Travel Hacks, Tips and Tricks Every Traveller Need to Know in 2024
At DNA our team is made up of long-term travellers with decades of travel experience between us, from budget backpackers to digital nomads to travel influencers, so collectively we’ve been there, done it and made all the travel mistakes so you don’t have to.
Thanks to our wealth of experience, we’ve learnt that with the right travel hacks, you can save money, have smoother journeys, and unlock incredible experiences you never thought possible.
In this article, I’ve collected all of our team’s best travel hacks, tips and tricks that you need for 2024 to help you up your travel game, enhance your adventures and make your trips that little bit better.
From packing tips to money-savers to how to make your trips a bit greener I’ve got you, so let’s jump into it!
Packing and Luggage Travel Hacks
Roll, Don’t Fold: Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space and prevent wrinkles – check out this video on how to maximise space by turning your clothes into cute lil pills that keep themselves tightly rolled and compressed.
Use Packing Cubes: Organise your items and maximise suitcase space. Honestly a game-changer, as everything is kept organised and separate, easy to find, and you save so much space, even more so if you use compression cubes that, you guessed it, compress everything. This Reddit thread has some great recommendations and reviews for different cubes.
Keep a Separate Electronics Bag: Store chargers, adapters, and electronics in one bag for easy access, and to protect your cables from tangles.
Prioritise multi-use Items: Pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched rather than packing full outfits. It’ll be way more useful to you to have a variety of versatile items that you can throw on with anything and still look good. Opt for easy-to-match neutral tones or a simple colour scheme that can be dressed up or down.
Get a smaller bag if you are an overpacker: we tend to pack to the size of the bag, and if you’re a person who typically overpacks then consider downsizing. That way you can be sure that you will only be packing the essentials. And trust me, once you’re on the road you’ll be wishing that you had left more at home.
Money-Saving Travel Hacks
Be flexible: if you can, be flexible with the dates that you want to travel on. Most booking sites have a setting that lets you look at prices across a range of dates so you can find the cheapest. If you don’t have a set location in mind, you can also set the destination location to anywhere, and pick the best deal!
Travel during Shoulder Season or Off-Season: Prices for flights and accommodations are generally lower outside of peak times so do your research before opting for certain dates, and don’t be put off by rainy seasons. I was in Thailand during the rainy season and honestly, it didn’t rain that much, and it was still plenty hot, plus everything was super beautiful and green.
Use Public Transportation: Buses can be daunting, but it’s so much cheaper and more authentic than taxis or rental cars. And have you even really been backpacking if you haven’t spent 8 hours + in a tiny bed on a night bus? It’s definitely an experience…and it’s all part of the adventure, plus it saves you a night of accommodation!
You should know that not all night buses are made equally – the picture below is form an AMAZING night bus between Hoi An and Hanoi in Vietnam. It has curtains, wifi, USB ports and aircon. Bougie AF. Most night buses are not like this, instead they’re cramped with tiny beds that you sometimes have to share…
Cook Your Meals: In more expensive locations like Europe and Australia, save money by cooking instead of eating out wherever possible, especially if you’re staying at a place with kitchen facilities.
Collapsible Tupperware and travel cutlery: even if you don’t have the ability to cook your own food, I would recommend these items. You can pack yourself easy lunches to save money – think fruits, crackers, sandwiches etc. anything that is super easy to make with minimal mess and preparation. These are also great for any leftovers from restaurants so nothing goes to waste. I use this Stojo tub – it’s lightweight, very durable and has a capacity of 700mls.
Free Activities: Explore free or low-cost activities at your destination. Often your accommodation will host free activities from pub quizzes and bar crawls (especially if it’s a party hostel), to walking tours, so ask at reception if there’s anything you can join. If not, then reach out in local online communities or ask around with the other guests for their recommendations. Many places have offers and discounts for young adults and students, and in big cities, you might find that museums and galleries are free.
Take Care of Your Money: I don’t mean this in a look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves way (though this is always good advice!), I mean literally be careful with your cash. In countries like Cambodia and Laos, you will find that people refuse to accept notes that are torn, worn out or crinkled, even if it’s just minor so keep those notes in a safe place and in good condition!
Safety and Security Travel Hacks
Stay Hydrated on Flights: Cabin air is very dry and dehydrating, so make sure you drink plenty of water. If you’re like me, and not a massive fan of water, you can take mini squash drops to add to your water or try out electrolyte sachets like Royal-D. These come in a variety of flavours and can be added to your water to aid in rehydration.
