I was recently contacted by a good friend for some tips on how she should prepare for her first big international trip in about 5 years. Her question got me thinking that I should write a list of all the travel tips that I and a few other bloggers have learned through our years of travel. I can say after visiting 21 countries in the past 5 years (not including all the domestic trips and returns to cities) I consider myself an expert traveler. I love to share the travel tips and tricks I have learned through my travels and will blather on much too long about minute details of travel to anyone that will listen.
While some things (like being an expert cheap flight finder, and local transit researcher) just come with time and familiarity on the subject the most useful travel tips are things you can put into action on your next big trip. I want everyone that can travel to travel and to have a great time while doing it and I hope these travel tips help! I have even put together a before you go checklist to make sure you don’t forget to do or pack anything important. Just enter your email below and the checklist will be delivered to your inbox ready for your trip!
To make this epic list of travel tips easy for you to navigate, my dear traveler, I have listed the table of contents for this post below. Just click on what you need to know and you will be brought to that section of travel tips!
From one traveler to another I hope this list of 85 travel tips help make preparing for your next trip a little less stressful and more fun!
Okay sorry one more thing before we start just a quick disclaimer that all these travel tips are based on my experiences and those I have learned from other travelers. Your milage may vary depending where you are traveling to but I tried to make these travel tips as universal as possible with all I know from various sources. While they are quite thorough always make sure to double check with the proper official source for the most up to date and correct information regarding visa, documentation, flight rules, etc.
This post also contains affiliate links, which means I receive a some money if you make a purchase using these links which goes to keeping this blog running.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- DESTINATION BASICS
- BOOKING FLIGHTS
- BOOKING GROUND TRANSIT
- FINDING ACCOMMODATION
- VISITING ATTRACTIONS
- RENTING A CAR
- KEEPING YOUR TRIP ORGANIZED
- DOCUMENTATION AND VISAS
- MONEY MATTERS
- INTERNET AND PHONE MATTERS
- LANGUAGE MATTERS
- USEFUL THINGS TO PACK
- OTHER NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION
Before you start booking flights make sure you take a look at the basics of the desired destination at the time you are going. What is the weather at this location? Do you need a visa to visit (check out more travel tips about visas below!)? Are there any public holiday’s you should take note of? Are there any political events you should be aware of? Check both the country’s state department site and your country’s local embassy site for alerts on these kind of matters (if you are from the USA the site for this info is here which used to be awesome but I can’t vouch for it under the current admin as I haven’t been traveling internationally recently). Special rules you should be aware of? Does your destination require vaccinations or does your home country suggest them? All this and more can also be found on the embassy and state department sites for the country you are visiting and your home country (in most cases).
There are a million tips on how to find cheap flights out there (like this one on how to find “error fare” flights!) and a ton of cheap flight aggregate sites. These are not those travel tips; these are all the other things that should be considered when booking your flights, in addition to cost, which I am sure you are already looking out for!
- Avoid Short Layovers | Yes layovers are not fun but you know what’s worse than a layover? Missing your flight. Layovers that are under 1 1/2 hours are risky especially if you are changing terminals. If you are flying internationally you might even have to go through another security check and those can take some time. So save yourself a headache in advance and book your flight to allow for ample time to switch between flights. Then use your free time to stop and enjoy a beverage and watching those who did not plan as well as you run through the airport.
- Optimize your Arrival Day for Activities or Jet Lag Reduction | Depending on where you are flying from and to you might have a variety of departure times to choose from when booking your flight. When faced with these options I suggest to either pick one of two arrival times. Option one is pick a flight that has you arriving at your destination in the early morning so you can explore the whole day. If you would get too tired taking a overnight/ morning flight option 2 is to choose a flight that will have you arrive at your destination in the early evening. This way you can get in get settled in your accommodation, have dinner at a reasonable hour, and head to bed in the evening in local time. Either option should get you on the schedule of your destination will help you avoid the dreaded jet lag!
- Read the Fine Print | Did you just find a flight deal that seems too good to be true? Well it might be, so double check what is included with your ticket price. A lot of budget carriers tack on extra fees for cabin luggage (ie carry on), checked baggage, and more. Regardless of where you book a ticket through make sure to check the carrier’s site for all the specifics details to ensure that you don’t get surprised with extra fees at check in!
