4 Travel Hacks That Will Save You Money and Your Sanity

Wow! What a rollercoaster it has been. It's only been a week and I've already learned so much about traveling, most of which has been from making mistakes that have cost me beaucoup bucks. Yikes :/. However, I guess I just have to chalk it up to a lesson learned and move forward. I was able to tell myself that at least I'll be able to share my experience with you guys so that a couple of mistakes that I made could be put to good use. So, without further ado here are four travel hacks that I've learned from already making mistakes on my way to Thailand.

1. Don't Book You're Connection Flight Until You're on the Plane

This is what really cost me. Granted I should have done this even more because we flew stand-by, which meant we were on even shakier ground. However, one thing I learned from getting stuck in Dallas for three nights is that any kind of travel is shaky and there is NO GUARANTEE that you'll get from Point A to Point B when you want to. If the connection flight you booked is refundable or you have some kind of insurance then don't worry about it and book your flight in advance. However, we learned the hard way when we went to board our flight from Hong Kong and the gate supervisor didn't let us on because my boyfriend's passport's back page was slightly torn. UGH. Rookie mistake. Neither of us had any idea that that was considered "mutilation" and we wouldn't be accepted on the flight. We were forced to book a two night stay at a La Quinta and he had to get an emergency passport the next day.

This wouldn't have been the biggest deal in the world, especially as I was able to cancel the hotel we had booked in Bangkok and push back the proceeding one, but I had booked an Air Asia flight that was non-refundable and even when I called to push it back they wouldn't let me.. $300 out the window. 

My advice: look at how much availability is on the plane to your connecting flight. If there are a bunch of open seats, then wait until you know for sure the plane is going to take off to book the flight. This is applicable even if you're not on stand-by. The flight the day after we weren't allowed on the plane was cancelled and the poor people on it were in the same boat as us if they booked a non-refundable flight.

2. Be the Squeaky Wheel

Once Chris (boyfriend) got his passport we were all set and in high spirits. Sure we had lost out on a chunk of money, but we were happy and healthy and we only missed two nights, not that big of a deal. I booked another Air Asia flight and was ready to take on the day (I still hadn't learned my lesson). We marched up to the desk only to be stopped by a stressed-out looking French woman who informed us we probably wouldn't get on this plane either. I FREAKED out. Like anxiety, couldn't breathe properly freaked out. She told us that there was a rare weight and balance issue that required 50 open seats on the plane. What a nightmare. We were the last ones on the standby list, because we had to be added on last minute. We watched as everyone trickled on the plane. Finally the French woman said that there were two people missing from the plane and that if they didn't show up in ONE MINUTE we'd be on. I've never begged the universe so much in my life. At a minute and thirty seconds a young couple came barreling down the hall, luggage tumbling every which way. Once again we weren't allowed on the flight. 

For a good 5 hours after that I felt completely emotionally drained and numb. We were lucky enough to be taken in by Chris's best friend and girlfriend who lived an hour or so out. After I had recouped a bit, I felt determined. I was going to get our connection flight pushed to the next day if it took me all night (which it pretty much did). It literally took my mom, Chris and I five hours of non-stop calling and re-calling the Thailand Air Asia call-center to get anywhere. Eventually we were told that if we were able to prove that there was a weight and balance issue on our plane through official documents before the Air Asia flight we were supposed to get on took off, we'd be allowed to push the Air Asia plane ride. 

Somehow by some miracle, Chris got ahold of the sweetest American Airlines supervisor (shoutout to Blake!) that made it her mission to help us get those documents, even going over time by an hour and telling us what to say to the Air Asia people and getting her boss to send over the official documents that proved there were issues with the plane. The Air Asia employees tried to tell us that these documents were fake. So crazy! They were sent by an official American Airlines email and everything. 

My advice: Be the squeaky wheel! Don't be afraid to be insistent. Put all your cards on the table and don't take no for an answer. If you do get a no, then call again! You'll get another person who might be more understanding. Also, if you get a no ask to speak to their supervisor, since they will be much more likely to hear you out. Eventually we were able to push back out second flight to the day after saving us $350.

3. Keep Your Calm and Remove Your Emotions From the Situation.

I didn't realize how much anxiety I had until not being allowed on a plane twice. Both times ended up in me breaking down. Not pretty. A lot of it had to do with the total lack of sleep we had gotten three nights in a row.

There were no guarantees we would get on this third plane either, but the third time around I kept my cool and imagined my mom hugging me the entire time (hey it worked). Keeping my heart rate down through steady breaths and calm thoughts helped tremendously with my stress levels.

My advice: No matter what journey you go on, you make yourself vulnerable to stressful situations by deciding to travel. I'm sure that on this trip a few things just won't go our way and I need to practice remaining collected and calm. It helped me a lot to intentionally remove my emotions from the situation. Buddhists practice this in order to remain in a state of bliss and happiness. If outside factors can't push down your mood, then you'll remain much more stable. This is something I'm going to work on throughout this trip.

4. Exchange Your Money at Your Destination

I'm stilly pretty salty about this one. Chris and I cumulatively lost out on about $100 because we exchanged our money in Hong Kong instead of Thailand. We got about 26 Baht per $1 instead of 34 baht that we would have gotten by waiting and exchanging at the DMK airport. Granted, the exchange agent swore up and down there were no fees and this was the highest rate, but we should have double-checked the exchange rate via phone.

My advice: If you have time go even further by heading to a local currency exchange instead of one in the airport and you'll get an even better rate.