Travel Hacks

Taking the “duh” out of traveling.


I’m tired of reading about “travel hacks” that promise to save you time and money, but in reality, only save one or the other. Of course you can spend extra money to save time. Of course you can spend extra time to save money.  That’s not a hack. That’s the kind of trade-off everyone already does. That’s travel 101.

In short: duh.

There are very few true travel hacks: things that save both time and money, without being inconvenient or tedious. If there were, we’d all be doing them and they wouldn’t be called hacks anymore, they’d just be called “travel.”

I’m a casual traveler, flying to other cities only once or twice a year. But isn’t that most of us? Perhaps experienced travelers will laugh at these, giving me a well-deserved “duh” of my own, but I’ve found three things that truly help me save both time and money and I’m sharing them here in hopes that other casual travelers will find them helpful.

1. Don’t fly to small cities. It’s almost always cheaper to fly to a big hub, and you get more choices of flight times. Flying to a hub does not mean you have to rent a car. Look into shuttle services that will take you by bus or van to your final destination. For example, last year, I went to a conference in Colorado Springs, but I flew into Denver. A quick google search turned up three different shuttle services that would take me from the Denver airport to my hotel in Colorado Springs an hour away. I spent $50 on the shuttle instead of an extra $250 for a flight, and I saved time too, because I never changed planes. Closer to home, my relatives in Lansing always fly in and out of Detroit, relying on the Michigan Flyer motorcoach to take them the rest of the way.

2. With airlines charging for every checked bag, it makes sense to pack everything into a carry-on. With a little thought and effort, it’s not hard to pack for a whole week in one 25 x 14 x 9 inch bag. But the trick is to pack two carry-ons, one a small suitcase and one a small backpack. The backpack should contain all the in-flight essentials as well as your computer and any medications you need.

Then you simply wait for that magical announcement at the gate, when the staff desperately tries to get you to check your carry-ons at the gate. By all means, give up the larger carry-on at that point. It’s the ideal way to check a bag because it’s free and you know it won’t get lost because it’s going on the same plane you are.

3. When I vacationed in San Francisco last year, every taxi driver wanted to take me on a magical mystery tour of the city. I suppose they thought I wouldn’t notice they were driving in circles, even though I had the GPS on my phone working the entire time. After my second tour of the city, I swore off cabs altogether and decided to take the bus. But how to navigate public transport in a strange city? It’s easy with a free app called Moovit. Just tell Moovit where you want to go and it will tell you when the next bus is coming and how to walk to the stop. Once you’re on the bus, it will count down the stops and vibrate when yours is coming up. After you leave the bus, Moovit will guide you the last few blocks to your destination.

This app does everything except ride the bus for you. Not only did it save me time and money, it lowered my stress. Instead of trying to second-guess the cabbie while watching the meter climb ever higher, I was able to relax and enjoy beautiful San Francisco. When I got home, I kept using Moovit for my local bus trips. It’s available in most American cities and many international ones too.

Those are the three best travel hacks that I know, but those just cover getting from place to place. I bet there are equally good hacks for hotels and restaurants. If you know of a way to save both time and money when going out of town, please share in the comments so we can all be better travelers.

About the author: Alex Kourvo is a freelance editor who sometimes goes places. 

(Photo credit: © Clarita | Dreamstime Stock Photos)

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