26 Unconventional Travel Hacks You Need for Your Next Trip

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There was a time in my life when I was absolutely obsessed with travel life hacks.

Throwing your shoes in a shower cap while packing? Oh yeahhh. Keeping jewelry untangled with straws? Talk to me, baby.

On a super vain level, I think it’s because knowing the best travel hacks makes me feel like an unstoppable smartass… even if I’m the kind of person that trips over nothing and manages to create chaos out of the simplest tasks.

That said, thanks to six years of frequent travel, I’ve picked up my fair share of travel life hacks, some that are a little weird but I promise do work.

This isn’t your regular list of hacks – nope. Sure, some are odd, but shhh, just embrace it.

Save this list of travel hacks for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

The Best Travel Hacks for Booking Flights & Accommodation

Let’s start with some of the best traveling hacks to make your life easier when you’re booking travel and accommodation. These travel life hacks have been a total lifesaver (and money saver) for me over the years, so I hope you find them helpful too.

1. Get cash back on every travel booking

Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is a free cashback site that allows you to earn money back from most of your online purchases, almost like a partial instant refund.

Here’s how it works: Rakuten is partnered with a bunch of popular online retailers (travel ones like Expedia, Agoda, etc. included!).

When you click through to these retailer sites via Rakuten and buy something, Rakuten earns some affiliate commission, a portion of which they share with you as a cashback (deposited straight into your Paypal).

In other words, you’re getting money back for shopping, which translates into instant discounts for your travel bookings.

Sign up for free here and earn cashback on your online purchases.

Canadians: sign up for Rakuten Canada here.

Warning: The folks at Rakuten are biiiig fans of email, so be ready for that. I like getting their emails because they advertise sales/deals, but I admit they can be a bit much. To handle it, I have my Gmail filters set up so that eBates emails go into a special folder that I browse maybe once a day. Yay to no more clutter!

Man holding credit card at computer
Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

2. Use Honey to find coupon codes automatically

By far THE easiest way to save on all your travel bookings (and any online shopping really).

This ridiculously simple Google Chrome extension automatically searches through the Interwebs to locate relevant coupon codes and then applies them for you when you’re shopping online!

This means you no longer need to search around for deals and codes that may or may not work.

As all the reviews say, “it’s literally free money”. You can also earn Honey points that you can redeem for things like train trips in Europe.

Click here to download Honey for Google Chrome.

Screenshot of Honey, a Google chrome extension that finds coupons automatically

3. Sleuth around on discount sites like Groupon and Travelzoo

Looking for some cheap vacation hacks that can save you loads of money?

Websites like Groupon, Travelzoo and Living Social often have crazy discounts on vacations, hotels and activities all over the world, from Germany to Indonesia.

I love these websites because they consolidate great deals in one spot, which makes finding the perfect deal pretty effortless.

Double whammy: if you purchase buy a Groupon or LivingSocial voucher through eBates, you’ll get some extra cashback.

Palm tree silhouettes in front of a beautiful colourful sunset
Photo by Luke Bender on Unsplash

4. Earn money while doing trip research

I’m a big fan of getting rewards for things I’d be doing anyway… so that’s why I adore websites like Swagbucks, a free online community that rewards its members with gift cards for doing things they already do online, e.g. Googling, watching videos, etc.

Through doing certain tasks, you rack up “Swagbucks” which you can redeem for things like Amazon or PayPal gift cards which can be spent on travel gear and experiences!

I was super into this years ago, and have earned tons of free gift cards from it. It’s easy work but adds up to awesome rewards! You can create a free account here.

Plus: Swagbucks also does cashback like eBates. While you’re compensated in Swagbucks rather than immediate cash, you can then redeem these SB for gift cards or direct Paypal deposit.

The upside of using Swagbucks for cashback (rather than eBates) is that sometimes, Swagbucks has better bonus cashback rates. For instance, at the time of publishing this article, they were doing up to 10% cashback on Priceline. Pretty rad!