- Always Sign Up for the Reward Program | I make a habit of signing up with the reward program for every flight carrier I take. Quite often this wont get you much of anything but for others you can get some special perks. Also if you fly enough those miles do add up! Another trick is to check if the airline you are booking your flights for is part of one of the big alliances (i.e. One World, Star Alliance, Skyteam). If they are sign up for the loyalty program for the carrier you use the most and use that frequent flier number across the entire flight alliance (For example I do this with Delta and the Skyteam alliance)
- Midnight Flights | Midnight flights get tricky, what day are you actually flying? When are you supposed to be at the airport?! The key is to remember if you are flying at 00:05 (12:05am) on a Monday you would have to be at the airport on Sunday at 22:00 (10:00pm) to catch the right flight!
BOOKING GROUND TRANSIT
Taking a train or bus can often be the best way to get between cities but how to book such things especially when the site is in a language different than yours?
- Research, Research, Research | Google is your friend when it comes to finding the best ground transit option between point A and B. I start with a simple query “Best ways between A and B” and then take that info to do more in depth research as often the initial information points to 3rd party sites. Some information I like to find out is what is the local transit provider’s name is (not the 3rd party english speaking ticket agent), can I book online in advance, are there any special tourist rates, what is the schedule etc. I use this info to find when and what service I want to take, and the local provider’s site for buying tickets which leads me to…
- Google Translate is Your Friend | Often the site for the local ground transit is in the local language, go figure. Sometimes the home page has an english option but the check out doesn’t, or sometimes if you are lucky there is an english version of everything and it works (obviously I am assuming English is one the languages you can read since you are reading this). When the english on the site is spotty or non existent I will either translate the whole page using google translate, or if I have pretty much figured out what I need I will just translate the words in question.
- Sites are Generally Laid Out Similarly | As most sites for booking transit are laid out similarly you can often navigate quite far in the process with out too much translation help. At this point I am so familiar with the workings of bus and train sites that I often just navigate through the local language (if it is a latin alphabet language) and translate some words here or there to get me what I need!
- Checkout Woes | Sometimes though there are some weird things that crop up when checking out. For instance booking my bus tickets for Morocco I needed to put in the bank… I didn’t have a Moroccan card so what was I to do? This took some intense googling but I figured out which option was for foreign cards and it worked out. Before giving up, search a few different questions and you might be able to find your answer out there with a little extra effort.
- Or Just Use an Agent | If all this effort of this research and detective work to book your ground transit doesn’t sound fun to you this can be a good time to use a travel agent or a 3rd party ticket service. I love transit research (I might be alone in this) and saving money (well for ground transit at least) so I have never used this option but there are people who will do this work for you for a fee and to take one thing off your travel planning plate.
Oh the wide world of accommodation so many options and so many resources out there. Like with flights I am not hear to show you the best way to find cheap accommodation but help you choose what kind of place you want to stay at while traveling. Do you want to stay at a hotel, Airbnb, a hostel? Hopefully these are some tips that will help you figure out what is right for you!
- Living the Hostel Life | If you are a solo traveler or a small group that wants to meet other fellow traveler for excursions and stay cheap a hostel is the way to go. They are almost always the cheapest option and often offer a variety of activities to meet other traveler and get to know the city you are staying in. Hostelworld is a pretty good source of real reviews of hostels so you can find one that is the vibe you are going for. Make sure
- Hotels | Obviously the standard choice, hotels are often the most convenient and easy to figure out. While doing your research on the various accommodation aggregate sites is worth the effort when you find the best price call the hotel directly and see if you can get the same price through them. Sometimes you can get an even better deal through the hotel or extra perks (like a free upgrade!). Personally if I am opting for a hotel I like to look for the smaller local hotels to get a better glimpse into the local life than a chain hotel can offer.
- Airbnb | Airbnb is fast becoming the preferred option of travelers for you get the comforts of a home while traveling. If you are new to Airbnb it is a service where people can rent out a room or their entire home for travelers to stay in. Some things to consider though when deciding on an Airbnb are the legalities in the destination, is it an highly impacted rental market that people Airbnb-ing properties is contributing to skyrocketing housing prices (think big cities), and the rules for each property. These days I try to stay in hotels or hostels in heavily impacted housing markets but still love Airbnb’s for unique experiences or in smaller communities where being able to rent out an extra place on your property helps everyone.
- Other Accommodations | In addition to the above accommodation options there are a bunch of alternative options out there. From Couchsurfing, to house sitting, to house swapping, to WWOOFing with some research you can find a unique accommodation experience if that is more your style!
