Marc Saltzman | Special to USA TODAY
Following nearly two years of off-and-on again restrictions, lockdowns and fears of catching COVID-19, millions are back on the road again.
Whether it’s jetting off on a business trip, flying with the fam for a beach getaway, or simply a road trip to visit family, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts domestic travel and tourism will rebound significantly in 2022 – even exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
If and when you head out, consider packing a few of these following techy “travel hacks” to save you time, money and aggravation.
And be sure to share any of your own “shut the front door” travel tips and tricks by posting on social media (links at the top of this article).
Store documents on your phone
Before you leave home, digitally scan your passport, driver’s license, health card/insurance information, vaccination proof, and roadside assistance cards – and keep these images on your smartphone – in the event any or all of these are lost or stolen. You may need to scan the backs of these documents, too.
On a related note, add your credit cards to your Apple Pay wallet (iPhone) or Google Pay (Android), in case they’re misplaced.
And if your smartphone becomes lost, stolen or damaged, make sure it’s locked with a password or PIN, and keep an extra copy of these scanned documents on a password-protected cloud account – so you can access them on another device.
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Take a photo of your boarding pass
When checking into your flight online, opt for a boarding pass sent to your phone – whether it’s via text message, email or to be opened inside an app – but take a screen grab of your boarding pass on your phone to create an offline version, in case the Internet connection isn’t good at the airport you won’t hold everyone up behind you.
Download your entertainment ahead of time
Many streaming movie services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to download TV shows and movies to watch offline – so be sure to do this over your Wi-Fi before you leave on vacation.
That way, you won’t incur any roaming charges while the kids stream movies in the backseat of a road trip.
Downloading also works for many music streaming services, like Apple Music and Spotify.
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Instant standing desk
Miss your standing desk at the office or home office? Open the closet in your hotel or motel room and chances are there’s an ironing board in there.
Open it up and place it somewhere with good lighting.
It’s the perfect height for you to prop up your laptop and start typing away.
Use TV’s USB for charging
If you left home without your smartphone plug but you still have the cable, plug it into the hotel room’s television and it will charge up your device. There should be a powered USB port on the side or back.
If you need a USB cable in a pinch, your local dollar store should have them and will be considerably less than a big box store or a manufacturer’s chain (like Apple Store).
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BYOM (Bring your own movies)
Speaking of your hotel room TV, you don’t have to pay through the nose to watch a movie through the hotel service, if you brought your streaming stick with you, such as a Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick.
Simply plug it into the television’s HDMI port, join the free hotel Wi-Fi, and watch your favorite shows.
The same trick works for Apple TV, too. Pack your box, HDMI cable and power cable. Once you get it on the hotel’s WiFi (through the settings/network function), it will act just like your TV at home.
Ditch the lobby, head for the second floor
Can’t find a spot to sit in the hotel lobby to browse the web on your device?
Most people don’t think to go to the second floor – sometimes referred to as a mezzanine – to find plenty of seating, quiet, and AC plugs, too.
How to make your wired earbuds work on planes
Ever find your wired earbuds or headphones won’t work on an airplane – even though it plugs into the seat just fine?
They will work: Just pull the headphones out of the audio jack, just a little, and you’ll hear the audio from the airline’s entertainment service.
Sometimes the connectors inside these jacks don’t exactly match up.
Charge with your AC plug, not USB
If you’re on an airplane or at an airport that has an option to charge your phone or tablet via USB port or AC plug, always use your AC plug (if you have it) as it can charge your device two to three times faster than USB.
Save on hotel rooms after you book
Get a better price on your hotel – after you’ve booked it.
If the hotel drops the rate on the room – which is a very common occurrence, according to Pruvo – you’ll be notified on your phone about how much you’ll save and instructed how to cancel the original reservation and re-book at the lower rate.
The only catch is you need to have the ability to cancel your room to begin with.
Find cheaper gas at the nearest Nexit
Roadtrippers likely use navigation apps to find their way to a new city (and drive around within it), with popular picks like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze.
But a new nav app, Nexit, will not only will get you from Point A to B, but will highlight the cheapest gas along your route; you can book accommodations right from within the app, and even specify the hotel chain you want and how much you want to spend (such as a $150 limit on a room); and the app supports different loyalty cards for you to benefit from discounts and rewards.
Unlike other nav apps that also let you search for “points of interest” like restaurants and gas stations, Nexit won’t suggest locations that are not directly on your route. Other apps look at proximity and not direction, and therefore may recommend you get off the freeway and turn around.
Almost free cellular service
You can use your phone or tablet to make free calls and text over Wi-Fi. Apps like TextNow (iOS, Android) even give you an incoming phone number so others can call you. It’s like a “burner” number on your existing smartphone.
What if there isn’t Wi-Fi? Until the end of February, TextNow is offering a SIM card for only 99 cents, and then cellular service is free (supported by ads).
Use a VPN
It’s safer to use your smartphone as a personal “hotspot” instead of using free public Wi-Fi, but if you absolutely must use the hotel or airline’s free Wi-Fi network, at least use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) app on your phone, tablet or laptop to remain anonymous to hackers while online.
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Old-school hotel hacks (no tech needed)
A few more travel hacks:
- If your hotel room doesn’t offer an iron for your wrinkled clothes, the old “shower trick” really works. Hang your clothes on the bar above the tub, turn on a hot shower and point the shower head against the wall. Close the bathroom door for 5 to 10 minutes. When you return, your clothes will seem perfectly pressed.
- Are the drapes opened just a crack and the sunlight is disrupting your sleep? Take a clothes hanger from the closet – the one with the clips – and clamp both sides of the curtains together.
- If your hotel gave you a disposable shower cap you don’t need, use it to put your shoes in your suitcase to keep everything clean.
- Is the room super dry? An instant hack for increasing the moisture in the room is to hang a wet towel in front of the room’s radiator – perhaps laid out over a suitcase rack – and the heat from the radiator will evaporate the water over time.
- If you don’t have a kettle in your room but want to boil water – say, for a cup of ramen –you can fill the coffee maker with water and run it through to heat it up.