I’ll never forget in my early 20’s, taking off with my backpack and a one-way ticket to the other side of the world – much to Mum’s dismay. I remember gliding on-board the plane in a hazy fog thinking of being away from family and friends yet so excited about the adventures ahead.
I saved for that trip of a lifetime by emptying the coins from my purse every evening into a money-box I couldn’t open and bought things on special in preparation for what I might need. Lightweight clothes and miniature items seemed to take precedence. I practiced packing my backpack then repacking it with half the contents. When I left, I literally looked like a 25kg backpack with legs with my sleeping bag tied tightly to the top. Ah, the memories of those 25kg.
Many countries, experiences, sunburns, photographs and years later, I returned home so much wiser, stronger, vigilant and aware of the world and my abilities. I also managed to return without any debt except for a couple of hundred dollars on my credit card. The joys of being able to live off my tips and other quirky tricks which I’ll share another time. In this post I wanted to share my 7 most valuable travel tips to make travelling easier, safer and more affordable.
- It’s all in the packing
Roll baby, roll. Fold then roll your clothes tightly. Not only will you fit more into your bag but your clothes and reputation will thank you for it. Your clothes actually don’t crease as much when you roll them compared to if you fold or stuff them into your bag. Be aware though that clothes rolled and stuffed in boots or hiking shoes can come out smelling quite foul. The down side is that you’ll find you’ll have more space in your bag making way for dust collecting souvenirs which could lead to overweight baggage fees – so be aware.
- Do your research
Ever the bargain hunter, I’m the type of person who will sit down with pen and paper to compare entry fees and car hire prices to get the best value for money. I’m pretty sure I get this trait from my Mum. Usually I find that it’s cheaper to book beforehand which also means I’m not stressed or wasting time on holiday trying to do a similar comparison. Everything is already organised and all we have to do is show up. As I was traveling alone, I always arrived at my destination with plenty of daylight left for safety reasons and researched what was where before I got there. My core references when traveling overseas are the Lonely Planet Guides (10yr old ones don’t count) and if traveling locally, my go-to for savings is always The Entertainment Book .
- International roaming – beware
So here’s the thing, if you turn your phone onto international roaming once you’ve already landed in another country, you’d better hope that you come home with more money than you left with as it will cost you a fortune. It is always best to connect your plan to international roaming whilst you are still at home. Be sure to increase your data limit also, then once you get to where you’re going, disconnect any app that needs to constantly download, upload, update, notify, ring bells, chime or tweet at any given moment. Switch them to manual settings so you only incur charges and data usage when you need to gather that information. Or I guess you could just find somewhere that has free WiFi – either or.
- Lock and Roll
You know those little padlocks you can get at the $2 shop with the miniature keys in a 2 pack that open almost every other lock that looks similar? Yeah – don’t get them. I religiously travel with locks on my luggage and not just for show as I actually lock my locks. I often see suitcases dizzily rotating around the carousel with unlocked bags and the lock just for show. I’m not sure what the concept is behind that – but I digress.
I’ve upgraded to the combination lock style which, unless someone knows your birth date, are usually quite secure and a deterrent. There’s also snazzy new luggage out these days that have built-in combination locks on them which are handy and it means you don’t have worry about losing keys or locks on your travels. You could also go one step further and invest in a wire mesh cover that locks over your back pack or suitcase if you’re concerned. If you’re locking cabin luggage though (as I do – yes I’m a little anal) and you need to get electrical devices out of it for a security check on departure, the trick is to unlock your bag before you get in line to avoid death stares from the queue of unruly passengers awaiting their turn to strip and be x-rayed.
- Protect yourself against wireless crime
It can happen anywhere. No longer are your personal ID and credit card details safe in your wallet or handbag. At home and abroad, wireless crime is becoming more intelligent and it can happen to anyone at any time and your passport details are not safe either. If you’re standing in a queue or walking down the street and someone with a scanner is within just 50metres from you, they can scan all your details without you knowing.
Scary isn’t it.
This is why I highly recommend investing in an anti-RFID wallet, handbag or passport/credit card sleeve. RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification and it’s through this technology that we have the convenience of wireless transactions. It’s also the technology that criminals tap into to be able to scan your details. Look at safety products from suppliers like Korjo, Packsafe or online stores such as Bagworld who offer a great range. You can also wrap your wallet in foil but I’ll let you choose which is more practical.
- Travelling with multiple currencies
It took me a little while to realise but travellers cheques are a thing of the past. I know, right? Technology has raced ahead and I’ve found the best option to carry varying currencies is via a Travel Money Card from the bank. It’s usually Mastercard or VISA branded and you just treat it like a debit card. Simply load on there the denominations of the currencies you need and activate the card online. Then when traveling just take cash out of the ATM as you would do at home. You’re usually provided with 2 cards to keep in 2 separate locations for security. Fees depend on your bank and be sure to check anything in the contract about any money remaining on the card after the card has expired. It’s worth looking into though for peace of mind and ease whilst your traveling.
- Book the best flight ever
To ensure you book the best flight for your circumstances, consider the following:
- Who you’re traveling with. If you’re traveling with an elderly person or kids, you can bet you’ll be up for a challenge if you’re flight is the red-eye 6am special and you have to be at the airport 3hrs beforehand and you live an hour away from the airport.
- Airlines have sales on at different times. Virgin’s Thursday Happy Hour always provides awesome deals. Sign up for V-Mail Sales Alerts for some great specials also.
- Whether you’ll need an in-flight meal. There’s nothing worse than the beckoning aroma of a roast dinner wafting from your neighbour’s tray table and you haven’t ordered it.
- How long you are going to be away. It might be more economical getting a one-way ticket rather than a Round-the-World ticket taking into account the locations you’re traveling to and the time you have.
- Whether you need check-in luggage. Double check the weight restrictions and adhere to them when packing. Handheld travel scales come in very handy. Only press “SUBMIT” on a ticket that covers you for the luggage you intend to take.
- Pre-select your seating when you book. It’s so worth it for peace of mind and comfort.
And there you have it. A pocket guide of travel and savings secrets for your next adventure. I would love to know your travel tips. I might give them a try myself.