If you plan on visiting the main sights of a city know they can get crowded and tickets can even sell out in advance. Here are some tips to avoid such heart ache and to visit popular sites like a boss!
- Research Your Must See Sights in Advance | Do you want to see the colosseum in Rome? The Louvre in Paris? The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam? Make sure to research in advance to see the hours they are open, best time to go, closures, and if you can avoid some of the crowds by booking tickets in advance. Sometimes you can even save money by booking online.
- Does a City Pass Make Sense? | Most big cities will have some sort of tourist city pass for the main attractions. These can be purchased in advance and can save you money and time depending on how many of those sights you want to see. They sometimes also include a public transit deal as well!
- Hop On Hop Off Bus | Are you short on time and want to see the top sights of a city with narration? Then this is when the hop on hop off bus for your destination will come in handy. When you buy the ticket you generally have a 24hr pass for the loop and can see all the highlights in record time. Jump out at your favorites for photos and stay on the bus for those you are okay seeing in passing.
- Walking Tour | All major cities will have a walking tour, often free (+ tip of course), of the main sights. Many special interest walking tours also exist as well. If you are staying at a Hostel they often coordinate a tour and even if you are not staying in a hostel you can still join the closest tour if you just check in advance when it is. If you are traveling solo or just like making new friends this is also a great way to meet other travelers!
RENTING A CAR
- Book in Advance | When planning a trip there are a lot of details to sort out in advance and booking a rental car is absolutely one of them. There are many reasons for this first and foremost being the prices really do go up dramatically the longer you wait. Additionally if you are an American like me and can’t drive a manual car 🙁 you are going to want to make sure you secure an automatic in advance when traveling basically anywhere else.
- Look into Different Pick Up and Drop Off Points | You should always check the various pick up and drop off points a city has before deciding on which ones you are choosing. Sometimes it is cheaper to use the location that is off the beaten path where other times the main ones are the best price.
- Insurance | Rental car insurance I believe is a purposefully confusing matter. While the depths of the insurance are confusing it is well worth your time to check what your car insurance, credit cards, and other insurance providers cover as it could save you a lot of money (especially renting in the US).
- Driving Laws | Are you driving in a foreign country? If so you should look at some general driving laws in advance to make sure you understand the differences from where you are from. It also is helpful to translate a few useful driving phrases that you would see on signage.
- International Driver’s License | An International Driver’s License is really just a translation booklet that is valid for 6 months from when you get it. In my experience, in Europe, the rental sites require you to have it but both in Paris and Rome did not look at is as they could read english and were familiar with the foreign licenses. That being said it is still best if you get this translation booklet before going abroad in the case you need it at the rental counter or get pulled over. If you are driving through small towns it’s much less likely an officer pulling you over will read as much english (or just won’t want to since you are supposed to have this). In the US you can easily get one at most AAA offices even if you are not a member for a small fee of around $25.
KEEPING YOUR TRIP ORGANIZED
- Make a Custom Google Map in My Maps and Save it for Offline Use on Your Phone | Having all the important locations you will need (like where you are staying, where the train station is, etc) are great to have on an offline map and google maps makes it relatively easy.
- Save Tickets, Confirmation Numbers, and Important Information Regarding Your Trip Offline | Sure you can just pull up the email with the info but it’s better to save it on your device offline. You can use dropbox, google drive, or even a book reading app if the documents are in PDF. Believe me the one time you need a document it wont be downloaded to your email and you will be on an urgent hunt for wifi at a bus station in morocco. Lesson learned, don’t be me.
- Print Important Info That You Do Not Want to be Without | When traveling I am a better safe than sorry person so even though I have the emails saved for offline access I like to print the important information too. I tend to make a little itinerary in excel with address, confirmation numbers, flight times, check in times, etc and print that so I know I will have access to the information if anything happens. I also like to keep all my printed papers in a clear plastic binder sleeve. This keeps your documents together and easy to find! Rosalie of Rosalie Goes has an alternate suggestion for document storage that is even better if you want to be extra safe. She says “[Keep] photocopies of all of your important documents (passport, bank card, driver’s license, etc) in a waterproof case separate from your main bag. This has saved me and my friends quite a few times over the past few years.”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
DOCUMENTATION AND VISAS
- Do You Need to get a Passport? | If you thinking about or booking an international trip and do not yet have a passport go to your country’s State Department website ASAP to find out standard processing times and if you will need to expedite your new Passport. All the required steps to obtain a passport should be located on your government’s site for you to follow and apply accordingly. If you are a US citizen many major post offices will help you with everything (paperwork, photos, + filing) so look into it for your application.
