3 Travel Hacks for Urban Explorers

September 6, 2016

When it comes to traveling, we’ve all done our fair share of time in major cities and the countryside. As much as even the most independent traveler will espouse wanting to “get away from it all” or “get off the beaten path”, urban areas are definitely worth exploring. How else are you going to see the view from the Burj Khalifa or frolic in Central Park? Or in my case, the Painted Ladies in the heart of San Francisco?

Painted Ladies

Just as there are tips unique to airports, passing through a capital or larger city offers opportunities for clever travelers to work the system. Here are a few of the travel hacks I’ve discovered.

1. Storing luggage/clothes

You’ve just come from the airport and are lugging two huge Samsonite rollers because you haven’t embraced the minimalist lifestyle – or traveled without baggage entirely. Needless to say, there will a point where you’re tired of hauling these massive bricks across cobblestone streets and want to quite literally lighten your load.

What can you do? In the US following 9/11, public lockers are all but gone. If you’ve splurged on a hotel, they’d be happy to care for your bags, but you need to consider tipping the bellhop at pickup; if you’re not a guest, they sometimes charge a fee. This is an unnecessary expense if you’re just looking to unburden yourself for a few days.

I carry business casual clothes when I travel, in addition to my standard jeans and T-shirt. This is useful when you need to make a professional appearance, go on a date, or just offer incentive for the airline to bump you to first class. As a result, there’s no good way to keep shirts and slacks completely pressed and ready to wear when you stuff them in a bag. Rolling helps, as do plastic covers, but they’d still need a little ironing.

This is where dry cleaners come in handy. I can drop off multiple shirts and pants at a location to which I know I’m going to return, and rest assured I’ll have clean and ready to wear professional looking clothes when I do. Some have policies that you must pick everything up within 30 days, but others will store them longer.

2. Sunscreen on the go

First off: always apply sunscreen. From New Zealand to northern Canada – well, maybe not in the wintertime. But you get the idea. The problem is, if you enjoy traveling without a day pack or the increasingly annoying fanny pack, a standard tube of sunblock is a pretty annoying lump in your pocket. So where can you find protection from the sun if you want to travel light, or may have just forgotten to apply some?

My personal preference is to find a high-end market like Whole Foods or a department store and browse the cosmetics aisle. Usually, they have a few bottles of sunscreen or spray for sampling and while it may be a little crude to squeeze it all out to apply to your arms and legs, you can at least get some cover for your face.

3. Instant drink with wifi

Starbucks, or any cafe for that matter, is hardly a new discovery when it comes to passing the time with hot beverages and wifi. However, there are better ways to stretch out your cash and still get some time online. For example, I always travel with a few quality tea bags. Granted, I can use these just as easily when I’m in a house for a few days, but one way I can get a quick and easy snack is to ask for a cup of hot water at a cafe – usually free, sometimes just 25 cents – add the bag, and plunk myself down for an hour or so, secure in the knowledge I have a branded beverage cup and have (seemingly) paid my dues to use their space.

Do you have any tips when you’re out and about in a big city?

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