28 Travel Hacks for Summer

Hack your way to the best vacation ever.

You’ve budgeted, planned and looked forward to your summer travel plans all year long, and now it’s time to enjoy it. Don’t let a bad sunburn, a poorly packed bag or a lost key ruin the trip you’ve worked so hard for. Read about some of our favorite travel tips and then click through the galleries to see all 28 hacks.

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Michael Dunning

Cruise Hacks

From family trips to romantic honeymoons, there’s a cruise line or ship for every type of trip you could imagine, but some travelers are hesitant to jump on the cruise train – or “ship” I should say. Common concerns for first-timers are the possibility of seasickness, added costs of alcohol packages and limited Internet access. Use these tips for a carefree cruise.

Although seasickness is very unlikely on a large cruise ship, it's better to be safe than sorry. Fend off nausea with ginger. Bring your own ginger or nausea medicine like Dramamine if you think you might need something stronger. If you wait to buy it at the infirmary on the cruise, you'll pay a steep price.

BYOW (bring your own wine). Several cruise lines will let you bring a bottle or two, but check their policies beforehand. Bringing your own wine is a great option if you only plan on drinking a few glasses and know that you wouldn't get your money's worth with the available alcohol packages.

Be realistic about how much you plan on using the Internet. You may think you'll want to disconnect completely, but let's be honest, you'll probably want to share pictures of your fabulous vacation on social media. Look into what Internet packages the cruise line offers prior to arriving to avoid overspending.

Beach Hacks

Nothing ruins a beach trip like a blistering sunburn. If you forget to bring aloe, see if the coffee bar in your hotel room has Earl Grey tea, which is a great substitute for treating a bad burn.

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Graça Victoria

Love digging your toes in the sand but hate when your car becomes a sandbox as a result? Bring baby powder in your beach bag. The powder draws out moisture, so lightly dusting it on the sandy area of your body will make it brush off super easily.

If you’re popping bottles on vacation, save the corks! Instead of bringing a key chain with all of your keys to the beach, only bring your car key and/or a key to the place you’re staying. Screw an eye hook into the cork and attach the essential key. You’re less likely to lose it, and if it you accidentally take it into the ocean with you, the cork with serve as a buoy.

Theme Park Hacks

I love a good roller coaster, but I often find the thrill is short lived and outweighed by large crowds, long lines, sweltering heat and overpriced food. Combating these cons with a few hacks can make a theme park visit much more enjoyable, and you'll go home remembering the adrenaline-pumping moments instead of the time spent in long lines.

Don't let rain ruin your visit. Bring plastic ponchos in case of summer showers. Use the time to get a snack, shop for souvenirs or visit indoor attractions until the sun returns.

Follow theme park accounts on social media and sign up for their newsletters to be the first to know about promotions to get the best deal on tickets.

If the park has an app, download it. Apps like My Disney Experience have interactive maps, wait times and a bathroom locator.

Our Top Hacks for...

Save Money by Bringing Your Own Wine

Save Money by Bringing Your Own Wine

Sherry Kennedy, founder of Cruise Maven, says some lines will allow a bottle or two in your cabin, but be sure to check the cruise line’s alcohol policy in advance. Most lines only allow it during embarkation day. Also, don’t forget to bring a bottle opener, or choose wine with a twist-off top to avoid paying a corkage fee.

Conversely, Kennedy says the least expensive wine package can be worth it, especially “if you don’t want to spend the $20 corkage fee on a $10 bottle of wine.” Even better, the waiter can save any leftover wine by noting your name and room number, and you can enjoy it at another meal at any of the ship’s dining venues. 
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Don’t Feel Obligated to Book a Shore Excursion Through the Ship

Don’t Feel Obligated to Book a Shore Excursion Through the Ship

Experts agree that independent operators are often cheaper and can provide a more in-depth experience. Stewart Chiron, founder of The Cruise Guy, even advises leaving the ship for a night in order to experience a city. For example, on a Mediterranean cruise, he advises getting off in Livorno in order to spend a full day and night in Florence. From there, one can take a train to Rome to catch up with the ship. “It saves an hour and a half return from Florence,” he says. Of course, book the hotel in advance.

