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28 Holiday Hacks and Tips for When You’re Abroad

From saving money to making the most of your hotel, holiday attractions and getting around whilst abroad, our extensive list of holiday tips and tricks is designed for travellers of all types. Whether you’re having a family beach holiday in Croatia or have a 3-week adventure planned in Brazil, we share our top tips and holiday advice that you may not have thought of!

Read on for our top 28 holiday hacks and tips for when you’re abroad.

1. Save attractions, restaurants and bars on Google Maps

Holiday time is valuable time and solely for relaxing, having fun and exploring! Before arrival at your destination, we always research the key things to see and top-reviewed restaurants and bars near where we’re staying.

We then use the handy ‘save as a starred place’ option on Google Maps. Save the key locations to your map and download an offline version of Google Maps so you can navigate on the go without having to use data or WiFi. It’s a handy trick that’ll save you plenty of time! You never know when you’ll stumble into an area and will wonder if there’s a cool bar restaurant or attraction nearby. 

2. Use handy travel packing cubes and a luggage scale

Let us introduce the legendary travel accessories that are packing cubes! These small, lightweight packing accessories come in different sizes and can really help you pack your case smartly, allowing more room for your belongings and fast unpacking. Many full-time travellers use them and you should try them too! Combine packing cubes with an easy-to-use digital luggage scale and there’ll be no more re-packing at the check-in desk.

Holiday Hacks and tips - shows packing cubes and a luggage scale

3. Pay more for priority boarding

Don’t you hate it when budget airlines charge for extra luggage, seat selection and priority boarding? We do too, however sometimes it’s worth paying for. Many European budget airlines now offer certain ‘add-on’ packages where you get an extra hand-luggage bag and priority boarding for less than £10.

Priority boarding means that you avoid the rush to get on the plane and can comfortably store your hand luggage before the stampede arrives. It’s a small cost for less-stress.

4. Ask for a hotel room upgrade

What’s the best way to get a free room upgrade? Ask nicely ? Emailing the hotel in advance to let them know how much you’re looking forward to your stay there and letting them know about a special occasion you’re celebrating can be very effective. Hotels like to do what they can to get a good review and recommendation, and a simple room upgrade for them can really make your holiday. If you forget to email, ask nicely at reception. The worst they can say is no!

Holiday hacks for getting a hotel room upgrade - depicts hotel pool

5. Set your phone up for roaming

If you’re travelling within Europe, you can now use your mobile data, calls and texts whilst roaming abroad. Long gone are the days of trying to find a WiFi hotspot to search for a local attraction or order a taxi, and you can use it everywhere you go.

Update your social media, speak to friends, research nearby things to do and navigate with Google Maps. Playing on your phone doesn’t have to detract from the trip if you’re using it to effectively direct you!

6. Stock up on holiday gadgets

If you’re anything like us, you love any gadgets that make your life easier, and that includes travel! We’ve put together the below list of gadgets that are essential for any holiday.

  • Portable charger
  • Universal adaptor plug
  • Mini Bluetooth speaker

For more holiday gadget and accessory ideas, check out our top 26 must-have holiday gadgets and accessories here.

7. Use your phone as a Sat Nav

Car rental companies love to suggest a Sat Nav with an excessive £100 plus charge for using it during your stay. Skip those costs altogether and use the free Google Maps app, which is one of the best navigation services in the world Combine it with your EU data roaming allowance and you’re good to go!

If you’re travelling outside of Europe and can’t use your phone data, buy a cheap local data SIM card from the airport or a supermarket. Another option is to simply negotiate a free Sat Nav with the car rental office on arrival.

Holiday Tips for when you're abroad - use your phone as a Sat Nav - depicts mountain and car

8. Register for a zero-fee currency card and get the best rate for your travel money

Have you ever wondered where the cheapest place to get your travel money is? Although you can get some good rates when ordering currency online, the best exchange rates can be found by using a special currency top-up or credit card.

