Travel tips — it seems everyone has some to offer.
Here are ten of our favourites. Some of them are ours; others have been bestowed on us by seasoned wanders from many different walks of life. However, we regard all of them as travel gold!
Airlines upgrades — they’re as rare as hen’s teeth. But on the off chance your flight is oversold and the planets are aligned, you’ve got a much better chance of pulling it off if you look the part. High-value customers inhabit the pointy end of the plane and straight away those ripped jeans, tee and thongs you love to relax in on-board are going to ruffle well-preened feathers. So style up for check-in, but pack your comfy gear in your carry-on and whip it out after take-off. By then it’s way too late for anyone to do anything about it!
This one is a bit out there, we admit. If you’re traveling from a cold, wintery city to a warm tropical paradise, you’ll still need something snug to wear to the airport and on the plane, right? But you don’t want it taking up valuable space in your bag for the rest of your trip. So purchase a cut-price fleece or hoodie from your local op shop. When you arrive at your destination, jettison that lumpy jumper by leaving it in the airport loo or the like — and then reclaim it from airport lost property on your way home! Donate it back to the op shop and the circle is complete.
Water is an essential part of life, but you wouldn’t know it being a traveller. We do understand the need for security precautions, but who hasn’t passed through airport security and bought a bottle of H2O airside for the flight — only to have that confiscated as well at the boarding gate! Therefore a good quality, refillable bottle is a must. Drain it down the hatch as you need to, pass through the security checkpoint and refill it on the other side from the airport bubblers. Most departure gates have them.
The airline has lost your luggage. It hurts and it can ruin your trip — if you let it. So always be prepared. Make sure you have what you need to survive in your carry-on — a week’s worth of medication and decent toiletries in your little plastic bag (not a bunch of stuff you can’t actually use). Having some fresh underwear on hand can also dull the pain. Always get a written report from the airline for your insurance. We had a friend who then posted near-nude travel selfies on the offending airline’s social media channels while he waited for his clothing to arrive. It definitely sped up the process.
While the debate rages about whether booking online is cheaper than using a travel agent, the fact is you can save more money booking through an agent. Aussie agents get paid commission from airlines, hotels and tour companies and that means there‘s a margin for negotiation between you and the agent. It’s not a huge margin, but it’s a margin all the same. To give agents a fighting chance we won’t disclose how much, but we will tell you that on low-cost airlines it’s zero — so save your agent the trouble and just book online. When sitting down to negotiate, remember that the agent is also providing you with their knowledge and service and everyone has to eat. Online sites also get paid commission, but try negotiating with a website and see how far you get.
Oooh, this one really gets our goat — bank and ATM fees, charges and commissions on currency conversions and withdrawals. $2.50 here, $5 there. It all adds up. Sometimes it seems the only answer is to take a wad of holiday cash with you and hide it under your hotel pillow. One of our high-flying corporate colleagues says the ONLY solution is the Citibank Plus Transaction Account which offers a completely fee-free debit card service from affiliated ATMs overseas. We have no connection with the product and haven’t tried it, but we‘d love to hear from anyone who has.
OK so this one is more for the ladies. One of the most versatile pieces of kit you can have on the road is the humble sarong. Not only can it be worn as a sarong (obviously), but it also doubles as a bed sheet, towel, picnic blanket, scarf, veil, pillow, curtain and decorative throw when a really offensive hotel sofa strikes. Now if that doesn’t earn it a place in your case, we don’t know what will!
This is the golden rule for experienced travellers. Always ask. Ask for what you want. If you’re arriving at a hotel early — email them beforehand and ask for a possible early check-in. If you need an extra hour in the room — ask for an extended check-out. Nine times out of ten you’ll get want you want. And this tip works even better if you smile and use people’s names (that’s why they’re wearing those name badges). Remember, you catch way more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
We’re not advocates for needless app-overloading. We all spend far too much time looking at our phones as it is. However there are a couple of apps that we do recommend. Skyscanner is awesome for searching lots of airfares quickly. There are plenty of travellers who swear by WhatsApp for staying in touch, and as we’re obsessed with finding free Wi-Fi we do love Free Wi-Fi Finder. You’ll need roaming activated for this to work off your GPS (but you can still keep data roaming switched off).
We’ve missed some golden opportunities on our travels to experience something special by being overly paranoid — and we’ve kicked ourselves for it. But that doesn’t mean abandoning common sense either. Be open to experiences but trust your instincts. Those babies have been honed over thousands of years and they’re nearly always right! And if something feels wrong — it is.
Do you have any top travel tips you would like to share? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.