McCool Travel article about Redefinition at Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner.

8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers

8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers

The popular definition of Travel Hacking is to pay as little money as possible for amazing travel experiences. To me, great travel hacks create the best possible vacation. That might mean avoiding crowds, unique experiences, or just doing exactly what you want to do (and not what some article tells you to do).

These travel hacks for happy travelers serve as a template, a guideline. You can incorporate these great travel hacks into your routine one at a time or all at once, right away or over time. No one formula fits all persons or situations.

Here are 8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers.

Spend Less, Be Happy

Happy travelers use discount codes to save money on travel bookings. From AAA and AARP for lodging and car rentals to Groupon and Entertainment for dining, you might have access to dozens of discount codes. On a recent trip, I rented a car for two weeks through Costco Travel and the rate was 60% lower than any other discount code I tried. Yes, 60% lower! Where can you find sneaky discount codes for great travel hacks? One of my sources is the FlyerTalk Forums.

Lighten Your Load and Save Money, Time, and Stress

One of my favorite great travel hacks is very simple and will instantly save you money, time, and stress. Pack light! Bring less stuff on trips and reduce financial expense, physical stress, and emotional anguish. By packing light, you can more easily navigate interesting cobblestone streets and alleys of Asia and Europe, fit in at most destinations, and be a happier traveler. Be a carryon traveler and experience no more lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed baggage!

>>> For more travel hacks for happy travel, see 3 Habits of Happy Travelers

Free Lodging: Travel Hacks to Save Money

Lodging is typically one of the biggest travel budget items. Besides staying with friends, other free lodging opportunities include camping, Couchsurfing, house swapping, house sitting, volunteering, working (on a farm or hostel, operating a lighthouse, helping resorts clean up during offseason), and using points (see below).

Lodging Amenities

On the other hand, when paying for lodging, make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Booking hotels with complimentary breakfast really helps slash your dining costs. Reserve hotel suites (with at least a micro fridge and microwave) and buy some groceries at a local store. Both options help you control your budget and what you eat. I like vacation rentals—which could be a house, apartment, condo, boat, castle—because they usually offer more space, privacy, and amenities than hotels.

great travel hacks for happy travelers by Charles McCool

great travel hacks: Vacation rental (Airbnb) property in Charlottesville, Virginia

>>> To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, click here.

Earn Points: Travel Hack to Save Money

Points are the modern travel currency. Earn points for everyday purchases in addition to travel. In fact, shift your current spending to a points-earning credit card and you might earn free travel without spending extra money. Sweet deal, right? There are even multi-day conferences devoted to optimizing travel points. The motto for one conference, FTU, is “Learn, Earn, and Burn.” P.S. another points hacking term is churn, so add that to this list! In addition to earning points, many credit cards provide special benefits like early boarding, upgrades, or free checked bags.

>>> For more happy travel hack techniques, please see 8 Great Decisions to Help You Travel Happy

Be Special

One of my favorite travel hacks is free and simple. On flights with complimentary meals, order a special meal. Special meals are made by hand, rather than machine, and you eat relatively fresh food. A bonus is that special meals are often served first. Make sure you reserve such special meals at least 24 hours before your flight.

great travel hacks for happy travelers by Charles McCool

great travel hacks: order an airline special meal

Book, Then Watch

AutoSlash is a powerful tool for car rentals. Use your discount codes to find the best car rental deal (see these McCool Travel tips for car rentals), register your rental details with AutoSlash, and they continue to look for better deals. I have saved hundreds of dollars this way, plus saved a lot of time because I am not continually rechecking rates. It is done for me. Automatically. For FREE! There are similar resources for hotels but I have not used any. Has anyone else?

>>> For road trip travel hacks, see the article 8 Great Road Trip Habits of Happy Travelers

Use a Travel Professional

The best travel hack on this list might be to hire an experienced travel professional to find great travel hacks for you. Especially when your time is limited, letting someone else do complex trip planning for you may make sense. Great travel agents, travel advisors, and other travel booking pros (ask around for recommendations) might know some great travel hacks but they will certainly save you time.

