100 of the World’s Best Travel Hacks

Advice from frequent flyers and travel experts that will make every journey easier.

Illustration of travel hacks over a world map.

Section 1: Pack Hacks

Perfect your packing technique with these easy-to-execute tips.

  1. Whenever possible, roll your clothing. This will minimize creasing and maximize space (and may even improve your DIY sushi technique).

  2. A couple of dryer sheets tucked in your suitcase will give clothing a fresh-from-the-dryer scent upon arrival.

  3. Keep business shirts crisp and meeting-ready by packing belts under the collars.

Sep 04, 2015
Illustration of a shirt packing hack.
  1. Employ disposable shower caps (available at most hotels) to separate dirty shoe soles from pristine garments.

  2. Make every inch of your carry-on count by filling small empty nooks – tiny handbags, bra cups, boots – with stuffables like socks, underwear and gloves.

  3. To keep food chilled for the trip, frozen sponges inside Ziploc bags are a security-approved alternative to ice packs.

  4. Slip necklaces through plastic straws so you’re not wasting a minute – or an hour – untangling on the other end.

  5. Secure a binder clip to the danger end of your razor to avoid dulling the blades and getting any accidental nicks.

  6. Save hotel-room shampoo bottles from previous trips to stash all of your must-have creams and potions in carry-on-approved amounts.

Section 2: Celebrity Hacks

We asked some of Canada’s famous travellers for their secret journeying tips.

  1. Name: STACEY McKENZIE, fashion model Estimated annual travel days: 40+ Won’t leave home without: My mobile. Being connected is extremely important for work and play. No matter where I am, I’m always a phone call away, and I can capture memories of my adventures with the camera-phone. Dream destination: I’m dying to go to Kenya – not only to experience the people and the culture, but also to witness the wildebeest migration. Favourite travel hack: Shoes tend to take up a lot of room. To save space, I will tuck other smaller items like jewellery into the footwear. When you’re trying to fit things into a carry-on, every little bit of saved space counts!

  2. Name: DAN KANTER, songwriter and musical director for Justin Bieber Estimated annual travel days: 300, if we’re touring Won’t leave home without: At least one guitar. I don’t always choose the same one. Jeans, white T-shirt, flannel shirt. It’s easy to get dressed and I avoid my instinct to over-pack. Dream destination: I would love to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Or I’d love to play one! Favourite travel hack: Avoid paying big bucks for bottled water by picking up a free stash when you visit the hotel gym.

  3. Name: TIE DOMI, retired NHL player Estimated annual travel days: 100 or more Won’t leave home without: Hand wipes Favourite travel hack: Using the Global Entry, NEXUS and TSA pre-checks has become the only way for me. I like that I don’t have to take my shoes off at security when I use those methods to check in – I’m a germaphobe.

  4. Name: CAMERON BAILEY, artistic director, TIFF Estimated annual travel days: 95 Won’t leave home without: Culling my luggage to carry-on only. Breezing through departure and arrival without checking a bag puts a smile on my face. Dream destination: Senegal. From the African-Parisian culture scene in Dakar to the beauty of Gorée Island, this is a part of Africa I’ve yet to explore. Favourite travel hack: Choose your connecting airport wisely. Some hubs are purgatory; others are heaven.

  5. Name: DAWNA FRIESEN, Global News chief anchor Estimated annual travel days: 40 Won’t leave home without: A pashmina scarf to wrap up in – they’re as big as a blanket – because I’m always cold on the plane. Favourite travel hack: I pack clothes that are prone to creasing in tissue. Place a couple of sheets on the shirt or dress before you fold it. It works like a charm, and you can reuse the tissue every time you fly.

  6. Name: HARLEY PASTERNAK, fitness trainer to the stars Estimated annual travel days: 90 Won’t leave home without: My Fitbit fitness tracker. I get my 10,000 steps in no matter where I am. Favourite travel hack: I stick to a single airline whenever possible. I get the highest frequent-flyer status.

  7. Name: LIGHTS, musician Estimated annual travel days: 50 Won’t leave home without: An acoustic guitar. I use it to warm up, and it has even saved the show before. We once played a festival and it was pouring rain. All of the electrical instruments were sparking, so I went out and did the entire set acoustically. Dream destination: Iceland. I’ve heard people describe it as “alien,” and I feel an extreme change of scenery like that can be really inspiring. Also, Björk is my all-time favourite artist. Favourite travel hack: I always pack a variety of snacks to keep my daughter busy on a flight.

