My Top 5 Travel Hacks

In the last two days we have received 30 cm of fresh snow and temperatures have plummeted to -39 C! We have been so spoiled this winter with warm weather, I forgot what it was like to have your face freeze just by thinking of going outside!

I’ve also spent the last two days packing my summer clothes and flip-flops and taking anti-malaria medication in preparation for a trip to Belize. The 50 degree temperature swing I experience upon landing tomorrow might be tough to adjust to but nothing helps you get through the February like 12 days on the beach. I’m sure I can find someway to ease the suffering.

I have been fortunate to travel as much as I have in my life. I have learned a lot about myself, made friends, and gained a unique perspective of this world.

I went to West Africa in my early twenties where I learned that a spare pair of under wear and a tooth brush in your carry-on bag is VERY important. I also learned that life without electricity, running water, and WiFi can be very satisfying and not at all isolating.

A couple trips to Mexico have taught me the importance of sunscreen and that tequila consumption in moderation is a must if you would like to get out of bed the next day. I should already have known this, but something about new adventures has me thinking I can do anything… even drink 12 shots of tequila and get up the next day like nothing happened. Let me assure you, I couldn’t do it and the poor house keepers can back me up in that. In fact, if I saw them again, they would probably recognize me and slap that shot of tequila from my hands before I got a chance to lick the salt… and I don’t blame them.

When my husband and I traveled through England, Scotland, and Wales we learned the importance of regular fiber consumption, elbow room, and that there is far more to a place than tourist shops and restaurants. Also, if your wondering if your relationship will last, jam yourself into a tour bus filled with retirees for two weeks and drive around 3 countries. If you can survive that, you can survive anything!

In Nicaragua my best friend and I learned that a honking horn is not always done in anger and that having a language app if you don’t speak the native language is invaluable.

We will forever laugh at the thought of me standing in a little shop trying to pantomime “ice” to the bewildered store owner who kept trying to give me cold water. All we wanted was ice for mojitos! As a few locals gathered to watch the white lady with a sunburn try to buy something, we got it figured out and mojitos (and laughter) were had by all! We also learned that there could be a crocodile, jaguar, or scorpion around any corner, but that’s a whole other story! 😉

As I head off on another adventure with my bestie I am reminded of a few travel hacks I’ve learned along the way.

1. Your carry-on bag is vital!

Those of us that mostly travel on domestic flights or travel to other developed countries completely underestimate the value of the rules we see as common place. Organized airports, a system for moving luggage, rules for how to handle luggage, and the expectations that your bag arrives when you do are all things we just come to expect.

Until you find yourself in a developing country with out your bag. That means no underwear, toothbrush or medication. Suddenly you regret those Sudoku puzzles and granola bars you packed. In these places you can’t just go to the store and buy more… so what do you do?

You wait… commando and using tooth picks to try and control your fuzzy teeth. Maybe you get your bag, maybe you don’t. (I did eventually get mine back by the way… after 3 days.)

Having learned this lesson the hard way, my carry-on looks very different now. I always have:

– a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste

-an extra pair of contacts

-any medications I need

-a change of clothes

-camera/phone chargers

-at least one book (of course)

I’ve also learned that keeping any toiletries in a clear plastic bag makes going through security so much easier!

2. Bring Snacks

Eating airport food is not only expensive but also pretty unhealthy. Even if you can find something vegan, vegetarian or gluten free you will PAY for it! So I like to bring a few snacks. Whether it’s a few granola bars, cut up veggies or a sandwich, I know that I can still eat normally during the travel if I choose to.

For me, relying on airport sustenance during a long travel doesn’t make me feel good. I feel dehydrated, inflamed, and bloated and that’s not a great way to start a beach vacation (or any vacation for that matter). I may still have to buy water at the airport but bringing my own food helps, even if it’s just one meal.

3. There’s no need to buy souvenirs for the entire family and all your friends.

Ok, let me preface this with…

If doing this brings you joy and you don’t mind doing the shuffle of items between your checked bag and carry-on to balance the weight for your flight home… by all means buy everything! (Seriously, you do you!)

Personally, I can only think of one or two items I have brought back from trips that I gave to friends and family that actually meant something to them. My dad wears his “William Wallace” t-shirt I brought him from Scotland every time I see him. (Thanks dad 🧡)

More commonly though, no one really wants that tiny bottle of tequila with the worm in it or the sombrero key chain you brought back for them. They just take up space and cost you money. It has been my experience that people would rather hear about your adventure then have to pretend to care about the little knick-knacks that will collect dust and get thrown out eventually. So I say, save your money for the adventures!

4. Leave Your Comfort Zone

The most satisfying parts of any trip I’ve ever taken are the times when I left my comfort zone. I’m not saying to pack the whole vacation with nerve-racking activities that have you waking up each day filled with anxiety at the thought of leaving your hotel room.

But I am suggesting that maybe one day you do something a little scary. Go ziplining or swimming. Maybe rent a car and drive around for a day to get out of the resort (Google maps works everywhere you know). Just push yourself a little.

When you’re done you’ll be glad you did the “scary thing” and you will have a great story to tell your friends about.

5. Give Social Media a Break!

Seriously! You will get just as many likes on your beach pictures if you post them when you get home as opposed to when your standing right there. Be in the moment!

When we took our tour through the U.K. every time we got on the bus someone complained that the WiFi wasn’t working or that is too slow. The poor tour guide would be telling stories and pointing out interesting things only to be interrupted by someone shouting out that the WiFi was down. How ridiculous! The worst part, is that with all the driving, some of the best parts of the trip were during the drive… and they were all looking at their phones.

Your brain is going to thank you for the break from staring at screens and seeking outside validation. You will sleep better and remember more from your vacation.

Who wouldn’t want to look at the view rather than their news feed?! I mean, isn’t that what you are there for?

What are your travel hacks? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned and what you do to make traveling easier. (I’ll read about it while I’m on the beach)

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