Do you use any great travel hacks not included on this list? Leave a comment below.

Other Happy Travel resources:

Travel Hacking 101 group on Facebook
Boarding Area website
FlyerTalk forum
AutoSlash website
Costco Travel website
CouchSurfing website

Follow McCool Travel on FacebookTwitterInstagram, PinterestFlipboard, MediumLinkedIn, and Bloglovin.

8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers was first published on McCool Travel on 5 April 2017.

These Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers help create the best possible vacation experience while saving money, time, and stress for every trip.

Tags: ,

54 Responses to “8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers”

  1. Alyssa Heberlig March 12, 2018 at 9:35 pm #

    Good post. I can attest to these tips, especially the travel agent one, because I am a travel agent. People really need to understand that spending less really can make you happier when you travel. You don’t feel as guilty when you come back home.

  2. RedFedoraDiary March 9, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    This are some great tips! thanks for putting it together

  3. diningtraveler June 22, 2017 at 12:07 am #

    Love staying with friends. We do this when we go to Europe and it always gives us a new perspective no matter how many times we’ve been to a destination.

  4. Cathy Sweeney April 17, 2017 at 2:30 am #

    Great tips. Credit card points are definitely important to me. I mostly take advantage of airline miles, but we’re trying to be smarter with other points programs (like hotels), too. AutoSlash sounds very interesting — I’ll check that out.

  5. The Family Voyage April 17, 2017 at 1:56 am #

    These are great tips! We’re hoping to try house sitting later this year. Have you done it before?

  6. Buddy The Traveling Monkey April 16, 2017 at 10:13 pm #

    I’d never heard of Auto Slash! That’s a great tip! It’s so great when things are automated and you don’t have to constantly keep going back.

  7. Donna Meyer April 15, 2017 at 1:18 am #

    Perfect timing here for me, Charles. I just booked a rental car last night for a week next month. I had never heard of AutoSlash. I just registered that rental for them to watch. Great resource! Now we’ll see what they find. Thanks!

  8. Sue Reddel April 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

    Lots of wonderful tips Charles. Special meals on flights are a must! I also love the idea of traveling light – just don’t forget snacks!

  9. Carolina Colborn April 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    Great tips! I know of all of these but usually are in a hurry and just opt to do the ordinary. Gotta have lots of planning time to take advantage of the best bucks.

  10. Melody Pittman (@melodytravels) April 13, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    Great tips! I need to get more savvy with car rentals for sure. I will sign up for that site today!

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

      Sweet. You do not even have to sign up for AutoSlash. Just enter car rental parameters to search for deals or (what I do) find a deal and book elsewhere and let them like for better rates.

  11. Kelly Dunning April 13, 2017 at 3:54 am #

    I agree with the packing light tip, carrying around heavy bags is a real pain in the butt. Also, ordering a special meal on a plane really works. I ordered a vegetarian meal once and I got my food before everyone else and it seemed tastier and fresher!

  12. Carole Terwilliger Meyers April 12, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    Looking for discounts at Costco and using a travel agent are both great suggestions. I’m aware of them but it never hurts to be reminded again.

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 13, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      Thank you, Carole. Impossible to check every source every time (I think) and I also like and need to be reminded every once in awhile.

  13. Rachel Heller April 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    I agree with all of these hacks, and I hadn’t heard of the travelslash one yet. Thanks! I also use Hotwire for cheap rates on hotels and car rentals. It’s a bit of a gamble, but I usually can go 4-star through Hotwire when I can only afford 3-star.

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

      It has been awhile for me but I loved to check 3rd party sites in conjunction with Priceline, to get amazing deals. It is AutoSlash, BTW. Travelslash also sounds great! 😀

  14. LifeIsFullOfAdventures April 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    Some great hacks here… yes, free stays are always great when you can get them! 🙂

  15. Page_Traveller April 12, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these tips! Agree with them all.

  16. Doreen Pendgracs April 11, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    Wonderful tips, Charles. But then, I always enjoy your posts. 🙂 I’ll have to order a special meal sometimes to see what they come up with!

