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Travel Hacks A to Z: Tips to Beat Jet Lag, Lines, Theft, and Hangovers

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Ask for revenue management
Experts debate the tactic, but author Tilly Bagshawe swears by this trick to turn her coach ticket into business class. “Call your airline and ask to speak with revenue management,” she says. They can release unsold premium seats, giving you the first chance to upgrade with miles.

Book a top chef’s favorite restaurant
Can’t get a seat at the five-star tasting counter? Ask its reservationist where the chef likes to eat. Restaurateur Curtis Stone says this trick yields hidden gems—where you can likely find a table.

Clear is better than PreCheck
It takes seconds to sign up for this expedited security service, now at 21 U.S. hubs. Its user base is still relatively small, points out Ashley Glasson, brand director of LNA Clothing; that means you’ll rarely wait long in Clear’s priority TSA lanes.

Divvy up the boarding duties when flying with kids
Have one parent board early to claim overhead space while the other tires out the children for as long as possible at the gate, where they’re free to run around.

Essentials! Don’t forget …

  • A headphone splitter if you’ve got a travel buddy

  • Single-serve instant coffee

  • A reflexology massager

  • A mobile hotspot

  • Fashion tape for a clothing emergency

  • Allergy medicine

  • Probiotic pills

  • iPhone lightning dongle

Fanny pack it
Actress Brooklyn Decker says the elegant way to cheat the one-carry-on, one-personal-item rule on planes is to pack small items in this retro accessory.

Google Map your way to good eats
An offbeat strategy from food writer Matt Gross:

  1. Use the “search this area” feature to find restaurants nearby.

  2. Add filters: No rating below a 4, for example; open now; and no sushi in, say, Warsaw. Your meal, your rules.

  3. Don’t choose the highest-rated spots; go instead for the ones with the most reviews. They’re the places people feel most strongly about—con as well as pro— so they should provoke an opinion from you, too. Diving into a restaurant debate in a far-off land is part of the adventure!

Heavy carry-on? Say it’s full of camera equipment
Blogger and entrepreneur Jessica Nabongo has successfully avoided checking an overweight bag for years by raising the stakes for the bag-handling team.

Inquire sensitively
For meaningful exchanges, voice questions rather than assumptions. If you’ve met a resident of the Yukon, don’t say, “You must be so cold all the time.” Ask, instead, “What’s it like to work outdoors in the winter?” “It shows you’re there to learn, not to confirm your gut,” Nabongo says.

Jam your jacket into a little sack
Travelers flying across different climes tend to wrestle with a tough choice: lugging around a winter jacket where it makes no sense, or freezing without a coat upon landing back at home. Writer Lindsay Robertson’s solution? Buying a down jacket that can be stuffed into an inside pocket, such as the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite ($550). “It’s as small as a makeup bag, so I can avoid coat check wherever I go,” she says. “When I see people stuffing heavy coats into the overhead bin, I just shake my head and think, I was once like you.”

Know the local time everywhere
Watches with GMT or world time complications reduce the need to set and reset your time zone. We like the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum ($6,000).

Let the sneaks out of the bag
Celebrity trainer Joe Holder ties his shoes to the outside of his backpack by the laces—it saves tons of precious luggage space.

Meals worth carrying on
NBC correspondent Hallie Jackson’s must-pack snack? A healthy pear, spinach, and kale squeeze pouch from Happy Baby.

Need caffeine?
In coffee capitals Vienna and Sydney and several other big cities, the map-based Coffee (In)Touch app is a shortcut to third-wave heaven—and free Wi-Fi.

Optimize your in-flight beauty routine
Here’s what Christina Pacelli, stylist to the stars, advises her clients to pack so they can step off a plane looking like the millions of bucks they’re worth.

  • For supple skin: Perricone MD multiaction overnight intensive firming mask ( $99)

  • For soft hair: Oribe Signature moisture masque ( $63)

  • For rosy cheeks: Milk Makeup Holographic stick ( $28)

  • For brighter eyes: Marc Jacobs Highliner gel eye crayon ( $25)

  • For a contoured look: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Match Stix ( $25)

  • For a natural glow: Makeup for Ever Pro Bronze Fusion ( $36)

  • For a pop of color: MAC Cosmetics lipsticks in So Chaud, Girl About Town, and Coral Optix ( $18.50 each)

Pamper your pets
Laurel St. Romain is the owner of the creative studio Dead Flowers and an American Eskimo pup named Pilski. She says that soft-sided, lightweight carriers such as the TSA-approvedJet Sitter ($43) can help get your pet on board, even if the pooch is a few pounds over your airline’s limit. When it comes to restful flying, a chewable children’s Benadryl is as helpful for a pet as it is for a human. (But ask your vet about dosage first.) And always pull pet food out of your carry-on when going through security: Declaring it up front will help prevent confiscation.

Quiz someone else’s concierge
If you’re staying at an Airbnb and need good local advice, head for the nearest luxury hotel and tell the concierge you’ve just checked out. A nice tip will cover up your little white lie and leave everyone a winner.

Rethink room service
Three ways to improve in-room dining:

Send your suit to first class
Ask the flight attendants to hang your garment bag up in the front of the plane, no matter how far back your assigned seat. They’ll rarely say no. (Just don’t forget to pick it up after you land!)

Theft protection 101
Carry collateral. Interior designer Roric Tobin keeps a stack of $20s in car rentals to get out of a bind if needed. Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the famed explorer, keeps an old Rolex on hand in case of muggings. (We say a fake is good enough.)

Uniforms are the key to efficient packing
Writer Mark Byrne packs only navy blue and white clothes to maximize outfit configurations— a strategy that’s let him live an entire month out of a carry-on.

Visit a local supermarket
It’s one way to boost your vocabulary and feel more comfortable parsing menus in a foreign language, says Samantha Brown. Plus, you’ll walk away with affordable souvenirs that provide more insights into a country’s culture than the airport duty free. Want to take this hack to the next level? Keep the plastic shopping bag. Walking around with groceries (or what looks like them) is one of the easiest ways to blend in with the hometown crowd, wherever you go.

Watch for a flight delay domino effect
Chef Andrew Carmellini is the first to know about flight delays. “I always check the FlightRadar24 app to make sure my plane has left its originating city before I head to the airport,” he says. “It decreases the pain and agony by 50 percent.”

X out your hangover
Leave it to the Brazilians to have the most effective hangover cure ever. Bicycle maker Lorenzo Martone recommends Engov, an all-in-one caffeine and painkiller pill you take before and after drinking, stored in a gold, condomlike package. It’s become so popular, you can buy it on Amazon.

Your hotel room’s most overlooked amenity is the ironing board
Use it as a standing desk, a place to eat, or an activity table for kids. (And let housekeeping worry about your ironing.)

Zap jet lag
Hotelier Laure Hériard-Dubreuil says vitamin D is better than melatonin for fighting inflammation, strengthening your immune system, and regulating your internal clock. Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of luxury travel company Indagare, says you should do as the crew does and skip all your in-flight meals. “At superhigh altitudes, your digestive system shuts down completely,” she explains, adding that when you deplane, your body can’t keep up with the culinary backlog. Former U.S. Marine Akshay Nanavati one-ups that, suggesting you swap all in-flight sleeping for a few in-flight pushups. And travel agent Todd Bliwise always hits the ground running when he arrives. (No really, he goes for a jog.) Stack it all up for a circadian reboot, stat.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Rovzar at

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