21 travel hacks every travel pro knows

Travelling is all about decision-making, from where to go and when, to how to book and with which site. (KAYAK has the tools to help with all of the above.)

To get the most out of your adventures, it helps to know you’ve got the best tech, tools, and travel hacks at your disposal. Read on to learn the hacks and secrets that all the travel pros know so you can prepare, book, and go with confidence. Then visit KAYAK to start your search and get out there.

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Planning and booking better

1. Be flexible with your dates and destinations

Be open with your plans, specifically with when and where you want to go. Rather than thinking ‘I want to go to Paris for 4 days in the last week of May’, start with something like ‘I want a city break in the spring’ which opens your options to potentially more affordable destinations and travel dates. Then let KAYAK Explore help you narrow down your options. Set your home airport, potential dates, price limit, and flight duration, and find the best options that work for you.

Explore with our interactive map

2. Sign up for newsletters and email alerts

The best way to know about deals – especially the good deals that sell out quickly – is to sign up for email newsletters, follow your favourite travel brands on social media, and sign up for KAYAK price alerts. You’ll see the best prices and offers right in your inbox or newsfeed without having to scour the whole web yourself.

3. Start your research early

Whether you’re planning from a computer at home or your phone on the go, give yourself time to make the best choices.
Whether you’re planning from a computer at home or your phone on the go, give yourself time to make the best choices. © Trevor Adeline/Getty Images

Even if you’re thinking about a trip a bit further down your calendar, start your research early, familiarising yourself with prices so you can spot a good one when you see it. KAYAK Price Forecast takes the guesswork out of when to book by analysing millions of flight searches to determine if you’re seeing the best deals now, or if better ones might be on the horizon.

4. Be ready to act quickly

When you’re flexible and informed, you’re bound to come across great deals. But you won’t be the only one, so act quickly to get a great price before it’s sold out. When you see a great deal in a newsletter email, book it right then and there because that low price won’t last. You can also download mobile apps to search and book on the go, wherever you are.

5. Two one-way flights can be better than one round-trip flight

Knowing your options when it comes to flights can help you save.
Knowing your options when it comes to flights can help you save. © Francisco Rama/ Getty Images

Fortune favours the bold, so those gutsy enough to book two one-way flights rather than the usual round-trip flight can sometimes come away with great savings. Let KAYAK Hacker Fares play airfare matchmaker, allowing you to search for flights as you usually would, but come away with two separate flights that add up to one great deal.

6. Let filters be your friend

Use filters to specify and personalise your search, limiting things like baggage and payment fees. Be aware, a connecting flight booked with Hacker Fares might require those travellers with checked bags to claim and recheck their luggage, making Hacker Fares better for direct flights and light packers. You can check out our filters by searching for a flight.

7. Double check your information

Mistakes happen, even when you think you’ve done everything perfectly. Double check your confirmation emails and dates to catch any errors you might have made in the stress of the moment. Many airlines allow you to cancel or change bookings without a fee within a certain timeframe. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

8. Be realistic

Whether you’re trying to keep yourself to a strict budget, a strict packing limit, or a strict time schedule, be realistic with yourself and your travel goals. Set an alarm to wake up early if you know you tend to be late, and set other alarms for when you should have accomplished certain travel day tasks by so you can keep yourself accountable.

Preparing and packing for your trip

9. Pack smart

Being smart and strategic with your packing can help you avoid stress while travelling.
Being smart and strategic with your packing can help you avoid stress while travelling. © blyjak/ Getty Images

Packing light is a great way to cut costs by saving on extra baggage fees, and makes for a better, more convenient travel experience, saving you from schlepping around with heavy, bulky bags when you’re getting from A to B. Make your clothes go further by packing a variety of items that can be easily mixed, matched, and layered, so you get the most use out of the smallest number of options.

10. Keep electronic copies

Keeping a scanned copy of your passport and other important information like emergency contacts – be they phone numbers of friends, family, or your hotel –  in a safe file in the cloud allows you easy access in case of emergency. It will also make it easier to check in to flights or book great deals even when you don’t have your passport with you. You can also forward all of your travel documents to KAYAK Trips to keep information like boarding passes, gate numbers and flight statuses in one convenient and easily accessible place.

11. Know your bag allowances

Don’t be caught off guard by extra fees for overweight or oversized bags. Know the weight and measurements of your bag, as well as the airline’s baggage restrictions before you head to the airport. Most airlines allow you to bring a small personal item, a carry-on item, plus your checked bag.

