Travel hacks every traveller should know

The little things can add up! An effortlessly booked flight, a VIP parking spot, an authentic local supper: these are the details that can lead to a perfect holiday. Use our travel hacks every time you travel, so you can avoid pitfalls and take advantage of the best opportunities available to you.

We’ve packed this article with all kinds of hacks, from choosing the best seat on a plane to finding the most delicious local food at your destination. You’ve probably been counting down the days till this holiday; get the most out of it.

Whether your passport is full of stamps or waiting for its first excursion, we hope you’ll enjoy your upcoming travels even more with the help of these travel hacks.


Booking hacks


1. Browse in an incognito window

When you search for flights, accommodation or rental vehicles online, turn on private browsing in an incognito window. Travel sites may be able to see how often you’ve checked their prices, and you could be charged more if they think you’re serious about booking.

2. Pay with POLi or BPAY

You can avoid credit card fees by using POLi or BPAY if your airline supports these methods of payment. Some airlines, such as TigerAir, charge $10 for using PayPal, so check payment options and fees before you complete your transactions.

3. Use flight comparison sites

For the most options and best fares, use flight comparison sites to locate flights, but also double check fares directly with the airline. You can sometimes save on flights when you book directly and cut out the middleman. Another added benefit to this strategy is that you simplify your communications and customer service when you’re only corresponding with the airline and not a third party.


Airplane seat

4. Use SeatGuru

Not all plane seats are created equal, and without a guide like SeatGuru, you won’t know which seats recline or which amenities (such as Wi-Fi and AC power) are available on your plane. Use this handy app to choose your seats when booking your flights.


Airport hacks

5. Veer to the left

Research shows that most people are right handed and tend to turn to the right first, so do the opposite. Go to the left and you may be able to move faster through airport security and customs.


Portable charger

6. Bring a portable charger

Arrive at the airport with a fully loaded portable charger and plug it in whenever possible. That way, you can keep your contacts, maps and itineraries close at hand by easily resuscitating your phone when it runs out of power.

7. Tie a ribbon on it

At the end of a long flight, it’s likely you’ll want to grab your luggage and escape the airport as swiftly as possible. Make luggage identification easier by tying a bright ribbon or colourful luggage strap on your bags so you can spot them easily.

8. Bring an empty water bottle

Instead of buying bottled water at the airport, bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it up after you pass through security. If possible, bring a collapsible bottle that can be tucked into your luggage when it’s empty to save you carrying it around.


Couple unpacking a car

9. Take photos of your parking space and luggage

Take photos of your parking space and your checked luggage before you embark on your flight. Wandering around an enormous parking lot is no way to end your holiday, so keep that parking space photo handy. Photos of your checked bags can also be very useful. If you encounter problems with lost luggage, you can show the pictures to airport staff, and they’ll know exactly what to look for.


Flying hacks

10. Ask about upgrades the day of your flight

If you want to upgrade your ticket, get to your gate early so you’re the first to hear about any opportunities. Some airlines even offer upgrades to first class the day of the flight (for an additional fee, of course). Be aware that some airlines still have dress codes for first class, so consider your wardrobe if you’re hoping to take advantage of these opportunities.


Couple exercising

11. Exercise before you fly

Even if you plan to spend your holiday lounging on a beach, travelling can be stressful. Equip yourself to handle the stress better by exercising before you fly. The endorphins released into your system during exercise can improve your mood and help you to feel healthier and happier.

12. Pack a few essentials in your cabin luggage

Be prepared for the possibility that you could be separated from your checked luggage for an extra day, and pack a spare pair of socks and underwear in your cabin bag. Basic travel sized toiletries like a toothbrush and moisturiser can also help you to arrive at your destination feeling fresh.

13. Add back support

Some plane seats are more comfortable than others. If your seat doesn’t offer enough back support, roll up a blanket or jacket and place it across the lower seat back. If you’re too short to comfortably rest your feet on the floor, use your backpack or carry-on as a footrest.


Exercise ball

14. Bring a massage ball with you

 A simple massage ball can work out sore muscles during a long flight. You can also place it between your seat and your shoulders and lean back on it for muscle relief.

For more tips on making a long-haul flight more comfortable, read the tips in our long-haul flight guide.


Packing hacks

15. Save a general packing list

Use a tried and tested packing list every time you travel to avoid leaving essential items at home. Take a look at our ultimate travel checklist for tips about checked vs cabin luggage, tried-and-true techniques and overseas must-haves.


Couple packing

16. Pack a sarong

It’s not just for the beach anymore! A sarong may be the most versatile item in your luggage. It can serve as a blanket at the airport or a way to cover your shoulders at a religious landmark.

17. Leave hair appliances behind

Consider leaving your hair dryer, curling irons or straighteners at home, as these items can occupy a lot of space in your luggage. Check with your hotel to find out whether these hair tools are available, or alternatively bring some surf spray and embrace the natural look while you travel.

18. Bag your shoes

Keep the rest of your packed items clean and protected by putting your shoes in bags before you pack them. Purse bags work well, but even grocery bags can serve in a pinch.


Packing list

19. Pack heavy items close to the wheels

Reduce wrinkles and keep your luggage from toppling over by packing your heaviest items close to the wheels. If your bags are flirting with the weight limit, wear your heaviest clothing items during the flight.

20. Put all your tech stuff in one bag

Cords, chargers, devices, camera accessories and external drives: all of these tech items, small and tangled as they are, can make a mess in your luggage. Tame them by storing all tech items in one zippable bag. Remember that any high value items, such as phones, laptops and other devices, will need to be stored in your carry-on luggage, and kept within your sight, to ensure they’re covered by our travel insurance policy.


Hacks for travelling in a new country

21. Download Google Translate before your trip

With the Google Translate app, you can hold your phone’s camera up to any text, and the app will translate it for you. This is perfect for street signs, lists of ingredients on food items, public transport schedules, etc.



22. Change your money ahead of time

Avoid changing your money at the airport, where you’ll most likely pay high exchange rates. Instead, shop around for the best rates and terms and order your currency in advance of your travel dates to ensure you can get the best deal.

23. Be aware of pickpocketing

If you’re travelling in an area that is notorious for pickpocketing, carry a dummy wallet with you. Keep your real wallet close to your person in an inconspicuous place (such as an inside jacket pocket) and leave the dummy wallet in a back pocket with little or no change in it.

24. Save a few Google maps directly to your phone

When you first arrive in a new country, you may not be able to connect to Wi-Fi or data right away. A few key maps downloaded to your phone can help you to get to your hotel or meet up with your friends/family.


Woman use a map

25. Prepare to communicate

Download Viber, WhatsApp and Skype before you depart. Between these three apps, you should be able to communicate over Wi-Fi with friends and family back home from almost any destination.


Safety hacks

26. Wear a medical ID bracelet

If you have a health condition that emergency medical personnel should know about, wear a medical ID bracelet and display the information on your phone. Some phones include a setting that allows this information to be seen without having to enter a password first.



27. Split up your valuables

Don’t carry all your valuables in one place, such as your passport, keys, phone, cash and credit cards. Split these between the safe at your accommodation, your day bag and leave some emergency cash hidden in your accommodation. If you’re travelling alone, get two hotel keys and put one in your wallet or purse and leave the other at the reception desk.

28. Save emergency numbers in your phone

Before you depart for your trip, save local emergency numbers in your phone. You can find this information on the Smartraveller website by searching for your destination and navigating to the ‘where to get help’ option.

29. Use extra caution

Spend some time researching any local dangers at your destination. This can also be found on the Smartraveller website by searching for your destination and navigating to the ‘safety and security’ option. When travelling to a foreign country, it’s important to have your wits about you and follow a few general safety rules, such as never accepting drinks from strangers (no matter how friendly they may seem), only using official, reputable taxi companies, and staying in regular contact with friends and family at home so they know you’re safe.


Day trip hacks

Woman hiking

30. Waterproof your belongings

If the forecast calls for rain, line your day bag with a waterproof rain cover (available at most camping/outdoor shops) to keep your personal items dry. If you don’t want to invest in waterproof items for your trip, another option is to use a waterproofing spray on your jackets, bags, luggage, shoes and other travel necessities before your trip. Be sure to check the manufacturer directions before applying the spray.

31. Bring a smaller bag and some cash

Take a smaller backpack/across body bag with you that you can use for day hikes and long days out, and always carry some cash with you, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

32. Use a parking app

If you plan on renting a vehicle on your trip, download a parking app such as ParkWhiz to locate and pay for parking spots during your day trips. You may be able to reserve great spots that you wouldn’t have even known about without the app.


Car rental hacks

Car rental

33. Snap some photos before you drive away

Photograph any dings or scratches on the car before you use it, in case you’re charged for damage done by someone else.

34. Check the rental rates on different versions of a company’s website

Rates can vary depending on the location of your IP address and which version of the website you’re viewing. For example, check for rates on an international hire company’s Australian website, as well as their website for your destination. The prices can vary widely.

35. Review your insurance

Check your travel insurance policy benefits before purchasing extra insurance from your rental company.


Food hacks

36. Use an app to find the best foodie spots

Food apps like Yelp and OpenTable can help you to find the best local restaurants wherever you are. Read reviews, browse menus, get directions and even reserve a table from your phone.


Food market

37. Never miss an outdoor market

Visit local farmers’ markets for in-season produce and local street food. Make sure you have cash on hand in case the vendors aren’t able to accept your credit card. A good rule of thumb is to consider one of the vendors that has a long queue of people (especially if the queue is full of locals) – it’s likely to be worth the wait!

38. Talk to the locals

We’re not talking about the hotel concierge here. Get out and talk to the locals about where to find the best food around. Talk to cab drivers and vendors at farmers’ markets to learn about the best out-of-the-way eateries in town.


Travel document hacks 


Woman on laptop

39. Email yourself copies of your documents

Take photos of your passport, visa, itinerary, flight tickets, hotel confirmations, tour tickets, and any other important documents, and email them to yourself. At any time, you’ll be able to pull up the documents you need, even if you lose your phone (you can use an internet cafe to access your email). It’s also wise to keep hard copies of these handy in your carry-on and checked luggage.

40. Keep a copy of your travel insurance handy

You never know when you’ll need to use your travel insurance when you’re overseas. Keep a copy of your policy handy and put our phone number and email address in your mobile phone’s contacts list so you can easily reach us if needed.

The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of any article.

This article may contain hyperlinks to other websites owned or operated by third parties, or references to third party products or services. SCTI isn’t responsible for, and makes no recommendation about, the content or accuracy of any third party website, or for the suitability or performance of any product or service. The inclusion of a link in this article doesn’t imply that SCTI endorses the website or third party product/service.


What you need to know

This page includes some information about our products but, as with all insurance policies, terms and conditions apply. For our terms and conditions (including information about exclusions, excesses and sub limits) we recommend you read the relevant Financial Services Guide (FSG), Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) to ensure our travel insurance products are right for you.  

You can find the relevant documents here: International Comprehensive, Annual Multi-trip, International Medical Only, Working Overseas, Domestic