When it comes to sun-soaked getaways, city breaks and festive adventures, most of us like to ensure that we’re travelling as savvily as possible.
That means hunting for travel discounts that will make friends and colleagues jealous, trying super-efficient packing hacks and finding ways to make getting around on the ground as painless as it can be.
At this point, just about everyone knows to look on apps like SkyScanner and Expedia when they’re hunting for cheap flights and holiday packages, and we’ve all heard the one about rolling up your clothes instead of folding them in order to maximise luggage space. But has it ever occurred to you that you might get cheaper flight prices if you tricked the booking site into thinking you were shopping from another country? And have you ever packed a powerstrip along with your travel adapter?
If you’re keen to utilise unusual travel hacks that will make your trip easier, cheaper and more stress-free, you’re in the right place. Here are a few of the best travel hacks you’ve probably never heard of.
Shopping remotely for the biggest discounts
Technology is useful for a lot of things, and one of the most recent updates to travel hacking comes through an unexpected source. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are used by a lot of people to access TV shows and movies online which are restricted for viewers in a certain location – you switch on your VPN app, connect to the internet via a server in another country, and voila, you’re watching Australian TV shows from the USA.
With that same technology, you can also access cheaper flight and hotel prices that are being offered to people booking in lower-income regions, or to people booking from the country a particular airline is based in.
Research has shown that people booking trips from the USA tend to pay drastically higher prices for their travel than people booking the exact same journeys from places like Poland and Malaysia. You can still fly from the same departure point to the same destination, but by booking with a VPN and using a server based in a country that gets reduced fares, you could save over $1,000 on your flights.
In-flight legroom defenders
Anyone who has spent the duration of a long-haul flight having their legs squashed by the seat in front of them will be crying out for this one.
They’ve been around for a while, but plenty of people still haven’t heard that in-flight legroom defenders really are a buyable, physical thing – no longer do you have to rely on random items from your hand luggage to try and bolster the seat in front.
In an ideal world, flights would all offer us enough space to lean back comfortably in our chairs without intruding on somebody else’s leg space. And hopefully, you’ll find that whoever your sat behind is willing to give you some space if asked politely. However, if you’d like to employ a sneaky trick to keep that seat upright and ensure freedom for your limbs, scouting the internet for a cheap and effective knee defender is definitely the way to go.
Hidden-city flight bookings
Hidden-city ticketing takes advantage of the fact that sometimes, a direct flight costs a lot more than a flight going to another destination that stops over in the place you want to go. For example, a flight from New York City to Los Angeles might be $600, but a flight from New York City to Reno which stops over in Los Angeles could only cost $400. In that case, you could jump off the journey at LA and effectively save yourself $200 on the price of the flight.
The website Skiplagged exists purely to help savvy travellers find discounts through hidden city flights, but it’s worth bearing in mind that airlines aren’t as keen on this money-saver as travellers are. While using a VPN to book flights is simply giving you access to legitimate fares being offered elsewhere, hidden-city flight booking is against the rules of carriage for some providers.
If you find a good deal that can be had by hopping off your flight mid-trip, there are two things to bear in mind. The first is that your luggage will be booked on the whole journey – so don’t do this for anything where you need to check luggage into the hold. It’s a hand-luggage only travel hack. The other is that it only works for single journeys rather than return fares, as you obviously can’t get back on a flight at the mid-way point just because that’s where you got off.
So why do people use hidden-city bookings with these catches? Because they can knock huge sums off of the cost of a journey. Play your cards right and ensure you aren’t breaking any rules, and you could save enough off of a single trip to pay for a second one.
Powerstrips and compression packing
Everyone knows to pack a travel adapter if they’re jetting off somewhere with different power sockets to their appliances. But plenty of people still find themselves fighting for a single hotel plug socket, taking it in turns to charge phones and camera batteries while they’re away.
So this is top packing hack number one: the mini power strip. If you’d like to retain the use of your bedside light or hotel room TV, while also charging multiple devices, a mini power strip is the perfect solution. It takes up minimal space in your luggage, and with only one socket and one travel adapter you can charge as many devices as your powerstrip can fit. Look for one with USB ports for phone leads to really maximise luggage space.
Next in packing hacks: compression packing cubes. While regular packing cubes are great for keeping things organised, the compression versions now available to buy online are a cut above. If you’ve ever seen articles advising you to travel hand-luggage only at all times and thought there’s no way you could do it, compression packing cubes might be just the thing you need to carefully squash a plentiful amount of holiday clothing down into a more compact case.
Always locate WiFi access
Last, but by no means least, make sure you don’t get caught out by expensive international data charges by installing an app that can ensure you always know where the nearest free WiFi point is.
Though it’s wise to keep your VPN active when using free WiFi, as these networks are generally unsecured and easy to hack, on many trips it’s not possible or cost-effective to avoid them entirely. If that’s the case, installing an app like InstaBridge or Wiffinity before your trip is a simple way to keep roaming charges at bay.