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You’ve heard the old sayings: travel makes you richer, it broadens the mind, venture off the beaten track and so on, but amidst all the thrill and excitement that comes with travelling, there’s plenty of anxiety surrounding it, too.
Venturing into the unknown always comes with a few surprises, welcome or not, but our handy list of travel hacks will prepare even the most novice explorer.
1. Roll rather than fold when packing
You’ll save a fair amount of space in the process and be able to squeeze more items into your bag.
If you’ve got that one item that just can’t be subjected to this packing hack, then…
2. Pack wrinkle-prone clothing in tissue-paper
This works like a charm! You want to wear that new shirt on night one, right?
3. Bring along a multi-purpose jacket
We’re talking something that is thermal and can provide warmth, as well as something that is waterproof and can act as a windbreaker. You’ll save packing space here, too, if your jacket comes in handy in multiple instances.
4. Infinity scarves = infinite possibilities
Ok, I don’t mean a snood in the literal sense, but take a simple scarf or sarong along and you’ll be amazed at its versatility. What is a scarf one day can be a shawl the next, and a beach towel or picnic blanket thereafter!
5. Toiletry bags are underrated
Let me set the scene: you’ve gotten into your hotel late after a long-haul flight and all you want to do is brush your teeth and crawl into bed, or freshen up before heading out to explore. Now you have to dig through your travelling bag and its multitude of pockets and nooks and crannies in search of where you may have stashed your toothbrush and paste (all the while wondering why you didn’t pack them in the same compartment in the first place).
6. Be storage-savvy
Vague, but it needs to be. Gents, why not use your rolled up belt to line your collared shirts, keeping that fresh, crisp look? Ladies, pack shoes in shower nets to prevent your clothes from getting dirty and wrap toiletries in a plastic bag in case they spill (assuming you didn’t take our advice in Travel Hack #5).
7. Scan necessary travel docs and keep ’em in the cloud
Just ‘in case of snake bite’, as my dad would say (he grew up in Zimbabwe, for the record, so this was a real possibility). Those little docs can grow legs, enjoy travelling as much as you do, and wander off, in which case you’ll have great peace of mind knowing that your important information is all sitting in the cloud or saved in your email.
8. Actually, just put EVERYTHING in the cloud
That includes your photos. Connect to the Wi-Fi when possible and transfer all your photos. This will:
a) leave you with more storage space for more memorable pics and
b) ensure that should something disastrous happen to your phone or camera, you’ll still have all the memories made along the way.
9. Mark your baggage as fragile
Sad but true, your beloved bag is likely to be handled better and kept at the top of the pile (also meaning it comes out first) if you’ve told a little fib and told the nice lady at check-in that it holds breakable items.
10. Learn some local lingo
Even if it’s just a few greeting phrases and how are yous. Locals appreciate it and you never know when people will want to do you a favour based on the interest you’ve shown in trying to learn a bit more about their culture.
Also, you’ll sound cool and cultured when you go home and swan around the next dinner party saying, “Hello”, before adding, “Or ‘Jambo’, as my Kenyan friends would say”.
11. Pack a pen
Trust me, there is nothing more embarrassing than being that passenger who has to ask the air hostess or fellow flyers for a pen to fill out any customs forms.
12. Pack a notepad. And actually, take notes.
Remember those little snippets of fascinating facts and tidbits you gleaned along the way on your last trip? Exactly.
Truth is, when you’re travelling you’re often just inundated with information. Record them on a notepad or in your mobile to soliloquy at the next family reunion.
13. Store all your power and charging cables in one nifty box or travel pocket…
and PUT THEM BACK THERE EVERY TIME. That old glasses case that’s been lying around is about to meet its new job description.
14. Guide books have the basics but none of the beauty
Don’t be afraid to explore areas that aren’t in the guidebook. Get off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps. That said, stay safe and always let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back – even if that someone is the cheery chap behind the welcome desk at the hotel shouting ‘Hakuna Matata’ as he waves you on.
15. ATMs are better bets for local currency
While certainly more readily available on arrival at the airport and, more often than not, at your hotel, forex services do charge their own additional fee. You’re better off scouting out an ATM and using that instead and only using foreign exchange services when you’re leaving the country and want to convert back to your own currency.
16. Eat local
Firstly, it’s more affordable. Secondly, it’s all part of the experience! So yeah, that risotto cooked in squid ink may not be your cup of tea and maybe you’d prefer a beef stew to a warthog one, but c’mon, live a little.
17. Volunteer along the way.
What better way to get to know the locals? Volunteering is a no-brainer feel-good activity that will have you meet people from all walks of life and will see you getting to know more about your chosen destination from a different angle.
18. Use Google Maps offline.
Bet you didn’t know this one. Simply type “ok maps” into the search section and the visible area you were looking at will save for future access, even offline.
19. Keep an open mind.
Remember: travel is all about connecting with and learning about different cultures that aren’t the same as yours – and that’s half of the fun! But be respectful of other social norms and traditions that are different to yours.
20. And remember: mishap is just the start of the next great adventure
Don’t let that missed bus or broken ATM get you down. See it as a way to explore a little more of one place or a reason to explore another.
Do you have any travel hacks that have been lifesavers? Let us know in the comments section below!
Stay wild, adventurers.
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Jozi-born, Knysna local, and recovering yachtie, Melanie decided that she missed being land-based after 18 months sailing the seas. Now that she lives in the most beautiful city in Africa (she is adamant about this fact), you will find her trying out new things around Cape Town, dreaming about her next holiday, and using Wikipedia to enhance her skills as an encyclopaedia of useless information.
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