Most people aren’t born savvy travelers. It’s something that only comes with on-the-road-experience.
In the beginning, I made a lot of travel mistakes.
Travel savviness is a process born of missed buses, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny or big errors. Then, one day, I begun to seamlessly move through airports and integrate myself into new cultures like a fish into the water.
I want to help speed up the process and help you avoid my mistakes, so I put together this list of my best 20 travel tips that cover everything I came up with to help you reach your full travel ninja potential.
I’ve learned these tips over the last ten 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 20 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 hotels 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 bag, 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 clothes after you wash it. 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 bag like I said, you won’t have much room for extra stuff anyways!
4. Travel by yourself at least once
You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to become independent. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Traveling solo taught me how to fend for myself, talk to people, and handle unfamiliar situations with ease. It’s made me comfortable with myself, helped me learn about what I’m capable of, and allowed me to be super selfish and do whatever I want! It can take some time getting used to if you’ve never done it before, but do it at least once. Make yourself uncomfortable and surprise yourself. You’ll learn valuable life skills, when you push yourself!
5. But don’t be afraid to get purposefully lost.
Wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it, get off the beaten path, and away from the tourists. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you find. I like to wander around and try to find my way without using Google Maps!
6. Don’t buy a money belt — they’re stupid.
Thieves know they exist and being seen with one basically shouts, “Look at me, I’m a tourist with money! Rip me off!” The more you can blend in and act like a local, the easier it will be to get deals and avoid touts. If you’re worried about pickpockets, keep a better eye on your stuff!
7. When you go out, take only what you need.
Limit the amount of cash and bank cards you carry with you, so if something does happen, you can easily recover. Never take more than one credit card or ATM card with you. My rule for cash is to limit what I carry to 50 USD or EUROS.
8. Always carry a lock.
They come in handy, especially when you stay in dorms and need to lock your stuff up. Carry a small combination lock with you when you travel. Don’t use one with keys because, if you lose the keys, you’re screwed!
9. Make extra copies of your passport and important documents.
Don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself too. You never know when you might need to have some sort of documentation with you and might not want to carry your original. Additionally, if your passport gets stolen having a copy will come in handy for your police report.
10. Never eat in a touristy area or near a tourist attraction
As a general rule, I walk five blocks in either direction before I find a place to eat. The closer you are to tourist attractions the more you are going to pay and the worse the food (and service). Use websites like Yelp, Google Maps, Foursquare, or Open Rice to find some delicious and popular restaurants around you.
11. Locals don’t eat out every night and neither should you.
Go grocery shopping. You can learn a lot about locals’ diets by seeing the type of food they buy. Plus, it will save you a lot of money. You won’t regret it. Cook your food, save money, surprise yourself!
12. Eat at expensive restaurants during lunch.
Most expensive restaurants offer lunch specials featuring the same food they would serve for dinner but half the price! That’s the best time to eat out when you travel.
13. Book flights 2-3 months in advance to get the best price.
Don’t drive yourself too crazy trying to get the absolute cheapest fare. Spending five hours to try to save $10 will cause you a lot of stress.
14. Use Meetup, the sharing economy, and hospitality websites to meet locals
These websites will help you get an insider’s perspective on your destination by connecting you with locals in the places you visit. The sharing economy has changed the way people travel allowing you to meet locals, get off the tourist travel, and save mega money! It’s a triple win – and resources that I use all the time when I travel.
Here are some of my favorite sharing economy and hospitality websites:
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you much more about a city than you will find out in a hostel/hotel.
- Airbnb – Another good accommodation alternative, this site connects with homeowners who rent out their homes/apartments to you.
- EatWith – There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go!
- Gumtree – This Craiglist like site is an amazing resource for travelers. You can find travel partners, rideshares, jobs, second hand gear, homestays, and much more.
- Lyft – Get locals to pick you and drop you off where you need to go! It’s about 30% cheaper than a taxi.
- Getaround – Need a car for a few hours? Rent someone else’s. Getaround allows you to rent people’s unused cars by the hour.
15. Avoid taxis.
They are always a budget buster. Never ever take a taxi unless you absolutely have too!
16. Take an empty metal water bottle through airport security and fill it up at your gate.
Drink from the tap when you can — you’ll save money and help the environment. If you’re going somewhere where you can’t drink the water, be sure to get a water bottle with a filter.
17. Take free walking tours.
Besides being free, these tours will give you a good orientation and background of the city you are visiting. I love taking walking tours when I travel. You pass the time, you get to pepper the guide with questions, and you get to learn so much about where you are! So, don’t miss this chance when you have it!
18. Get city attraction cards.
If you are going to visit a lot of museums and other attractions in a short period of time, a city pass is going to save you money on admission (plus most provide free public transportation too!).
19. Don’t over plan your trip.
Let your days unfold naturally. Schedule two or three things and let the day fill in the rest on its own. It’s less stressful, and letting the day just take you is one of the best ways to travel!
20. Finally, wear sunscreen! 🙂
For as the Baz Luhrmann song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” goes:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience.***
There you have it! My top travel tips! Follow them and you’ll be the best traveler you can be in no time flat!
If it has been useful, you can help me or your friends by sharing it on your social networks.
Thank you! 🙂
Leave a comment below and add anything you think I missed!