  8. Name: ALAN THICKE, sitcom legend Estimated annual travel days: 60 Won’t leave home without: Dental floss and an extra phone charger Dream destination: A sandy beach Favourite travel hack: When I want to get to know a new city, I start with the tour: bus, boat, car. It helps me understand a city in a holistic sense, and I go from there.

  9. Name: RICHARD FLORIDA, urban-studies guru Estimated annual travel days: 45 Dream destination: Italy’s Amalfi Coast Favourite travel hack: Never ever check anything. I can travel for a month out of a single rollaboard.

  10. Name: SCOTT McGILLIVRAY, contractor and host of HGTV’s Income Property Estimated annual travel days: 100+ Won’t leave home without: A bathing suit. You never know when you might have the chance to jump in a pool or the ocean. Plus, it can double as workout clothes. Dream destination: My wife and I have always wanted to go to Bora-Bora and rent a bungalow right on the beach. Favourite travel hack: Fold blazers inside out (because you can’t roll them) to reduce wrinkles.

  11. Name: Lainey Lui, co-host on CTV’s The Social Estimated annual travel days: 60 to 80 Won’t leave home without: A delicious romance novel. You don’t want to think too hard when you’re flying, and the angst and drama in a love story makes the time go by really quickly. Dream destination: Venice. I’ve always imagined myself on a gondola, leaning back, wearing a hat, floating up to a restaurant for dinner. Favourite travel hack: I always pack my undergarments in a separate, zippered, really cute patterned pouch. This way, if my suitcase ever falls apart, my bras aren’t flying around everywhere.

Section 3: Hacks Are for Kids

Parent-specific travel hacks from Amanda Blakley, author of The Adventures of Atticus, a kid-focused guide to globe-trotting, and creator of the new trpprmobile app.

  1. Large North American chain hotels tend to have larger room footprints than the boutiques. When travelling with young children, pass on a suite and instead request a room with a large closet or bathroom so the crib can be wheeled in at bedtime.

  2. If you can’t resist the gravitational pull of Walt Disney, save your hard-earned cash by visiting the dollar store in advance. Prepare gift bags for the kids and present them before entering the theme-park vortex, derailing any requests for (extraordinarily expensive) Frozen or Little Mermaid tchotchkes.

  3. It’s always best to be overly prepared, especially if you’re dealing with a kid who is a darter. Kids’ temporary tattoos – like these from tottoos.org – that incorporate a parent’s cellphone number give everyone peace of mind for a worst-case scenario.

  4. Book a home or apartment rental from another family in lieu of a hotel room. You’ll have a functioning kitchen and won’t have to pack any toys, books or travel beds. I love Kidandcoe.com.

  5. Use packing cubes – zippered bags that come in various sizes and act as drawers in your suitcase. I pack one cube per child so that I don’t have to rifle through the entire bag to find a certain item. Bentley Luggage has a great selection.

  6. Because dinner out with kids can be challenging, we love to have our nice family meal at lunch. The kids are in better spirits in the afternoon and lunch menus tend to be less expensive than the dinner versions.

  7. Use different-coloured paper clips on each family member’s passport so you can tell whose is whose in an instant.

  8. It’s easier said than done, but if you can restrict screen time during day-to-day life, the iPad is a travelling parent’s secret weapon. My son is allowed to watch movies only when we fly or take road trips, and he savours every second.

  9. Lint rollers make amazing clean-all tools. Carry the travel size in your purse to handle glitter spills, rogue Cheerios and so much more.

  10. Use everyday Band-Aids to childproof hotel-room outlets.

  11. Whether you need a washroom (hello, potty training), a kid-friendly restaurant or a pediatrician, International SIM cards like trpprmobile help you locate tiny-traveller must-hits on your phone without the stress of high roaming fees.

Section 4: Hack Math

A + B = ultimate DIY travel hacks.

  1. Potholder (the kind with pocket) + rubber band = heatproof holder for scalding hair-styling irons

  2. Smartphone + empty toilet roll = instant boom box

  3. Pillowcase + bulky garments = free neck pillow that doesn’t take up space

Illustration of a pillow hack.
  1. Umbrella + duct tape = DIY selfie stick

Section 5: Tech Hacks

The best apps, gadgets and tech tricks to solve everyday travel problems

Illustration of a smartphone's home screen.
  1. No comprendo? No problem! Decipher most any international language in an instant with Word Lens, a camera-enabled app that instantly scans and translates written text, then presents the translation in context, right on your phone screen.

  2. Use Google Maps even when you don’t have data. When you are online, find the point of interest (like your hotel) and load its profile. Tap the three dots in the top right corner, then click “Save offline map.” When offline, locate the place in the Google Maps app under “Your Places.”

