Useful Travel Hacks

Hack: A strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and activities in a more efficient way. Any method of doing something that either simplifies or makes your life easier.

Our retirement has allowed us to do a fair amount of traveling, for which we are very grateful. Although we enjoy being home and the day-to-day familiarity of our city, neighborhood, and friends, we are always looking forward to our next adventure. In fact, before we put away our luggage after a trip, we make sure that, zipped inside, are items we don’t want to forget when we hit the road again.

Our list of travel hacks has developed over time. As we identify items that are handy to have or we wish we had packed, we add them to the list. Nothing is expensive or unusual (in fact, you probably have most of them already) but they may not be what most people think to pack.

Nightlight
Hotel rooms and other lodging can be very dark at night, especially if they have blackout curtains. Pitch darkness and an unfamiliar room layout can lead to bumped shins, stubbed toes, and maybe even finding yourself in the closet rather than the bathroom. We bring along a nightlight just in case our room is too dark to safely get around.

Binder Clips
If the problem instead is light leakage because the curtains don’t close properly, large binder clips are great for pulling the edges of the curtains together.

Electrical Tape
Have you ever turned off the lights in a hotel room only to find a bunch of bright lights lighting up the room? Not only can clock radios and microwave displays light up a room, TVs and smoke detectors have teeny LED lights that can drill into your eyes, especially if you are light-sensitive. A piece of electrical tape can cover these lights and let you sleep.

Flip Flops
Maybe it’s just us, but we don’t like to walk around barefoot in hotel rooms, so each of us keeps a cheap pair of flip flops by our bedside. We also wear them in the shower. They don’t take up much room in our luggage and they make us more comfortable.

Long Charging Cord
Electrical outlets found on the road are often inconveniently located. Having a long charging cord (ours are 10 feet long) makes it easier to plug in wherever you are.

Pouch of Useful Stuff
On our earlier travels, when we needed items like rubber bands, paper clips, small binder clips, highlighters, scissors, or post-it notes, we would have to take the time to find a store. In addition, we often had to buy a lot more than we wanted (a box of rubber bands instead of the two or three that we needed). Finally, I got smart and put together a small travel-size supply of these items. When we get home, I resupply my yellow pouch of useful stuff and put it back in my suitcase for our next trip.

Personal Business Cards
Soon after we retired, we had personal business cards printed. Now when we meet people we want to keep in touch with, we hand them one of our cards. This avoids the need to scramble for a pen and a piece of paper to write down our contact info (our cards have our names, email addresses, and phone numbers). A card has less chance of getting lost than a scrap of paper and it’s easier to read. There are a lot of companies that print business cards (we used Vistaprint) and most offer a ton of design choices. We picked a two-sided design so we could print a travel quote on the back.

There are many other items to consider as well (an empty envelope to keep receipts in, a thin plastic bag for dirty laundry, tiny flashlight, etc.), all while balancing weight and bulk versus convenience.

So, how about you? Do you have any items that you wouldn’t leave home without? Along with clothing, toiletries, camera, maps, and journals, is there something – or things – you make sure to pack? I’d love for you to share your favorite travel hacks that have helped you enjoy your time away.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

195 thoughts on “Useful Travel Hacks”

  1. Great post and all the other ideas from the comments! So many of them I’ve already been using – including the personal cards – but the binder clips for the curtains and tape over all those annoying lights were great ideas. I am light sensitive and this is always a source of irritation for me trying to sleep in a strange room that is much too bright.

    I also really liked the idea of keeping certain ‘hack kits’ in your suitcase ready for the next trip. Brilliant!

    1. I really love using an item that was intended for another use completely. Also, items that can be used for multiple purposes. I find it easier to refill my stuff pouch when I get home (and add any items that I think would be useful) so I don’t have to think about it the next time I pack, which is usually stressful enough already.

      1. Your packing philosophy makes so much sense. Gilles left on the weekend for a business trip to Germany … and forgot his electrical adaptors. He said he was really embarrassed because this is something he would normally never forget. But it happens … so just better to leave them in the luggage!!

  2. Great post! Its not just you! We don’t like to touch the floor barefoot in hotel rooms either! This is where the hotel slippers come in handy or we use our flip flops as well! 🙂

  3. We found a handy item on our trip, tape. Why? To cover all the indicator lights on appliances [ones we couldn’t turn off] in the motorhome that lit up the room, funnily enough, the blinds were great for keeping out the moonlight or campground lights — an opposite challenge to your dark hotel rooms.

