EFG Magazine

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With COVID numbers falling and travel restrictions lifting, many people who’ve been road-tripping closer to home for the past two years are ready to take to the skies again. But do we still remember how?

Of course, traveling is like riding a bike (kind of). But if it’s been a while since you’ve booked a flight or been to an airport, there may be some travel tricks you’ve forgotten. With spring break and summer vacation around the corner, and many of our travel muscles weakened by the pandemic, we turned to TikTok and compiled some of the best travel hacks we could find.

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Buy airline tickets on a Tuesday

Buy airline tickets on a Tuesday

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According to “digital nomad” Kristina Cors , the best time to purchase a flight is at 3 p.m. ET on a Tuesday, six weeks before your desired travel dates. (Tuesdays at 3 p.m. was corroborated by FareCompare , who said, “Many U.S. airlines begin airfare sales that appear on their websites late Monday or early Tuesday; the competition then matches these newly lowered prices and this is generally finished by Tuesday afternoon.”) Of course, this isn’t universally true for all flights, but a good rule of thumb to try, nonetheless.

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Buy your tickets at the airport

Buy your tickets at the airport

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According to several TikTok travel content creators, including Mcmillansonthego , airline tickets can be cheaper when purchased at the airport. ( Mackenzie D had her Spirit airlines round-trip cut in half by making an in-person purchase at the airport.) VerifyThis confirmed this is possible—however, in their investigation, it only applied to low-cost airlines with online booking fees such as Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier. The airport isn’t close or convenient for many of us, but if you do try this trick, be sure to go when the ticket counter is open—usually two hours before a flight’s scheduled departure.

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Avoid baggage fees with an empty pillowcase

Avoid baggage fees with an empty pillowcase

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Many videos touted the “pillowcase hack,” whereby you avoid overweight baggage and carry-on fees by traveling with an empty pillowcase, or better yet, a pillow cover with a zipper. As most airlines don’t count pillows as carry-ons or personal items, the strategy is to stuff your pillowcase with excess clothes and disguise it as, well, just a pillow. Flight attendants commented that this is true, however this user pointed out that while she’s been using the trick successfully for 10 years, there is a risk that a strict gate agent will charge you if your pillow looks suspect. Of course, you can go a step further and stuff it under your jacket or sweatshirt for an added element of disguise.

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Pretend you just went shopping

Pretend you just went shopping

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Another version of the pillowcase method is the “plastic bag” method. Traveling with one or two empty plastic bags (bonus points if it’s a tall, sturdy, opaque Duty Free bag), is another way to avoid carry-on fees at the gate. Simply fill it with small items that didn’t fit in your luggage and, according to Travelingwithcva , carry it on as if it holds things you just purchased in the airport .

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Vacuum seal your bags of clothes

Vacuum seal your bags of clothes

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Instantly decrease the size of your packable items by putting them in plastic bags and vacuuming out the air. As shown in this video , a regular trash bag can be used, or you can purchase special vacuum sealing garment bags of varying sizes from retailers such as Home Depot , Amazon , or the Dollar Tree to achieve the same space-saving effect.

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Fly business and first class for free

Fly business and first class for free

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While the temptation to shop around and buy the cheapest ticket for any given flight is normal, if you want to earn free upgrades to business and first class in your lifetime, professional traveler Catarina Mello gives the following tips.

  • Pick just one of the three major airline alliances to be loyal to: Star Alliance (United + 25 others), Sky Team (Delta + 18 others), or One World (American + 12 others).
  • Stop booking flights on different airlines. Pick one airline and be loyal. Sign up for their loyalty program to get free complimentary upgrades, free luggage and carry-ons, free food, and other perks.
  • Sign up for a travel credit card (such as American Express Platinum, Chase Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve) that gives you points for every dollar you spend; points can be redeemed for complimentary upgrades.

TikTok creator Christina Galbato concurred, and added whenever possible, be flexible with your travel dates; you’re less likely to get upgraded when flying on a weekend.

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Get a suitcase that converts into a travel bed (for toddlers)

Get a suitcase that converts into a travel bed (for toddlers)

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The Bast Family demonstrated how a “Mini Human” ride-on suitcase can not only be ridden by your toddler through the airport, minimizing the “can you carry me?” whining, but can slo transform into a sleeping nook on the plane. Several versions are available, like this one from Amazon . While it’s on the pricier side, it’s worth considering if you anticipate doing more than occasional or short-distance travel with a little one.

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Reduce dirt and wrinkles in your suitcase with plastic, all the plastic

Reduce dirt and wrinkles in your suitcase with plastic, all the plastic

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Put your shoes in shower caps (or plastic bags) to avoid the underside soiling your clothes. Repurpose lightly used Ziploc bags for kid’s outfits, labeled by day, so when it comes time for them to get dressed, they’ll have everything they need together in one bag. Instead of throwing out all those dry cleaner bags, former celebrity stylist Lindsay Albanese recommends using them to prevent clothing wrinkles. Lay them flat and place an article of clothing on top. Slowly roll up the bag, making sure there is a layer of plastic between each fold.

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Play “flight roulette” for the cheapest flights

Play “flight roulette” for the cheapest flights

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TikTok creator My Life’s a Travel Movie shares her method for flying cheaply, called “flight roulette.” In her example, using the website Skyscanner , she set the “to” field to “everywhere” and her departure date as “cheapest month.” Her search brought up flights from Los Angeles to Mexico from $30, Costa Rica from $107, and London from $241. Obviously, this hack works best for adventurous travelers with flexible dates. Another user sang the praises of booking flights on Skiplagged (which helps you find cheap tickets to points beyond where you want to go, with your desired destination as a layover along the way), purchasing one-way flights, and emphasized the money-saving potential of flexible travel dates.

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Watch videos on your smartphone hands-free

Watch videos on your smartphone hands-free

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If you’re on a flight without in-flight entertainment, easily turn your smartphone into a tiny, hands-free movie screen. All you need is a phone case and a barf bag (unused, of course). In this video , Nicki Baber demonstrates how to remove your phone’s case, place the sick bag behind your phone (perpendicularly), re-insert the bag and phone into the case, then secure the remaining portion of the bag behind the tray table. Once the tray table is locked, your phone will hang securely for hands-free viewing. (That is, if you don’t have a universal in-flight phone mount , which you should, precisely so you don’t have to use a barf bag.)

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Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

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Many creators (rightly) hail the unprecedented convenience and ease offered by these U.S. Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler programs. TSA PreCheck allows you to skip security lines, keep your shoes on, and keep all your electronics in your bags when boarding domestic flights (for the low price of $85 for five years). Global Entry allows you to bypass airport security and provides expedited U.S. customs screening when re-entering the country after international travel. (This program is marginally more expensive at $100 for five years.) From the TSA, “For more information on all of the DHS Trusted Traveler Programs use the DHS interactive Trusted Traveler Tool .”