Ask ten people what their number one travel tip is, and you may well get ten different replies. From great booking apps to weird and wonderful packing ideas, many of us have found that while we’re indulging in an international travel trip, we’ve stumbled upon a useful ‘life hack’ along the way.
Whether you’re most focused on saving money, saving space in your suitcase, or you just want to know you’ll have a stress-free time seeing the sights while you’re away, the following list should have something for you. Maybe you’ve used flight discount apps, but you didn’t know you could get extra money off by accessing the prices shown in another country. Maybe you always roll your clothing so it takes up less space and doesn’t get crumpled, but you didn’t know packing cubes came in ‘compression’ format.
Whichever tactics you currently employ, there’s always a new problem-solver just around the corner. Before you take your next flight, check off these tips and tricks for international travel to ensure you’re getting the most for your money – and doing it all as effortlessly as you can.
Sleeper journeys: save money, gain time
First up, a straightforward way to cut down the amount of money you need to spend on accommodation, while also increasing the amount of time you get to spend on sightseeing: sleeper journeys.
Sleeper journeys could be overnight flights or dedicated ‘sleeper trains’ and buses, but regardless of the method of transport, the idea is that you get from A to B overnight rather than using up your precious daytime hours in transit and then immediately having to pay for a place to stay. Instead of travel and accommodation being two separate costs and two separate uses of your time, you can roll them into one.
If you’re flying abroad, check the time differences and figure out what’s going to be the ideal time for departure and arrival. If you’re simply journeying from one end of a country to the other, buses and trains can be a lot cheaper than flights, as well as saving you on hotel or hostel costs for the night. Just make sure you pick a service designed for sleep, with reclining chairs or simple beds for the journey.
Shop for international discounts with a VPN
Setting price alerts and browsing through apps for the best deals is all well and good, but the biggest discounts to be had on flights and hotels might require a little extra trickery.
Research has shown that people shopping for flights in places like the USA and China can sometimes pay as much as $1,000 more than people booking the exact same flights from Poland or Malaysia. Rather than simply wallowing in jealousy that people in other countries can get better deals than you can, there is a way to trick websites into giving you the same discounts.
Even though they’re actually a cyber security tool, VPNs, or virtual private networks, are often used by people who want to access streaming services that are region-locked. That’s because VPNs allow you to connect to the internet via a computer server somewhere else in the world – which means you can also use them to shop for international flight and hotel prices.
By installing a VPN app on your phone or computer, you can simply switch between locations and shop as if you’re in any other country that your app provider has servers in. That could help you to book flights for $1,000 less, or knock £400 off the price of a hotel – either way, it’s well worth doing before you spend any cash.
Learn how to travel hand-luggage only at all times
To anyone who likes to pack for all eventualities, the idea of travelling hand-luggage only for longer trips might seem unfeasible. But if a backpacker travelling the world for six months can live out of one reasonably-sized bag, there’s no reason you can’t do it on a trip that only lasts for a weekend or a few weeks.
There are a number of ways you can maximise the space in a hand-luggage bag, as well as useful tips to ensure that everything stays fresh. First up, invest in some compression packing cubes. Unlike regular packing cubes, which help to organise your possessions within a larger bag, compression packing cubes are also designed to squash things into the bare minimum of space that they can take up.
Next up, invest in a miniature powerstrip or a multisocket plug adapter that can support most USB cables and regular plugs. Some adapters also have SD and MicroSD memory slots that are convenient to have for quick memory-card reading and writing. Rather than packing multiple travel adapters for each item you need to charge while you’re away, or being left fighting for the only plug in the hotel room, a mini powerstrip takes up just a small part of your bag and means you can charge devices with just USB leads and a single plug adapter alongside.
Think logically about what you actually need to take, and only take items which are genuinely necessary. There are various articles and videos online demonstrating ways to pack for lengthy trips with only a small bag (such as this one), so if you’re not a packing pro already, get ready to save yourself the bother of queueing at the luggage carousel or losing your luggage entirely.
These days there’s an app for just about everything, and travellers can take advantage of anything from instant language translators to personal sightseeing assistants.
Consider your wants, needs and absolutely-can’t-live-withouts. An app like Skyscanner, which can pull up flight deals and alert you of any sudden peaks or drops, may be invaluable before take-off. But once you’re actually away, you’ll probably benefit from a little more help.
Download maps for offline use, so that when you don’t have a great network connection you can still find your way around. Use navigator apps like CityMapper to find the fastest and cheapest ways from A to B, and free WiFi finders to constantly locate the nearest available connection
Google Translate also offers an offline download function now, meaning you can use the app to translate signs, sounds and menus even when you aren’t online. Then there are apps like Any Tour and GeoTourist, which give you immersive audio tours and guides to local culture.
Whatever your travel goals and interests, you can almost guarantee there’s an app out there that will help bring something extra to your experience.