  3. Before giving your credit card information to a foreign Internet provider, check Foursquare and Yelp. Both sites often share Wi-Fi passwords for cafés, restaurants, malls and airports.

  4. Banish unwanted interlopers from your travel photos by using these simple steps for Photoshop: 1. Take at least 10 snaps of your desired image. 2. When editing the image, choose File > Scripts > Statistics. 3. Select “Median” from the drop-down menu, then “Browse” to upload images. Presto, your shot of the Colosseum will look like it’s straight out of the Roman Empire.

  5. Ensure the soundest of airborne snoozes with Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones by QuietComfort. They really live up to their name.

  6. Avoid disappearing-suitcase disasters with Trakdot, a tiny GPS luggage-tracking device that allows you to follow your bags anywhere on Earth, right on your phone.

  7. Securely store travel insurance policies, important numbers and other valuable information you may need when travelling with the My eVault app.

  8. Put your smartphone on “airplane mode” for a faster charge.

  9. You won’t have to figure out postage (or even find a mailbox) with Postagram, an app that turns your digital photos into actual postcards and puts them in the mail.

  10. Become the most popular person at the departure gate by pulling out a power bar with multiple outlets. It takes up minimal space in your carry-on and will win endless good karma.

Section 6: Hotel Room Ninja

Sometimes, you just don’t want to leave the hotel. Here’s how to make the most of almost any room.

Turn your basic hotel room into an even more basic kitchen with these three hack-tastic recipes:

  1. Grilled cheese or quesadilla Step 1: Wrap cheese-stuffed tortilla or bread in tinfoil. Step 2: Iron for two minutes.

  2. Bacon and eggs Step 1: Heat iron to highest setting. Step 2: Wrap bacon tightly in foil and iron for five minutes. Step 3: Create lipped dish with tinfoil, place on hot iron. Step 4: Crack egg into foil dish.

  3. Instant noodles Step 1: Break noodles into smaller pieces. Step 2: Add noodles and seasoning to coffee-maker carafe. Step 3: Run water through coffee maker on hottest setting.

Illustration of instant noodles in a coffee pot.
  1. Forgot your phone charger attachment or have the wrong voltage? Power up by plugging your cord into the USB port found on the back of most hotel TVs.

Illustration of a tv screen.
  1. Take home as many tiny bath products as possible by packing existing bottles before they get replenished by housekeeping. These treasures can be re-gifted, or work as gym-ready cosmetics.

  2. In hotels that require a key card insertion to activate the power, place a business card into the slot when you leave for the day. The climate control system will think you’re in the room and keep it cool or warm for your return.

  3. Ask to see a selection of rooms when you check in. Hotels often try to unload the worst of the bunch first.

  4. Turn a bare-bones minibar into a cocktail haven with items from the continental breakfast buffet. Orange slices and sugar cubes, for example, combine with ice and whisky for a makeshift old-fashioned. Check out more recipes here.

  5. If you’re more worried about theft than a bedtime turndown, leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door when you go out.

  6. Hair conditioner can substitute for everything from shoe polish to shaving cream to makeup remover to foot moisturizer.

Illustration of hair conditioner and a polished shoe.
  1. Hang creased clothing (especially silk) in the bathroom when you shower. The steam will get rid of most wrinkles. For tough cases, trap the steam and the clothes in the washroom all night long.

  2. After a late night, a pants hanger (the kind with clips) is a great tool for fastening curtains together and blocking out daylight.

Illustration of a hanger.

Section 7: Frequent Flyers Club (#63-74)

enRoute’s editors, writers and other travel experts dish on their favourite ways to travel well.

  1. “When I travel, I shop for souvenirs at the local grocery stores. It’s almost always better and cheaper than a touristy shop. I’ve bought sea salt in Reykjavik, biscuits from Marks & Spencer in London and just got some amazing olives and dried pasta in Florence for a song.” – Eve Thomas, Associate Editor, Luxury Brands, Spafax

  2. “I haven’t checked a bag in six years, no matter the duration of the trip. I work multipurpose basics built around two suits (Tiger is my wrinkle-resistant brand of choice). I accessorize with pocket squares so it looks different every day. Three ties, four shirts, two polos, a pair of jeans and two pairs of trousers all fit in my super-roomy Mandarina Duck (12 years and 2.5 million miles and counting!).” – Raymond Girard, President, Content Marketing, Spafax

  3. “Get a NEXUS card, but set up your application appointment at a land border, not the airport. Each station has the same number of agents. The waiting list at airports can be counted in months. Land borders can process you within days.” – Arjun Basu, Senior Vice President, Content Strategy, Spafax

