Do Online Travel Tips Really Work?

For a frequent flier, there's a lot to learn from online travel hacks. Or not.

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Photo by: Peter Dazeley/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

Dragons? Do you believe in them? Or UFOs? Non-corrupt politicians? The last one is a bit far-fetched, I agree, but I’m generally quite open to strange, unproven ideas, or at least the notion that such things might exist.

What I’m more sceptical about is the existence of “real travellers.” The people who sail through the world seeing “the real country,” changing the lives of locals and leaving nothing behind but the sweet, lemon-scented memory of their presence. (When I travel, I leave behind nothing but books in airplane seat pockets, my favourite shirt, money-changers who can now buy a Rolls-Royce, and people who have learnt new swear words.) These “real travellers,” who look spectacular in selfies, also apparently have a whole arsenal of “hacks.” This means that while you, ordinary goof, are getting ready to bite the other cattle you’re travelling with, these alpha wolves are getting flight upgrades, superb service, unwrinkled clothes and pristine headphone wires. Apparently.

I’m not so sure. I travel a fair bit, and my arsenal of hacks consists of overpacking horribly, wearing running shoes so I can sprint back inside for my passport, and staying up till 3.30 a.m., bug-eyed, until the 24-hour window for web check-in opens and I can get my aisle seat (which I will inevitably give up to an old couple with incontinence and halitosis). Yes, I try to develop hacks, like taking plastic bags to separate clothes into washed, unwashed, not-really-washed-but-ok and biohazard categories, but those don’t go as planned. Looking online for cool ways to make my life better, I found some amazing-sounding ideas, guaranteed to keep my bags lighter than helium. A few examples:

No 1: “To keep your clothes smelling fresh, use a dryer sheet.”

What is a dryer sheet? My dryer has lint.

No 2: “Stuff underwear and socks in your shoes to save space.”

Do you know where your feet have been? Yes, you, the one whose shoes are like Saddam Hussein’s WMD factories, only real? Have you been stuffing your underwear in those?

No 3: Use straws to carry travel-size portions of products like shampoo, conditioner, SPF, and others.

First, I don’t want plastic straws. Second, your life will sound like this: “Squelch.”

No 4: “Take crayons not candles. They’ll give you a half-hour of light each.”

Could I just carry candles?

No 5: “Only unpack what you need.”

Gosh! To think that all these years I’ve been unpacking not only my entire suitcase, but knocking on the doors of strangers, offering to unpack their luggage as well. What a fool I’ve been!

No 6: Keep your money in a sanitary napkin package so no one will steal it.

Agreed. But people will look at me oddly.

No 7: “Mark check-in bag as ‘Fragile’.”

This one really gets my goat. So, on top of taking a refrigerator-sized bag, you’ll mark your un-fragile bag so that it is put on top of mine and comes out first? What happens when every bag on the flight is marked fragile and genuinely fragile luggage gets ignored? This doesn’t make you a clever traveller, it just makes you a b*tthole. Why not get a fake plaster cast for your leg so you can take wheelchair service at airports?

No 8: “Get yourself the chance of a free room by getting loyalty points with a hotel chain.”

So I should stay in expensive soapbox-style hotels so that I get a free room one day at the same soapboxes—as long as I use my points within a certain period—to give the same chain some more money? If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stay at small, family-run hotels, and upgrade to something fancy because I feel like splurging. It’s not like I can remember where I leave my loyalty cards.

But let’s be fair. Not all of the ideas are stupid. Roll your clothes, use private browsing when you look for flights and use apps to do everything (they’re getting your data anyway). But these aren’t as life-changing as they appear. They will at best save you a wrinkle or two on a shirt, or a moment of inconvenience. And lord, no, using them won’t make you one of the “cool people,” one of the elite who have Neo-ed the travel matrix because they store their hand creams in a Tic-Tac box.

Of course, I might be wrong, and these unicorns might actually exist. If they do, and are actually going around with razor-sharp clothes, getting business-class upgrades while I’m stuck in the middle seat with crying babies, I will find them. And I will kill them. With their own dryer sheets.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Vardhan Kondvikar is a travel, car, and humour writer and editor, who is known for road trips, generalised exasperation and far too many bathroom stops.

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