water bottle and refill it as often as needed.


Having your own water bottle is ALWAYS handy. I like to bring my own to save money, not use as much plastic, AND I'm able to attach it to a bag or backpack which is a big deal for the type of traveling we do.


And if we're being real here, which we are, bringing your own water bottle is nice to use for mixing and holding alcoholic drinks. We don't just walk around all day with them filled with alcohol but if we're going out at night and want some wine or a mixed drink, it hides it better being in a colored water bottle. I mean, yeah, a late night charcuterie board with some wine hidden in a water bottle overlooking the Douro River in Portugal was definitely something I'd do again.


ANNDD I literally JUST LEARNED you can bring your own water bottle filled with frozen liquid (aka ice) through TSA! I always thought the water bottle had to be completely empty, but they just make you get rid of the excess water and slush so only the ice is left over and you’re good to go! Freeze some water the night before and you'll have cold water for the travel portion of your trip!


I'm a sucker for the classic Nalgene like this one but my sister recently got me this Contigo thermos for hot AND cold drinks and I’m obsessed. Legit, I call her every time I use it because it's so great. The downfall is that it's smaller and isn't capable of being attached to my bag but I've taken it on a few road trips for coffee in the morning and love it.

5. USE DRYER SHEETS

Dryer sheets help keep your clothes smelling fresh and reduce static. I throw one into each of my packing cubes! Sprinkle them throughout your bag or suitcase and you'll be good to go!

6. TWIST TIES WILL KEEP YOU SANE

I started using twist ties for each of my cords only about 6 months ago and it’s been a game changer. You can buy colorful ones like this on Amazon but I just save them off of the groceries we buy. With all of the electronics we all have, your stuff will be much more organized when you tie each of the cords.

7. BRING EXTRA BAGGIES

Everything should have a place, nothing should just be floating around in a pocket. Trust me, I didn’t start traveling with this mindset, I learned it from being frustrated when all of my odds and ends were all over the place.


I like to use baggies for those odds and ends so I can see what's inside. Use a baggie for (your nicely coiled!) electronics. Use a baggie for coins. Use a baggie for batteries and rings and jewelry and pens and every single odd and end in your bag. I also use them to carry food or snacks!


I always bring a few extra because you'll be surprised what you'll use them for and somehow, I still don't get it, but I always manage to accumulate a few extra "things".

8. CHOOSE THE SMALLER SUITCASE
This is it people. We packed all of our gear and clothes in two of these for two weeks in Portugal!

Some of the best advice I got when I started traveling is this: it’s inevitable, you’re going to fill up your suitcase, so make sure you choose the smaller one. If there's room, you're going to pack that "extra sweatshirt" or "just one more pair of leggings". Chances are you don't need them and guess what, if you do, you can always buy them where you're going!


Use the smaller bag and only take what you need. It makes you more mobile (especially if you're traveling on the go!) and the less baggage you have to think about the better in my book.


Also, you can save A LOT of money by only packing a carry on. I know this type of packing and traveling isn't for everyone but if you think you can, I'd say try and make it happen. Scott and I spent 2 weeks motorcycling around Portugal with ALLLLL of our gear and clothes in two 31L WANDRD backpacks and it was amazing. We didn't have much to worry about and we could get up and go with all that we had at any time. I wrote a blog post about why I love these backpacks so much, here.

9. YOU CAN BUY WHAT YOU NEED, WHERE YOU'RE GOING

Yep. Remember that. It took me awhile to learn this one and I wish I would have realized it sooner. You can buy almost anything you need, anywhere you're going. This isn't a universal truth obviously but guess what, they have grocery stores in Italy. They have clothing stores in Colombia. They have department stores in Kenya.


If you forget something or the weather is WAAAYYY different than it’s supposed to be or you're on the fence if you should pack that thing or not, just know that you can probably buy it where you're going.


Also, I've had enough shampoos explode on me to leave them behind forever ever. Even wrapped up in a plastic bag, I'm over it. I can buy them where I'm going, right?

10. DOWNLOAD GOOGLE TRANSLATE

If you’re going to a foreign country and don’t know the local language, it’s helpful to download google translate before you go. And it's free! You can use it offline, type in sentences, speak to it, AND use your camera to read (this is crazy helpful reading menus in restaurants) and translate.


I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS encourage you to try talking and interacting with the locals, but if you're on your own or in a bind or just can't figure something out, Google translate is really valuable to have. We like to try and figure things out without apps as much as possible but it helped us immensely when we were in Colombia.

11. DOWNLOAD MAPS OFFLINE

Downloading maps offline will help you big time whether you're in a different country or traveling here in the US. Overseas, it's nice to get you where you need to go when you don't have service nor wifi. In the US it's helpful if you're on a road trip and don't want to use data. You download ahead of time and voila!


There are various, free, offline maps you can download but Goggle Maps has it's own option too.

Click on the three lines at the top left of your screen for more options.

Click offline maps.

Select the area you want to download.

Boom. Done!

12. HIT UP A FREE WALKING TOUR FIRST THING

You KNOW I love me a free walking tour. If you don't know what a free walking tour is, most major cities in Europe and Asia but also now in the US offer them. You have a guide who takes you on a 3ish hour tour telling you stories and the history of the city and at the end, you tip them based on how they did.


I'm a huge fan of them because they give you get to meet fellow travelers, get a layout of the land, learn about the history of the people, city, and country you're visiting, and get to ask the guide any questions or recommendations they have. Needless to say they. are. AWESOME! But, make sure you do it first thing. Or at least toward the beginning of getting to a new city, because I can almost guarantee that you'll learn something and as you're exploring and doing different things, you'll have that new knowledge with you.

13. BRING A COMFORTABLE DAY PACK

You're going to want something to carry with for your day to day but make sure it's comfy and not too big. I know this is really vague advice but my suggestion is to look into it a bit ahead of time but don't worry about getting it perfect.


If it's hot, you probably don't want to carry around a big backpack. A purse is great for a lot of things but make sure it's practical. We'll pack and use different bags depending on what we're doing. No matter the trip, I almost always pack this lightweight day pack just in case, it folds back into a little pouch, and it takes up almost zero room.

There you go! My coffee shop version of hey, you should try a few of these things! I hope they helped. Let me know any travel hacks you've learned along the way down below!


Happy traveling my friend,

Steph


If you liked this post, I have a feeling you might like these others I wrote:

21 gift ideas for the ultimate adventurer

9 things I ALWAYS take when I travel

4 things I wasn't expecting to learn while traveling overseas

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