- Check Your Passport Validity | This tip comes from Cris of LooknWalk “As a general rule, your passport should be valid at least 6 months after the return date. Of course, each country has its own rule but it’s good to know that the six months rule is very common in Asia (Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam), as well as the Caribbean (St. Lucia, Jamaica, Bahamas, Belize). When you plan your trip, first of all, check the passport rule along with the visa requirements!” Follow her on Facebook @LooknWalk
- Check if You need a Visa and Apply Well in Advance if You do | You can find on every Country’s State Department website the information regarding if you will need a visa to visit or not. If you do need a tourist visa the process can vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. Some visas are as easy as paying a fee on arrival or online in advance. Other Countries though require paperwork, sending your passport to the embassy, and time. Double check what your visit requires and file the paperwork accordingly. If you are applying for a complicated visa it can be worth the extra money of paying a third party to submit the application for you especially if you are in a time crunch. Having the required visa is very important so make sure you make this a high priority in your trip arrangements.
- Make Copies of Your Passport | I make two copies of my passport and any other important cards I might have (health insurance etc). I keep one copy in my luggage separate from my passport and I leave the other at home with family or a friend. This way in worse case scenario I have a copy of my passport which is helpful to expedite replacement processes.
- Medical History | If you have any medical conditions or allergies it is a good idea, as a precaution, to have these written down somewhere easy to access and translated into the local language in case you need care when abroad.
- Make a Copy of Your Marriage License | Are you traveling with your lawfully wedded partner? If so it is a good idea to bring a copy of your marriage license just in case anything bad happens. This is particularly important if you do not have the same last name and their is an emergency. I would also suggest you each keep a copy in your luggage just in case!
- Vaccination Records | Is there a mandatory vaccination necessary for your trip? If there is make sure to bring copies of your vaccination record with you in case you need to show proof that you are indeed vaccinated.
- Convert Some Money to the Local Currency | I personally think there is nothing worse than arriving to the airport at my final destination and to not only have to navigate the local transit to my accommodation but to also have to deal with converting my money (at not the best rate, usually waiting in a long line too). To avoid this hassle I always try to convert some money in advance. Most banks, in the US at least, can order you the currency you require for you to pick up a few days later, some banks in bigger cities will even have commonly converted currencies on hand (like Euros etc) so you can just go pick it up right away with out having to wait a few days! The only time I do not do this is on a longer trip where it doesn’t make sense for me to be carrying all my money in multiple kinds of currency. I will just convert for my first stop or two and deal with the rest along the way.
- Bank (ie Debit) Cards and Credit Cards | While cash is still king in a lot of places in the world cards are commonly used as well. If you rather use a card when abroad over bringing a ton of cash or having to hit up an ATM constantly you should look into a credit card (or bank card) that has no international transaction fees. This way you can use your card with reckless abandon (but don’t be responsible) and not accrue extra fees. Also bonus is you usually end up with the best exchange rate this way!
- Tipping | Oh tipping the endless confusion, every country has their own rules and protocols when it comes to tipping. Before your trip make sure to check in advance what is customary for each kind of service and make sure to follow that. You don’t want to be rude by not tipping enough or spend extra money by tipping too much!
INTERNET AND PHONE MATTERS
- Determine What Your Cell Service Situation is going to be When Traveling | All cell phone companies offer different things when it comes to traveling abroad so it never hurts to check if your provider might have a hidden but great plan for international use. My US provider, Sprint, offers free 2G in a lot of international locations with your standard plan. The catch is you have to talk to them to set it up! It never hurts to check what you might be able to get for cheap or free! Or just use wifi when you find it, the GPS still works without service in airplane mode. Also if you are not going to have service make sure you turn off your cellular data so you don’t accidentally use roaming!
- Download a Messaging App | Weather you are going to be using your cell service or not, having a 3rd party messaging app to communicate with your friends back home is always a great idea. This way you have no way of accidentally using an expensive text message and it is also useful when contacting hosts for Airbnb and the like with out getting charges for contacting an international phone number. I like WhatsApp as its used a lot worldwide and has always served me well in terms of reliability.
