If you haven’t noticed, I love to travel. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Orlando family travel or an action-packed escape to South East Asia with my main man or a relaxing overnight spa retreat with a girlfriend — I’m there.
I spent a good chunk of my mid-20s travelling abroad, too, and along the way, I’ve discovered some fabulous travel tips, some of which you might even call “hacks.” Lucky for you, I’m in the mood to share!
- Always pack everything in carry-on baggage. Why? Three reasons: no risk of lost luggage; no waiting once you arrive at your destination; and you really don’t need as much as you think you do. Backpacking in Europe and Asia, I learned to travel light. This is not as hard as it sounds, because what you need to remember is that aside from your standard-sized carry-on luggage, you’re also allowed a “personal item” like a purse or small backpack. My version of a purse when I’m travelling is more like a beach bag and — trust me — you can cram a lot of crap into a bag that size. On our recent trip to Hong Kong and The Philippines, I’m not kidding when I say that I packed enough for two climates and 17 days into a carry-on bag and a hobo-style purse — including my NikonHDSLR with an extra lens! To boot, I came home with two unworn outfits. Here are some of my most important tricks:
- You have to plan your outfits; look at your itinerary and think through how many and what kind of days for which you need to pack. Now set aside an outfit — including bras and undies — for each day (yes, some days there will be two outfits because you’ll have an adventurous day but reservations for a nice restaurant). Pack one extra outfit and two extra pairs of underwear. Because, well, you never know
- Pack versatile pieces that can be worn more than once or adapt to climate changes. My go-to travel piece is the made-in-Canada METAmorph dress from Thieves Boutique. Honestly, I have been wearing this dress for two years throughout all four seasons and it still looks and fits like new. It’s ideal if you’re travelling from Canada in the winter to a sunny destination because you can start with a long-sleeved tunic paired with leggings and while you’re in the air, remove your leggings and turn it into a sleeveless dress. And it’s so comfy if you’re in the air for several hours (thank you, organic cotton/bamboo blend)
- Just stop it with the shoes already. You need a maximum of three pairs for any trip: flats, heels and running shoes. Work your outfits around your shoes
- DO NOT ROLL YOUR CLOTHES. I know there are so-called hacks out there that suggest you’ll save space, but in my experience, rolling clothes actually takes up more space. You want everything as flat as possible, so starting at one corner of your bag and working your way around in overlapping layers. Leave undergarments until the end, and stick them into shoes and all of the little nooks and crannies that are left in corners and along edges
- Wear your heaviest/biggest pair of shoes on the plane to save even more space (you can always take them off once you’re seated), and if your flight is relatively short, consider wearing the same outfit on the plane there and back
- Ask for sample sizes for your skin care products. I use Arbonne, and my awesome Arbonne rep gets me sample packs good for five days
- Don’t stress if you forget something. You’re packing light so the chances that you might forget something are a bit higher than if you packed like Imelda Marcos. Just know that hotels have almost anything you may have forgotten. Including underwear. I’m not kidding. If you’re staying at a nicer hotel, the concierge gets a healthy budget for forgetful travellers, so don’t be afraid to tap into that. At a recent stay in NYC, our concierge procured tweezers (Tweezerman, at that!) and sunscreen for my friends and me.
- Exchange currency online. If you’re an online banker like me, this is often the box that doesn’t get ticked until the last minute — or gets ticked once I’m in a foreign country, racking up extra charges I could have avoided by doing it on home soil. The new CIBC Foreign Cash Online exchange service is PERFECT for those of us who need to bank at 11 p.m. on a Sunday or 5 a.m. on a Wednesday — and anytime in between. The best part? You don’t even need to be a CIBC customer (I’m not). As long as you leave yourself 48 hours, you can order up to 70 different currencies that will be delivered to your door before you jet set.
- Seat selection is key. When flying with two people always select window and aisle seats; the chances that solo travellers will opt for a middle seat are pretty slim unless your flight is full, so you’ll often end up with a whole row to yourselves. And if you do find yourself with a middleman, they’re usually only too keen to trade for one of your seats so you can sit with your cabin-mate.
- Forego the stroller. Travelling with an infant or toddler for less than a week? Opt for a baby carrier instead. You can wear it — and your babe — right into the plane and if your child needs a nap, you can just strap her onto mommy or daddy’s back no matter where you are. Strollers can be a pain with international travel because airlines all have their own rules about how they need to be transported, and many countries aren’t as thoughtful as Canada when it comes to accessibility. A good soft-structured carrier can go anywhere you do.
- Drink up. If your travel involves time zone changes, be sure to drink a cup of water every hour you’re in the air to decrease jet-lag. Getting on your destination’s time zone as soon as you board also helps.
- Save social handles. OK, so this isn’t really a tip for people who don’t obsessively post travel pics to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but for those who do (my people) it’s a real time-saver to have all of the social handles you expect to need during your trip handy. Before any trip, I always take a few minutes to look up and store the @handles for every hotel, restaurant and activity on my itinerary; if you store these in your phone’s “notes” app, you can just cut and paste when you need to!
- Think of others. If you’re travelling to a poorer country, bring extra toiletries and underwear to leave in your room for housekeeping staff. And by “extra,” I don’t mean rummaging through your unwanted stash at home. Go spend 20 bucks to get new stuff; it doesn’t have to be name brand or fancy. Alongside cash tips, these necessities go a long way because they’re often priced out of reach for many of these hard-working people who are busy trying to ensure you have a great vacation.
- Always pack an external battery. I travel with at least two at all times, my personal preference being the RAVpower one that you can get very inexpensively from Amazon. You don’t want to be in an emergency situation and see that dreaded red bar on your battery indicator. And by emergency situation, I mean an inability to post the most perfect Instagram picture of all time ever, obviously.
- Look for free WiFi. If you’re leaving your smartphone’s service area during your trip, switch your phone to airplane mode so you’re not even tempted to tweet without free WiFi. It’s easy enough to find free WiFi just about anywhere these days — from hotel lobbies to coffee shops — and you can even keep tabs on the #freewifi hashtag on Twitter. I’d do this over a data plan any day of the week because you know you’ll never go over and be presented with a bill next month for hundreds (even thousands) of dollars. Unless you have oodles of spare cash lying around to burn. (In which case, call me.)
If all of this isn’t enough, how’d you like to win a $100 prepaid CIBC gift card?
All you need to do to win is sign up for # CIBC Foreign Cash Online (it’s free), and then add a comment on this post telling me (a) that you’ve registered and (b) what you think the best part about this online currency exchange service is. Simple. The contest is open to Canadians only and runs from Thursday, July 23 to Thursday, August 5, 2015, at midnight EST. A winner will be chosen by random.org on August 6, 2015. Good luck!
DISCLAIMER:This post is brought to you by CIBC Foreign Cash OnlineTM. All thoughts, opinions (and hacks!) are my own.