TheTravelPro provides top travel tips

I’ve been seeing a lot of so-called “travel hacks” lately – things that will supposedly make your life easier on the road. Some are brilliant, some are good, but others are complete b.s.

I’m an avid traveler when I’m not working and a road warrior when I am. Between my personal travels and work, I spent more than one night out of three in hotels pre-COVID, so I have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t. Here are my takes on some purported hacks.

USE A HANGER TO KEEP THE DRAPES CLOSED. Not a bad idea; too few hotels have curtains that overlap, so keeping the sun from blazing in at too early an hour can be a real challenge. One hack suggested using the hotel-provided hangers with clips (often called “skirt hangers”) to keep the drapes closed but if you’re traveling on business, you may have a binder clip that works even better because there’s no bulky hanger, nor is there the extra weight pulling on the drapes. If you’re truly old-school, toss a clothes pin into your luggage and use that.

STICK YOUR TOOTHBRUSH THROUGH AN INVERTED PAPER CUP TO KEEP IT OFF THE COUNTER. OK, but why not put all your personal grooming items in a glass to keep them together AND off the counter? (Unless you’re weird about having your toothbrush close to your hairbrush or comb…) Borrow a pint glass from the hotel bar or buy one at the dollar store.

GET YOUR FOREIGN CURRENCY FROM AN ATM OVERSEAS. It is well known that getting currency from a bank-affiliated ATM at your destination gives you a better exchange rate than changing currency at an airport kiosk or bureau de change or even your own bank before leaving home. However, there is a potential downside, which I detailed in this article.

ATM in Copenhagen, Denmark

USE YOUR HOTEL IRON TO TURN A PACKAGED SANDWICH INTO A PANINI. No, no, and NO! While this may work in the technical sense, there are way too many pitfalls. If you’re not extremely careful, you risk leaving goo on the iron or ironing board, and that could seriously screw up the next guest’s day. Imagine having to iron a shirt or top before a meeting or presentation, only to find the oils from the previous guest’s clumsy attempt at culinary innovation leeched onto your clothes, rendering them stained and/or stinky.

BOTTOM LINE: If you want a hot sammy that badly, go out and buy one.

One of the b.s. hacks I've seen recently recommends using hot water from in-room coffee makers like the ubiquitous Keurig machines for things like Cup-O-Noodles or Easy-Mac. The trouble is, the water from those machines is not hot enough! You’ll need a microwave or full-on hot pot to get the water hot enough to make those items. On the up side, most hotels that sell those and similar food items in their pantries also have microwaves for guests to use.


Find a few things you can buy and carry to make your hotel room feel more like home. Here are some of mine.

BLUETOOTH SPEAKER. I have a faithful Sony SRS-X11 that I bought for about $50 before our Alaska cruise in 2016. It’s small, has great sound, and allows me to stream from Pandora, RadioTunes, or the collection of tunes on my laptop. (Side note: Pandora only works within the borders of the United States while I've enjoyed RadioTunes in a number of countries around the world. If you're a Pandora fan and traveling internationally, investigate and install another service before you leave home.)

LED NIGHTLIGHT. We’ve all had the experience of waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and heading in the wrong direction because we temporarily forgot how our room was laid out. Carry one of these – a package of two is about $6 – plug it into the bathroom outlet, and presto! A beacon shining out in the night.

YOUR OWN GLASS. Too many hotels rely on plastic, disposable drinking glasses for the bath and paper cups for their in-room coffee service. Those are fine for what they are, but I loathe drinking wine out of plastic or paper. If you do too, ask the hotel bar to lend you a wine glass for use in your room. Otherwise, most cities of any size have dollar stores where one can buy an actual glass wine or water glass, then take it home or recycle it before you leave.

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW. On one business trip, I spent nearly two weeks at a Homewood Suites by Hilton (NYSE:HLT) in Rochester, Minn. It was a fine room with a single draw-back: the bathroom lighting. The hotel had those curly CFLs that take about a minute to get to full brightness, and even then were too dim. Again, I solved that with a trip to the dollar store. Picked up two LED bulbs for $1 each, replaced the CFLs (which I left in the room for the hotel to deal with) and was a happy camper for the remainder of my stay.

BOTTOM LINE: Depending on how long you’ll be staying and dealing with things that irritate you, it might be worth a couple of bucks and the effort it takes to solve the problem yourself.

POWER STRIP/MULTI PLUG. Although more and more hotels are installing the larger number of charging sources we need for our traveling electronics, there are still many that don't have enough. Toss a multi-plug or power strip into your gear and you’ll be set for the next time your lodging doesn’t offer sufficient outlets. And they’ll work overseas, too: just plug them into the right adapter plug. And if you’re worried about the voltage, check the power block or plug. They will tell you what voltages they can handle, and most can accommodate the whole 120-240 volt range.

There are literally hundreds of other things that can make your travels easier. Most people would find a flashlight and a car power adapter very handy but other accouterments will depend on your personal travel style.

Figure out what works for you and how much you’re willing to carry, then head out!

Safe and pleasant travels.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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