1. My 30 Best Travel Tips After 9 Years Traveling The World
It’s now been 9 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered to help you save money and have a great trip.
It all started many years ago when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.
This whole experience has been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left to travel.
To celebrate my travelversary (travel anniversary) each year, I update this guide and collection of my best travel tips to save money and help inspire you to get out there and see the world.
Feel free to share your own favorite travel tips at the end!
1. Patience Is Important
Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.
Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
2. Wake Up Early
Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.
3. Laugh At Yourself
You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.
Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the rest of the journey.
4. Stash Extra Cash
Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.
Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.
5. Meet Local People
Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.
Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.
2. MY BEST 61 TRAVEL TIPS TO MAKE YOU THE WORLD’S SAVVIEST TRAVELER
Most people aren’t born savvy travelers. It’s something that only comes with on-the-road experience.
In the beginning, you make a lot of travel mistakes.
Travel savviness is a process born of missed buses, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny errors. Then, one day, you begin to seamlessly move through airports and integrate yourself into new cultures like a fish to water.
I want to help speed up the process and help you avoid my mistakes (and I often make a lot of them), so I put together this giant list of my best travel tips that cover everything under the sun to help you reach your full travel ninja potential.
I’ve learned these tips over the last twelve years.
These tips for traveling will have you saving money, sleeping better, getting off the beaten path more, meeting locals, and just being a better traveler.
Without further ado, here are the best 61 tips in the world:
1. Always pack a towel
It’s the key to successful galactic hitchhiking and plain common sense. You never know when you will need it, whether it’s at the beach, on a picnic, or just to dry off. While many hostels offer towels, you never know and carrying a small towel won’t add that much weight to your bag.
2. Buy a small backpack/suitcase
By purchasing a small backpack (I like something around 35/40 liters), you will be forced you to pack light and avoid carrying too much stuff. Humans have a natural tendency to want to fill space so if you pack light but have lots of extra room in your bag, you’ll end up going “well, I guess I can take more” and then regret it.
3. Pack light
It’s OK to wear the same t-shirt a few days in a row. Take half the clothes you think you will need…you won’t need as much as you think. Write down a list of essentials, cut it in half, and then only pack that! Plus, since you bought a small backpack like I said, you won’t have much room for extra stuff anyways!
4. But take extra socks
You’ll lose a bunch to laundry gremlins, wear and tear, and hiking so packing extra will come in handy. I only take a few more than I need. Nothing beats a fresh pair of socks!
5. Take an extra bank card and credit card with you
Disasters happen. It’s always good to have a backup in case you get robbed or lose a card. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere new without access to your funds. I once had a card duplicated and a freeze put on it. I couldn’t use it for the rest of my trip. I was very happy I had an extra and not like my friend, who didn’t and was forced to borrow money from me all the time!
3. 15 Experts Share Their Best Travel Advice
Traveling the world may seem glamorous when viewing from social media or on tv, but the truth is travel has many challenges. Language barriers, flight delays, wrenches in plans and cultural differences can be enough to overwhelm even the most vetted travelers.
What is your best piece of advice for new solo travelers?
1. Don’t Plan Too Much
«Don’t make too many plans. I think sometimes when it comes to travel we want
to make sure we squeeze in as much as we can so we feel fulfilled. My
experience has showed me that the less we plan, the more we can get off the
beaten path and meet people, and then that’s when things turn out the best.
If you go looking to understand the people, you’ll have a different experience every
time. It’s the promise of surprise that makes travel what it is — so talk to people, talk
to everyone and don’t make too many plans.»
— Jack Maxwell (Host of Booze Traveler, Travel Channel)
2. Hang Out At Hostels
«If you want to meet other solo travelers hangout in the lobby of a popular hostel.»
— Johnny Jet (Writer, JohnnyJet.com)
3. Join Group Tours
«Plan to go on at least one group tour. You’ll meet other travelers (who can tell you where to go and what to avoid) as well as savvy locals in the form of tour guides. You can also meet people virtually — at least at first — by visiting forums like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree and by using sites/apps like EatWith, Cookening, Eat With Me, and even dating apps.»
— Brian Kelly (Writer & Airline Miles Expert, ThePointsGuy.com)
4. Take A Breather
«Scheduled days with nothing on the itinerary are important. If you’re on a short vacation, you want to come home recharged. If you’re on a longer trip, you need time to do your laundry, catch up on emails, sit in a hammock all day staring into space — whatever! If you try to fill every single moment with activities, tours and adventures you’ll burn out fast. Don’t feel guilty about taking a tiny vacation from your travels!»
— Alexandra Baackes (Travel Writer, AlexInWanderland.com)
5. Slow Down.
«It can be tempting to try to see it all. With limited vacation time, we are always trying to squeeze everything in — rushing through 20 cities in 20 days, or 100 countries on our round-the-world trip. In the end, all we have to show for it are photos, stress, and a whirlwind of experiences but no real knowledge of the places we went. (After you try to rush through Australia, you’ll be burnt out and realize you saw everything but nothing at all. You’ll wish you did it slower.)
