I can’t believe I’ve been traveling for ten whole years now! While these days traveling is my full-time job, I traveled a lot on my own for a long time, even before starting Hippie in Heels. Throughout the years and numerous countries, not to mention living in Goa for half of this time, I’ve picked up a lot of travel hacks.

These are both practical things (like little ways to save money) to big lessons learned from experience, and I wanted to share them with you! So below are my favorite travel hacks after a decade of wandering the world.

My 10 Favorite Travel Hacks After 10 Years

experiences backpacking europe

From my European backpacking trip in 2008!

1. Use Kiwi to plan and book your flights

Let me count the reasons I love Kiwi… They are my go-to booking site unless I’m going super long-haul and have a lot of luggage. The reason I like them is that they “flight hack” for you. They combine flights which are not on the same codeshares. So, you might fly British Airlines NYC to London then a random low-budget airline onward instead of the airlines that BA codeshares with. When you codeshare, that means your luggage is checked through and if you miss a connection the airline sorts you out for free. If you booked those each flight separately, you would have to re-check your luggage and if you missed the second flight, you’d be SOL. But, Kiwi will be your insurance that although you will re-check your luggage, if you miss the connection, they’ll put you on another airline at no cost. They did this for me when I went to Bali. Here’s more information on how Kiwi works.

Compare your flights here.

sample eastern europe itinerary

Mykonos in 2009

2. Packing cubes are very much worth the hype

Why did it take me so long to get them!? I can’t imagine just putting my things in my luggage loose, without packing cubes, anymore. This keeps thing so orgnaized and as I get older I somehow am getting even more OCD. I have three sets because I wanted all sorts of size options.

Check out some packing cube options below:

uganda corruption terrorism love

Uganda, 2010

3. Stay local as much as possible.

I was always a fan of Airbnb, but the past two years, I look at the housing options there before I even look at hotels. From a $30 apartment in Tulum to a $200 MANSION in Merida, I’ve been loving staying in people’s homes. I love to cook breakfast, make my own coffee, and it has saved me so much money on accomodation. I’ve used it in India, England, Mexico, Ireland, and 10 other countries so far and not had one issue. I tend to go for whole houses, not rooms or apartments and actually have a guide coming out soon with tips on using Airbnb. This is a way to get MUCH more into the real life of the place you stay and will honestly change the way you travel. You’ll never go back to booking random hotels.

Get $40 off with Airbnb here if you’re a new user

Some of my Airbnb posts:

When you go to the Taj, you'll be pretty overwhelmed with beauty, here are 13 tips for Taj Mahal visit that will help you get the most from your time!

Taj Mahal, 2012

4. Get an incredible travel credit card

I’m about to turn 29 and just got my first real credit card! I went with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The main reason I decided to get one was that this particular card covers you up to 75,000 in car rental insurance. This means you can decline it at the rental counter no matter how hard they try to upsell you. The other reason is that I want to finally get into points and they give you 3x points on travel spends. The third and coolest reason I got this card, is it gives you a Priority Pass (for you and a guest). This pass allows you into a lounge in nearly every airport in the world – and the airports that don’t have a lounge for you often have a restaurant you can dine with $30 or $40 credit. I actually added Ben to my account and then he can rent a car under his credit card (under my account) and use the car rental insurance, too. No more paying for a second driver!

koh samui island thailand

Koh Samui, 2013

5. Planning your own travel itinerary is usually better than going on group tours, but not always.

90% of the time, I’m down to plan my own itinerary and avoid the cost of tours. When I plan it myself, I really research deeply (I’m talking reading dozens of posts for each city I’ll be in, checking IG hashtags, and Pinterest, too). I cater the trip to what I like in terms of food, sight-seeing, adventures, shopping, and hotels. While I prefer this, there are times a tour can really be helpful and mostly that is in India. I have done some really cool tours here in rural areas and learned SO much in just a week on a tour about India that I didn’t living here as an expat or traveling as a tourist. I think that doing a tour is a great way to go even deeper into a place you are traveling – you just have to pick the right one. If you are going somewhere that stresses you out, it’s best to look into a tour so you can relax and enjoy the trip. My biggest tip here is that before you go on a trip, PLAN IT. I used to wing it, and have traveled all over Europe and even India winging it. The perfect example of why NOT to do this is my Rajasthan trip. When I compare visiting there as a backpacker winging it 6 years ago to planning ahead when I went this Fall, it’s like a completely new place – I saw so much more and loved every second without the stress since it was planned ahead.

