As rewarding as it is to explore new places and experience new things, a hassle-free travel sometimes remains a dream.
I should know. I’m the expert when it comes to missed flights, miscommunications, overpacking, and accommodation that’s, shall we say, less than ideal.
I arrived late at Changi airport, and missed my Singapore-Manila flight once. I had to buy a new ticket on the spot, losing $$$ I didn’t have (thank God for credit cards).
I also missed my train in Rome — the last one for the day — and I had to buy another ticket to another station, walking the rest of the way to my destination. Not a big deal, except it was an hour’s walk at 10pm!
From spending the night at the airport (not so bad in airports like Changi or KLIA) and getting lost during a tour (yup, in Budapest!), to trying to overcome language barriers (I used sign language in China), the list of hassles while traveling can be endless.
Indeed, trips don’t always go as planned. And at times, incidents beyond your control will get in your way.
The most you can do then is to prepare for all kinds of scenarios. Here are some hacks that can help you have a hassle-free travel.
1. Download your favorite airline’s app
Apps are the greatest things since sliced bread. When low cost carriers, for example, hold their seat sales, where international flights can be had for less than $20, buying through the website can be next to impossible. With an app, buying a ticket is quick and easy. No lag time!
Once you have this installed, you can also use it to check in to your flight, and you can use your phone as your boarding pass. Plus, some airline apps also allow you to access selected internet content in-flight.
2. Choose morning flights
The weather’s usually calm in the morning, so delays due to bad weather (or traffic congestion) are less likely. A morning flight will also work in your favor, should your flight get cancelled or if you aren’t able to make your flight.
How so? Because it’s early in the day, you have ample time to arrange another flight. Chances are there are a number of other flights to your destination that will be departing the same day, which means you don’t have to postpone your trip to the next day.
I live in the suburbs of Manila, so whenever I go out of town, I always buy the 4am or 5am flights. It meant leaving my home at 3am and arriving at the airport an hour later, which wasn’t a problem. If I leave home at 7am, I wouldn’t get there until 10am.
3. Choose a seat towards the front
Make the most out of the airline’s seat selection tool—go for a seat that’s closest to the plane’s front door.
Upon arrival, those seated up front get to exit the plane first (those at the back usually wait 15 to 20 minutes for their turn). So the closer you are to the front, the quicker you’ll be able to step off and the more time you’ll be able to save, which a big plus if you have a connecting flight to catch.
4. Use packing cubes
Packing cubes are the best thing ever. They keep your bag organized — I use one for shirts, another for pants; undies and socks go together in another one — and make the most of the space you have, too.
Packing cubes are available anywhere from sets of 1, 3, and 5. Just choose one that fits your packing needs — and color coordinated with your luggage or backpack, of course.
5. Don’t check your baggage
If you prefer speeding through the airport, a checked bag will only hold you up. Turning in your bag often requires waiting in line. And then you’ll have to wait again to claim your bag once you arrive at your destination, that is, if it didn’t get lost in transit.
Also remember that you and your checked bag need to be on the same flight. This means that during a long layover (like my 14-hour layover in Hong Kong urgh), you can’t ditch your original connecting flight for an earlier flight.
If you don’t have a checked bag, you can simply ask that your name be added to the earlier flight’s standby list and hope there’s an open seat.
6. Book your hotel online
I always prefer to book my accommodation online. Not only can I see what the facilities and amenities are, I also get to compare prices.
There are many websites that help you find the cheapest room for the dates you’re traveling. They will let you search and book cheap accommodation with just a few clicks. You will save yourself a lot of stress when you plan your accommodation in advance.
I didn’t follow this advice when I went to Huacachina in Peru. I let the taxi driver take me to the hostel he highly recommended, and it was definitely one of the worst I’d been in. Yikes!
7. Use language apps
Get a language app with a clean and simple interface if you’re traveling to a non-English-speaking country where interacting with locals and identifying menu items can be a challenge.
On iOS, there’s iTranslate, which has a text-to-speech feature and works in offline mode. On Android, you have Google Translate. Just make sure to download the offline pack in advance so that you won’t need an internet connection when you use it.
If you have spare time before the trip for language lessons or would like to squeeze in a few during the flight, install Duolingo. I’ve been using it to learn Spanish and it’s great!
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to manage travel-related challenges like a pro. Enjoying a hassle-free travel isn’t out of your reach, you just need to prepare better for it.