Don’t rush your trip. Make time to spend a relaxing day in the park or just sitting in a café people watching. Slow down. It gives you time to drink deep from a culture and take it all in.»
— Matt Kepnes (Travel Blogger, NomadicMatt.com)
6. Get Off The Beaten Path
«As a first time solo traveler, it’s easy to stick to the beaten path of tourists destinations and tour groups. If you do that, you aren’t truly experiencing the culture or the destination.
Instead, wander down a few streets off the main strip and find where the locals live, eat, drink, and relax. Sit at the bar of a local restaurant or cafe and strike up a conversation with the bartender. Where do they hang out? Ask if they will show you around their neighborhoods.
Often times, other locals will chime in with their favorite place or hidden secret. If you are respectful enough and display sincere interest, you may even be invited to their home for dinner.
You certainly aren’t going to get knee deep in a new culture on your tour group only meeting a bunch of other tourists.»
— Valerie Wilson (Travel Journalist & Host, TrustedTravelGirl.com)
7. Prepare For Disasters
«As cliche as it sounds, you’ve gotta hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
So much of solo travel that’s left out of the stunning Instagram shots, are the disastrous encounters, mishaps, and screw-ups that happen in between. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’m so confident in my solo travels, that I’m immune to disaster. Because disaster doesn’t discriminate. Something will go horrifically wrong, and the sooner you can accept its inevitability, the easier it is to cope.»
— Gloria Atanmo (Travel Blogger, TheBlogAbroad.com)
4. Our 27 Best Travel Tips from 16 Years Traveling the World
These are our best travel tips from nearly 2 decades on the road. We travelled for 10 years before we turned travel into a career. It was a valuable time for us. We spent 10 years experiencing travel for the pure love of it.
That decade helped us to really appreciate the quiet moments and little things.
It also helped us to understand what is important and what is real. While many people are traveling now as influencers and travel bloggers, it’s the time spent traveling for yourself alone that you really learn about travel.
And here’s what we learned from spending time in more than 100 countries on seven continents.
1. Put Down the Cell Phone
We have actually been blogging less time than we’ve been traveling. We remember the days when you couldn’t share a moment instantly with your online friends.
Now we watch groups of people spend so much time capturing the perfect selfie at a monument or lookout, that they forget to see what is in front of them.
A photo is wonderful, but it’s how you feel in the moment that you will remember forever. It’s a marvellous world that is full of noise right now.
Travel gives you the opportunity to block out the noise, so put down your smartphone and be present instead.
2. Don’t Go Into Debt
Instead, enjoy getaways in your own backyard. When Dave and I were dreaming of traveling but we were stuck working, we explored a lot of our home province of Ontario, Canada.
We stayed out of debt by packing up our bikes and camping gear for cheap weekend getaways.
We lived frugally while we explored our own backyard.
Think about it.
If you have just finished up an amazing life changing experience traveling the world, you will be filled with ideas, inspiration and excitement.
If after that trip you have to go home to a pile of debt, that inspiration will immediately be squashed due to the stress of debt.
3. Hire Local Guides
To do an epic adventure you need skill and experience.
Dave and I have taken on a lot of epic adventures in our lives, but we worked our way up with baby steps. And more importantly, we hired professionals to help us out when we needed it.
We’ve trekked 100km in the dead of winter through the Canadian Arctic watershed, climbed to Everest Base Camp, gone white water kayaking through class III rapids.
We weren’t qualified to do any of these independently, but with expert guides, were learned new skills and accomplished these challenges safely.
As a travel couple, this is our number one piece of advice when traveling together.
It can’t be one person dictating where you are going and what you are doing.
Dave and I like spending time together but we don’t necessarily like the same things. Don’t be one of those couples that constantly take separate vacations or go their separate ways when they travel.
We’ve seen those couples throughout our lives, and most of them are not together anymore.
If you give and take and try things that you don’t not want to do, you may find out you like it. And you’ll make your partner really happy.
Sure, go separate ways sometimes and spend the odd afternoon apart, but don’t live separate lives. Find a common ground to make your travels work together.
5. The Single Best Piece of Travel Advice Ever
Travel is one of the most meaningful ways to enjoy your free time. If you’re traveling with kids, it’s the opportunity to raise children who are globally aware. If you’re traveling solo, it’s a chance to find yourself. And if you’re traveling as a couple, travel can be a time to deepen your bond.
Of course, that’s often easier said than done. Sometimes you need a little advice. That’s why I’ve reached out to leading travel agents, travel writers, and other experts to find out the best advice they’ve ever received about traveling. From the practical to the philosophical, here’s what they have to say.
Travel agent Jason Coleman of Jason Coleman, Inc., recommends that if you want the comforts, service, and experience of home … then stay home. Travel is about opening yourself up to new experiences. You will encounter different ways of living, of eating, of serving. His advice? “Go with the flow and don’t get your undies bunched up. It’s part of the travel experience.”
Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, says, “I think the single most important thing is to accept that you can’t be in control all of the time. Be flexible and see what happens. As the famous author Anne Lamott says, ‘Expectations are premeditated disappointments.’ Your experience has a higher likelihood of being one-of-a-kind and transformational if you let things happen. This is something Americans are often not very good at accepting but there’s a peace in letting go.”
Paul Wiseman, president of tour operator Trafalgar, has this advice: “Remember, things are not the same abroad as they are at home. Expect it to be different. Understand that it’s not only okay, it’s why you travel in the first place. Americans are actually very spoiled: They have more access to more goods at cheaper prices in more colors and varieties than anywhere in the world and customer service here is excellent. Lower your expectations and you will have a better time.”
Monica Poling, a freelance travel writer and editor of Travel Glitter, a website focusing on culture and community in travel, says the best piece of advice she ever received was to step outside her comfort zone. “I tend to be a creature of habit, and even when traveling I inadvertently fall back into regular patterns. So I always try to speak to as many locals as possible and try to stay open to new possibilities whenever I can. These have often led to once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you won’t find in a guidebook and cannot easily be replicated.
“For example, drinking cava with a policeman and his family in a remote island in Fiji while he talked about life during the coup and how Fijians live with the constant threat of tropical storms. Being invited to a post-party in a San Francisco dance studio with a touring Flamenco group. No one in the group spoke any English, but I learned so much about life in Spain and on the road. Or cave rappelling in Mexico where the equipment didn’t fit me, so the outfitters created a custom harness for me out of rope. In retrospect, probably not very safe, but so cool for a minute I was able to conquer my fear of heights.”
6. 14 Pieces Of Travel Advice Everyone Gives, But You Should Never Take
I read a fantastic post recently. It was entitled, “No, It’s Not Your Opinion, You’re Just Wrong.» It’s often tempting to scream this when you’re given travel advice by people who have horrible misconceptions about anything related to travel.
You know exactly the people and advice I’m talking about. It’s the grandmother who lectures that you should never touch food from a roadside stand. Or it’s the cheap backpacker who says not to bother buying bottled water because tap water is fine. (This is the same guy who shows up 10 pounds lighter after having gone incognito for three days.) It’s the drunk uncle who advises that you’ll end up starring in the sequel to “Taken” or “Hostel.” Though, granted, Liam Neeson can rescue me any day.
Sure, the majority of people probably mean well while they’re telling you this stuff, and they’re probably genuinely attempting to help. But the fact is, they just aren’t. To quote my new favorite article, it’s not even their opinion. Most of the time, they’re just wrong.
The following is a list of common travel advice you shouldn’t be listening to. These are the worst travel tips of 2016. Follow these tips at your peril:
1. WOMEN SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL ALONE.
This is possibly one of the most overstated, over-debated and most nauseating statements in travel. Horrible things happen in every country, including your home. They happen to both women and men, and the best piece of advice for those worried about solo female travel is make sure you’re traveling with common sense. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut instincts and don’t take any risks you wouldn’t take at home.
Sure, solo travel through some countries can prove to be a greater challenge for women than for men, and certain destinations do require extra safety precautions, especially when traveling alone. But that doesn’t mean women can’t or shouldn’t get out there.
The world in general is a very safe place, and in reality, no one ever really travels alone. You make friends and meet people along the way.
2. DON’T GO TO (INSERT PLACE HERE). IT’S DANGEROUS.
This is the second most nauseating statement in travel, although it’s also a close contender for the first. If I had a dollar for every time this has tumbled like word vomit out of the mouth of an extended family member or friend, I would be sitting pretty in a luxury apartment on a cruise ship for the rest of my life (like this woman). I should start a bad travel advice donation jar.
A few relatives even took it upon themselves — before I embarked on my first trip — to phone me and read the riot act to my mother and father about them being irresponsible parents by letting their 18-year-old travel alone. Seriously.
If your best advice is that we should stay at home for fear of being kidnapped, killed, raped, beheaded or dying horribly, my advice to you would be to perhaps never leave your house.
3. TAKE THE OVERNIGHT BUS.
Taking an overnight bus is something you can file under “seemed like a fantastic idea at the time.” But in reality, it just outright sucks. It’s far more exciting in theory. The idea is you’ll make it from one place to another while saving on a night’s accommodation.
Win, win right? You couldn’t be more wrong.
Overnight bus travel has been described as a “nightmare on wheels,” and this couldn’t be more spot on. It’s uncomfortable.
You may think you’re going to sleep through the trip and wake up refreshed and ready to start the day in your new destination in the morning. However, after barely getting any sleep, the first thing you’ll do when you arrive at your new accommodation is beg for an early check-in to get into the room. Your bright idea of making the most out of the next day is ruined, as you’ll just end up taking an afternoon nap that will waste the day away.
After we draped our sleep-deprived bodies over the lobby furniture in the Amsterdam Swiss Hotel, the morning staff somehow made our room available at 6 am. However, the majority of the time, you’re going to be stuck in your destination early in the morning, without any hope of a check-in until the afternoon.
Eight hours to kill while wandering around in a sleep-deprived stupor, before you’re even allowed to check in? Fun.