Brent and Michael's Secret Travel Hacks, Part 2!
I'm tired of the same old travel hacks. Here are some you may not have heard before.
I’m a big believer in travel hacks. But I also think that most lists of “travel hacks” are fairly lame or obvious. So here are some of my own!
For other travel hacks, see Part One of this column here and Part Three here and Part Four here and Part Five here and Park Six here and Part Seven here and Part Eight here and Part Nine here and Part Ten here and Part Eleven here.
In our last four years of continuous travel, I’d estimate that these unique hacks have saved us — no joke — tens of thousands of dollars. And we’ve also been considerably less stressed.
Here are some more:
We’ve written previously about the advantages of Booking.com over Airbnb — mostly because they often feature the same apartments as Airbnb, but with discounts and much more generous cancellation policies. But here’s a hack to make sure you get the absolutely rock-bottom price. Lock down a reservation for the dates you want (making sure it has a 100% refundable policy). Then, still logged in, start (but don’t finalize) a reservation for a similar (but slightly different) set of dates — even at the same listing, assuming there is more than one unit available. If the listing’s prices go down — and they often do — the site will automatically send you an email of the lower price for the reservation. Then you can book and cancel the first fully refundable reservation. Booking.com will probably eventually find and eliminate this hack, but in the meantime, it can save you hundreds of dollars per booking.
HBO Max has terrible customer service and no free trial period. But Hulu includes HBO Max as an “add-on,” and the HBO Max add-on does have a free trial period — and Hulu has fantastic customer service. So sign up for HBO Max as an add-on for Hulu. You can then watch HBO Max through the Hulu interface — which is admittedly awkward and doesn’t have a “search-within-HBO” function — or you can simply use your Hulu login info to log directly into the HBO Max site. Also, consider Hulu’s add-on “bundles” of different channels, which might get you a (slightly) cheaper deal than you otherwise would. But we’re big believers in paying for only one or two streaming services at a time, watching all their content, and then cancelling and moving on to the next service. Lather, rinse, repeat. You may not see all your shows as they drop, but you see everything eventually — for one-fourth the price.
Outside of America, most bars and restaurants don’t use ice, which is something Americans — including me! — often sorely miss. But these bars and restaurants all have ice — for drinks “on the rocks,” blended drinks, and the like. So when you order your beverage, simply also ask for a glass of ice. Or ask for your drink with ice. This is fairly standard request, but many people don’t know that.
In my opinion, the worst possible travel mishap isn’t theft, or a missed connection, or even outright death. It’s diarrhea, especially from even mild food poisoning. You really, really do not want to be on a bus or plane when this happens. So always carry loperamide — brand name Imodium. It can be ridiculously expensive at airports, but it’s relatively fast-acting, and it really works, giving you much-needed temporary relief — though you may pay later in terms of constipation. Fiber helps. A longer-term solution is the BRAT diet: Banana, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.
Most countries outside of America require a small fee to use the public facilities — sometimes even exact change, if they’re automated. But in Muslim countries, most mosques offer free restrooms, open to all. Smart local tourism offices also offer free restrooms. And Catholic churches and cathedrals usually offer free restrooms, but apparently Catholics didn’t go to the bathroom five hundred years ago, because they’ll be, like, one small, hidden toilet for the entire church. And it’ll echo very, very loudly.
Need free Wi-Fi? It’s offered at almost every McDonald’s the world over, and unlike Starbucks, you don’t necessarily even need to buy anything. Tourism offices also offer free Wi-Fi. (You can also find local café, hotel, and restaurant passwords on Foursquare, or on an app like Wi-Fi Map, but part of me thinks this is why we can’t have nice things. Why not just buy a damn coffee?)
In America, cheap wine means bad wine. But in many Eastern European countries, the cheapest wines are often the local ones, which can be remarkably good. We loved the local wines in Romania, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Hungary. And when I say “cheap,” I mean like two dollars a bottle.