These cards work like any debit/credit card so you can pay using chip and pin in your destination or withdraw cash from an ATM without any fees and some excellent exchange rates. Using one of these cards means you won’t be at risk carrying large sums of cash and can conveniently withdraw money at an ATM whenever you wish! This is one of our favourite holiday hacks and you can use it pretty much anywhere!

Here are some of the best currency cards to register for:

Halifax Clarity – Find out more

Revolut – Find out more

Monzo – Find out more

**note: when withdrawing money from an ATM, always choose to pay in local currency and let your home bank make the conversion**

9. Book your airport transfers or car rental in advance

After a long flight, all you want to do is escape the airport, check in to your hotel and order a cocktail. Beat the expensive airport taxi fares and ‘pay on the day’ car rental rates by pre-booking in advance. Not only will you be more organised and know what you’re doing on arrival, you’ll save money!

Our booking site of choice is Skyscanner’s comparison tool. Use it to find the best prices available and then book on one of their partner sites. Be sure to check reviews before booking!

Compare airport transfers here.

Compare car hire options here.

**when booking airport transfers, consider booking a return trip rather than two one-way journeys. It’s often cheaper!

10. Download a local taxi app

Say goodbye to the days of having to call for a taxi and trying to communicate your destination and pick-up point in another language. For the ultimate convenience of booking a taxi, download a local taxi booking app and use WiFi, your EU data roaming allowance (or a foreign SIM card) to book your ride.

Here are some of the top worldwide taxi apps. Be sure to do your research on taxi apps in the country you’re visiting to see the best options. Simply Google search “best taxi apps for *insert country*”.

Uber – Visit website

Taxify/Bolt/Hopp – Visit website

Grab – Visit website

Holiday hacks for ordering a taxi - depicts yellow New York City taxis

11. Go to a supermarket on your first day

You may think this is a completely random tip, but for us, stopping by the supermarket is the perfect time to stock up on supplies such as water, snacks, drinks and toiletries you couldn’t fit in the suitcase. Write a list, dash in and out and you’re set for the holiday! Shopping in a supermarket saves you a lot of money compared to expensive bars and restaurants and you have plenty of supplies for the beach and pool!

If you’re anything like us, you’ll also enjoy walking around a foreign supermarket, sampling different foods and drinks.

12. Keep all travel documents and passports in a secure wallet

Travel documents are essential for everything from checking into your hotel, to signing off your car rental, activities and returning home. We recommend keeping your passports in the hotel safe and carrying around a small, compact travel document wallet. Keep all docs in one place and you won’t be searching your pockets when you need something.

We personally use this Homchen Document Wallet from Amazon. View on Amazon here.

13. Pack fold-able rain coats in case it rains

Another handy travel essential is a fold up rain-coat. You don’t want to be carrying around a heavy jacket in a hot, sunny destination, but you also don’t want to be caught out when it rains. Bring along a compact rain-jacket such as this one for the whole family and keep them in your pocket or bag. They fold up into a tiny pack and weigh very little!

14. Pack a day bag with key holiday essentials

Be prepared for all weather and never go thirsty or hungry by packing some small essentials into a day-pack. It’s light and easy to carry so it won’t be any hindrance. We personally use the Quechua Mini Backpack, which costs only a few pounds!

Top things to pack in your day-bag:

  • Roll up micro beach mat
  • Sun cream
  • Water bottle
  • Pack away rain coat
  • Mini first aid kid
  • Camera/charger/sunglasses

15. Use the cheap public transport on offer (and free transport in some cities!)

Never underestimate how much you can save by using public transport instead of taxis and car rental. It can also sometimes be quicker to get to your destination by train than on the road! Research the local buses, trams and trains to make getting around super easy and cheap. Many cities offer multi-trip passes for a small cost and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be touring like a local in no time!

Some cities even offer free public transport! Check out the full global list here.

16. For cheap drinks, explore the local ‘Happy Hours’

This is one of the best holiday hacks for the cocktail lovers out there! You may have this handy tip on your radar already, but taking advantage of local bar ‘happy hours’ is the go-to way for saving money whilst drinking abroad. Take advantage of discounted drinks offers, ‘buy one get one free’ deals and more. You’ll pay a fraction of the price compared to evening costs.