- Internet Access | As internet is a huge part of life basically all over the world now you will be able to find some sort of internet access most places you are. That being said the quality and speed widely varies as well if you have to pay or not. Some accommodations will offer it free, others it will be an add on, same goes for cafes. Because of all these various internet situations I as I have stated many times throughout this to make sure all important documents are available offline just incase the second you really need the internet you do not have access.
- Personal Hotspot | If you are going to be traveling and need to have reliable internet and are unsure of what your destination might hold (especially for more rural locations) it might be in your best interest to invest in a personal hotspot. I personally do not have one but my friend does who often has to complete work while traveling and it has served her well.
- No You Don’t Need to be Able to Speak the Local Language to Travel | I often get asked if I can speak any other languages with the amount of travel I’ve done. The answer to that is nope. I can read some Japanese (nothing really useful other than differentiating if something is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) and say a few words, that’s it. So how do I manage to survive? Well if you are reading this you have a head start as you understand and can probably speak some english. A majority of places will have someone around who speaks at least a little bit of english. If that fails pantomime is your best friend as is google translate (see my below tip on that!). A smile and a good attitude will do wonders for you regardless of the language.
- Research What the Local Language is and Learn a Few Basic Words | While you don’t need to speak the language it is always helpful to know a little bit about the local language of where you are visiting. Even if it is just as simple as hello, please, and thank you the gesture of trying goes a long way when trying to get around and shows you respect the local culture, which you do right?
- Download the Local Language on the Google Translate App | Once you know what the local language is and a few words it is always helpful to have google translate at your fingertips. So when traveling even if you anticipate having service most of the time you never know when you will need to translate something suddenly and not have service. To avoid this download the language of your destination in advance! This is a great guide on getting the most out of Google Translate !
USEFUL THINGS TO PACK
Okay to each their own on what you actually pack to wear for your trip, if you want to bring 50 outfits or just one, you do you on that front. These items are little things that you might not think of but will be handy when you need them!
- A Pen & Notebook | These are simple but useful items. From filling out immigration forms, to jotting a quick note down when your phone dies these will both be useful to you when you least expect it. I also keep my passport number, health insurance information (my policy # & their international contact number), and emergency contact written down in this notebook just in case.
- Universal Travel Converter | Why buy multiple adaptors and converters when you can buy one that works for everything? I purchased a universal converter 5 years ago and I have used it on every trip i’ve taken and it is has served me very well. While the particular one I use seems to be discontinued this Universal Converter looks great! It even has a USB port so you don’t have to coordinate what you are charging with the converter. So save yourself some headaches and just get a Universal Converter to start and you will never need to worry about what the electricity is like in your destination.
- Packing Cubes | I like to keep my belongings as organized as possible when traveling so I use two types of packing cubes. The first kind compresses my clothing so everything takes up less space. The other kind I use are just for keeping everything separate and organized (I use these and they are perfect!).
- Comfortable Shoes & Socks | I have found that on most trips you are likely to be walking and walking a lot. So if you don’t walk miles in your daily life you will on your travels so prep-accordingly! Bring shoes that you can go the distance in and comfortable socks to keep your feet as pain free as possible! (My friend learned this the hard way and ended up in a hospital for quite a few days so be smart about your footware choices)
- Cheap Flip Flops | There are many uses for your cheap flip flops (or jandles, or thongs, or whatever you call them). From questionably clean showers, to more comfortable in flight wear, to an easy shoe to wear around your hostel, you wont regret bringing some cheap flip flops. They take up very little space and are light so why not have some just in case?
- Microfiber Towel | Quick drying and packs small; a microfiber towel is great to have for a myriad of situations. That hostel you need to pay for towels at? Now you don’t because you have this handy guy. For unexpected swimming days and more a microfiber towel is just a great small and useful thing to have! I have this one and love it.
- Laundry Soap and Stain Remover | If you pack light you are likely going to need to do laundry at some point on your trip, if you packed enough clothes you still never know what might happen that leaves you needing to do laundry. So while you are likely to come across somewhere to properly wash your clothes having a few supplies with you for emergency sink washing is never a bad idea. A stain remover pen is also great to have especially if you are accident prone!
- Bungee Clothesline | To go along with sink washing or just letting a swim suit dry in an easy way I love having a Bungee Clothesline (like this one I have) with me on my trips. It takes up very little space and comes in handy!
