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The Great List of Non-Obvious Travel Tips

non-obvious travel tips

Oddly enough, not mentioned in Dante’s Inferno.

Every time I see a list of travel tips, I brace myself to expect the obvious – from the practical “remember your ID” to the goofily gooey “be open to new experiences,” I’ve seen every element of a travel tip listicle before.

I’ve set out to create the ultimate list of non-obvious travel tips that goes beyond all the same tired stuff you’ve heard before. These tips will either improve your travel experience, or turn you into a superhero for your fellow travelers. If I’ve missed something, pitch it into the comments.

Parking at the Airport Can Kill Your Car Battery

I recently returned from a weekend getaway to find my car battery dead. Fortunately, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has a service that will give you a free jump-start. I was remarking to the person jumping the car that it’s a new battery, and that I couldn’t figure out why it died. He clued me into a little-known fact: Jet noise often sets off car alarms, and a bunch of false alarms can wear a battery out. He told me that it’s a rare day when he doesn’t jump-start a car with a previously healthy battery. So, if you can park further from the rumble of the jets (or get a ride to the airport), you may reduce your chances of a dead battery.

non-obvious travel tips

This plane has lots of middle-seat passengers – be nice to ’em, eh?

Traveling Abroad? Learn Your Metric

I can’t believe how many American travelers have a hard time with kilometers and meters. Look, metric just isn’t that difficult. And being able to convert it will help you communicate when you need directions.

Traveling Abroad, Take 2: Driving a Stickshift

If you’re headed abroad, don’t expect every rental car to have an automatic transmission. Many if not most of the rental cars will have a stickshift. Being able to handle a manual transmission is great for many reasons – not least of all, being able to drive no matter where in the world you go. And do you honestly want to learn this skills on the fly, especially in a country where you’re driving on the opposite side of the road?

Never Board a Plane Without Visiting a Loo

By the way, “loo” is metric for “bathroom.” I promise that this simple step will save you from squirming in your seat through a takeoff and climb to 10,000 feet. Not only will you fly more comfortably, but that’s one less time you’ll needlessly climb over other seated passengers.

non-obvious travel tips

Bungee cords can do almost anything.

Bungee Cords and Carabiners

You won’t believe what you can do with bungee cords and carabiners. From carrying a water bottle to securing a folding baby stroller, these magical devices can solve a wide array of problems. And keep in mind – when you need either of them, you need them badly … and that’s when it’s almost impossible to find anyplace selling them.

Turn Off the Water Works

Before you leave your house for a trip, turn off your toilet valves. Toilet hoses have a way of failing in spectacular fashion. They’ll start to leak or spray, and the toilet will diligently keep the water flowing to try filling the toilet. But since it’s leaking, it never fills. That’s when you return home after two weeks to find your house flooded. That’s a crap way to end an adventure. So shut the valves off. (And seriously, can nobody honestly figure out a way to bring toilets into the 21st century?)

Get Away from the Baggage Return

There’s a special circle of hell for people that park themselves directly in front of the baggage claim. If you step back just 10 measly feet, you’ll make it possible for A) other passengers to see their returning bags and B) get to their bag without bumping you out of the way. You gain nothing by standing too close, aside from the contempt of smarter, more-considerate travelers.

Be Nice to the Person in the Middle Seat

Nobody appreciates a bit of courtesy like someone in a middle seat. Gracefully letting them out for a bathroom visit or letting them have the armrest are really cheap, easy ways to make life better for that more middle-seat flier. That little bit of consideration rarely goes unnoticed.

7 thoughts on “The Great List of Non-Obvious Travel Tips

  1. Trevor Stasik

    For some reason, I thought bungee cords were one of the items banned by the TSA. Can they go on carry-on, or checked luggage only?

    All around good tips!

  2. Wandering Justin Post author

    I rarely get on a plane without bungee cords in my carry-on. Never had tsa say a word. I’ll have to look this up, though, to see if I can add it to by big list of stuff I get away with!

  3. Jeff Strain

    Heh, even if you know how to drive a stick it’s still going to be challenging driving a manual transmission in the UK (though not a fraction as challenging as if you don’t know how to drive a stick). Shifting with my left hand was a new experience–grind, grind, grind (OK, I wasn’t that bad, but I did grind the gears more often than I usually do). What killed me was turning. I’m used to operating the turn signal with my left hand and shifting with my right, and doing both in a turn, but turning in the UK, I had to figure out how to do both with just my left hand (Now signal! Now shift! Signal! Shift! ::left hand jumping anywhere::). This is compounded by the fact that you’re frequently turning in a roundabout which doesn’t typically require a hard enough turn to turn off the signal automatically and where you also may be changing lanes as you go around it. Much more signalling and shifting in a roundabout than with a regular turn. I eventually dealt with this issue by deciding I wouldn’t bother signalling anymore.

  4. Wandering Justin Post author

    Best to get the hang of opposite-side stick driving in New Zealand. Lots less traffic! Hell, I barely trusted myself to walk while pushing a stroller in London.

  5. Peter

    Hey great tips. Especially the about standing away from the baggage claim. I always do exactly what you describe. Stand back a couple of feets so everyone can get their bags and see them coming. Some airports have even a line on the floor. I usually arrive pretty early at the baggage claim and stand back, just to find myself last in line, because everyone rushes right in front of you to the front, almost falling on the baggage claim. This drives me crazy. Worst place I experienced this is in Miami. But same for boarding. Once the announce pre-boarding, everyone rushes right to the front. The worst here, even a lot of frequent fliers (first class cabin). Once they announce pre-boarding I make my way slowly to the gate and the according lane (depends if I fly first or have status with the airline or just economy). But here the same. You wait back so elderly people and people in wheelchairs can pass and what happens, the whole first class cabin cuts you off and even some unexperienced travelers (economy) cut right in front of you. I dont mind the unexperienced once, everyone had to start somewhere. But all the frequent flyers (most first class cabin passengers/or business class on bigger planes as well) do the same thing. It makes it sometimes even impossible for people to get to the agent at the podium to ask for something or receive a boarding pass, because everyone is blocking the way.

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