6 Travel Hacks We Bet You Didn't Know
Maybe you'll know one or two, but we bet you won’t know ALL of them. Continuing with our travel tips & tricks theme this December, we’re sharing 6 of our favorite travel hacks to get you through this busy travel season. A few of these came from our friends and family, and in the spirit of paying it forward, we are now sharing them with you. We hope they provide you with that “aha” feeling and maybe a bit of “well, duh.” Either way, sometimes it’s the smallest trick that can make your life just a little bit easier.
1. never struggle with your sim card again
If you've ever changed your SIM card, you know how frustrating it can be to remove. Make your life easier and
use the back of an earring to change your SIM card.
If you’re traveling internationally, it’s usually more economical to purchase a local SIM card than an international plan with your domestic provider. More on that from Rick Steves here. Before Amanda shared this trick, I struggled with a paperclip to pop open the SIM card holder. I would a) have to remember the paperclip and b) hope that it wouldn’t bend. Now, I use the back of an earring and it magically pops out every time. And for our gentlemen readers, maybe you’ve found your new pickup line?
2. effortlessly sign on to new wifi networks
Have you ever failed to connect to a free wifi network because the login page never popped up? In order
to trigger the login page, type in a web address you've never accessed
(maybe yahoo.com?). We can thank my dear friend Allie for this one. We were in the Madrid airport trying to access the free wifi, but the page to sign up wouldn’t load...for me. She was happily checking her Snapchat while I was complaining that it wasn't working. Allie looked at me dumbfounded and asked if I had tried typing in a new web address. Mind. Blown. Score, free wifi!
3. never overpay for currency conversion
If you travel enough, you should invest in a credit card with NO foreign transaction fees (here’s a list of the top US cards from The Points Guy). However, simply using the card doesn't guarantee you get the best rate. In order to capitalize on this great benefit,
make sure to pay in the local currency, NOT a converted one.
In some countries (Hungary and Ireland for example), when you swipe your credit card, an option to convert to (in my case) USD is given. This option, offered by the vendor's bank, gives an exchange rate maybe 1-5% higher than the actual rate for that day. It’s basically a sneaky way for that bank to get a few extra dollars out of you. Instead, make sure to DECLINE the conversion option and pay in local currency.
Be wary, in many cases, we've found that the vendor will select the incorrect option for you because they assume you want to pay in your home currency. Before you sign, make sure to check your receipt and simply ask that they decline the charge and re-run your card if it's incorrect.
One caveat: if your credit card DOES charge a foreign transaction fee, you might actually be better off accepting the conversion.
4. save time when you pay by credit card
If you're in a country with a different credit card scheme (i.e. maybe you're from the US with a chip and signature card traveling in Europe where they use chip and pin), this tip is especially convenient.
Save time and the hassle of signing receipts or typing in your pin by using contactless payments.
Anywhere you see the wifi symbol on the credit card reader, you can pay with your phone! (Or some countries offer contactless payment credit cards, where you can simply tap the card to the reader.) If you have a smarphone, simply set up Apple Pay on your iPhone or Android Pay on your Android device. When you’re ready to pay, let the vendor know you want to pay with contactless. If you have an iPhone, double click the home button and hold your phone over the credit card reader with your finger that you use for touch-id. It will ping and BOOM, you’re on your way! I assume the Android experience is similar.
5. fly through security and immigration
We’re all about time-saving and efficiency on TBP! There are a number of countries that offer
fast track immigration clearance through trusted traveler programs.
Even if you’re not a frequent international traveler, I highly suggest applying to save yourself the hassle upon your return home whenever you leave the country. The last thing you want to do when getting off a long haul international flight is wait on the immigration line at JFK. Instead, you could be flying through with Global Entry, the US trusted traveler program that allows you to bypass the immigration officers and instead use the machines that use passport and finger scan verification.
If you’re a US citizen or permanent resident, you can apply online. Once provisionally accepted, you must pay the $100 fee and make an appointment for an interview at one of the Global Entry Enrollment Centers. Yes, you have to schlep to the airport, but trust me, it’s totally worth it. The best part is that you are given a Known Traveler ID, which can be used for TSA Pre for expedited security screening at US airports. No more worrying about walking barefoot through security since you can leave your shoes on. And bonus, a number of credit card companies actually offer a Global Entry fee reimbursement as part of their benefits, so you can get it for FREE. Here’s a list.
If you’re not from the US, The Points Guy put together a great guide of trusted traveler programs throughout the world. It turns out, if you’re a member of one country’s program and travel frequently to another, then it’s pretty easy to gain fast track entry into other countries. Here’s a guide from the US Department of Homeland Security listing countries with reciprocity. And here is a guide about Japan’s program specifically.
6. fill your kindle...for free
Ok, so this one may not exactly be travel related, but we’re both big readers and especially love to dig into a good book on a long plane ride or while sitting on the beach. You may have forgotten that libraries still exist and probably didn't realize that many even offer the ability to check out e-books to your e-reader.
Save money by getting your books from the local library.
Free books, what a concept! Make sure to check with your library to see if they have an e-book system. You can check out books online (without even going in) and have them electronically delivered to your e-reader. Most can also send to tablets, smartphones, and computers. My one piece of advice is to get yourself onto waiting lists for popular books ASAP. You may have to wait a few weeks or months for the titles to become available, but they always do and think of all the money you’ll save. Put it in your travel fund!
7. bonus! never get lost while traveling
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