Girl sitting on bed typing on her laptop
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

5. Use incognito/private browsing to potentially save money on flights

Incognito browsing (AKA private browsing) is a mode available on most internet browsers that allows you to browse without storing any data on your computer or tracking your history from that session.

This can be VERY helpful when booking flights because as rumour has it, many sites use a dynamic pricing system that will sometimes increase prices when they know you’ve been looking at a particular route constantly (sneaky, I know).

NOTE: While some experts claim this is false, I always do it just in case because it takes zero extra effort.

For more tips on airfare, check my full guide to finding cheap flights to Europe.

A phone on a table with the Google search page open
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

6. Call the hotel for a better rate by booking directly

This is a tip that most websites do not give because they rely on affiliate income from your hotel bookings… I mean, my site does too, but hey, if you’re reading this, I want to let you in on an excellent secret: literally 99% of the time, you can score some kind of perk or discount by booking with a hotel directly vs. booking through an aggregator like Booking.com.

Why?

Well, these aggregators usually take a cut of any bookings, so hotels prefer when you book directly, and will often offer incentives to do so, whether that’s in the form of a discount, a free upgrade, or a free perk like breakfast. I’ve noticed this is especially common with booking hostels in Europe.

This is one of the best travel hacks that nobody talks about, so be sure to remember it!

Vibrant hotel lobby
Photo by Leoni Milano on Unsplash

The Best Travel Hacks for Packing

Next up: cool travel hacks that help you pack like a pro. Want more packing tips? Be sure to read my full guide featuring 30+ suitcase packing tips & hacks.

7. Use packing cubes

Packing cubes are a wonderful packing tool that help you save space and organize your clothing.

Long story short, they’re re-usable fabric cubes that you can stack/place in your suitcase when you travel. They’re very affordable and a good set will last you for years – definitely one of the most worthwhile purchases for any frequent traveler.

In a pinch, Ziplock bags could also be used to organize your clothes in a similar way.

If you want to know which packing cubes to buy, check out my full guide to packing cubes or watch my video showdown here.

Pink packing cubes in a pile

8. Roll your clothes

I’m full of funny travel tips, but whenever I suggest this to newbie travelers, I get SO many weird looks…

Trust me though, rolling your clothes instead of folding them is a great way to keep them organized and wrinkle free in your packing cubes. Try it out and I promise you won’t go back!

Rolled clothes in a packing cube

9. Bring a pillowcase

Never a pillow “just a case” if you’re looking to save space.

One of my favourite packing hacks is to bring a pillowcase instead, so if you’re ever in an emergency situation where you need a comfy pillow, just stuff some soft clothes in that case and go to town.

Likewise, you can use the pillowcase to compress clothes like a puffy jacket in order to save space in your luggage.

Pillowcase on a hotel bed
Photo by Anna Maiwald on Unsplash

10. Pack a dryer sheet

By packing a dryer sheet o two, your clothes will smell extra nice for those long haul trips!

BONUS TIP: Keep an extra handy for your “dirty laundry” bag so that your whole suitcase doesn’t start smelling like dirty clothes. Ick.

Alternatively, just throw a bar of soap in (mini hotel ones work great).

Stock up on cheap dryer sheets here.

11. Pack a clothespin to prop up your toothbrush

One of my favourite travel packing hacks!

Whether you’re staying in an AirBNB, hostel or hotel, sometimes you want to make sure your toothbrush doesn’t touch anything… after all, sinks can be notoriously germy.

If a holding cup isn’t available, just throw a clothespin on it to prop it up. Pure germaphobe genius.

Toothbrush on a moneyclip

12. Get creative with your storage containers

I’m a big fan of re-purposing old junk, and luckily, you can repurpose a lot when it comes to packing!

