11 Travel Hacks Put To The Test – What Worked and What Failed?

Posted in: Lifestyle

We’re a big fan of “life hacks” here at Hello Innovation. Simple, creative ways to make life easier, cheaper, and more efficient? Count us in!

When you uncover a life hack that really works, it feels like you have cheated the system and won. You think to yourself, “This is SO much easier! Why did I ever do it another way?”

However, when a life hack fails, it fails miserably (and often in a hilarious way). It’s almost as if you are taking the life hack gamble each time you try out a new trick – are you going to bet and win big, or waste time fussing over a complicated hack that ends up not being worth it in the long run.

This was my very thought when I came across a bunch of popular “travel hacks” on Pinterest a few weeks ago. I was getting ready to travel with the HI team to Nashville for business, and these so-called “life changing” travel hacks promised to help me fit a week’s worth of clothes and accessories in a carry-on bag (something that has never happened in my life before.) Following these hacks would either make me the most efficient traveler of our team, or could end up in an epic fail that had me cursing myself in the check-in line.

Luckily for you, I decided to blog my adventures trying out these popular travel hacks so that you don’t have to experiment yourself. So, without further ado, I present to you some of the most popular travel hacks for business trips, and whether or not they worked or failed!

1. Rolling Your Clothes

Many seasoned travelers are very passionate about the subject of rolling your clothes when you pack them, rather than folding them into your bag. They claim that not only does this method of packing save space in your suitcase, but it also helps to avoid wrinkles! (They also claim that rolling your clothes while they are inside out can help decrease wrinkles even further.)

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The Verdict: Win and fail. Rolling my clothes in my suitcase definitely helped me to fit more into my carry-on bag. However, this method did not help to make my clothes any less wrinkly – even when they were inside out. In fact, rolling my clothes made them even more wrinkled than they were to begin with. I ended up having to iron the majority of my wardrobe once I began unpacking at my destination. So while the rolling method is a great choice for those looking to pack as much as possible in their little suitcase, those without access to an iron or steamer should decide if more clothes on your trip is worth the wrinkles. (You could always test out the “shower steamer” hack we mention later on.)

2. Packing Cubes

When I first began researching hacks, packing cubes started popping up on every list I could find. Weekend trip? Use a packing cube. Month long trek across Europe? Packing cube it up. But what exactly IS a packing cube? These different size storage cubes come in different variety packs that basically help you better organize your luggage, pack more efficiently and even pack more clothes into your suitcase. I was a little uncertain how packing your clothes in a small bag rather than your actual luggage bag helped you to pack better, but they got me with their sales pitch, so I added some to my shopping cart.

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The Verdict: These things work! I’m not sure how or why they work better than simply packing your clothes right into your luggage, but they definitely go a long way with helping you organize your stuff. Plus, as someone who is constantly needing to retrieve something she packed away halfway through her travels, unpacking one big packing cube to retrieve your things was way easier than undoing all of the things you carefully Tetris-packed into your bag in precisely the right way. (Funny how your stuff never seems to fit back in the same once you take it out, huh?) Big fan of the packing cubes!

3. Use Straws to Pack Your Liquids

I’m notorious for packing a lot of liquid product in my suitcase whenever I travel. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, SPF, hair oil, etc. I need it all.  However, packing all of these bottles can take up a lot of room, which is why I was so excited when I came across the “straw packing” hack. You simply empty the amount of liquid you need for your trip into a drinking straw, burn the ends of the straw with a lighter to seal the ends, then label them so you know which is which. Voila! All the liquids you need packed in just a fraction of the space.

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The Verdict: Fail. 3/5 of my liquid straws burst open in my bag and leaked everywhere. If seems as though if something heavy gets set on top of the straws or they get squished, the liquid can easily burst through the seal. Maybe if you tried making the seal a little thicker they would work better, but that would eat up valuable liquid storing space. I’ll stick with the mini shampoo bottles instead!

