We’re all about making travel easier and more accessible. Whether flying, road-tripping, or even going on a local adventure, here are some of our favorite travel hacks we’ve discovered over the years of full-time travel.
Thanks to Pilot Flying J for sponsoring this post. All opinions are always our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: December 19, 2022
Road Trip Travel Hacks
1. Create a Playlist or Download Audiobooks
I take my road trip music seriously. The first time we went on a cross-country road trip over ten years ago, I worked on a playlist where no song would repeat for over 24 hours. Even today, I’m still adding and modifying my playlist only to include songs with a good driving beat. You don’t need one that long, but a road trip playlist can help you power through a long drive.
We like switching between music and audiobooks. Just be sure you download them so you can still listen to them without cell service.
Pro Tip: We recently discovered Libby, where you can download free audiobooks from your local library and listen to them offline.
2. Download Travel Apps
Apps can come in handy when you’re on the road. Here are a few of our favorites.
- myRewards Plus App – We’ve managed long stints on the road (we did Atlanta to LA in 36 hours straight). Regardless of whether we do any overnights, we always make stops for gas, stretch our legs, and pick up snacks. Pilot Flying J gas stations are our top choice on road trips. Not only do they have reasonable gas prices, but the convenience stores are more extensive and facilities clean and spacious (bye-bye dingy gas station bathrooms). Their free app makes it even better because it gives you 10¢ off every gallon of gas and deals to help you save money on snacks.
- Google Maps – This is our go-to map app, and I typically download offline versions of the areas we’ll be in, especially when I know service might be spotty. It helps to be able to search and navigate without cell service.
- GasBuddy – When I forget to watch the meter and need gas immediately, we use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas near us. It’s straightforward to use. They recently added a gas card which helps you save money.
- Spotify – As I mentioned above, I take my road trip music seriously.
- Yelp – We love finding random gems for both food and roadside attractions. Since we’re primarily traveling within the states, we use Yelp to find food. Instead of looking at the overall reviews, we also consider the reviewers’ demographics, town size, and specific complaints. I’m a maximizer, so I have to see everything before making my ideal choice.
Pro Tip: The myRewards Plus App also has a Plan Your Trip feature where you can plan stops in advance and export them to Waze or Apple Maps.
3. Be Ready for Emergencies
No one plans to have an emergency on the road, but it’s always wise to prep ahead. We always have a few things in our car ready for them.
- First Aid Kit – in case anyone gets hurt.
- Essential Tools – we have a multitool in our car.
- Meds – we carry some basic meds, like Dramamine, Immodium, and Lactaid
- Portable Air Compressor – you never know when you need air in your tires
- Wet Wipes / Paper Towels – or all those unexpected spills
- TravelJohn – ever since we discovered these, we always have a couple in the car in case we’re stuck in traffic or if you can’t find a bathroom for miles.
4. Use Home Items in Creative Ways
We’ve found a few home items that we use in the car to make our ride more comfortable.
- Tumblers for Snacks – Pack snacks in food tumblers for easy access to your snacks and fewer spills. Plus, they stay in your cup holder. We’ve heard people use coffee creamer bottles too!
- Cereal Containers for Trash Cans – We picked up this hack from Pinterest. They keep your trash contained in one spot and make it easy to dump at a stop. It helps to keep a few extra plastic bags in the car too.
- Dryer Sheets for Air Freshers – Dryer sheets can freshen the air without being too strong (regular car air fresheners can make me dizzy). You can also throw one in your suitcase to keep your bag and clothes smelling fresh.
- Suction Cup Shower Caddies – These are great for holding smaller items or snacks. For people with kids, you can keep art supplies or toys in them. Shoe holders strapped to the back of the seat are another great storage option.
If you forget anything or need to make a last-minute stop, Pilot Flying J has you covered!
5. Set Up Your Car for Camping
Even if you don’t like camping, having a car camping setup is handy in case you need a nap or want to make an overnight stop in the middle of nowhere. We’ve perfected our car camping setup with a foam mattress in the back (you can use an inflatable one, too), a solar generator, and rooftop storage.
International Travel Hacks
6. Scan and Email Yourself a Passport
You’ll have your actual passport, but having a hard copy and an email copy of your passport is wise to have in case it gets lost or stolen. We do this with tickets, confirmations, and other essential documents we may need.
8. Download Google Translate
Did you know that in Google Translate, you can use your camera to translate signs, menus, or anything else you scan? Technology is crazy.
9. Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport
It’s tempting to exchange money at your destination airport, but you usually get the worst rates possible. Having a credit card with no exchange fees or going to local ATMs to withdraw money is better. Just be sure to notify your credit card and bank you are traveling to so the transactions don’t get flagged.
10. Choose Long Layovers to Explore Cities
Sometimes a long layover is a perfect way to break up flights. Plus, it allows you to explore the layover city without making an extra trip.
11. Roll Your Clothes and Use Compression Bags
Rolling your clothes helps pack more clothes in the same amount of space. I do this for the clothes in my closet, which makes them ready to go. When your clothes are dirty, keep them rolled up too!
Pro Tip: If you need even more space, compression bags and packing cubes will compress them even more.
13. Create a Packing Check List
Even though we travel a ton, I still get anxious about forgetting to pack something on a trip. Because of that, I’ve created a packing checklist spreadsheet that I look over each trip.
14. Pack Essentials in a Carry On
We travel light and never check a bag, but sometimes they will take them from you if the flight is full! I get paranoid because they’ve lost our bags for months before in this scenario. If you check your bag, have all your essentials in your personal carry-on item, including meds, toiletries, and an extra set of clothes. That way, if anything happens to your luggage, you at least have the basics.
Pro Tip: Be familiar with your credit card benefits. Many travel cards will give you a stipend to replace items if your luggage is lost.
15. Get Reusable Travel Bottles for Toiletries
Rather than buying miniature versions of your toiletries or trying to pack the large products, get some reusable travel bottles that you can fill with your favorite items that keep you under the 3 oz requirement. I even picked up a spray bottle for my toner and tubs for makeup.
General Travel Hacks + Tips
16. Download Offline Maps
We use this rule locally and abroad. Before heading anywhere where we think we might have spotty service, we download Google Maps offline to help us navigate the area. It has been a lifesaver!
17. Talk to Locals
As much research as you can do online, locals always know the best under-the-radar spots. They can tell you about great deals, happy hours, unique experiences, and more. Even if you’re talking to your servers when you’re eating out, find out what spots they like to frequent.
18. Pack Snacks
Being hangry is the worst! We always keep snacks handy on outdoor adventures, flights, and road trips. Our favorites are fruit snacks and quest peanut butter cups for protein.
Anytime we’re on a road trip, we’ll pick up extra snacks when we stop at Pilot Flying J. Their free app even has deals on food and drinks.
19. Travel During Off Season
Do some research ahead of time and try visiting spots during shoulder season. Not only will hotels and flights be cheaper, but it’s less crowded too!
Pro Tip: Depending on the location, check to see what’s open during the shoulder and off-season. Some smaller towns will shut down a lot of businesses during this time.
20. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Having a refillable water bottle is essential for traveling. I used to always feel dehydrated during trips. Now, we use it on flights by filling up after TSA, so we have water before the beverage service. Many hotels have water bottle stations in the gym, so we have water in the room anytime we need it. Plus, it’s just better for the environment. We use one of three bottles when we travel.
Travel Hacks for FLight BOokings
21. Delete Your Browser Cookies
22. Book Flights on Cheaper Days
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are typically the cheapest days to fly. Of the three days, Tuesday is the best. If you have the flexibility, travel on those days to save money on your flight.
23. Avoid Peak Hours
Similar to the example above, flying during the day can affect the price too! Flights are usually cheaper if you fly between 5-7 am or after 8 pm.
24. Get the Full Row
If you are traveling with a companion, choose an aisle and window seat in the same row. On emptier flights, you might bet the whole row to yourselves. If it’s fully booked, one of us moves to the middle seat since most prefer an aisle or window. But I’m waiting for the day someone wants to sit between us!
25. Spoof Your Location
Regional prices are also a factor when it comes to booking. This trick only works for international flights, but if you have a VPN and a credit card that doesn’t have a high foreign transaction fee, check the flight prices from multiple locations. Often you’ll find different prices from different countries.
That’s our list! What other travel hacks do you use? We love learning more about how you travel so we can all travel smarter.
Special thanks to Pilot Flying J for sponsoring this post. When it comes to road trips, they are our go-to pit stop. They are the largest network of travel centers in North America, so we can reliably find them throughout the US. We also love that we know what we’re getting: good prices on gas, clean and spacious bathrooms, and a great selection of food and snacks.
If you download their free app, you can get 10¢ off every gallon of gas and deals on food and drink. They are investing $1 billion over the next three years to improve their stores.
What are your favorite travel hacks?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.