- A Combination or Key Lock | Another hostel life essential you want to be able to lock your stuff up! Also its just good to have because you never know when you might want to have your belongings a bit more secure.
- Bottle Opener | Having a Bottle Opener with you and being able to open a bottle of wine or beer in a pinch can make you unexpected travel friends. I happened to have one on me on this particular train trip and will never not have one on me on future travels
- Reusable Water Bottle | Airports are expensive but staying hydrated is important so I always bring a reusable water bottle (I love this one from S’well, or this one from Hydro Flask) to fill up post security. I also use these along the way to keep my water cold and handy at all times. If traveling where tap water is okay to drink I much rather fill up my bottle than buy a plastic one. Yay for hydration and environmentally friendly practices 🙂
- Water Bottle with Filter | If you are traveling to countries where the water is questionable you can save some money (and plastic!! ) by bringing a bottle that filters the water for you. The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle is a great one as it filters out all those nasty microbes so you know you wont be getting sick while keeping the earth a little less plastic filled.
- First Aid Kit | Think about where you are going and what you will be doing there to craft a kit catered to that destination. I find the pre-made kits are okay for basics but should not be all you bring. I always make sure to have a variety of over the counter meds for colds, stomach issues, and otherwise just in case I need them. Having to navigate a drug store in a foreign country is not a fun time, notably more so if you are not feeling well. Also make sure to pack a variety of wound care items especially if you are traveling to developing countries or rural areas. Having a variety of bandages and antiseptic is super handy when you really need it! I burned myself pretty bad on a scooter muffler in Sri Lanka and thankfully my friend had a much more robust first aid kit than me. Mine was woefully lacking for such an injury in a small beach town with out a ton of stores that would carry better wound care items.
- Lady Products | While you can find some sort of feminine care items no matter where you go they might not be what you are used to or want to use. Bring enough of your favorites even if you don’t anticipate needing them because travel can affect your body in unexpected ways. Like everything else I have said to this point it is always better to be prepared and comfortable than having to hit up every random store and hope you find what you want.
- Prescriptions in their Containers | If you take any prescriptions make sure to bring them in the container from the pharmacy with your name on. This is just in case there are any questions on arrival to your destination (this is un-likely but always better to be safe!).
- Emergency Snack Bars | I am fully for eating all the local food once at a destination but I always carry a supply of what I refer to as “emergency snack bars” for a few reasons. First being sometimes you end up in situations where you didn’t get a chance to eat and need a pick me up (think un-expectedly long journeys, too short of transfer time, etc) in these cases having a snack can sustain you until you reach real food. Another reason is on the chance that you pick up a stomach bug it is sometimes just nice to eat a food you are familiar with while your stomach recovers.
- Alkaseltzer or Something Similar | Sorry if you are allergic to aspirin but if you are not this is hangover prevention magic. Take a packet with water before going to bed after a night of drinking and you will feel much better than if you didn’t in the morning leaving you fresh for a new day of exploration. Learning this trick has saved me many times over from losing a day to feeling terrible, as I get bad hangovers from drinking basically nothing some days let alone with the addition of travel, so I like to be safe.
OTHER NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION
- Know the Location of Your Home Country’s Embassy in Your Destination | It takes only a second to look up and is just a good thing to know. Hopefully you will never need this information but from a lost passport, to helping you if you are in trouble, your embassy is (hopefully) there for you. Results may vary depending on where you are from (obviously).
- Vaccinations | What is required of the country you are visiting and what your country recommends might differ so check the requirements and guidelines for both before deciding on what, if any vaccinations you will be getting prior to your trip.
- Travel Insurance | In almost all cases having travel insurance is a good idea. Weather you get sick abroad or need to change/ cancel your trip at the last minute travel insurance can save you a lot of money for canceled flights or change fees. Most policies will also cover lost goods and certain length of flight delays so do some research to see what makes the most sense for you!
- Airport to 1st Accommodation Directions | While I like to leave a lot of my actual travel schedule unplanned, what I do make sure to know in detail prior to departure is how I am getting from the airport to my 1st accommodation. After hours of flying (often overnight) the last thing I want to do is figure out how to get to my accommodation and not get scammed while doing it. I research to see what method makes the most sense and if public transit (vs a cab) is doable. I am all about the public transit and will walk quite a bit so I usually try to make this option work but do the same research for taking a cab. For a cab you should check how much it should cost and a rough route (bonus points you save this in your offline Google Map!).
