Holiday planning

10 tried-and-tested travel hacks (and one to avoid)

Photo of Chelsea DickensonPhoto of Chelsea Dickenson
By Chelsea Dickenson

19 May 20226 min read

A view of the ocean showing two white deck chairs in front of the sea and sunset

With more than two billion views for #travelhack on TikTok, it’s fair to say that travel hacking is having a bit of a moment. But when ‘going viral’ often relies on shock and surprise as well as helpful advice, the big question is just how useful can they be?

Well, I’ve tested out plenty over the years to find out if they’re really worth the effort. Here are ten that make the cut – and one that doesn’t.

1. House sitting

House sitting is exactly what it sounds like. Someone is leaving their home alone, perhaps to go on their own holiday, and they’d like someone else to look after things while they’re away. Your duties could range from watering the plants to the most popular – caring for the pets. In exchange, you get a free stay.

I’ve house sat twice – once for two weeks in Paris with a cat called Biscotte and for a week over New Year in an incredible, modern house in Germany where I just had to take in the post – and I cannot recommend it enough!

If it sounds like your bag, start with websites such as Trusted Housesitters and Nomador. Both charge an annual fee, and you’ll need to make sure visa rules for your destination allow house sitting (some countries class this as work), but otherwise it’s free and easy to do.

2. Haggling

That’s right, it’s not just for the marketplace! You can also haggle on things like your accommodation and activities too. I’ve used it a couple of times on Airbnb and managed to save around 25% on the price of my stay.

Remember this hack needs to be a good deal for both you and the seller – so consider using it when you’re booking holiday lets at the last minute or would like to stay for a long time. Otherwise, be polite, be courteous and never demand a discount.

3. Asking for a free hotel upgrade

We all love a free hotel upgrade, but it doesn’t need to be a special occasion to score one. I’ve found that by simply emailing ahead and asking to be ‘considered’ for an upgrade can get you a better room – all without having to make up that it’s your wedding anniversary.

It’s become one of my favourite travel hacks because it’s so quick. I’ve even created an email template to reuse every time. Hundreds of others have also had success using it, so if you decide to give it a shot, let me know how it went over on Instagram!

4. Packing clothes into your neck pillow

Ever realised your neck pillow has a zip? I did, and it sparked an idea. Just take out the foam and replace it with clothes. It works a treat and I know lots of people who have used it since.

5. Utilising the duty-free bag

Most airlines won’t expect you to fit your duty-free purchases in your personal bag. And that means you’ve just found more space for your own things.

There’s a slight risk of airline staff asking to check what’s inside your bag, so deploy this hack with a little caution, but it’s a well-loved option for good reason.

6. Wearing a fishing vest

Bear with me on this one. I had seen those clever little jackets with lots of pockets made especially for travel, but they were beyond my budget. Enter, the fishing vest. Mine cost just £10.99 and I was able to pack my deodorant, bikini, playing cards, t-shirts and even my laptop into it.

Admittedly, this was done initially as a joke, but it worked! And as for going through security when you use this hack, just separate any liquids and electronics as you usually would, leave everything else in your pockets and pop it all into the tray. Easy.

7. Filling your bra

After six approved hacks, here’s one to avoid. Inspired by a friend-of-a-friend, I filled my bra with extra items to avoid baggage fees – and it’s just as uncomfortable as it sounds.

It’s also not that subtle and you can’t fit much in without looking ridiculous!

8. Collecting toiletries at the airport

This is a great hack for families or groups who might be travelling with hand luggage only. Instead of struggling against a liquid limit, place a Boots click and collect order and select to pick it up at the store after security.

It means you can bring full-sized toiletries such as shampoo and sun cream on board. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to bring them through security on your way home, so only buy what you need or prepare to leave it behind.

This is particularly handy for families travelling with babies, as you can order things such as formula to be picked up too.

9. Using the airport lounge

If you love to get to the airport early and get into the holiday spirit straight away, airport lounges can be great value for money. Often priced between £30 and £40, many give you three hours to sit, relax and enjoy all-you-can-eat food and unlimited drinks.

For me, it’s always about working out what you would normally spend at the airport anyway. If you’re a meal deal and one pint kind of person, it’s not going to feel good value for money, but if you’d normally have a hot sit-down meal and a few drinks, then it’s worth checking out.

10. Checking for club rooms

The cheapest room in the hotel might usually be your first pick but it’s always worth seeing if they have any ‘Club Rooms’ that unlock extra perks. I once stayed half board in a ‘Club Suite’ in Corfu as it included swapping all our buffet dinners to three-course meals, and access free food and drink for twelve hours a day!

It cost us £26 more per person per day – basically tuning it into an all-inclusive experience – but it meant we spent next to nothing for the entire trip. Plus, we got one of the best rooms in the hotel.

11. Keeping track of your hotel price

If you’ve booked a refundable hotel room, keep an eye on the price in case it gets cheaper. Some websites will price match (check their policies), or you could just make a new reservation at the cheaper price and cancel your existing booking.

There’s a clever online platform called Pruvo that will track this for you and even notify you via email if there’s been a price change!

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