Travel is one of my top sources of personal growth and spiritual development, but it does not come without its financial or safety risks. Incorporating these travel hacks into your wanderlust repertoire will enhance each and every one of your next excursions.
1. Leave your uninsured or very valuable jewelry at home. I really don’t know how it happened, but I lost my engagement ring on my recent trip to London. I’m still devastated by it and to this day I have no clue as to how it happened. I woke up on my fourth day into my wonderful visit absent one expensive engagement ring. Consider having a “travel engagement” ring, which can be a basic band that serves as a placeholder. It does the same job as the real ring—signals to the thirsties that you are off the market while giving you peace of mind that if you lose it, you won’t feel bad.
2. Take a photo of your passport and send it to your family members. When I lived in the Dominican Republic as a dark-skinned Black woman, I was always mistaken for Haitian, which if you have been keeping up with the news means living an extremely marginalized and predatory life, where your citizenship is often questioned, scrutinized, and in the case of a lot of Haitian-Dominicans, unfairly revoked. Living as an honorary Haitian in the Dominican Republic taught me that I needed to ensure that I had a second layer of security when it came to safeguarding my passport should anything happen.
3. Carry a blanket on the airplane. If you are the type that is always cold, be sure to carry a small blanket with you or dress in layers. Airlines like Sunwing charge you $12 for a blanket, which, as far as I’m financially concerned, is highly disrespectful.
4. Walk with singles or fives. When I was in the Bahamas, I found the service to be impeccable. Being able to tip without the worrying of breaking the bank added an extra layer of fulfillment to my vacation.
5. Carry a few of your favorite snacks. When you travel to remote destinations and have no regular transportation, having your favorite snacks around can ward off hunger. It also creates a sense of normalcy and routine that, though, you are on vacation, may be a welcomed part of your experience. Bringing your favorites also helps you reduce any frustration you may have with the host city or country for not being what you expected them to be. There won’t be, “I can’t believe that they don’t have _____________(fill in the blank) here,” because you have your own.
6. Get a room with a microwave or kitchen. If you use sites like AirBnB, this is automatic: get a home with this amenity. But if you prefer hotel living, then be on the lookout for rooms with a kitchen. When I was staying in Virginia for a 5-day self-funded writer’s retreat, I stayed at Arlington Suites because of their affordable prices and kitchen area. They also have a shuttle, which drops you to a shopping area where you can buy groceries and cook yourself up something. This is a healthier and cheaper alternative to going out every night. Also, this option means that you can warm-up your food if you have extra from the previous day’s dining.
7. Walk with a “travel” wallet. Leave the wallet that you normally use for everyday living at home. Buy a second wallet or find one that you no longer use and designate that as your “travel wallet.” This wallet will having just what you need for your jaunt: money, piece of identification, and your credit/debit card if you walk with one. In the event that you lose it, there won’t be much to have to replace or cancel.
8. Pack products that are about to be done instead of new ones. I know for me, I love packing the perfumes, deodorants, hair products, and face wash that are about to run out. It saves me from having to buy new ones, clears clutter from my house, and creates room for me in the luggage on my return home. I also apply this principle to a percentage of clothes that I can give away or leave behind.
9. Leave moocher friends at home. If you have friends that are all about complaining about money when you go out locally, then do yourself a favor and do not plan trips with them abroad. If you budget for a trip in advance, you have the benefit of setting aside money to spend as you like when you are on vacation. If you have a friend that is not in position to do that, bring them back a souvenir but don’t bring them with you. You may feel compelled to “lend” them the money.
10. Leave super extravagant friends at home. If you have diva friends that turn up their noses at three-star hotels, worry about “Third World” living conditions, and carry the (obnoxious) American perspective of customer service and food everywhere they go, then you will be spending a lot of money to live like Americans wherever you go. This can defeat the purpose of travel if you yearn to experience a new culture, be open to exploring other world views, and self-discovery.
11. Speak to your cell phone provider before you leave. Before I left for London, I spoke with T-Mobile about temporarily switching my plan so that I could avoid roaming fees and international talk and data charges. I also used What’sApp and Hangouts Dialer to be in touch at home without fear of having to eat beans and rice for a month to pay my bills.
12. Be kind to Customs agents. Even if you have to muster up all that is good and right about your life and trip in that moment, do so. Customs agents have the power to make transitions very long or very short. On the other hand, I know it’s common practice for Customs agents to profile, so there are things like your gender, race, color, and age that are out of your control. I remember being detained in Jamaica on my way to Tobago and in Puerto on my way to New York City coming from Antigua for reasons still unbeknownst to me. In each of these situations, I kept my cool. I knew that a level head made the process as painless as possible.
I firmly believe that travel introduces a woman to herself. Using these travel and money hacks will ensure that you will get the best out of your next excursion, no matter where you go.