Know Local Emergency Numbers: Familiarise yourself with emergency contacts in your destination, and save them in your phone so that if anything happens you’re prepared.
Scan your Important Documents: Scan and save a copy to your phone or email and send it to close family or friends. That way you have a backup even if you lose all of your belongings.
Take a Copy of Important Documents With You: along similar lines, take a photocopy of your passport, plus extra passport photos, boarding passes, travel insurance, visa, prescriptions, and any other necessary certifications before your trip. Leave one copy somewhere safe at home and take another copy with you. This minimises potential disruptions and expedites document replacement when needed.
Download Offline Versions of Google Maps: If you heading to an area where you might not have a reliable signal, or if you’re landing in a new country without a SIM preloaded onto your phone then make sure you download the local Google Maps. That way you’ll still be able to navigate if and when you can’t get online.
Flight and Airport Travel Hacks
Pack an Essentials Kit: Pack an essentials kit for any long travel days or in case you need anything while you’re in transit that you can’t get from your main luggage. This could include earplugs, an eye mask, any toiletries or medication you need, chargers, and a change of clothes. It’s always nice to be able to brush your teeth before settling down to sleep on an overnight flight or to freshen up during a layover. This is also a good idea to ensure you have your essentials and a change of clothes just in case any checked bags get lost in transit.
Know the Best Places To Sit on the Plane: check out websites such as Seat Guru to find the best seat on the plane, even in economy. This website provides seat maps designed to help you decide where to sit on the plane. So, if you want to find a seat with a bit of extra legroom for your next long-haul flight it’s worth a look!
Look Out for Air Miles and Points Sales: This is a great way to get yourself some extra points towards a free flight or upgrade.
In addition to sign-up bonuses, credit card companies frequently run promotions where you can buy points or air miles. Obviously, it’s better to get the points for free through reward schemes and bonuses, but it can make sense to buy points at certain times. Especially, if you only need a few more points for that free flight!
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday typically offer the best deals, but you might find some good offers throughout the year.
Pack Snacks: Bring snacks to avoid overpriced airport food. I recently flew from Bangkok to London and during a layover in Abu Dhabi bought a Pepsi and some M&Ms for 50 UAE Dirham which, as I later discovered, is equivalent to £10.75! Never again. Bring your own snacks.
Entertainment: Load up your devices with movies, books, or games for long journeys. Use the time wisely and listen to a new podcast, begin learning a new skill or language, or just enjoy the free time with your favourite comfort TV show.
Take advantage of long layovers: If you’ve got a long layover, don’t waste it! Get out and explore the city (make sure you’re back with plenty of time for the next leg of the journey!). Some airlines even have stopover programmes that offer the chance to see an additional city and come with free hotel stays, sightseeing discounts, and other perks!
Accommodation Travel Hacks
Don’t Be Afraid To Stay in Hostels: Hostels sometimes get a bad reputation, but I’ve stayed in some great hostels all over the world, and some are pretty bougie without breaking the bank. They provide affordable accommodation and cater to all sorts of different needs: budget hostels, party hostels, eco-friendly hostels, and hostels for digital nomads to name a few, plus if you’re not feeling the dorm life, you can always opt for a private room for a little bit extra. And, while they may not be suitable for everyone, hostels offer a great way to save money and meet fellow travellers.
Travel with a sleeping bag liner: my sleeping bag liner was probably my most used item on my last trip. Super thin and soft, this is a great alternative to the blankets and bedding provided in hostels, which I often find too thick, hot and heavy. They can add a few extra degrees if you’re someplace cold, and crucially keep you from touching anywhere not-so-clean you may have to sleep. Small and lightweight, this is a great addition to your bag that can really add to your comfort and sleep hygiene.
Loyalty Programs: Join hotel loyalty programs for potential upgrades and discounts. Booking.com has a really great program that can save you loads of money as you earn points so that definitely one to check out.
Alternative Accommodations: branch out from hotels and hostels, and explore options like Airbnb, guesthouses for a more local experience, or co-living spaces if you’re a digital nomad. In countries like Thailand, you can even stay at some of the Buddhist temples in exchange for a donation.