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 11, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

      Thank you, Doreen. You can pick your special meal type, like vegetarian or Asian. I know you would be chocolate, if they had one!

  17. Michele April 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

    Great advice and some new ones I had not heard of…we love housesitting and couchsurfing (both hosting and surfing) give unique experiences money just can’t buy.

  18. Donna Janke April 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    I like to find any way I can to save on accommodations. We recently did a housesit and that was great. Good reminder about the use of travel agents. In this day of Internet self-serve, it is easy to forget that there are experts who could help us save time and money in some cases.

  19. Vicki Winters April 10, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    No doubt using points is the BEST hack of all! Getting a Credit Card that maximizes every thing you purchase and one that comes with a free Priority Pass also increases the value (more free food at airports)! Nothing for nothing but I follow The Points Guy religiously and learn so
    Much from him…..

  20. Wanderlust Marriage April 9, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    Great tips, never heard of auto slash, will have to check that out. Being savvy allows for a lot more travel, the one thing we try to be is quite flexible, we don’t get hung up on one idea, so if the cost is too high for what we thought we’d do, we change our plans. Though this isn’t for everyone!

  21. diningtraveler April 9, 2017 at 3:13 am #

    Great tips, Charles! I agree with the free breakfast. I rarely book a property without free breakfast! Another money saving tip I use is always asking for a military discount, tons of discounts available if those who qualify ask.

  22. aholeinmyshoe (@a_holeinmyshoe) April 8, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    Great hacks here, some I’ve never heard of. Everyone has their own travel style, but can always benefit from a few tips here and there.

  23. Kelly Page (@TastingPage) April 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Great tips. I haven’t heard of AutoSlash but definitely want to check them out. I love booking a home with a kitchen too – great money saver and way to enjoy the local ingredients!

  24. Julie @ FuninFairfaxVA April 8, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    I wish I had started accumulating points right when I started traveling. That would be my top recommendation to anyone young just starting out. And I completely agree on the special meals; they’re almost always better than the standard fare. Great travel hacks!

  25. Natalie April 8, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Great ideas! The only problem I have with the advice to “order special meals” is that there are people with life threatening allergies or diseases that depend on being able to have those. I have celiac disease, so I can’t eat gluten. I do usually plan ahead, just in case, but that’s one of those things I hate to see given as advice because some people need those meals to be available and not overused.

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 8, 2017 at 10:03 am #

      People order the meals in advance (at least 24 hours) so anyone who requests them will get one. Ordering a special meal does not prevent someone else from getting one.

  26. Becky April 8, 2017 at 8:20 am #

    Yes, great tips! Curious about the special meals — which one(s) have you tried? I’ve never ordered one, but I’ve heard some horror stories about people who end up with a bowl of plain rice…

    The only tip I’m 50/50 on is about cooking for yourself. A lot of times going to new restaurants and trying unique foods is one of my favorite parts of travel 🙂

    • McCoolTravel (@CharlesMcCool) April 8, 2017 at 10:09 am #

      I have tried Asian, Asian vegetarian, low sodium, seafood, and probably others. Only one time I can remember preferring the regular meal and in that case I was able to also get one of those. Just ask!

      A bowl of rice for a special meal? I have not heard that one.

      You know I love trying foods, too. Not even necessarily cooking yourself but having that kitchen space can save a lot of money. For instance, buy a box of Cheerios, bagels, milk, and OJ instead of paying $15 per person at the hotel. I will still go out and find the local bakery, though! Nom.


  1. Charles McCool on being a Happy Traveler | Travel Interview - May 3, 2017

    […] this. He looks beyond simply travel hacking one’s way to savings and wants us all to become happy travelers. Aside from having one of the coolest surnames, he is literally one of the most interesting people […]

  2. Useful Travel Hacks to Save Money, Time, and Stress • McCool Travel - April 15, 2017

    […] Please also see the McCool Travel article: 8 Great Travel Hacks for Happy Travelers […]

McCool Travel wants to know ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: