Helping you travel more smoothly and happily is what this episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast is all about. Recently we did an episode called “Don’t do That!” to help travelers to Asia stay out of trouble while traveling the region. This episode is its companion, and we’re going to put a more positive spin on a similar topic by offering you some of our best Travel Hacks. So get ready for some winning tips which will make your journey even more enjoyable and incredible. 

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Neither Scott nor Trevor goes anywhere without a refillable Talk Travel Asia coffee cup.

Trevor: Whenever traveling outside of our home country, it’s good to remember that the customs of home are not always the same as those of the countries we visit. We actually did an episode on some of these topics: EPISODE 84: FOREIGNER FAUX PAS AND CULTURAL CLUMSINESS WITH ED KNUTH OF BANGKOK PODCAST

Scott: So we did some brainstorming about things we’ve learned over the years while traveling and will now share some of those with you in no particular order, and hope they are helpful. If you have a great one, please email and share it with us. 

Researching & Planning a Trip 

Trevor: Among other sources, Trevor uses Google Maps, friends who live in or have recently traveled to a destination, and  AirBnb hosts.

Scott: Much the same, I put the word out on my social media channels, ask friends and read a ton. On that note, I’ll look through quite a range of different sources, then note the elements that come up a few times as spots to maybe visit. I still like to read what Lonely Planet has to say, like TravelFish quite a bit for SE Asia. It can even be sometimes worthwhile to check out hashtags for where you’re going on Twitter. Eg. #eatingKyoto

Trevor: I often only like to book the first night or two at a place, especially the beach. And then I spend the first day walking around the neighborhood. There’s usually a better hotel offering a better rate nearby, or somewhere without a nightclub next door, or a better place to swim, etc.

Scott: I admire your ability to do this. I tend to get a lot of it dialed-in, spending a good amount of time on social media, so I don’t have to spend much time looking for accommodation when I am somewhere, but if you have time, then your method Trevor is a good one. Never arrive in early morning or worse yet, evening without a room booked.

Trevor: I use JustFly to find good flight rates. Also Google Flights (they will send you updates)

Scott: That one is good. Skyscanner is also pretty good. Use Incognito mode. 

Trevor: I usually book a special meal, like indian vegetarian or something like that. You get served your food first and then you’re done first so you can use the toilet without having to wait if you need to.

Packing

This is a great hack but I haven’t done it in a while: Once as I was unpacking from a trip, I realized what I shouldn’t have brought and what I forgot to bring, so I made a list then and there and put it in the bag, so that next trip I already had a packing list handy. Realistically that should always stay in the suitcase.

-Trevor

Trevor

  • Packing early: I usually pack like a week before a trip. That way you can remember things you might have forgotten and you know how much weight and room you have left for whatever else. Back in the day, when I used to go to the beach a lot, I actually had my beach trip bag always packed. I would just clean everything out and repack it as soon as I got home. I love packing early. 
  • Vacuum compression bags: don’t know how i lived without them
  • I always bring a travel scale for my bags. Otherwise, when I go to check in, I’m an incredible flirt.Just slow down. Smile. Check name tag and ask how they’re doing by name. Always good for a few extra kg of luggage weight. 
  • Single-use Deep Woods off insect repellent towelettes – Radom other must-brings: mini-mag light, ear plugs, small portable speaker, plastic bags for laundry and wet/dirty clothes/shoes

Scott

  • You’ve covered most of the really good ones and despite traveling a lot, I’m not good at packing light. I do tend to put things out a while before the trip so I can see them, ensure they’re clean, etc.
  • Rolling clothes saves room and also helps to keep them from wrinkling too much.
  • I use a few large ziplock bags and ensure I put some clothes in them in case a bag gets wet and I have some dry clothes. Also having various size of ziplocks is good to protect against rain.
  • Always bring a laundry bag to keep dirty and clean clothes separate. 
  • Pick up some small packets of laundry soap which are about $0.20 and handy to wash clothes. A smile line of rope and some clothespins are good for drying.
  • Often I bring a small, lightweight foldable bag, so if I want to take some items out for a day or on a shorter trip I can, or if my bag becomes overweight then I have another bag to put stuff in.
  • Simple but ensure you have a tag on your bag with your phone number and email. And on that note, always make sure the baggage tag receipt is stuck to something and even better to put them in your wallet in case you lose your boarding pass. Without these, it can be tough to get a bag back.
  • Random items: kindle, like you a headlamp, gravol for motion sickness or to sleep, wet wipes and tissue, sniffer for feeling better, small toothbrush/paste and underwear in carry-on for longer flights. 

Airports & Airplanes

Do some serious walking around terminals when on long flights to avoid deep leg thrombosis (and get up out of your seat every few hours, move your feet up and down).

-Scott

Scott

  • Ensure you don’t get a seat in the final row as they often don’t recline. 
  • Don’t get a seat near the toilet or you’ll have people standing by your seat waiting and also smell the toilet all the time.
  • Get some water early to have nearby at any time.
  • Be very polite when ordering alcohol so you can get more.
  • Your own headphones with a plug for watching movies.
  • Put your bag in the overhead of the other row so you see it and access easily.
  • Downloaded podcasts and music.

Trevor

  • That air nozzle provides protection. Use it.
  • If you want to put the arm-rest up on the aisle seat, there’s a little lever under the back end of the arm rest. 
  • Antibiotic wipes for arm rests, etc. 
  • Get a taxi at departures.
  • Using other check in/immigration lanes – I used to do this all the time in Thailand. We did it really well once in Brazil. Sometimes there’s a lane with no people and it doesn’t matter what they are supposed to do. Usually they will check you in anyway.

Scott

  • Get some snacks from a minimart if there is one.
  • Some airports have a food court/canteen for staff which is lower-priced.
  • Go to the very end of terminal arms to try and find spots to lie down on many chairs.

Getting Around

File:Taxi-meter in Bangkok 03.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes the best place to get a cab from the airport is at Departures. Just grab a cab as it’s dropping someone off.

-Trevor

Trevor: 

  • Before leaving a destination, especially on a domestic flight, always check with flight aware (https://flightaware.com/) or flight status to see if your flight is delayed. There’s nothing worse than losing a half day of travel because your flight was delayed than losing a half day because you just didn’t check.  Scott uses FlightStats which is similar and does quite a good job.
  • For that matter, use google maps to see how long it takes to get to the airport (check at the same time a day or two before for the traffic conditions at that hour) – check the weather forecast too. I hate wasting time at the airport. Leaving at the right time is huge.

Scott: 

  • I really like Google Maps and before I go on a trip, I note places I want to go and important points for navigation using their various markers. Then they will always show up when you’re in that country.
  • Download maps for offline use before you go – many large cities have free maps you can download for offline use.
  • Another neat trick if you don’t have a local sim, is to open the map when you have wifi in your hotel, then you can see where you are walking when you are outside without a wifi signal – very handy. 
  • I also like to try and string together places of interest that form a nice, long walk as you tend to see neat stuff when walking and plan some streets through residential areas if you can, hitting a neighborhood bar/pub is good too.

Apps & Files

Scott: 

  • I save all my airline tickets, hotel vouchers and other PDF docs in a few places:
    • In my Gmail in a labelled trip folder.
    • In the Books app on my iphone so I can view them without wifi (ensure they are downloaded to your device)
    • Sometimes I also created a Google Drive folder just in case.
    • And finally, I sometimes print important docs just in case I won’t have a wifi connection and really need them.
  • I also keep a digital copy of my passport, driver’s license and such on my iPhone and in the aforementioned folders. 

Scott likes the following apps:

  • Translation/dictionary app if you can find one for where you’re going.
  • Tides which lets you know tide schedules and is handy for jogging on beaches, paddling, surfing, etc. (Windy app for tides, surf, wind, weather
  • XE Currency convertor
  • Skyscanner is pretty good for quickly getting an idea of airfares and prices.
  • Living Earth is neat for setting various clocks around the world.
  • Agoda for hotels in Asia.
  • Postagram for sending a postcard of a photo you just took now from anywhere in the world – about $3 with postage. 
  • QuakeWatch: shows you where earthquakes have happened, size, etc.
  • Weather app – essential.
  • Podcasts: I download a bunch as well as music to ensure I can listen offline while traveling.

Eating on the Go

I generally don’t like to have meals when I’m getting around on busses and whatnot. So I always try to find fruit and nuts, local style things that I can bring in my bag. Dried mango is my fave, but you can go to a local market and find good road trip snacks to nibble on along the way. Otherwise, you don’t really get to choose where or what you will eat if a bus has to stop for lunch etc. 

-Trevor

Scott: I’m similar to  you Trevor and generally don’t like changing what will be available on trains and buses. So I, like you, but some things that won’t go ‘off’ quickly. Eg anything in a Tetrapak type box – Vitamilk and soi drinks are good. Nuts in packs are great. Candy bar, banana, etc. Have a few things that you can eat easily at anytime without making a mess. On that note, bring sufficient water – assume there will be none available.

In much of Asia, convenience stores now have okay sandwiches, and sushi-type rolls which can be good to bring along as well. Cheese makes a good snack too and don’t forget mints or gum to ensure you have nice breath for the locals, especially after that tuna sandwich you got at the convenience store! Note that in Japan, most train platforms have bento boxes and food to take on the train so it’s a snap there.

I often carry 100ml bottles with some of my favorite whiskey which  you can take on flights if the bottle shows the volume on it. Nice when commuting and you want to enjoy your favorite beverage. On a related drinking note, I have a couple 500ml plastic flasks which are nice, and Camelbak makes a 750ml bladder to hold a bottle of wine which is also great.

Other Bits

Trevor: Bring your swimsuit everywhere, every day: a suit packs light and you’ll probably forget you have it until the opportunity to cool off in a waterfall, river, swimming pool, or ocean. Some of my greatest travel disappointments were wishing I had a suit with me. Microfiber towel.

Scott: I split my money up. I always keep some in my pocket, smaller denominations for quick purchases so I don’t have to take my wallet out. I always keep small bills on the outside. Split other money up into two places, not in the same bag just in case you lose something or get pickpocketed. 

Trevor: For backpackers or those who need a place to hide money. The toilet paper roll…

Scott: When arriving somewhere, if there’s not a rush to catch the only shuttle from the bus station or airport, sometimes it’s just good to grab a water, sit off to the side and let the chaos settle before trying to get a ride. You’ll avoid the panic/stress and not get ripped-off as much, and go where you want soon but after the shifty rip-off people have left.

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Theme Music by Jamie Ruben

Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish). 

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