Minimal travel hacks and tricks

There are times when you are traveling that you need a special tool to solve a problem but don't have it available.  So improvise!

 Dollar measuring tape:


A United States Dollar is 6.14 inches (155mm) long, and 2.6in (66.2mm) high.  Knowing this you can use a dollar end-to-end as many times as you need to measure whatever you wish.  It should also be noted that if you know your foot size you can use it to measure a space (like an apartment).

Approximate:  there are approximately

  • 1.8km to a mile
  • 4 liters to a gallon
  • 2.5cm to an inch
  • three feet to a meter


So a dollar is a good suggestion but you can use anything that has an easy to find constant size (like your iPhone) or a sheet of 8x11 paper or a credit card. 

Open a beer with anything


Obviously it's best to have a nice high quality bottle opener, but sometimes you need to improvise.  Here's a quick video of how to open a beer with anything - pen, lighter, cd, you name it!

  • Forgot a your wall charger?  Many flatscreen tvs have a USB port.   

Your phone is the best notepad ever

Pictures aren't just for divas.  Your phones camera is the best note taking device ever.  

  • Take pictures of street signs to remember where you left your car or where your hotel is
  • Take pictures of phone numbers to remember them later
  • Take pictures of maps, cooking directions, and tour information to remember them later
  • Take pictures of business cards so you don't have to carry them around with you
  • Take pictures of your passport, drivers license, medical insurance documents and email them to yourself.  You will never lose your documents again!

The Brown Extension Cord Is Your Best Friend

 

You know those cheap $2 brown extension cords?  They are the best thing to bring with you on your travels.  You can immediately turn one foreign power converter into 3, and also give your chargers some much needed distance.  You can also bring three prong converter if you have gadgets that require it.  You can also know that if you have a 6 foot cord, its 6 feet long.  This is another good measurement device!

Minimalism: Less is More

Travel is about freedom, and how can you fly like a bird with a 50 pound suitcase chained to your leg?

ShaneSuitcaseSmaller.jpg

I am here to tell you that "Less is More".  

The secret to this philosophy lies in the fact that everything is related, everything is connected.  If you have a cluttered home, you will have a cluttered mind.  If you have an overfull suitcase or backpack, you will have an overfull mind.  This is where stress comes from.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:  "I need these shoes to go with this outfit, and this outfit to go clubbing, and that outfit for the beach"- stop, just stop!   You probably won't end up wearing half of your hardline preparations, and you will pay dearly for lugging them around.  The more you have, the more you have to lose.  

The cost will be the freedom to go where you want to, and more importantly, the stress of:

  • having to be at the airport an extra hour early,
  • pay extra for checkin,
  • freakout when they lose your bag,
  • double freakout when someone steals from your bag,
  • protect and load your too-big-for-coach foreigner suitcase under a bus to cross the country.  

Anddd The list goes on.  The old mantra of traveling was "be prepared for anything", the new mantra is "improvise for anything".  You will be so much happier if you only have a few outfits to lug around, clean, and manage.  

We did Asia for 4 months with five shirts, two pairs of pants, five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, and some swimming gear.  That was it!  There was also room to buy a few cool new outfits in Thailand in Vietnam  Most of it was quick dry, which made it small and light, and very easy to clean in a sink.  This is a great way to travel.  

No stress, if I lost my possessions I would just get new ones (except the laptop - I protected the macbook like a child).

Thats all there really is to it.

Now when I travel, I only take what fits in the Rolo, anything more is too much.  This doesn't always work of course.  Sometimes we need formal attire, or winter gear.  These things won't fit in a Rolo, but lets use the trusty 80/20 rule as a basis for improvement.

Do you have any tips for minimal travel?  Post them below!

Top 5 Travel Apps

 
 
 
 

Smart phones have become a fundamental part of traveling, and they can be both a blessing and a curse for those who use them.

Technology appears to be everywhere.

Technology appears to be everywhere.


Lets go over a few tips that you should keep in mind while using a smart device while traveling.