Here are some ideas:

  • Using a Tic Tac case for bobby pins
  • Using a carabiner for hair ties
  • Storing Q-Tips in an old pill bottle
Q-Tips in a pill bottle

Top Travel Hacks for the Airport/Flying

Dread flying? There are lots of great travel tips and tricks to make this part of travel a lot more bearable. Here are some helpful traveling life hacks that will make your airport and flight experience a breeze.

13. Pack an empty water bottle to the airport

That way you can fill up after you pass security.

No more $4 bottles of water! Woo!

Alternatively, some experts swear by freezing their water so it’s not technically a liquid.

I guess that could work, but then you’re kind of awkwardly just waiting for your water to melt? Just bring an empty bottle, folks.

The foldable ones are awesome for this, plus they’re better for the environment too ; )

Water bottle in front of a scenic view
Photo by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

14. Freeze a sponge as a DIY ice pack

This is one of my favourite travel tips and tricks that I learned from a flight attendant friend.

Have snacks you want to bring on the plane and hoping to keep them cool? A frozen sponge will do the trick!

Soapy sponge shaped like a heart
Photo by Vika Aleksandrova on Unsplash

15. Scope out your flight seat in advance

This is an amazing international travel hack if you have a long haul flight to book.

As most travellers know, not all plane seats are created equal!

Some have more leg room, some are absurdly close to the washrooms, etc.

Luckily, you can just enter your flight details on Seat Guru (it’s free!) and read different reviews/first hand experiences.

If you have one of those flights where you can choose your own seats during online check-in, this is a massive life saver.

Airplane seats as seen from the middle aisle
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

16. Reserve the aisle and window seats

If you’re travelling with a friend or partner, no need to fight to the death re: who must take the dreaded middle seat.

Just reserve both the aisle and window in hopes that nobody wants the middle seat… if they do though, just ask to switch!

Super simple travel hack that works well 🙂

Airplane seats filled with passengers

17. Mark your stuff as fragile

One of the sneakiest travel life hacks I’ve come across, but you’ll get your luggage first and the airline workers will be extraaa careful with your goods.

Worth it!

Package marked as fragile
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

18. Wear compression socks to make your flights more bearable

Compression socks = less swelling and better circulation! This is a must-know vacation hack for those that want to fly more comfortably.

View outside an airplane window at sunset
Photo by Nick Pryde on Unsplash

The Best Travel Life Hacks for When You’re on the Road

These hacks for traveling will make your life infinitely easier once you’re actually out and about. Here are my favourite international travel hacks you need to know:

19. Download Google Maps for use offline by typing in “OK Map”

One of my favourite new travel hacks – this is SUCH a lifesaver.

If you have sufficient space on your phone, you can easily download Google Maps to browse offline on mobile, even when you don’t have Internet connection.

All you need to do is go on the map to the area you want to save, then type “ok map” into the search and press Download.

A phone held up showing Google Maps of New York City
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

20. Find WiFi passwords on FourSquare

FourSquare is a website/app where people share tips, ratings and reviews on places to go near you (e.g. restaurants, cafes, bars, etc.)

The handiest part of this website is the “Tips” section where people can leave helpful recommendations for others, and it’s often here that you’ll find the WiFi password for places.

So, if you need WiFi in a pinch, you can easily hop on Foursquare and sleuth around for WiFi passwords.

Free WIfI mural painted on a wall
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

21. Or download an app that shows you all the WiFi passwords

There are tons of helpful travel apps out there these days.

WiFi Map is a great example. This app shows you the passwords to different WiFi networks (over 100 million of them, as they say).

The handy part is they’re organized on a map so you can easily scope out the ones closest to you. Note: some dissatisfied users say that passwords are outdated, but it’s a handy tool to have just in case.

Find it on: Google Play | iTunes 

WiFi symbol with roots painted on a wall
Photo by Ken Friis Larsen on Unsplash

22. Download Google Translate for use offline

One of my favourite trip hacks! If you’re travelling abroad and don’t speak the language, it’s handy to have Google Translate loaded and ready.