- Photograph Your Checked Luggage | If you are checking luggage I highly suggest taking a photo of it with you in it. This way in the chance it gets lost you have a reference image of the size, color, etc for the airline.
- Checked Luggage with Layovers | This tip comes from Bryony of Travels and More “Don’t panic about your luggage reaching your end destination when traveling internationally with connections. Providing you booked your flight to your final destination in one go your luggage will arrive at your destination. When I first flew internationally I had 2 connections one in Paris and one in China – I was worried I’d need to leave the connections area to collect and re-check my baggage otherwise I’d arrive in my destination without my belongings. Your baggage will always arrive at your destination as long as the flight was booked in whole. Another key thing to remember is to keep your baggage sticker! This is how your luggage will be located in the rare case that it is lost.” Just be warned to double check this though as you do have to retrieve your baggage and bring it to the transfer counter if you are connecting through the US but it is not the common procedure worldwide.
- Birth Control Trick | While I am sure many of you ladies who are already on the pill know this trick but this if for those who don’t. If your placebo week falls on your trip you can skip straight to the next month of pills to avoid having your period on your trip. Of course check with your doctor first if this makes sense for you, as always safety first.
- Hair Dryers & Flat Irons etc | DO NOT BRING THESE WITH YOU WHEN TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY. Hair appliances cause so many problems with electricity even with a convertor since the intake is so high. If you really need these if it is possible buy one in your destination with the right voltage to save you and your accommodation some major headaches (and possible fires!).
ON YOUR TRIP
Every destination will have a way of getting around that makes more sense than another. In most places in the US having a car is ideal but in Europe you can easily get around with public transit and walking. Some places if you are not walking taxis make more sense, it all depends on where you are going and what you are trying to see. These are some general travel tips on what to know about these different methods of transit.
- On Foot | When traveling often the best way to see things is on foot. Walking provides you a slower pace in which to admire your destination and really see the place for what it is. I personally like to wander quite aimlessly to get a true feel for the place I am visiting. When walking it is alway important to use caution and be aware of your surroundings (more on this in How to Stay Safe below!).
- Public Transit | After walking public transit is my preferred method of getting around. You get a very local experience riding around on a local bus or trolley as a lot of tourists forgo trying to learn about the public transit and just walk or take cabs. I love researching transit of all kinds especially public transit so I am always happy when it is a viable option. Also bonus that it is cheap and hard to get scammed on! Juleen from Juleen Meets World has some extra tips regarding public transit that can help save you money! “…Doing your research can save you money on ticket prices. For example, there was a 50% discount for students on tickets in Athens but the ticket attendant did not tell me this when I was buying the ticket and I had not done my research until afterwards. Several countries offer special pricing on tickets, for example, age pricing and student discounts.” Follow her on Instagram @JuleenMeetsWorld
- Rental Bike | Many cities around the world have rental bike systems that are great for getting around especially in European cities that have a lot of designated pathways for bikes. If bikes are an option they can be a great compromise between walking and taking public transit. It is also a great way to see a lot of your destination quicker than walking but still slower than a car.
- Taxis and the Like | Obviously after walking Taxis (or Uber/ Lyft) are often the go to transit option for travelers since they usually require the least amount of knowledge about your destination (though the more you know the better). Taxis add up quickly even in places where they are pretty cheap comparatively so plan accordingly if you are planning on taking taxis to get around.
- By Car/ Scooter etc. | The final method for getting around your destination is by a rental vehicle. Most commonly this is a car but can also be a scooter, motorcycle or the like. I like cars when I want to take a longer road trip though I try to avoid them around towns unless absolutely necessary since parking can be a pain. If you are renting a vehicle make sure to follow my tips for rental cars in the above section!
HOW TO STAY SAFE
- Around Cities and Towns | If you don’t live in a big city and even if you do it is always important to be safe and aware of yourself, surroundings, and possessions. Never keep anything important in any sort of outside pouch. Make sure everything of value is zipped in an interior pocket of your bag and never keep stuff in your pockets. This is a great guide for more detailed safety tips that apply for any busy city! Also this basically goes for everything in life but trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right it probably is not.
- On Transit | Same as around town, make sure you keep your possessions in your sight and near you at all times. Don’t fall asleep and be aware of where you are on the route.