Check out some of my itinerary & planning posts:

what to do in southern bandung

Bandung, 2014

6. Sometimes renting a car is the best and cheapest option.

Ben and I rent cars basically everywhere we go. We figure, if we can drive in India, we can drive anywhere. Like I said above, I now have a credit card with insurance which is huge in keeping the rental car cost down. You can rent for under $10 a day most places if you decline all the insurance. It’s not just my credit card, but loads of them offer this – call yours and see if they do! I look on rentalcars.com when I start searching and don’t have a favorite company: I use Hertz, Sixt, Europcar and so far haven’t had any issues. I always take photos and video of the car when I pick it up and we are careful to clean it well before returning it. In places like England, for example, we spend so much less having our own car than if we took trains, taxis, and the underground everywhere we went. It saves us hundreds of bucks on nearly every trip.

My Checklist: How to Plan a Trip From Scratch

Istanbul, 2015

7. It’s better to buy high-quality items than to just buy cheap and throw away.

My H&M and Forever 21 days are pretty behind me – and I don’t really buy clothing that is really “trendy”. I shop thinking about travel and where I could wear things. I also buy a LOT less although spend about the same amount. Quality over quantity is what I go by and if that means paying $200 for a leather jacket I’ll wear for 8 years (so far!) or a $100 for a pair of linen travel pants I’ll where on every single trip I take, it’s worth it! I did break that while i was in the UK: I was so cold and bought like 5 sweaters at H&M and Zara which I already regret doing! I should have bought one or two awesome ones instead. When you travel, you should feel good in what you wear and wear “real life” items, not “traveling” pieces that you wouldn’t wear at home. If you dress “normal”, you’ll feel much more intune with the place you visit. Here is a post on where I like to shop.

Some of my favorite quality brands:

Dog Sledding in Finland

Finland, 2016

8. You can start small in trying to be more eco-friendly as a traveler

You might not be able to go from not thinking about your effect on the environment to being a eco-warrior overnight but you can start just doing small things to help as a traveler. Even just not using straws or using reef-friendly sunscreen when you go snorkeling is helpful. This year, I have thought a lot more about sustainable travel and wish I would have been thinking this way a lot sooner. Ben is helpful with this because he literally builds reefs and is very environmentally-friendly so I’m always learning. Alex in Wanderland has a great post on this from earth day. This isn’t really a “hack” but learning how to be more eco-friendly while you travel is something we should all keep in mind.

fes morocco

Morocco, 2017

9. If you want to go somewhere but aren’t sure where think about the experiences

Instead of thinking about how a place looks, what the beach is like, or where your friends are going, plan your trips based on the experiences you want. After 10 years, I look back and remember not checking Budapest and Prague off my bucket list but instead, I remember flying in a helicopter in Maui, rafting in the Nile, and dog sledding in Finland. I remember learning to surf in Bali and shopping my heart out in Morocco. I try to really choose the places I go based on the experiences I want to have there. Have you always wanted to surf in Hawaii? Have you wanted to take a baking class in Paris? Think about activities you want to do in your life and make a list of them…. then start checking them off rather than checking off a place.

Goa, 2018

10. It’s sometimes who you’re with and not the destination at all

My biggest tip is that you shouldn’t just travel for travel’s sake. As a blogger, I could literally be traveling NON-STOP all year to anywhere I wanted. But we only get this one life and as much as I love to travel, I love other things: my dogs, family, boyfriend, and my home. I am careful to not get travel burn-out where I stop appreciating the new places I go. I also try to balance having a normal home life. I would rather go to Florida (again) with my mom than go off on a solo trip to somewhere new because the first one is memories I’ll always cherish – it’s not always about where you go but who you choose to go with, or even who you choose to stay home with instead of bouncing off on another trip.

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