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Well, if all goes according to plan, I have some pretty exciting news to share with all of you in the coming weeks (!!! so stay tuned). Until then, I’m throwing back to some of the best travel hacks that I learned during my time abroad–if you’re planning a sojourn anytime soon, you’ll want to keep a few of these in your back pocket so you can travel on-the-go like a total pro!
10. Pre-print any documents you might need: directions, contact info, spreadsheets.
When you’re on the go, it’s always a good idea to print everything you need in advance. My friend recently sent me her crazy detailed Europe spreadsheet containing hostels, dates, rates, train times, and planned sites, which are all useful to keep on hand, but it’s also a good idea to print a few maps if you plan on traveling internationally without a data plan. That being said…
9. Contact your mobile provider in advance for international data and texting plans.
Before I left for Europe, I contacted my mobile provider and asked them about affordable international data plan options. I ended up purchasing a plan for unlimited international texting and something like 200 MB data for emergencies–thankfully, too, because I ended up using all of it (and then some!). While the price tag was pretty hefty, it felt good to know that I had a fallback in case I needed it.
8. Invest in a sizable external battery pack for your phone.
My friend lent me an external battery pack before my trip to Europe and it pretty much saved my life. Since different countries around the world use different outlets/voltages, my collection of adaptors became very cumbersome to dig out and sort through every single night. Thankfully, my battery was good for 6-8 full phone charges at a time, so I only needed to plug anything into the wall once a week! (Pro tip: These are also great for hostels or shared living spaces because they allow you to keep your phone with you at all times.)
7. Consider getting TSA Precheck or Global Entry access.
Although this doesn’t apply to folks who travel sparingly or are not from the US, one way to cut down on airport time if you’re a frequent American traveler is by investing in either TSA Precheck ($85–expedited line for domestic flights, no need to take off shoes/jackets in security) or Global Entry ($100–all the perks of TSA plus expedited line for US border control). Both passes are good for five years, but I’m glad I decided to shell out the extra 15 bucks because it’s saved me hours of extra wait time already!
6. Pack a collapsible bag inside your suitcase for those “extra things” you’ll end up bringing home.
You know that weird phenomenon whereby your suitcase comes home heavier than when you left? In case you’re worried about being able to cram all of those keychains, novelty books, and other knick-knacks into your bag on the way home, just tuck away a collapsible duffel bag. You might have to pay for an extra piece of checked luggage, depending on your airline, but at least you don’t need to fret about leaving behind those Swiss chocolates!
5. Back up and clear your phone’s SD card.
If you’re traveling to new and beautiful locales, you’ll want to take pictures. And if you want to take pictures, there is nothing worse than the small notification popping up on your screen in the middle of Norwegian fjords telling you that you don’t have enough memory space to snap that once-in-a-lifetime photo. Best practice: transfer all those old selfies onto an external storage device or your desktop before your trip. (Not a fan of wiping your SD card? You can buy a fairly inexpensive 1 GB one nowadays for only $15-20!)
4. Bring a few zippable bags.
Extra food? Dirty underwear? Wet shampoo bottles? Just shove all of that into a zippable plastic bag! I also recommend an assortment of larger plastic bags for things like shoes and dirty laundry. And don’t forget one or two quart-sized zippables for those in-flight (<3.4 oz.) liquids!
3. Communicate with your travel companions and make sure that everything is in order before you go.
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in an unfamiliar new place and then learning that you don’t have anywhere to stay the next night because of a miscommunication. If you’re traveling with someone, double-check your bases and make sure that you both know your itineraries (including places to stay, check-out details, flight times, travel plans, and anything else that requires prior booking) well before you leave. Trust me, scrambling to make phone calls and hunt for accommodations abroad are the last kind of “on-the-go” frenzies that you want!
2. Also, contact your financial institutions and let them know that you’ll be traveling.
Ever had your credit card frozen because of “unusual activity” that was–oops–actually just you trying to buy a chocolate bar in Florida? Avoid financial freezes by calling your bank beforehand and letting them know the dates of your travel. (Many institutions now have an automated line so that you don’t even need to speak to a real person to do this–which, for non-banking types like me, is a godsend.) And finally…
1. …Bring snacks, snacks, SNACKS!
Do I even need to convince you guys that having a stash of food with you at all times is an absolute must?? I thought not. Although there was so much food in Europe and Italy that I was nearly bursting out of my jeans by the end of every day, keeping a variety of travel-friendly snacks on hand helped me survive the long airport waits and train rides without wanting to slobber all over a neighboring stranger’s meal.
After careful consideration, I decided to bring a few small bags of trail mix and about a dozen bars for maximum snacking potential. I would recommend something with wholesome ingredients and craveable flavors that’s likely to keep you satisfied longer, like Special K’s new Nourish® Bars. (I bought mine–Cranberry Almond and Chocolate Almond–from Target and I love their unique, progressive flavors! They also have Protein Bars that, by the way, contain a whopping 8 grams of protein.) You can find a list of other Kellogg’s travel-friendly favs here.
What’s your favorite on-the-go travel tip?