  4. “I always bring my headlamp. While it’s most useful on backcountry camping trips, you just never know when there might be a power outage, even in the City of Light.” – Susan Nerberg, Deputy Editor, Air Canada enRoute

  5. “I travel frequently between Toronto and Montreal, so I usually get through all the North American movies on the inflight entertainment system on my must-watch list. If you book a seat on one of the wide-body aircraft (A330 or Dreamliner) that does a city hop before continuing on to an international destination, you can get the pumped-up inflight movie content not found on domestic routes, including some great art-house films.” – Ilana Weitzman, Director of Content, Air Canada Media

  6. “I use MUJI foldable mesh garment bags. Fold, roll or otherwise jam in your clothing and zip them shut. The small size is the best, because you can make a suitcase of seven or eight of them. The medium size fits folded shirts perfectly.” – Andrew Elkin, Managing Editor, Air Canada enRoute

  7. “When travelling in remote parts where you are unlikely to find a shared language with the locals, the book Point It: Traveller’s Language Kit is very helpful.” – Amanda Dawson, frequent traveller and Contributing Editor, Air Canada enRoute

  8. “Think you need to pack all those beauty products? Think again. For example, the Gansevoort Hotel’s Meatpacking District location in New York has added the ‘Glamour Bar’ to its rooms. Mascara to nail polish, now available the way chips and bottled water are in a minibar.” – Candice Best, President, Siren Communications

  9. “If I’m checking into a hotel without a reservation, I try to arrive between 4:45 and 6 p.m. – before the front-desk rush hour, but after all the rooms have been cleaned. This way I have the largest choice of available rooms and the staff’s undivided attention.” – Lara Barlow, Country Manager for Travelzoo Canada

  10. “My trick for overcoming jet lag is a workout the morning after arrival. Thirty minutes on the treadmill and I’m in gear. For every business trip, I pack two sets of workout clothes and a separate small bag to put the clothes in following the workout. Within that bag, I store a few small bars of leftover soap from our hotel to prevent that less-than-ideal scenario of having an ‘overpowering gym bag’ in the room.” – Andrew Torriani, President & CEO, Ritz-Carlton Montreal

  11. “To get a little extra space, I try to book a seat as far back in the plane as I can. Middle seats at the back of the plane are the least desirable, so if you book an aisle or window seat way at the back, you have slightly better odds of having a vacant seat next to you.” – Jim Byers, Canadian travel journalist

  12. “Before laying down big bucks for a luxury spa treatment, I like to get in touch with the spa director by phone or e-mail. I will ask about their personal favourite therapist on staff, as well as the name of the therapist with the most repeat guest bookings.” – Si Si Penaloza, Jetset Magazine

  13. “Right after checking into the hotel or the very first morning after that, I go for a run. It feels like marking my territory – and it’s a great opportunity to take in details of the surroundings that I might not otherwise notice.” – Sarah Musgrave, Executive Editor, Air Canada enRoute

Section 8: Location-specific Hacks

Make an unfamiliar destination easier to navigate with these hacks from around the world.

  1. THAILAND: Sign up for a cooking class early in your stay. They are usually taught by locals who can share insider tips to the city. Plus, you leave with a whole whack of amazing Thai grub. Try Helping Hands, a cooking course that covers the basics of Thai cuisine and ingredients.

  2. MONTREAL: Avoid the lineups at airport security by visiting this page on the Montreal Airports website to book a screening appointment in advance.

  3. GERMANY: Buy a local SIM card (like Blau) for your unlocked mobile phone – it’s way cheaper than data packs, and often comes with free megabytes.

  4. MEXICO CITY: Choose Uber over taxis. The service is dependable and a lot safer in a city where cabbies can be fake or dodgy. It also gives you a digital record of your trip.

  5. SYDNEY: Customs are very tight in Australia in order to preserve the ecosystem, so never travel with any food – or at least eat it all before you land.

  6. LISBON: Drivers notoriously overcharge passengers who don’t speak Portuguese with a bogus flat rate when coming from the airport. Avoid getting gouged by insisting that the driver use the meter.

  7. TORONTO: For NEXUS holders, it’s often faster to go up to the main departures security at Pearson on Level 3 than to transit through the connections security on Level 2, where sometimes only one lane is open.

  8. WASHINGTON, D.C.: When possible, land at the central DCA airport instead of BWI or Dulles. The fare can be slightly more, but you’ll make it up through cheaper cabs and faster transit.

  9. ATHENS: Never buy toiletries at pharmacies. Head to grocery stores instead, where brands like Nivea and Lancôme are half the price.

  10. DELHI: A nod is not always an indication of the affirmative in India. The locals communicate several responses though head movement, so use this handy guide to decipher the subtleties.

  11. MELBOURNE: Streetcars through the CBD (Central Business District) are free, so plan your neighbourhood exploration accordingly. You’ll be surprised how cheap it is to get around.

Section 9: Hack Gear

Smart travel devices make all the difference when you have limited space, limited time and limited patience.

  1. Get in your daily downward dog fix anytime, anywhere, with YogaPaws, a set of padded mitts and footgear that mimics the padding of a giant mat but won’t take up half your suitcase.

  2. Know the weight of your luggage before departing for the airport by using a detachable hand-held scale, like this one from Conair. The same device can pull double duty as a kitchen gadget.

  3. Protect your devices and avoid the inevitable panic attack prompted by tangled cords by using a handy adjustable organizer from Grid-It.

  4. The Mighty Purse is a clutch that can charge your smartphone. It’s also stylish, made of genuine leather and available in many colours.

  5. Give your child a ride while enjoying the convenience of a detachable kid’s seat that snaps onto the back of your rolling luggage. Check out this one from Rivercreek.

  6. When you travel often enough, unacceptable washroom facilities are inevitable. Women can avoid doing the precarious squat dance with the GoGirl – a handy device that will make any toilet hygienic.

Section 10: Audio Books (#97-100)

Flights go by quickly when you have a great book to read, but they go by even faster when you have a great book to hear. Below, our recommendations for audio books about destinations that will fit perfectly into your flight.

  1. Vancouver–Hong Kong: 13h05m Hong Kong by Jan Morris (12h33m) In Hong Kong’s last days under British rule, author Jan Morris delves into the city’s fascinating history – and future.

  2. Vancouver–Sydney: 14h15m True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (13h57m) Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this novel is a riveting Australian modern classic about a bushbanger hero-cum-criminal.

  3. Montreal–Athens: 9h10m The Iliad by Homer – narrated by Derek Jacobi (8h50m) The legendary British actor narrates a classic tale that packs much of Greek ancient history into its depiction of two weeks of the Trojan War.

  4. Calgary–London: 8h45m Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes (8h31m) Post-war London comes to life in MacInnes’ elaborate portrayal of youthful rebellion in a country trying to regain its identity.

  5. Toronto–Paris: 7h05m A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (6h42m) Papa’s famous memoir of Paris in the 1920s explores the creative highs and lows of a man enthralled with his adopted city, and features appearances by Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford and James Joyce.

Section 11: Hack vs. Hack vs. Hack

Because a good day’s travel deserves to be toasted, here are three different ways to open a bottle of wine with no corkscrew.

  1. Method 1 If you have: Household scissors Remove foil. Open scissors all the way and push one blade down all the way to the handle (or as far as it will go). Use the other handle loop to slowly spin and pull upwards.

  2. Method 2 If you have: A shoe Remove foil. Place bottom of bottle inside the shoe (works best with a brogue or something similar). Find a sturdy wall (brick or concrete) and repeatedly bang the shoe sole (containing the wine bottle) against it. Use force and expect to repeat banging motion about 20 times. The cork will eventually emerge.

  3. Method 3 If you have: A toolbox Find the largest screw available. Jam into centre of cork and use a screwdriver to screw down. Using the backside of the hammer, slowly yank the screw and the cork will come with it.

Section 12: How to Get over Jet Lag from Almost Anywhere

Illustration of a world map with jet lag removing techniques.
  1. CANADA TO EUROPE: On the day of departure, eat light and only proteins. Drink just water on the plane, and then eat a big meal when you land (and make it the proper meal at arrival time – so, if it’s breakfast time, a huge breakfast).

  2. EUROPE TO CANADA: Fly during the day, land around dinner and eat a large meal, then force yourself to stay up (no naps) until your usual bedtime. Wake at your usual time the next morning.

  3. WEST COAST TO EAST COAST (North America): Regardless of when you fly, make sure to get plenty of sunshine the day after your arrival. Once it gets dark, melatonin will help you sleep that night.

  4. CANADA TO ASIA: Go to bed an hour early for a few nights before you travel to minimize shock once you land.

  5. TO OR FROM AUSTRALIA AND CANADA: Because of the great distance, the same tactics work for going to and from the Antipodes. Adjust your sleeping schedule to your destination two days in advance, then don’t sleep much the night before a morning flight. Change your watch or phone to your destination time when you board the plane, then sleep on the plane when the clock reaches your usual bedtime.

For more advice on getting the best sleep on your next trip, check out these jet lag tips from frequent flyer and high-performance coach Peter Jensen.

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