After nearly two years of intermittent restrictions, lockdowns and fears of catching COVID-19, millions of people are back on the road.
Whether it’s going on a business trip, flying with the family for a beach getaway, or simply on a road trip to visit family, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts that domestic travel and tourism will rebound significantly in 2022 – exceeding even pre-pandemic levels.
If and when you go, consider packing a few of these technical “travel hacks” to save you time, money, and aggravation.
And be sure to share your own “close the front door” travel tips and tricks by posting them on social media (links at the top of this article).
Store documents on your phone
Before you leave home, digitally scan your passport, driver’s license, health card/insurance information, proof of vaccinations and roadside assistance cards – and keep these images on your smartphone – just in case any or part of these elements would be lost or stolen. You may also need to scan the back of these documents.
On a related note, add your credit cards to your Apple Pay (iPhone) or Google Pay (Android) wallet, in case they get misplaced.
And if your smartphone is lost, stolen, or damaged, make sure it’s locked with a password or PIN, and keep an extra copy of those scanned documents in a password-protected cloud account – so you can be able to access it on another device.
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Take a picture of your boarding pass
When checking in for your flight online, opt for a boarding pass sent to your phone – whether by text, email or to open in an app – but take a screenshot of your boarding pass on your phone to create an offline version, in case the internet connection is not good at the airport you won’t keep everyone behind you.
Download your entertainment in advance
Many movie streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to download TV shows and movies to watch offline. So be sure to do this through your Wi-Fi before you go on vacation.
This way you won’t have to pay roaming charges while the kids stream movies in the back of a road trip.
The download also works for many music streaming services, like Apple Music and Spotify.
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Instant standing desk
Missing your standing desk at the office or home office? Open the closet in your hotel or motel room and chances are there’s an ironing board.
Open it up and place it somewhere with good lighting.
It’s the perfect height to prop up your laptop and start typing.
Use TV’s USB to charge
If you left home without your smartphone plug but still have the cable, plug it into the TV in the hotel room and it will charge your device. There should be a powered USB port on the side or back.
If you need a USB cable at a glance, your dollar store should have them and will be considerably cheaper than a big box store or manufacturer chain (like Apple Store).
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BYOM (Bring Your Own Movies)
Speaking of your hotel room TV, you don’t have to pay through your nose to watch a movie through the hotel service, if you brought your streaming stick with you, like a Roku stick, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV.
Simply plug it into the TV’s HDMI port, connect to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi and watch your favorite shows.
The same trick also works for Apple TV. Pack your box, HDMI cable and power cable. Once you have it on hotel WiFi (via the settings/network function) it will act like your TV at home.
Abandon the lobby, head to the second floor
Can’t find a place to sit in the hotel lobby to browse the web on your device?
Most people don’t think of going to the second floor – sometimes called a mezzanine – to find plenty of seating, quiet, and power outlets.
How to make your wired headphones work on planes
Have you ever found that your headphones or wired earphones won’t work on an airplane even though they plug into the seat perfectly?
They’ll work: just pull the headphones out of the audio jack, just a little, and you’ll hear the sound of the airline’s entertainment service.
Sometimes the connectors inside these sockets do not match exactly.
Charge with your AC outlet, not USB
If you’re on a plane or at an airport that offers the option of charging your phone or tablet via a USB port or AC outlet, always use your AC outlet (if you have one) as it can charge your device two to three times faster than USB.
Save on hotel rooms after booking
Get a better price on your hotel – after you book it.
If the hotel lowers the room rate — which is very common, according to Pruvo — you’ll be notified on your phone how much you’ll save and instructed how to cancel the original reservation and rebook at the lower rate.
The only catch is that you need to be able to cancel your room to begin with.
Find cheaper gasoline at the nearest Nexit
Roadtrippers likely use navigation apps to find their way to (and navigate) a new city, with popular choices like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze.
But a new navigation application, following, will not only get you from point A to point B, but will also highlight the cheapest gasoline along your route; you can book accommodations directly from the app, and even specify the hotel chain you want and how much you want to spend (like a $150 limit on a room); and the app supports different loyalty cards for you to enjoy discounts and rewards.
Unlike other navigation apps that also let you search for “points of interest” like restaurants and gas stations, Nexit won’t suggest locations that aren’t directly on your route. Other apps consider proximity, not direction, and therefore may recommend that you exit the freeway and turn around.
Almost free cell service
You can use your phone or tablet to make free calls and send texts over Wi-Fi. Apps like TextNow (iOS, android) even gives you an incoming phone number so other people can call you. It’s like a “burner” number on your existing smartphone.
What if there is no Wi-Fi? Until the end of February, TextNow is offering a SIM card for just 99 centsthen cell service is free (supported by ads).
Use a VPN
It’s safer to use your smartphone as a personal “hotspot” instead of using free public Wi-Fi, but if you absolutely must use the free hotel or airline Wi-Fi , use at least one VPN (Virtual Private Network) app on your phone, tablet or laptop to stay anonymous to online hackers.
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Old-school hotel hacks (no tech needed)
Some additional travel tips:
- If your hotel room doesn’t have an iron for your wrinkled clothes, the old “shower trick” really works. Hang your clothes on the bar above the tub, turn on a hot shower, and point the showerhead at the wall. Close the bathroom door for 5-10 minutes. When you return, your clothes will look perfectly ironed.
- Are the curtains open just a crack and the sunlight disturbing your sleep? Take a hanger from the closet – the one with the clips – and secure the two sides of the curtains together.
- If your hotel provided you with a disposable shower cap that you don’t need, use it to put your shoes in your suitcase to keep everything clean.
- Is the room super dry? An instant trick to increase the humidity in the room is to hang a damp towel in front of the radiator in the room – perhaps on a suitcase rack – and the heat from the radiator will evaporate the water over time.
- If you don’t have a kettle in your room but want to boil water, for example for a cup of ramen, you can fill the coffee maker with water and heat it up.