That said, it normally does require Internet connection. Here’s a way around it: download the Google Translate app, then go to Settings and choose “Offline Translation”.

From there, you can download different languages.

Bonus tip: if you want to translate signs, menus, etc. quickly, tap the camera button on your Google Translate app to translate images in real time.

The first time I saw this feature in action, I realized we are (indeed) living in the future.

A closeup of a phone being charged on a laptop
Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

23. Bring some baby powder for a quick freshen-up

Weird, I know, but baby powder is amazing for freshening up.

Especially in the summer, if you’re wearing flats or sandals, your feet (and footwear) will inevitably start smelling.

Throwing some baby powder on them is a quick way to deodorize and make you feel human again.

Birkenstock sandals on a rug
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

24. Keep a pen in every bag/pocket

Not the most unconventional, but I promise this will save your life.

You never know when you need a pen, so have one handy in all your purses/daybags, backpacks, luggage cases, etc. so you’re not scrambling when everyone else is filling out their Customs sheets.

A silver pen on a pink background
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

25. Make use of local grocery stores/supermarkets

One of my favourite hacks for traveling on a budget is to simply hit local supermarkets.

No, you don’t need to cook your own meals necessarily, but all the time I see budget travellers sprinting for vending machines/little kiosks when there are supermarkets literally within eyesight selling the exact same stuff for a fraction of the price.

Supermarkets are great for stocking up on snacks, water, drinks, etc.

Take advantage of them!

The fresh aisle in a supermarket with smoothies and salads on display
Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

26. Use a TV to charge your electronics

One of the the things I forget most often is the little USB adapter that comes with my phone charger.

If you’re forgetful like that too, don’t worry – there’s several easy travel hacks to help you out of that situation.

I usually then just plug my cable into my laptop to charge, BUT if you don’t usually pack a laptop, know that most TVs have a USB port around the back and you can easily use that to charge all your electronics 😉

You’re welcome!

TV and guitar in a nice living space
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

Did I miss any of your favourite travel hacks?

So, it seems like you’re well on your way to becoming a travel ninja. I hope you enjoyed that article about unconventional travel life hacks. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have more to share! 


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69 thoughts on “26 Unconventional Travel Hacks You Need for Your Next Trip”

  1. These are great tips because they are different. I especially like the pillowcase tip and marking your luggage fragile. Well done!

    Reply
  2. Charging using a TV is GENIUS!!! Wow never thought of that! Also love packing a dryer sheet. Definitely doing that next trip.
    I also always travel with powder in my bag. My go-to is Lush Silky Underwear Powder – it doubles as a deodorant and smells lovely!!

    Reply
    • Woah underwear powder?! That sounds amazing. Definitely going to look into it. I used to use baby powder for everything but never realized there might be powders for special purposes hahah. Thanks for sharing, Meaghan!! <3

      Reply
    • Yes! Another good tip (if you’re travelling as a big group or family) is to bring your own power strip so you can charge more than one thing in those pesky hotel rooms with limited outlets 🙂 Thanks for reading, Harmony!

      Reply
  3. I honestly didn’t even consider half of these! Great read, thank you! I’ll be sure to get some fragile stickers next time I’m out. I always seem to have some sort of issue with baggage.

    Reply
  4. These are the BEST tips! Especially love the ones about the pillow case and the tv charging. Another good one in the vein of offline google maps is that even if you don’t download a map, if you open your map while you’re on wifi before leaving a wifi area, you’ll still be able to follow the blue dot and see all the streets on the map – even without data. It even works in places that aren’t so keen on google maps like South Korea.

