At Charming Asia Tours, we’re big fans of “lifehacks,” or MacGyver-like workarounds for common problems. From making the elevator go directly to your floor to fixing a broken zipper, these not-so-well-known tips make travel a little bit easier.
Expedite your elevator trip
Here is a trick that pizza deliverymen have supposedly been using for years: If you want to upgrade your elevator to VIP status, simply press the desired floor number and the “door close” buttons simultaneously for several seconds. The elevator will override other requests and skip all other floors, whisking you away to your destination and making you feel like a big shot in no time.
(While elevator manufacturers claim that this may not work on all models, a quick bit of scientific “research” in a condo building’s elevator proved that it does—much to the chagrin of my neighbors.)
Smart self-defense hacks
We’ve recommended the use of a dummy wallet before, but it bears repeating. Purchase a second wallet or money clip to carry while traveling. “Pad the wallet with some small bills and make it look more real by slipping in one or two of those sample credit cards you get with offers in the mail,” recommends Charming Asia Tours Senior Travel Consultant Jean Leong. “In the scary and unlikely case of an actual mugging, it also gives you something to throw and run, buying you time to escape with your safety and your actual wallet.”
And if you’re concerned about safety but don’t own pepper spray or are in a destination where pepper spray is illegal, we have two words: Aqua Net. Anyone who has ever accidentally sprayed an aerosol hairspray in a confined space knows that it’s just as painfully effective as pepper spray. Carry a small bottle in your purse if you’re traveling alone or are in a questionable area; if the bottle is less than 3.4 ounces, you can even pack it in a carry-on bag.
Fix a broken suitcase zipper
It’s happened to everyone: Your suitcase zips just fine when you leave, but upon packing for your return trip, it fails to close. Rather than replace your luggage, consider these quick zipper hacks. If the zipper appears to be stuck, rub Vaseline, lip balm, or bar soap on the teeth to get it moving. Zipper teeth no longer staying closed? Usually a single tooth is bent out of shape. Feel along the length of the zipper until you find the one that sticks out, and then a quick adjustment with pliers will do the trick. And if the zipper handle has snapped off from the slider completely, replace it by looping a souvenir keychain through the slider, creating a makeshift zipper pull. (An eye-catching keychain will also help you identify your bag on the luggage carousel.)
Avoid commission fees … with coffee
Starbucks addicts, rejoice! Charming Asia Tours Director of Marketing Mariam Jimenez shares a clever way to avoid having to pay a commission fee to convert that last bit of foreign cash to US dollars at the end of a vacation. First, pick up a free reloadable Starbucks Card before your international trip. Then, Jimenez says, “If you have leftover money in the local currency when you’re on your way home, use it to reload your card at the Starbucks location in your international airport.” The money you’ll save on commission fees might just cover that triple-shot-no-foam-cinnamon-soy-mocha-frappuccino with extra extra sprinkles.
Check international airline websites for deals
When booking international flights, don’t forget to compare fares with those on the airline’s foreign-language website. If the airline is running a sale in a different regional market, you may be able to score sizeable savings on your overseas flight.
For example, a recent search on Polish airline LOT’s English-language website found a March flight from New York to Warsaw priced at $968.75, but the Polish-language website (with help from Google Chrome’s translation feature) turned up fares from 2,641.01 PLN (around $849.64)—for the exact same flight. If your credit card has a low international-transaction fee, the savings could be well worth it.
Do you have any clever or unique travel tips? Share them with us at [email protected]