Like most people I hate waiting and love shortcuts, so I came up with a list of mostly original and innovative tips to make travel much more efficient. I managed to come up with this list based on my experience in traveling to over 30 countries before I turned 30 years of age as part of a personal goal I set for myself in 2017, and in that process I must’ve taken over 100 flights (multiple cities in some countries and visiting some cities more frequently than others). So without further ado, here are the 16+ tips I would like to share to all newbie and frequent travelers.
To me, having a credit card is essential for traveling, especially in case of emergency. In fact, I think it’s completely ignorant to not have one especially when overseas. It’s fine to have temporary debt. What’s not fine is the inability to pay or foresee paying for your purchases as well as paying interest. With a credit card, you earn points and some even offer FREE airport lounge access.
2. For non-Americans, open a USD bank account in your local bank.
Historically speaking, the US Dollar has always been a strong currency. It rarely fluctuates drastically and usually appreciates over time. Buy when cheap and keep it in your savings to earn interest until you have to use for a trip.
Planning and Booking your Trip
3. Google is your best friend for knowing 1) the list of available airlines and flight schedules on routes between airports and 2) the status and other details of a specific flight.
I’ve actually known about this hack for a few years now. First, you need to know (and memorize if possible) what’s called the IATA code of airports. For example, Manila would be MNL while London would be LHR (which stands for London Heathrow, although the initials don’t always match necessarily.) If you simply type in “MNL TPE” (Taipei) on Google, you will see the list of airlines that operate this route arranged from the earliest departure to the last on any given day. The flight duration is also shown. (Note that you can also type these 3-letter airport codes on airline and booking websites instead of the city/airport name, and the corresponding airport will show up.)
Now that you know about your choices, you can now Google the specific flight. You can either type the airline name+flight number or the 2-character airline IATA code+flight number. This easily gives you all the following information: 1) Origin 2) Destination 3) Departure and Arrival Times 4) Airport Terminal Number 5) Delayed, Cancelled or On Time status. So there really is no reason to be confused or late for your flight.
4. Whenever you are flexible in picking travel dates, try to fly at the end of the month and return on the calendar next month.
Why? Because the in flight entertainment and magazine will be new and there’s a chance meals/menu might be too. Variety adds spice to life!
5. You probably already know how to use Skyscanner and Google flights, but in case you aren’t completely satisfied with your search results there’s also Kayak or Momondo for cheap flights.
For hotels, there’s HotelsCombined and Trivago.
6. If you’re not rushing, pick flights with stopovers where you might be eligible for a free hotel or tour.
Flights with stopovers are usually cheaper. More importantly, you might get to visit a new country!
7. The best way to completely avoid and not beat jet lag is simply to pick a good flight schedule, where you are able to sleep as necessary on the flight or your accommodations at your destination.
Otherwise your options are limited simply try to stay awake when necessary and adjusting your sleep pattern.
8. Once your flights are booked, look out for bids to upgrade to Business Class.
They can be as cheap as USD 100 (for short flights) to USD 260 (for long haul flights.) When I upgraded my Oman Air flight from Manila to Muscat, it was cheaper than buying an actual business class ticket. Other airlines I know that offer a bidding service include Air Serbia and Philippine Airlines. It’s totally worth it!
9. Along with a screenshot of your airfare ticket and hotel bookings, keep a photo of your passport and visa in your phone and email inbox just in case you lose them.
This is also helpful in filling out immigration and other forms, rather than flipping through your passport pages. Better yet, memorize your passport number and expiry date.
10. Always pack light. Always.
The only carousel i like being around is the one at an amusement park. Packing light saves effort and time wasted at the baggage carousel. It’s always #handcarryonly, but bring a spare bag just in case and don’t forget a travel adaptor. Clothes should be rolled, not folded. One pair of shoes to match all outfits is sufficient. Whatever extra clothes or toiletries you think you need can be purchased where you’ll be. Laundromats are everywhere too.
11. Personally, I prefer to bring US Dollars cash and at least 2 credit cards.
Cash, especially USD, is king in the whole world. ATM machines aren’t ubiquitous and will likely charge you per withdrawal. Bring credit cards that preferably do not text you a One Time Pin to use for online transactions (because your phone might not receive them overseas.)
12. Never forget to bring a pen.
It might be 2018 but there are some old-fashioned ways that might never change such as filling out immigration, customs and health declaration forms by hand on your flight. It’s so awkward to have to borrow a pen from someone. On the other hand, if you share your pen with another passenger, you could make a new friend.
Checking in at the Airport
13. When picking your seat on the flight online while booking, or more commonly at the airline check in counter, request to be seated near the exit to deplane sooner.
You can also make other requests like being seated without anyone beside you, or far away from infants.
On the Flight
14. Consider buying duty free items on your flight.
Sometimes it’s cheaper because of ongoing promotions. I’ve purchased a discounted box set of perfume aboard AirAsia. You can also pre-pay for items and claim them on your return flight.
Upon Arriving at your International Destination
15. Unless you love waiting in line after disembarking from a flight, don’t dilly-dally head and straight to immigration. Everything else can wait, including the bathroom.
Some airports are packed all day and night so every minute you waste means a dozen or more people from the same flight as yours or others falling in line in front of you. The sooner you clear immigration the sooner you get your bags at the carousel too and the less likely someone might intentionally or otherwise grab yours. You can get an Uber or a taxi sooner too.
16. Be vigilant in falling in line.
In some airports such as Manila, immigration lines are individual and separate for each counter (instead of the single serpentine ones commonly adopted at international destinations). Pick the line at the extreme left or right. Especially when it’s crowded, there’s a chance another counter might open up next to you and you can move to it.
17. If there’s no wifi so Uber isn’t an option and the line at the taxi stand is too long, simply go outside the departures area and wait.
Just take the next taxi dropping off a passenger instead. Beat the system, easy peasy!
Did you find any of these tips helpful? Share them with your friends below!
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