I won't even mention the obvious ones like Google Maps or Facebook.

Google Translate

Google Translate

Google Translate

Of course, of course! How many times have you thrown your arms around like a drunk clown trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language?

We have all been there, and while its fun it can sometimes be frustrating. Google Translate is free, and will allow you to translate dozens of languages easily - wherever you are.

The only downside is it requires internet to work. If you are going to be traveling without wireless internet I suggest 7-in-1 Offline Photo Translator with Voice by Skycode. It an iOS app, but works offline - which is huge. The number of languages is rather limited - mostly European languages, but have a look if you are going to Europe where 3G internet is too expensive to be worthy.

 

Skype

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Skype is an app that lets you make phone calls over the internet. You can make free phone and video calls to other Skype users wherever you are on the planet. If you want to call a real phone number it costs a little bit of money, but its not too bad. 

It works over 3g so if you can get a good 3g plan it is an easy and worthy replacement for real phone minutes. A nice to know secret trick with Skype is they have subscription plans. You can sign up for a Skype subscription for your home country for something like $10 a month for unlimited calling to that country. This is very nice if you are traveling abroad and need to do a lot of business in the US. Skype has very low per-minute prices but connecting a call can be expensive. Available for iOS and Android.


Trip Advisor

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor

Trip Advisor is an international review website and App. Its a holy grail of things to do, attractions, best restaurants, best hotels, and walking day tours. If you are ever questioning the food in an area you can usually ask Trip Advisor for some much needed advice.

It should also be noted that Trip Advisor offers another amazing app called Trip Advisor City Guides. This secondary app lets you download entire cities to the offline store of your smartphone, giving you walking tours, directions, and real time information about the city without having internet. Very good for Europe where 3G just costs too much

 

Whatsapp

Whatsapp

Whatsapp

Whatsapp is an amazing chat app that will completely replace SMS messages. It requires very little internet and can also run on 3g. The best features are the ability to send picture messages and location pins very very easily, and also chat with groups of friends. Try it out.


Aviary

Aviary

Aviary

If you have a smart-phone chances are you are going to be taking some pictures. Aviary is a free photo editor with a ton of features. It gives you filters to stylize your photos, the ability to do minor edits like draw lines and text, and the ability to sharpen and fix Red-Eye. This is my goto toolkit for photo editing on my iPhone.

Some Other Important Tips

  1. 3G is key. If you want Google Maps, Translate, Trip Advisor, Skype, and Whatsapp anywhere and everywhere you will need to purchase some 3G internet. In Asia its cheap and accessible (approximately $5 dollars for a simcard, and $10 for 1.5gb of internet), South America kinda but coverage isn't so good, Europe no - very expensive. Try to get it where you can, if not then you can just use Wi-Fi.

    Please note: Your phone must be UNLOCKED to use foreign sim cards. If you don't know what this means google Unlocking your phone (Unlocking does not mean jailbreaking). You must do this before you leave on your trip or you will be very sad. :(
     
  2. Invest in a nice waterproof case to protect your phone. Its impossible to purchase certain models in other countries, especially authentic unlocked and in your native language. This is an asset you must protect at all costs, because losing it is like losing your passport. I highly recommend this one: DRY PAK DP-46 Cell Phone, GPS, MP3 Waterproof Case, Blue Not only does it protect your phone from total submersion underwater. It also protects it from dust, sand, and impact.  The attached carrying rope can be affixed to your belt also offering effective theft protection while moving around.
     
  3. Photographs are SOOOO good for remembering things. Photograph all of your travel documents, medical documents, flight schedules, and addresses of places you are. If you have a scuba cert, photograph that too. Photograph business receipts, and motorbike rentals. The camera is absolutely an extensible tool that can and should be overused for everything.
     
  4. Put a number lock on your phone. Even if its easy. If your phone is lost or stolen make sure your private data can not be stolen off of it. It is also good to use services like Apples Find My IPhone or remote wipe.
     
  5. Watch your phone. These things are worth hundreds of dollars and are very common targets for pickpockets and common thieves.