12. Know your destination

Whether you’re a planner or a more spontaneous traveller, make sure you do at least a little research into the destination you’re travelling to. Knowing things like important national holidays (like Thanksgiving in the United States, ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, and Good Friday in Ireland) can help you avoid expensive travel days and unexpected shop, restaurant, and museum closures.

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13. Let apps be your guide

From planning to posting to paying for flights, apps can make your trip easier, start to finish.
From planning to posting to paying for flights, apps can make your trip easier, start to finish. © Poike/ iStock Photos

Make the most of the technology already in your pocket. Map and GPS apps like Google Maps allow you to download offline maps so you always know where you are and where you’re going, even when you’re not connected to WiFi. Local transportation apps – like Berlin’s BVG app or London’s Citymapper – track a variety of public transportation options with real-time updates so you know how long until the next bus or train arrives.

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14. Check in early

In most cases, online check-in for flights is open 24 hours before your scheduled departure. Check in as early as you can within that 24-hour period to get the best pick of available seats without having to pay to select seats or upgrade.

15. Prep for long layovers

Got a long layover on your agenda? Take time to research your layover airport ahead of time. Many airports offer layover-friendly amenities like lounges, day spas, theatres, and even city tours that need to be booked ahead of time. Also, consider how you’re packing if you have an extra long layover. Travellers often fret about luggage not making it to their second flight after a quick connection, but luggage can also get lost in the shuffle after an extra long layover, so aim to pack a carry-on if possible.

16. Be sure you have insurance and know what’s covered

Insurance can feel like an annoying extra but can save you large costs in cases of emergency. It’s important to know when you’re insured and for what. If, for example, you hire a car or book a flight on a credit card, you don’t need to opt in to the hire company’s coverage and you might be insured if your luggage is lost. It’s also important to know when you’ve selected flexible booking options so you can avoid fees in case your plans change.

During your trip

17. Be your best self for your flight

Start your trip off on the right foot by bringing your healthiest, most well-rested self onboard. © YakobchukOlena/ Getty Images
Start your trip off on the right foot by bringing your healthiest, most well-rested self onboard. © YakobchukOlena/ Getty Images

There are a few different ways to bring your best self to the airport. In the 24 hours before and after a flight, drink a tonne of water, avoid alcohol, and get a good amount of sleep. Flights are dehydrating and disorienting, so taking these health-focused steps will make your flight experience, and your travel experience as a whole, more pleasant.

18. Don’t let jet lag get you down

Those healthy tips for having a good flight will also help you fight jet lag once you get where you’re going. In addition to the tips above, on the day before your flight, try to get on the same sleeping and eating cycle as you will be on in your destination. And, tempting though it may be, avoid that mid-afternoon nap once you land so that you get a good night’s sleep and wake well rested the next morning.

19. Make smart payments

Spend your change on experiences rather than fees by being savvy with your pay methods.
Spend your change on experiences rather than fees by being savvy with your pay methods. © southtownboy/ Getty Images

The best way to pay for things abroad is to get a travel-friendly credit card or bank card that doesn’t charge you extra fees for things like paying in a different currency or taking money out of ATMs. When you’re paying with a card, always opt to pay in the local currency rather than your home currency in order to get the best possible conversion rate.

20. Be social media aware

Social media is a great way to document and share your travelling adventures. By posting about your trip, you can get recommendations and save your memories (don’t forget to save those pics that will disappear after 24 hours of being posted). But it’s important not to go overboard on your posts. Sharing exactly how long you’ll be away can pose a security risk if you’re leaving your home, car, or other belongings unattended for a long period of time. It’s also important not to get so caught up in getting the best Instagram story that you end up more focused on how you share your experience rather than enjoying the experience itself.

21. Go local with your mobile

Think you’ll be spending a lot of time using social media, or trying to make plans with friends? You might want to opt for a pay-as-you-go local SIM card (which you can buy at airports or any cell phone carrier store) as a way to stay connected. Although roaming regulations changed recently to allow travellers more freedom and flexibility to use their regular at-home data while abroad, it still might be a cost saving measure to get a local SIM depending on how much phone time you anticipate. That way you won’t end up running from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of free WiFi.

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Now that you have all the secrets of the travel pros, you’re ready to book your trip with confidence.

Note: These rates are based on the most recent data pulled from KAYAK.co.uk, the cheapest prices are always displayed first, regardless of specific dates mentioned. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy, are per night and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available

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