- For Hiking and Nature Activities | When going out for a hike (abroad or at home) always make sure you have told someone where you will be hiking and when you expect to be done. While this should be done if you are solo or in a group it is extra extra important when solo. Send your contact a pin drop of where you are starting and your route so if for whatever reason you are not back when you should be there is plenty of information for the search and rescue teams to go off of. No matter the length or ‘ease’ of the hike you should never skip this step because you just never know what might happen in nature. And as I have mentioned many times if there is one overarching theme to all these travel tips, it is to be better to be safe than sorry.
HOW TO AVOID SCAMS
- Taxis/ Transit | When you have decided to use taxis make sure to look up the names of the reputable companies in your destination and only take one of those taxis. There are often plenty of random “taxis” hanging around airports and train stations but they will often rip you off. If you are traveling somewhere where meters are not really used make sure to agree on a price before getting in the taxi (if you know what it should be in advance start with this number). If Uber is available you can use that as well as in most cases it is quite safe and trackable which is a benefit. Most other forms of transit are harder to be ripped off on but make sure you are buying tickets from authorized vendors and know the price it should be in advance. Some places it is best just to hand the proper amount to the person and not ask for they might give you a higher price if you do.
- Food | The biggest tip I have when it comes to food is to not eat in the busy tourist areas. Does the menu have 5 languages? Is every patron a tourist? If yes to either of these it is likely the food is going to be over priced and not awesome. Also anyone who is trying to usher you into their restaurant in most cases is not going to be serving the best food. A little walking off the main path will serve you well in the food department.
- Shopping | Always make sure to double check that you are paying the right price for anything you are buying. Sometimes there will be a bait and switch going on so just be aware and call anyone out if they are trying to scam you.
- Lodging | If you booked your accommodation in advance make sure to have the receipt from the booking site about what the cost covered in detail. Sometimes you have to pay tax on arrival and your booking will mention this. Other times the accommodation might try to tack on some other random charges etc. It is important to be watchful with the charges and to call out anything that seems wrong.
OTHER USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS
- What to do with your passport | There are many varied views on what to do with your passport (leave it in your room locked up, take it with you, or forget you even should keep it safe). My personal opinion is to keep it on you. That way in the unlikely case it gets stolen you know for a fact it was stolen and you didn’t just lose it but this is me. Most people I know lock theirs up at their hostel or hotel so as long as you think about the safety of it and make sure to have it when you need it all options are good. If you do keep it on you though make sure you read the how to stay safe tips with extra care
- Save your phone battery | I never carry a battery pack for my phone because I have enough camera gear on me that I’d rather not add another thing. Regardless though a great way to save your battery power is to turn it on to a low power mode if you are using service or just to airplane mode if you are doing wifi only. These methods both will save your battery life giving you more time to roam and use your phone!
- Essential Items to have in your bag | I always make sure that I have hand sanitizer, a packet of tissues, and bandaids (ie plasters or whatever you call them) in my bag. You never know when you are going to need to bandage up a cut or blister so having bandaids is always a handy thing to have. Hand Sanitizer and tissues are bathroom essentials because travel brings you to a lot of interesting bathrooms. No matter how “nice” the country you are likely to encounter some pretty questionable bathroom situations. Which brings be to….
- Bathroom Etiquette | In a lot of places in the world the pipes are older and the sewage system is not as robust as it is say here in the US with that you will often see trash cans next to the toilet with paper in them. This means exactly what you think, your used toilet paper goes in the trash not down the toilet (same with lady products or any other paper goods). Not following this can severely hurt the plumbing system and you don’t want to be that tourist do you?
- How to Tactfully Avoid Street Peddlers and When to Escalate | Ah street peddlers… So pushy and annoying always trying to sell you something you do not need. In most cases a nod of the head and a no thanks works to politely send them on their way but other times that does not work. I always try to diffuse the situation as politely as possible for as long as I can but if it gets to a point where it has been way too long and I am either super annoyed that the person will not take no for an answer or start to feel unsafe I will escalate the situation. Each situation is obviously different but if being polite does not work I will get very rude and blunt and if I don’t feel safe I will do what I can to get out of there and to a place that feels safer. Hopefully the no thanks works but if not remember you do not need to be polite to someone who is being rude and aggressive toward you no matter where you are. That is not a cultural difference that is just a rude human.
- What to do When You Can’t Find a Socket in Your Accommodation | This tip comes from Georgina of Georgina Does “When you cant find a plug socket, plug your USB cable into the back of the TV – works all over the world!” Follow her on Twitter @GeorginaDoes
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