Usually happy hours are advertised outside bars and run anywhere from early afternoon to sunset. We recommend arriving early for sunset drinks before heading home to get ready for your evening.

Holiday hacks when drinking abroad - Shows 3 exotic cocktails

17. Avoid popular ‘tourist’ restaurants and always research reviews before entering

Whilst you may not want to be constantly researching where to eat on your phone during your holiday, doing a quick Google or TripAdvisor search before taking the plunge and asking for a seat can mean an excellent meal over a mediocre or poor meal and you’ll only want to spend your money on the best of the best!

Either research a few restaurants before venturing out or search the reviews for a restaurant on the spot if you stumble upon somewhere you like the look of.

We recommend using the TripAdvisor app for easy access to restaurant reviews.

Holiday tips - always check restaurant reviews. Depicts people dining outside

18. Learn the local language with Duolingo & Google Translate

Whilst English is spoken worldwide these days, learning some local phrases will immerse you in the culture and impress the locals. In our experience, they really appreciate the effort you take just to speak the basics. Our personal choice for language learning is an app called Duolingo. Practice 20 minutes a day for the weeks prior to your holiday and you’ll learn the basics in no time and we think you’ll enjoy it enough to continue when you’re back home! Duolingo is one of our holiday hacks that you’ll probably get addicted to and will want to continue learning when you get back.

Another handy language app is Google Translate. Speak words or phrases through your phone’s microphone and the app will translate on the go for you. It’s a useful holiday hack for when you need to speak to a local for directions or communication with a taxi driver or restaurant.

Download the Duolingo app or use the online browser app.

19. Pre-book attractions online with discounts

It’s no secret that you can save money when booking things in advance online. And not only do you save money, you also usually get to skip the queue for arrival at a specific time.

Booking in advance applies to anything from full day excursions to art galleries, museums, churches, theme parks and activities.

The best and cheapest place to book an attraction or tour is often direct with the venue/attraction through their official website. Simply Google search the attraction and browse their website for a ‘Tickets’ section. Depending on the attraction, you may be able to get a further discount using a promo code, which you’ll also find online with a quick Google search.

Tips for booking holiday attractions online - Depicts Rome Colosseum

20. Document your trip with amazing pictures

Everyone likes to think of themselves as a professional photographer or Instagram personality extraordinaire on holiday, and there’s no reason not to be! We love taking photos and they’re ideal for reliving a trip you would have otherwise forgotten about. Smartphone cameras are perfect for most people, or you may want to invest in a DSLR camera if you want to make a hobby out of it, capturing some extra special pics.

See below for our top tips on taking great holiday snaps!

  • Always try to fit your scene/subject into the viewfinder and ensure the picture is symmetrical
  • Take multiple pictures of the same scene. 1 of those 10 has the chance to be epic. This particularly applies when photographing people
  • Don’t be afraid to get close-ups and action shots of people. The pose and setting should look natural rather than static front-facing shots
  • Use professional photographer compositions and ideas as inspiration. We recommend following some professional travel accounts on Instagram
  • Shoot the same location at different times of the day. Sunrise looks completely different to mid-afternoon and then sunset!
  • Move around! Take shots from up close, on the ground, up high and against objects. Be creative and have fun!
  • If using a DSLR camera, capture images in RAW format. They’re much better for editing than JPEG and other formats.
Tips for taking good travel photographs - Depicts hot air balloons at sunset

21. Have a budget and track expenses with an app

It’s never fun to track your spending on holiday and everyone loves kicking back and not worrying about the costs whilst abroad. However, staying on track of your spending a little means that you keep more money for future trips and don’t come home to high credit card bills. Using a handy travel expenses app to loosely track spending will go a long way to keeping you on track with your budget. Here are some of our favourites.