Room Inspection: Make sure to inspect your room or bunk when you check in at new accommodation. Look for things like bedbugs and other cleanliness aspects, and if you’re in a private room, double-check your locks and test the mirrors for two-way glass. I don’t want to make you paranoid but it’s always better to be safe, and these are some super easy things that you can check for to keep yourself safe.
Book Direct: Sometimes, booking directly with the accommodation can result in better deals as sites like booking.com often take quite a big cut. Also while places might say they’re fully booked online, they often keep some beds back for walk-ins and have no-shows or cancellations so it’s worth checking.
Stay outside the city centre: Accommodation can be cheaper outside of the main areas and you’ll probably find a more authentic experience away from tourist hubs anyways as it gives you more of a chance to connect with locals rather than just other travellers.
Volunteer work and accommodation exchange: Consider programs that offer free or subsidised stays in exchange for volunteering work. A lot of hostels find their staff this way so don’t be afraid to ask if they need any help when you’re checking in. There are also some great apps for this like Worldpackers and Workaway. Here you can find and apply for volunteer places in the areas you’re travelling to, in exchange for accommodation and food, and if you’re lucky you might even find a rare paid position.
Eating and Dining Travel Hacks
Book accommodation with free breakfasts: If you’re staying somewhere with breakfast included, make sure you take advantage of this! Eating well at breakfast will set you up for the day and you may not even have to worry about a big lunch or dinner. This is an easy way of saving money and (if you’re feeling cheeky) you can always sneak out some extras for later in the day!
Bring along a stash of coffee and/or tea: Caffeine addict? Same…
I tend to always travel with either a personal stash of coffee or my favourite pyramid tea bags. Often the coffee served at hostels is… not the greatest, and the go-to tea bag is Liptons. Going to a cafe every morning to get your fix gets expensive quickly. Even if you are just carting around a plastic bag full of instant coffee and Yorkshire’s finest, you are doing well.
This strategy provides both convenience and a way to cut down costs every single day, as well as allowing you to bring a little home comfort with you.
Local Markets: Explore local markets for fresh and affordable food. Street food is not something to be scared of, most of the time it’s good, cheap and safe, especially if you see a lot of locals eating there.
Tech and Connectivity Travel Hacks
Invest in decent noise-cancelling headphones: these are a must for me as I travel. Not only are they great for getting work done in loud hostels and busy cafes but they are amazing on long travel days (planes, trains, buses, boats…) allowing you to find a little bit of peace in the chaos. I use Sony’s wh-1000xm4, which I got refurbished for half the price, they’re lightweight, comfortable for long periods, and have adaptable noise cancelling.
Portable chargers: Definitely a must-have, but make sure you check out your charger’s capacity before you travel with it. Most airlines allow passengers to bring power banks in their carry-on luggage but the capacity of power banks is also typically limited to 100 watt-hours or 27,000mAh.
Universal adaptors: get a good universal adaptor rather than getting specific adaptors for each location. Many of them also have ports for plugs and USB devices so you can charge multiple things at the same time.
Get a long charging cable: often powerpoints in accommodations aren’t in the most convenient places, so invest in a longer cable for your convenience.
Don’t buy a SIM card in the airport: it is so much cheaper to buy a local SIM card in a shop outside of the airport. For example, in Thailand, you can get 30-day SIMs with unlimited internet at any 7/11 for around 200 Baht. Another alternative is to get a global SIM or eSIM before you travel, these can be loaded straight onto your phone, work in multiple countries and mean you’ll be connected the moment you land, which is very helpful for navigating from your arrival port to your accommodation. eSIMs do tend to be more expensive though, but that’s the price you pay for convenience.
Health and Wellness Travel Hacks
Stretch and Move: Make sure you’re stretching during long flights or road trips to prevent stiffness and improve circulation. Follow simple instructions like these to maintain your blood flow, but be mindful about disrupting other passengers while you do so!
Pack smart for comfort and adaptability: Layer your clothing rather than trying to pack for all seasons – this way you can add or remove items when you get hot or cold, and prioritise comfortable, versatile, walking shoes that give you support.
Embrace local healthy habits: Try local fruits and vegetables, stay hydrated with clean water, and incorporate light exercise into your daily routine. Don’t neglect your health just because you’re travelling, especially for long-term travellers, it will quickly catch up to you. A lot of hostels offer yoga classes, and why not try something new like the national sport of whatever country you are in. On the DNA tours, we try out Muay Thai, which is great fun and an amazing workout, I 100% recommend giving it a go if you get the chance.