    1. Those lights can be terribly annoying, can’t they? My husband goes around and puts tape on each one before we go to bed. Drapes and blinds in hotels can be hit or miss, we find. The best ones are in places like Las Vegas, where lots of people (not us!) stay up late and don’t want ANY daylight entering their room.

      1. Not sure Las Vegas would ever be on my to do list. It has never appealed to me, though I am sure there is more to the area than the gambling and nightlife. I’m not a night person.

        1. We don’t gamble either but we love to dance so we go to the annual rockabilly event held there in April. And, yes there are lots of things to do that don’t involve throwing your money away or copious alcohol consumption 😎. Some interesting things to see (Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, for instance) and gorgeous hikes in red rock hills and canyons.

          1. The dancing sounds interesting. Yes, now I am recalling a post on that area, I think both you and Liesbet wrote about it. Much of areas such as Las Vegas and California are very similar to Australia.

  4. Okay, Janis, this is the second blog I’ve read this morning that related to travel. I think the Universe is telling me I need to plan a trip! When I do, I’m definitely going to add a few of these items to my suitcase. There have been a few times when I’ve left the bathroom light on (with the door shut), so I could find it if I needed to in the the middle of the night. A nightlight would have been a better answer. One item my husband and I always pack is our travel-size Yahtzee game. If we get stuck in an airport, or we want some down time, Yahtzee is the answer. We also pack sanitizing wipes. First thing when we get on a plane, we each wipe down our space. You’d be surprised how much dirt there is on those wipes when we’re done–and that’s only what you can see! In the hotel, we also wipe down the remote control, the light switches, the phones, things that people touch, but the housekeeping service may or may not clean.

    1. I hate to think about all the dirt and germs on those heavily-touched items (like the keypad payment system at the grocery store). I think wipes are a great thing to pack, not only for clean-ups like you described, but for those times when we find ourselves with messy fingers and no fresh water. I try not to be too paranoid about touching questionable surfaces, but when it’s easy to sanitize, why not?

      1. True enough, though getting the room dark enough is worth some extra towels to block the light under the door, and even a couple of hangers 😉

        As for the pens, many have metallic caps with a metallic bar attached to them that runs the length of the cap (plastic ones don’t have the same grip). The grip between the bar and length of the cap can be used to hold the curtains together. A couple, at least, are normally needed, but at least you don’t need them overnight 🙃

        Desperate times lead to desperate measures and to a collection of pens with the bar broken off—that’s one of the reasons I liked your hack list so much!

        P.S. if my description didn’t make sense, plmk and I’ll send a photo, it will be worth 1000 words…

    1. I’ve been on a few cruises and, while the rooms are very comfortable overall, sometimes the clips for the curtains and a long charging cord came in handy. How was it to work on a cruise ship? Probably lots of work, but did the free travel make up for it?

  5. Love the hacks! Especially the business cards. I would never have thought of that. I think my parents would have loved that idea, as they were always traveling and meeting other couples whom they have now been friends with for years!

  6. I used to travel a lot for work, so I developed some travel hacks too. One is that I have a separate toiletries bag with small sized shampoo, bath gel, nail clippers, hair elastics, etc. that I keep permanently packed. Then I just have to throw it in my suitcase when I’m packing. Similarly, I have a briefcase/book bag that always has pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, post-it notes, paper clips, thumb drive, and a pad of lined paper in it. I still use the brief case, but now I’m more likely to add travel documents, novels and art supplies to it rather than work file folders when I travel. (Retirement is awesome!)

    Jude

    1. Smart phones can be incredibly helpful when traveling. We are currently using ours to help us translate Spanish to English and vice versa. I’m still a bit old school as far as notes go, though. I say whatever ever works best for each of us is the way to go. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Well, here’s my favorite hack. I keep a daily travel journal. It’s pretty simple, just notes with dates, times, names and anything interesting that happened each day. Then when I get home I write things up in detail. Why, you might ask, go to all this trouble? Because I discovered that after a while, trips began to blend together or were forgotten altogether. Now I not only have the details I can refer to when I’m blogging about a place, but it’s fun to recall our adventures over the years.

    1. I do the same thing! I find that by capturing those details I can better remember our trips. Also, when/if we return to a favorite location (like we are now), I have all the addresses of the spots to revisit. In addition, if I know someone else will be visiting, I can pass on my notes. Last but not least, you are right, the notes help me write future blog posts. Thanks for your comment!

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