22. On a city break? Take advantage of special city passes

If you’re on a city break, explore the local ‘all-in-one’ passes available on the official city tourism website. If you plan on seeing lots of the main sites and travelling around to see as much as possible, a city pass is definitely the way to go! It can often include unlimited public transport, entry to selected top attractions, discounts on eating out, bike hire, etc; all for one set cost.

For example, the Rome Turbopass includes entry to key attractions, guided tours, all transport and various discounts for a special price.

We recommend researching the city passes available in your destination and weighing up options and costs for how long you’ll be spending there and how much attractions would be if you paid separately, to see if it’s worth it. These holiday hacks are only available in specific cities.

23. Use complimentary hotel accessories and perks

One holiday hack that’s often overlooked is the wide range of facilities and freebies on offer at your hotel. Four- and five-star hotels, and even hostels, have many benefits that come with your stay there and you won’t have to pay a penny. Research what’s on offer at your chosen hotel and look out for the following:

  • Free umbrella rental for when it’s raining
  • Free or discounted bike rental
  • Complimentary water in your room that’s replenished every day. Juices, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are even included in some hotels
  • Ice machines to fill up your cooler bag
  • Free or discounted transfers to and from the airport
  • Hotel room toiletries and accessories
  • Complimentary beach towels
  • Free printing services for your documents
  • Free advice on where to go and what to see nearby. The staff are locals after all!
Holiday hacks and tips - Hotel amenities and perks - Depicts stack of hotel towels

24. If arriving late, buy food in advance to avoid expensive room service prices

For late holiday arrivals, the last you want to do is go to bed tired and hungry. Plan in advance by buying a meal deal and some extra snacks in the airport or preparing a mini-dinner for your post-flight journey. Room service isn’t always available and it can be expensive!

25. Take advantage of free ‘safe’ tap water and use a reusable water bottle

Long gone are the times where you have to buy bottled water at the supermarket because the local water isn’t safe to drink. Most places in Europe, North America and other developed nations now have perfectly safe drinking water and there’s no need to buy bottles. In fact, in some countries the tap water is even better for you than bottled!

Bring along your reusable water bottle and drink all of the tap water you can handle. It’s free and much better for the environment.

To check if the country you’re visiting has safe tap water, Mapping Megan has an excellent guide here.

26. Split-up your suitcase packing and travel with a change of clothes

The last thing you want on holiday is for your luggage to go missing and to spend your first few days in the same clothes. It’s highly unlikely that multiple suitcases go missing so we recommend splitting your holiday clothing and toiletries into multiple bags if travelling with a partner or family. It’s also a good idea to keep a change of clothes, valuables and essentials in your hand luggage.

Tips for packing your suitcase - Holiday hacks and tips. Depicts luggage at an airport

27. Use a Skyroam portable WiFi hot-spot

Internet abroad can be shaky and unreliable. It also costs a fortune if you’re using data roaming outside the EU! If you use internet often when you’re abroad and travel a lot, it may be worth investing in a Skyroam hotspot device. This compact HUB can be used across the globe, connecting to local 4G/3G antennae to give you a hotspot to connect to with your phone or laptop.

From catching up on emails and work to researching nearby attractions or uploading holiday photos to social media, having accessible internet everywhere you go comes in very handy. Skyroam have monthly and daily usage plans. Find out more on their website here.

28. Buy toiletries and holiday essentials in your destination

With all the extra baggage charges and limited allowances, it can often be cheaper and easier to buy your shower gel, sun cream and other bulky toiletries whilst abroad. Plus, it leaves extra room for your clothes and accessories! Simply pop to the shops on your first day to stock up on the essentials and have plenty of room in your case to return with gifts and souvenirs.

This is a general rule and all depends on your destination. Some toiletries and brands may not be available abroad or they’ll be more expensive, so do a little research before arrival.

Depicts sun lotion on a beach - holiday accessories tips

We hope we’ve given you some handy holiday hacks and tips that you can take advantage of for your next trip! All of the above advice are personal tips and tricks that we’ve picked up during our own travels. If you have any questions or tips of your own that we can add to the list, feel free to get in touch!


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