Prioritise sleep and relaxation: Build in downtime to avoid burnout, listen to your body’s needs, and consider adding activities like meditation or yoga into your routine. This will help keep you grounded and in touch with your mental, emotional and physical needs. Just because you are travelling you don’t need to be busy all the time, take space to relax.
Stay prepared for minor health issues: Pack a small first-aid kit with essentials like painkillers, bandages, and anti-diarrhea medication. It’s pretty much inevitable that’ll get sick while travelling as you’ll be encountering all sorts of bacteria that your body is unfamiliar with. It’s best to be prepared so you don’t have to worry if and when you are struck down.
Cultural Adaptation Travel Hacks
Homestays and Couchsurfing: this is a fantastic way to get to know locals and connect with their culture. You can join platforms like Couchsurfing or find some awesome homestays on HostelWorld. These are often pretty cheap alternatives to hostels and hotels, but make sure you are respectful as these are people’s homes. Offer to cook dinner during your stay, or help out in some other way to show your appreciation.
Learn Basic Phrases: Learn a few basic phrases in the local language to show respect and facilitate communication. I always make sure that I at least learn how to say hello, goodbye and thank you in the language of whatever country I am in. Local people are always happy when you show some effort to connect with their culture, and often will happily teach you other helpful phrases.
Dress Appropriately: Research and respect the local dress code to blend in with the culture. Cover your knees and shoulders in temples, churches and other appropriate settings, try to dress modestly when out and about (i.e. leave the bikini for the beach), and remember your shoes and shirt! Not only is this respectful, but it helps you to blend in a bit rather than look like an obvious tourist who is more likely to be targeted for scams.
Observe Local Customs: Be aware of and respect local customs, traditions, and etiquette. As with the above, you don’t want to be disrespectful and you want to blend in, so make sure you do your research, follow what the locals are doing, and obey any rules signposted about. A simple one I often see being disrespected in Asia: don’t take selfies with the Buddha statues!
Local Cuisine Exploration: Try local dishes and don’t be afraid to get stuck into the street foods to immerse yourself in the culture and support local businesses. It’s cheaper to eat like a local rather than seeking out Western foods and home comforts, plus you’ll learn so much more about a place when you spend time immersed in local hotspots.
Eco-Friendly Travel Hacks
Pack a Water Purifier: I use water-to-go, but I know that Grayl and Lifestraw are really good alternatives for this. These specialist water bottles can help safeguard your health by preventing waterborne illnesses while reducing the need for single-use plastic bottles and saving you money on buying bottled water.
Solid soaps: cut down on plastics with shampoo bars and solid soaps. These are so much easier to travel with as you can throw them in your carry-on, and you don’t have to worry about leaks and spills. They also last so much longer than liquid soaps do so they also save you money in the long run.
Stay green in your accommodation: Pick eco-certified hotels or guesthouses, utilise reusable water bottles and bags, and minimise energy use in your room by turning off lights and air conditioning when not needed. Sites like booking.com give an overview of how sustainable accommodation is so you can compare options.
Support local, sustainable businesses: Eat at local restaurants, buy souvenirs from ethical producers rather than mass-produced plastic rubbish that’ll get immediately thrown away, and avoid activities that harm wildlife or the environment. If you want to really make a difference and take this travel hack to the next level then look out for places, like our fav Tiki Beach, that organise events like beach cleans that you can get involved in!
Leave no trace: Pack out all your rubbish when out and about, respect local wildlife and ecosystems, and avoid contributing to pollution. It’s worth noting that some places do not have great systems for rubbish disposal and often trash cans/rubbish bins are few and far between. I would suggest keeping a plastic bag on you for your rubbish so you can safely dispose of trash later.
Hopefully, you’ve discovered some new and useful travel hacks, tips and tricks from this to help you save money and level up your travel game in 2024 – and there’s always more to come! Follow along on our Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin for more travel hacks, advice and inspos…
Until next time, I’ll leave you with one final travel hack: Take a Pen With You
You never know when you might need a pen. It’s so small and simple and 100% worth carrying around. Whether it’s for keeping scores during games at your accommodation, to fill out the customs forms on the plane or to write down directions when you arrive. Always take a pen with you.