A FEW HANDY IDEAS
Choose your luggage wisely.
Suitcases are an investment that allow for smoother travel as you navigate bus, train, plane and uneven streets. I love using backpacks or bags that allow for a backpack conversion so my hands are free, and I'm forced to pack lighter.
Recently, I upgraded my Patagonia MLC and added another backpack of the same size to my collection. Use a company that has a guarantee, such as L.L. Bean, Patagonia, or Eagle Creek. For a well thought-out weekender bag, check out the Rhodes duffel (for men) and the Catalina (for women) at Lo & Sons.
The high price on a good quality bag may initially seem unreasonable, but if it lasts for years and serves you, rather than weighing you down, I'd say it's worth the investment.
Washing on the go
Hand washing can be your best friend, particularly in remote areas. I'd recommend a powder, rather than liquid, just in case your small container loosens or breaks along the way. A high efficiency brand can help the powder to go a long way, and will help your wardrobe go further, especially when packing light. Depending on your overall length of travel, I'd say an ounce would suffice, and you can use your sink or bathtub to freshen up those undies.
Booking Deals and Mystery Getaways!
I've recently come across two new search engines that can change the way you travel.
The first is Scott's Cheap Flights. $39/year will get you personalized travel alerts from your home airport of choice. After their search engines find the best deals, you receive an email alert with instructions on how to book the flight directly with the airline. It takes the hours of searching and cross-comparison off your plate. If you'd rather not pay, there's also a free version with fewer options, but you'll get an idea of what's offered.
The second is for the traveler who wants to be pleasantly surprised and relaxed for a 3-day weekend getaway. Pack up & Go takes the thinking out of a short trip, so you can simply enjoy the ride. Select your budget, answer a survey on your likes and dislikes, and then show up for your hand-selected adventure! No plane trip is too far, so you spend more time in the location, and less time at the airport.
**A cautionary note about your typical discount booking sites:
All-in-one sites, such as Expedia.com are great for finding deals, but when it comes to making changes, things can get a little tricky. If you feel certain that nothing will change, you can find amazing flights using a combination of airlines put together for you; however, if you anticipate changing anything, dealing with third-party customer service can be overly complicated or pre-paid perks may be completely unrefundable. I tend to use these sites to get an idea of which airline has deals, and then book directly.
Bottom line: use with care.**
Communicating with charades and screenshots
Learning a few key phrases and some basic polite words will help you to communicate with locals and convey respect. Playing charades, downloading a translate app, and taking screenshots of maps are a few ways to help in a pinch, but in the end, a photo usually wins. An image is universal, and I take screenshots or photos of important directional information and maps if I'm not sure about future wifi availaibility. If you're having a difficult time remembering or pronouncing the street name of your hotel, just pull up the saved image and allow it to do the heavy lifting.
Go ahead...say "Yes!"
Sure, it can be scary to say "yes," but it can be just as scary to stay in the world of "no." If there's any part of you that is curious to do something, but it scares you, that's cool. Just don't let over-thinking talk you out of having the time of your life. Saying yes to skydiving and swinging across the biggest canyon in the world was daunting, but I have found that I now think of myself as a "yes" person. Things don't seem as big of a deal, and life has gotten a lot more fun.
Last minute airport change? Try this app.
Many big cities have multiple airports. You may have checked your confirmation emails, verified online, and anywhere else to make sure you know where to be, with enough time to check bags and make the flight. Unfortunately, airlines can change your departure airport at the last minute, and if you haven't allowed enough time to reroute, you may miss your flight. To avoid this issue, leave enough travel time and download the Tripcase app. Simply import your itenerary, and their tools will help manage all the details.
A Map App that doesn't require data or wi-fi.
If you know that you'll be without wi-fi or data, try this free app: Maps.me
Before you get out of range, download the area you want to view. Once the map is in your phone, you can use it as a navigation system or simply as a current location finder.
Another option is to download a region or a specific To/From journey in Google Maps. This app will allow you to view the course offline, and even navigate so you can be hands-free.