Carolyn Spencer Brown, the editor in chief of Cruise Critic, also suggests connecting with other passengers beforehand in order to save money on an independent tour. Her site offers a section called Roll Call, which allows passengers who have already booked a cruise to chat up to a year before the sailing. Doing so facilitates finding others to share excursions, like chartering a catamaran from St. Thomas to St. John. “I think those experiences tend to be more special than getting on a catamaran with 50 people you don’t know,” she says.
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Anna Bryukhanova  

Avoid Paying High Rates to Connect to the Internet

Avoid Paying High Rates to Connect to the Internet

In order to avoid spending 75 cents a minute to get online, Kennedy suggests buying a package to save money. For example, Carnival offers a social media package (which includes access to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more) for just $5/day. While in port, she recommends asking (or following) crew members to find the best Internet cafes. 960 1280

  

Ask for Ginger if You Feel Seasick

Ask for Ginger if You Feel Seasick

The odds of getting seasick on a large cruise ship are low, but it's good to be prepared just in case. Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy to treat nausea and motion sickness. Kennedy says that many ships, including Norwegian, Holland America and Princess, will provide it for free in their restaurants. (Although some ships will charge you.) Luckily candied ginger and gum are also easy to find at many supermarkets if you'd rather bring it with you.

If you suspect you might need something stronger, consider bringing Bonine, Dramamine or motion sickness patches to avoid paying higher prices at the infirmary. 
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Compare Rates Through a Travel Agent

Compare Rates Through a Travel Agent

Chiron notes that agents can score upgrades that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars. He says they can also help select the best cabin location, such as a quiet room in the forward of the ship instead of below the pool deck. Kennedy adds that agents often have access to discounts and perks that cruise line reservations don’t know about, such as onboard credits, a free bottle of wine or bathrobes, and even complimentary dining in a specialty restaurant.   960 1280

Yuri Arcurs  

Book Reservations in Advance

Book Reservations in Advance

Both Spencer Brown and Chiron recommend doing this in order to guarantee a spot. Online scheduling is available for spa appointments, entertainment options, restaurants and shore excursions. 960 1280

  

Visit the Spa on a Port Day

Visit the Spa on a Port Day

Since the ship will be emptier, Spencer Brown and Kennedy note that you’re more likely to find a deal. Kennedy advises checking the daily planner for specials. Just avoid succumbing to any product pitches, says Spencer Brown. 960 1280

Yuri Arcurs  

Do Your Laundry for a Flat Rate

Do Your Laundry for a Flat Rate

Kennedy says that most lines offer a flat rate for doing laundry toward the end of a cruise — think as much dirty laundry as you can stuff in the bag provided. However, if you need to do laundry sooner, both Holland America and Cunard offer free self-service laundry machines and detergent.  960 1280

  

Wait Until the Last Day of a Cruise to Shop

Wait Until the Last Day of a Cruise to Shop

Kennedy says this is when you get the best shopping deals onboard a ship, especially if it's at the end of a season. For example, on a past cruise she bought sweatshirts that were reduced from $59 to $7. 960 1280

Sabine Lubenow  

Book Your Next Cruise Before Leaving the Ship

Book Your Next Cruise Before Leaving the Ship

Kennedy says this is another great way to save money. For example, Cunard will provide up to $300 in onboard credit to spend on your next cruise. Don’t forget to ask about any available promotions at the time of booking. 960 1280

  

Cruises  10 Photos

You Snooze, You Lose

You Snooze, You Lose

Plan your visit to the park so that you arrive a few minutes before the gates swing open. You’ll zip through lines for the major rides. You can further reduce wait times by immediately heading to the back of the park where crowds will be thinnest. 960 1280

  

Stay Hydrated for Free

Stay Hydrated for Free

Don't spend $5 for a bottle of water again. Most theme parks, like Walt Disney World, will give you a cup of water for free at any food service counter. Pack a lightweight water bottle and refill at no cost.  960 1280

Move Collective LLC  

BYOL

BYOL

Save money by bringing your own lunch and snacks. You can rent a locker to store a small cooler or lunchbox. This is a great tip for families with members with allergies and special dieterary needs.  960 1280

  

Take Advantage of Free Fast Passes

Take Advantage of Free Fast Passes

With any park admission, Walt Disney World and Disneyland offer free FastPass+ tickets that allow you to skip the lines and schedule exactly when you want to ride the park’s most popular attractions. Most park visiters grab a ticket for these once in the park but, you can actually reserve these 30 days before you set foot in the park and 60 if you’re staying at one of the park resorts. This perk is limited to three rides a day so we recommend the using your passes on the three mountains in Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. 960 1280

Garth Vaughan  

Don't Let Rain Spoil Your Trip

Don't Let Rain Spoil Your Trip

If you're visiting any of the major parks in Orlando, be prepared for afternoon showers no matter the season. A lot of visitors leave during this time but any Florida native knows that in half an hour the sun will be back. Keep a poncho on hand and use the time to shop, get a snack or visit popular characters indoors. 960 1280

  

Follow Parks on Social Media

Follow Parks on Social Media

Follow your favorite theme parks on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to their newsletters so you don’t miss out on flash sales like discounted tickets and deals on dining and park hotels. Social media fans are also the first to know about new attractions and shows like Walt Disney World's new Star Wars additions.  960 1280

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Learn From the Super Fans

Learn From the Super Fans

Plan your trip based on tips and reviews from other park fans on community websites like Theme Park Review or Ultimate Roller Coaster and vacation planning blogs like Orlando Informer and Theme Park Insider. Listen to WDW Radio or one of the many amusement park-themed podcasts for advice on best times to visit the parks and can't-miss events like Harry Potter fan weekends at Universal Studios. 960 1280

© 2013 Universal Orlando Resort  

Download Park Apps

Download Park Apps

Apps like My Disney Experience feature interactive maps, wait times for rides, online dining reservations, show times, sharing options via Instagram, etc. and that crucial GPS bathroom locator. 960 1280

Photographer: Leonardo Patrizi  

Buy in Advance

Buy in Advance

You’re much better off buying theme park tickets in advance than by burning park time waiting in lines at the entrance. Pre-purchasing can also give you access to discount codes and seasonal specials. While it may be tempting, never buy tickets from sellers on Craigslist or eBay. There’s nothing worse than explaining the concept of “counterfeit” to your six-year-old.  960 1280

© 2013 Universal Orlando Resort  

Best Deals for Souvenirs

Best Deals for Souvenirs

You're going to pay top dollar at shops inside the parks, especially items like stuffed animals and T-shirts. Opt for outlet stores outside the park like Disney Springs in Orlando. You can also order souveniers from many major theme parks online to skip the hassle of hauling items around the park all day. 960 1280

Bloomberg  

Theme Parks  10 Photos

Put a Cork in It

Put a Cork in It

Leave your key ring at home and take just your house, condo or car key to the shore. Tip: Screw an eyehook into an old wine cork and attach the crucial key to it. If you accidentally take it into the surf, you’ll have a buoy and a good story instead of a locksmith referral. 960 1280

  

The Right Fit

The Right Fit

Traditional beach blankets have a habit of mutating into mainsails during an onshore gust. Instead, take an old bed sheet (fitted is best) and fill the corners with sand to keep it on the ground where it belongs. If the local municipality permits, further stabilize your foundation with an iced bucket of beer or bubbly. 960 1280

  

Sound the UV Alarm

Sound the UV Alarm

It’s easy to lose track of time at the beach, but you need to stay alert to avoid getting sunburn. Set the timer on your phone or, for a more stylish setup, score a cute alarm clock at the thrift store (or a modern knock-off) and set it for a wake-up call. Your dermatologist will thank you.  960 1280

www.natasha-lebedinskaya.com  

BYOPopsicles

BYOPopsicles

Make your own frosted treats for the kids by tossing a few reusable juice pouches or store-bought juice boxes into the freezer the night before your beach trip. Mom can add a dash of rum to hers (just make sure to clearly mark the adult version).  960 1280

Sing&Tom  

Powder Up

Powder Up

If you hate having sand stick to your skin, try this trick to remove it. Dust baby powder over the sandy area, then easily shake or brush off the sand. The powder draws out moisture, making it a must for your beach bag.  960 1280

  

Wrap It Up

Wrap It Up

If you’ve ever dropped your phone in the toilet, you know that tech and water don’t mix. Now imagine that toilet is the Pacific Ocean. Protect your expensive phone or tablet by putting it in a 10-cent zip-top bag. It’ll also keep sand out of your charging port.  960 1280

  

A Spot of Tea

A Spot of Tea

If you forgot the sunscreen and wound up scorched, Earl Grey can help. Black tea contains tannic acid, which is one of the most effective ways to treat sunburn. Brew a few cups of strong tea, let cool and apply with cotton balls, or just apply the teabag directly to the affected area.  960 1280

  

Float On

Float On

Upcycle your old pool toys for your day at the beach. Fill a floatie with water, toss it in the freezer overnight and you’ve got an ice-cold drink insulator. When you’ve finished your drink, revert your drink insulator back to its original use as a floatie.  960 1280

  

Beaches  9 Photos

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