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How to Get Cheaper Tickets, Live Like a Local, and Other Great Travel Hacks

Whether you're off on a long-weekend getaway or a legendary summer escape, these nine travel hacks will help you plan your dream next vacation…and enjoy it more once you get there.

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One Flight Booker For All Of Your Needs

It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t have to be—Google’s flight booker, the aptly named Google Flights, strips away the design fluff in favor of essential search functions. Google is in the business of creating platforms, and they’ve really hit the nail on the head with this light-speed search that is easily adjusted by your ideal price, location, airline, and time. You can even examine price trends to ensure that you’re booking at the right time to get the best deal.

Cookies Aren’t As Sweet As They Sound

When booking flights, most search engines drop cookies into your browser’s history—like little breadcrumbs as you surf the web. Often, these cookies will remember how many times you visit a certain website and perform a specific flight search, cranking up the price of your desired flight ever so slightly, since there’s a good chance you’re going to buy. Try enabling a private browser, deleting your cookies after browsing, or switching to a second device when making your final purchase. Chances are this will help you save some dough.

Window Or Aisle?

Seat 67B may sounds like an anonymous chair in steerage, but on the Airbus 380 it’s a comfy spot in business class. These days, airplanes come in a variety of configurations, so it’s best to check out the floor plan of your carrier before you pick your seat. Seat Guru streamlines the process with easy-to-use search functions and color-coded diagrams displaying ideal seating arrangements.

And here’s an extra tip for booking your seat: when traveling as a pair in economy class, book the window and aisle seat in the same row rather than two seats right beside one another. If the middle seat doesn’t get filled, you’ll have the entire row to share; if the plane does fill up, you can kindly offer to take the middle seat, and you’ll have made yourselves a very contented single seatmate.

Versatile Luggage

Long gone are the days of complimentary stowage. Last year, U.S. airlines bagged over 3.5 billion dollars in luggage fees. Consider investing in one flexible suitcase that can expand and contract to suit your travel needs. Try the Dakine Over Under bag that, in its smallest form, fits in the airplane’s overhead compartment, but can grow roughly twice in size—perfect for when you’re towing home a surplus of goods after a shopping holiday.

Apps Are The Lightest Thing You Can Pack

Even if you don’t plan on using them all, it’s well worth loading up your smartphone with a technological buffet of handy applications. From currency converters to hotel bookings, the “there’s an app for that” mantra has never been truer for when it comes to travel. This shortlist is a good place to start. And the best part? They’re all free.

  • Hotel Tonight: a light-speed, easy-to-use hotel booking service offering the best rates on last-minute deals.
  • WeHostel: a hostel booker with a built-in service that connects you directly to other backpackers.
  • iTranslate: a handy, multi-functional translator with over 80 languages.
  • WhatsApp: use wifi or data to send texts instead of your calling plan.
  • Waze: a crowd-sourced traffic aggregator that helps establish the least congested route and estimate arrival time.
  • XE Currency: a handy currency converter.
  • GateGuru: a resource that attempts to alleviate day-of-travel stress with real-time info about your flights and airports in question.

Your Smartphone Is Smarter Than You Think

Even while abroad without wifi or a data plan, your smartphone is still capable of performing some handy tasks, especially when it comes to maps. On Google Maps, simply search for the term “Ok Maps” and your phone will instantly remember the map currently open on your screen. It beats a screen grab because you can zoom in and out as you travel. When all else fails there’s City Maps 2Go Pro, a handy offline application.

When In Rome…

The old adage has never been truer, especially at a time when the most popular travel trend is to experience a destination like a local. Accommodation marketplaces like Onefinestay, Airbnb, and Trampolinn have boomed in popularity. But don’t forget about other P2P—or “peep-to-peer”—options like Cookening and EatWith where you can eat with local hosts.

Supermarket Sweep

Street market ogling has long been a favorite tourist to-do, but consider stopping at a supermarket on your next trip to a foreign country. It may seem mundane to a local, but you’ll gain invaluable insight into the destination’s most popular dishes and snacks. Icelanders, for example, have over two-dozen kinds of chocolate-covered liquorice, and the Japanese love their Cream Collon. The best part, of course, is that you’ll come home bearing a unique assortment of edible souvenirs to share with friends and officemates.

No One Said Anything About Empty Bottles

We’ve practically forgotten why the TSA implemented those strict liquid restrictions, making it one of the most irksome elements of travel, especially when you’re thirsty after passing through airport security. Plane travel is extremely dehydrating, and continuously purchasing water at airport prices can put a dent in your wallet. Consider bringing along an empty water bottle that you can fill up near your gate and on the plane during your flight—the flight attendants won’t mind.