    Reply
  5. At first, I wanted to do a virtual hi-five, thinking the pillowcase is for germophobes like me who wanna feel more at ease resting our faces on pillows overseas, until I realized yours is for a different purpose, lol! Great list, Christina! I need to check out the TV USB especially 😉

    Reply
  6. Such good tips!
    I got into Edinburgh yesterday and the first thing I did was go to the local grocery store and stock up on ready made (healthy!) meals that were like 2 pounds instead of always having to eat out at 12-20 pounds for the same portion size!
    Love it girl!

    Reply
  7. These are awesome, Christina! I’m pretty proud that I actually do a couple of them 😉 haha. The pillowcase and dryer sheet hacks are super smart! I’ll definitely be using those for my upcoming trip in November. BRB while I try and hunt down a spare pillowcase…

    Reply
  8. We seem to travel with so much electronic gear. When we went to Europe we actually to a multi plug board to plug everything into and then one adaptor rather than one for each devie we needed to charge. Laptop, cellphones and cameras.

    These tips are excellent.

    Reply
    • That’s super smart! Especially for those travelling as a family/in a big group, bringing a multi-plug can be a huge lifesaver. Thanks for reading and for the bonus tip. It’s much appreciated! <3

      Reply
  9. These are some azaming tips, being from Europe I always have to carry an adaptor with me wherever I go. I use to be an window seat girl but now I will take an asile anyday as I can get and go to the bathroom as many times as I like

    Reply
    • Hahaha I always avoid aisle because I literally pass out whenever I get on a plane, so people always feel awkward waking me up.

      Reply
  10. I honestly thought I probably won’t know anything I haven’t heard before but these are great tips! Definitely learned a couple news ones! Thanks for sharing! <3

    Reply
    • hahaha okay honestly, same. even though I swear I keep a pen in every bag, somehow I’m always left scrambling. You’re not alone!

      Reply
  11. These are awesome! I’ve never thought of the pillowcase trick before, which is ridiculous as I’m always using clothes as a makeshift pillow and then wondering how I can keep them together rather than smushing my head into them awkwardly LOL. I always try and keep some pens handy, and oh my word, supermarkets! Apart from anything else I think it’s a good way to travel “like a local” and yet so many people shy away from them because convenience. Also with the TV charging – I’ve seen people do that at airports! Haha!

    Reply
    • Omg at the airport? That’s genius and hilarious hahaha. Thanks for reading, Clazz! Glad I could enlighten you about the pillowcase trick haha.

      Reply
  12. Hi Christina,

    These are some amazing giveaways. I wonder why I haven’t thought of charging my phone with TV before. Thanks for the tip girl.

    Reply
  13. SeatGuru is a nifty little tool most of the travellers miss out on. Also, one must not forget to ask for seat upgrades. You won’t necessarily get it, but ASKING doesn’t cost 🙂
    I have been successful in getting upgrades 30% of the time (except Singapore Airlines, they just won’t!)
    I have also practiced the art of carrying just 2 pair of clothes when going to a country that has cheaper clothes than the home country. Then, I buy my entire trip’s clothes from that country. Saves money and also saves weight while travelling to the destination!

    Reply
  14. It is really a very helpful blog for all the budget travelers. Every point in this blog is valid and helpful. Thank you for such an information.

    Reply
  15. Great content! learned so much specially from #16 . I didn’t even consider cooking on site. Was really afraid to be swindled .

    Just wanted to share another Life hack on getting good Air tickets !
    Follow this link! :
    https://bit.ly/31QEOlh

    Reply
  16. Great list of travel hacks. The clothesline is new to me. Reserving the middle and aisle seats are also a very good idea.

    Here are some travel hacks that have worked well for me:
    1. Airlines usually assign seats from front to back. So if you reserve one of the last rows on a plane (especially the back middle row on wide body planes), you are significantly more likely to get a row to yourself

    2. Some airline apps let you view the seat map even after you checked in. I often will view the seat map and ask gate agents to change me if I find an empty row.

    3. Free upgrades almost never happen. It’s usually not worth asking. But sometimes you can get a very cheap upgrade to business class when you check in.