4. Use Plastic Wrap to Seal Your Bottles

Another trick I found to help you pack up your liquids more efficiently was to place plastic wrap over liquid containers to help prevent leaks. You simply place the plastic wrap over the open mouth of the bottle before screwing on the lid, and you have now made your products leak-proof!

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The Verdict: Fail. I placed plastic wrap over the rest of my liquid products that I didn’t pack up into straws, such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion and hair oil. However, the plastic wasn’t enough to keep the oil from spilling all over my toiletry bag. A major cleanup was needed once I arrived at my destination. The other liquids stayed safe, though, so maybe 1 out of 4 isn’t too bad.

5. Organize Your Miscellaneous Travel-Ons into Dedicated Bags

This hack is keeping with the theme of packing all of your things into a small bag, to then be packed into a larger bag. Many travel blogs claimed that packing all of your miscellaneous items into dedicated bags that are stored with other related items helps you find things easier throughout your travels, as well as helps keep your packed bags more organized. So this time, I threw all of my toiletries into one bag, all of my makeup into another, all of my electronics into another, and all of my travel-related documents and need-to-easily-access things (laptop, snacks, purse, etc.) in a carry on tote.

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The Verdict: Win! My stuff was much easier to locate while I was traveling (getting out my boarding pass for the attendant, looking for my cell phone charger at the airport, etc.). Plus, having everything stored in its own bag helped me feel much more organized once I unpacked in my hotel room at my destination. Rather than having electronic cords of all kinds spread out over my desk, everything was neatly packed away in its dedicated location.

6. Sign Up For TSA Pre-Check

Hate waiting in long lines at the airport? Do you get that icky feeling when you have to take off your shoes in the security line and walk around in just your socks? If so, TSA pre-check will keep you from dealing with these situations for the next 5 years! For the price of $85, you’re rewarded with no more pulling out your laptop during security or having to wait with the rest of the passengers. Skip the line, get checked quickly, and head right to your gate.

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The Verdict: Probably a win, but you have to wait to get your application approved and get your “Known Traveler Number,” which can take 2-3 weeks. (We weren’t on our game early enough to test out this one.) Therefore, if you are interested in skipping airport security lines, make sure you take action well before your trip begins!

7. Get Free Airport Wi-Fi

Nothing is worse than when you have a couple of hours to kill at the airport, but the price to log on to the airport Wi-Fi is a ridiculously high fee. (It’s like Sophie’s choice – Wi-Fi or saving money?) However, there are many travel hacks that claim to get you access to Wi-Fi for free (with a little clever researching). First, check into the airport’s location on Foursquare and see if any kind citizens have shared the airport Wi-Fi code in the comments. Second, add “?.jpg” to the end of any URL to access any website without paying.

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The Verdict: Fail and fail. There were no comments on the Detroit or Nashville Metro Airport Foursquare check-ins that hinted at a possible Wi-Fi password, and adding “?.jpg” to the end of my URL addresses didn’t seem to get me past the “sign up for Wi-Fi” credit card page. You may have more luck with Foursquare at different check-in locations though, so it’s worth giving it a shot!

8. Charge Your USB Devices through the USB Slot On A TV

Many new TVs have a USB slot in the back of them so that you can view your phone’s photos or videos on your big screen. However, many travelers have also discovered that they can use this handy little port to charge their cell phone if they forget their wall plug.

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The Verdict: Win! My hotel had two of these ports in the back of my television that charged my cell phone successfully. However, each hotel will be different, so try out the next tip if you find that this hack isn’t working for you.

9. Borrow a Cell Phone Charger from the Front Desk

What if you forget your whole cell phone charger, not just the wall plug? Many travelers claim that you can simply ask your hotel’s front desk if they have any chargers that will fit your cell phone. Chances are they will, as cell phone chargers are one of the most forgotten items left in hotel rooms!

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The Verdict: Fail and win. When I asked my front desk if they had any chargers for my Android device, they reported that could not distribute forgotten chargers to hotel guests. However, they nicely pointed me over to their hotel gift shop where they sold universal cell phone chargers for any guest that may have forgotten theirs at home. So, if you are looking to nab a free charger from your front desk, it may not work every time (depends on the hotel), but I was able to purchase a charger if I really would have forgotten mine! We’ll call it a draw.