    Reply
  17. The last one often helps i remember when i was struggling to charge my laptop while i was traveling then later realized there was tv in the room and i looked for port where i can put the cable guess what, found one charged it …was such awesome feeling
    Then i calmly texted my mom…

    Reply
  18. Some great tricks & hacks…makes a change to see a few different ones! I am with you 100% when it comes to pens & I have no idea what I would do without Google & all its ‘bits’!
    Cheers! – Nigel

    Reply
  19. Travel hack Ideas I use:
    * Always carry a flashlight and put on nightstand in case you have a hotel fire/ emergency so you won’t be I n total darkness.
    * Buy a Passport neck case from Wilson’s Leather Outlet. $15.-small but conveniently made .You can keep everything you need in it- cash, passport, cards, packet of medicine dose- I put it under my shirt. It drops down to my waist, so I can access it at the bottom of my shirt. In known thief places, I also poke the purse in the top of my shorts, so if they find a way to cut the straps it is still with me. It has gotten us through many trips to France.
    * Foldable bags ( Walmart, Dollar store) for souvenirs or in case we decide to do a picnic lunch on vacation. In Europe with small rooms and no storage, I use them them as dresser drawers to find things quickly for longer stays.
    * Use a foldable backpack(tennis ball size) in a bag (Lewis and Clark-not meant to be durable, basically a snack bag) we call it our “Disney bag”. We add snacks, wipes, paper maps, first aid bag with OTC meds for headache, stomach, water bottle, jacket in a bag, light shoulder wrap for church visits, my old small IPAD for grandchildren. To make it work, I put urgent needs( kids’ snacks, meds) in ziploc bags. I also add a ziploc gallon bag to cover the backpack in case of rain. If we only have snacks and maps, I carry it on my back, if it has my old IPAD or SLR, my husband carries it over 1 shoulder and up under his arm so if the strap is cut, he still has it.
    * A colorful small coin purse to store my phone charger (and a long cord) so when cramped into a plane seat, I can find it quickly to use.
    * Bread ties to organize all of those crazy charging cords. You will always need a long cord when u don’t have it. They now make bendable ties for that use.
    * Download Dolly Parton’s “ I Will Always Love You” if you travel with small children. We have used it with my 2 year grandson for over a year. If he is tired or upset, we can play Dolly and watch him just melt and smile as he says “ My Dollwy”. When he couldn’t sleep through the night, my son set Alexa to that song (very softly) at his awake times. At 5:30 AM they started hearing him sing along with Dolly on his baby monitor .If he is really upset, I turn it very low and put it close to his ear. If using around others, you may need headphones .
    * Passport- after airport security, I only carry a paper passport copy on me.
    * NEVER email passports to anyone unless it is a dire situation when a family member must email it to you, then pray a lot.We make paper copies of our passport/ drivers license to carry with us and give a copy to a family member.
    * * if going overseas, join STEP, so you will be notified of terror levels plus your embassy will know where you are if there is a blackout or terror attack.
    * Always put liquids in a freezer ziplock bag for your checked bag. Those bags are thrown all over the place.
    * Plan on 2 Quart Bags for airport Security: #1 Bag-for liquids as required by airlines
    * #2 Bag- watch , wallet, necklace , phone at the last minute- anything that comes off at airport. Finish dressing after airport security.
    * I pick up hotel cards to give to cab drivers in case they can’t understand my accent.
    * Pack an extra pair of shoes. If it rains a lot, you will need them.

    Reply
  20. Really great and awesome tips, these tips are really uncommon but very useful. sticking a fragile sticker is really a genius idea. So many times i have had damaged stuff because of luggage handling. Thank you very much for these and have a awesome day.

    Reply
  21. Wow! Such amazing hacks for travel lovers. I am definitely going to follow all of these hacks in my upcoming adventure. Thanks a lot for sharing these surprising travel hacks.

    Reply

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