10. Steam Your Clothes in the Bathroom

If you, like me, followed the “rolling your clothes” hack I mentioned above and ended up with a suitcase full of crinkled, messy-looking clothes, there may be a way for you to fix the situation, sans iron. Simply hang up your wrinkled clothes on a hanger, turn your hotel shower to as hot as possible, and shut your clothes in the bathroom with the shower going. Leave them in the steam-filled room for about 10-15 minutes, and your clothes will instantly be less wrinkled!

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The Verdict: Win! Steaming my clothes in the bathroom helped to significantly decrease the amount of wrinkles that were created during my rolling instead of folding phase of packing. However, my thinner clothes (t-shirts, skirts, etc.) seemed to smooth out much better than thicker items (dresses, blazers, pants, etc.). So you still may need to send your thicker clothing items out to your hotel’s laundry facility if you are going someplace nice.

11. Use Google Maps Offline

Usually when you are traveling for work or pleasure, you are not venturing around a city that you are very familiar with. This means that you don’t often know the direction that you are going, and even worse, where your cell phone reception may fail – cutting you off from any map that tells you where to go. However, Google Maps allows you to view a saved map offline simply by typing “ok maps” into the search field when you are viewing the location that you are in.

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The Verdict: Win! Once we arrived at our hotel in Nashville, I decided to save a map of our surrounding hotel for later, just in case I became lost and lacking in cell reception. However, the tricky part of this hack is remembering to save the map before you lose cell reception, as you need service in order to save the map in the first place.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with some of these travel hacks, and my reasonably-packed carry-on bag speaks for itself when it comes to determining how efficient many of them were. Inside my carry on bag, I ended up fitting one pair of shoes, 5 dresses, 5 jackets, 1 pair of pajama pants, 3 blouses, 2 pairs of pants, makeup, toiletries, getting ready accessories and more! Not too shabby, huh?

However, we have a few more business trips coming up, so I want to hear your best and most ridiculous travel hacks that I may have missed. Share them in the comments below and I may put them to the test in an upcoming blog!

9 comments

  • Keesa
    October 22, 2014

    getting ready to travel to Florida next week and a few of these tips that failed were recommended. Glad I follow your blog!

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      October 22, 2014

      Keesa, we’re glad you found these tips useful! Safe travels! : )

  • Randy
    October 24, 2014

    How many gallons of water do you think you wasted running hot water for 15 minutes, so that your clothes wouldn’t be wrinkled?

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      October 24, 2014

      Hi Randy! I actually just hung the wrinkled clothes in the bathroom while I was taking a shower, so I didn’t use any more water than my shower’s worth! Would recommend doing the same so no excess water is wasted, as you mentioned! : )

  • Ricky Jones
    October 24, 2014

    That does not seem very plausible, the water would have to be extremely hot. Why not just use an iron? Also, a 15 minute shower is way too long.

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      October 27, 2014

      Hi Ricky! An iron is great (and ideal) if you have one! However, I know they are not always available while traveling. And, in my experience, I have found that the water has to be just hot enough to create steam in the bathroom – not too hot. It also helps to “stretch” your clothes taut once they have sat in the steam. This will help further get rid of wrinkles.

  • Lisa
    March 14, 2015

    I KNEW those straws didn’t work! Thanks for testing them and validating my hypothesis. Just today I was thinking…why would someone put plastic over their bottles when all they had to do is shove them in a big ziplock. Thanks for this post it was very informative!

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      March 16, 2015

      Thanks for the comment, Lisa! We’re glad some of these tips could be useful to you 🙂

  • Rachel Wilkerson
    September 16, 2015

    Fantastic tips. Charging Your USB Devices through the USB Slot On A TV is a fantastic idea. It is very unusual. I have never thought of it. I charged mine on a computer often, though. Asking on the front desk for a charger is very useful , too. I didn`t know that they should have one. Thank you. Greets!

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