World Travelers Share Their Best Travel Tips and Tricks
Being a savvy traveler is something that only comes with experience. It’s a lengthy process of missed flights, wrong busses, scams, and cultural faux-pas, and then eventually—after countless errors—you know what you’re doing. If you’re a first-time traveler or someone who is looking for a few tips for their next adventure, you’re in the right place. These frequent flyers and globetrotters share their best tricks to help you travel seamlessly.
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#1 Pocket USB
A small pocket USB power bank has been the best investment ever when traveling. Also, don’t delete from your phone/throw away your boarding passes before entering your destination. I’ve seen border security ask for them.
#2 Travel Light
I travel internationally one to three times a month, and the two best tips I have are: Travel light. Don’t bring “just in case” items. Plan to buy them at your destination if you really need them, which you don’t. And also, get a phone plan that allows free data roaming (for example, T-mobile in the U.S., 3 Mobile in Europe). Having a working phone is a game changer and makes basically every aspect of travel easier. Bonus tip: two inflatable pillows (one for the neck, one for the low back), an eye mask, and ear plugs make a HUGE difference sleeping on a plane.
#3 Keep Soft Copies
Do your research. Pack light. Keep soft copies of important travel documents in your phone and cloud storage. Get a universal adapter and a power bank.
#4 Check Again for Passport
#5 Hire a Driver
This has worked for me in less developed nations like India: If you make a connection with someone providing a service (driver, daily tour guide, etc.), hire them. If I feel that a driver is doing a good job and doesn’t try to rip me off, I offer to hire them for the week. That way, it is one less thing to worry about.
#6 Scam Artists
#7 Change of Underwear
Change of underwear, toothbrush, cash, and device charger in whatever bag will be on your body the entire time you’re traveling. Lost bags happen and a fresh pair of skivvies can make all the difference. Also, take a water bottle with you to the airport, empty it before security then refill near your gate. Most airports these days have water bottle filling stations to make it easy.
#8 Baby Wipes
Bring baby wipes if you are going to places where you have no access to a bath or shower.
#9 Slow Down
Slow down. There is no need to see all the sights. Just see a few at a leisurely pace and you will enjoy them a lot more. Good examples of this are going from museum to museum in Paris and actually not seeing anything because the collections are so rich, or driving from one national park to another in the U.S. without realizing how huge and how far apart they can be. Also, plan your meal times according to local customs. Most European restaurants close at 2 p.m. for a break. Good luck with getting a decent lunch after that.
#10 Always Roll
Always roll your clothes instead of folding them. It takes up less space and reduces wrinkling.
#11 Find Contacts
If you’re going to a country where someone you know lives, hit them up for information on what to see and locations to avoid. Even if they personally don’t know the area you’re going to be in, chances are they know someone who does and can help you out. This one has never steered me wrong in all my travels.
#12 Eat Your Veggies
Make sure you eat fruits and vegetables. Fibre will keep you regular and it’s a good way to try new foods where you travel.
#13 Go By Foot
If you plan sightseeing in a city, try to go by foot as much as possible. This way you will learn much more about the city and the people. When I was in Tokyo I was walking 20km daily and it was amazing to see small neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. You get to experience the culture much more!
My tip is to always have band-aids on hand. You’ll get blisters, and they will be very very annoying till you cover them.
#15 Don’t Exchange Money
Don’t exchange money. ATMs give you the best exchange rate. Also, many credit cards do not have international fees. Get one to use on your travels. Hotel lobbies have great bathrooms. Find a luxury hotel and go to the bar, have an iced tea or a coke or something and then you can use a nice bathroom. And most hotels also have free WiFi these days as well. Go eat where locals do, food will be better, cheaper, and you’ll meet cool people.
#16 Power Banks
Cheap power banks. You can find decent ones at the dollar store you just put two AA batteries in.
#17 New Music
Bring new music with you when you travel, preferably by an artist or in a genre that you’re already familiar with. If you enjoyed listening to it, over time, the music will “imprint” itself onto the memories of your destination. So every time you listen to it, your mind will go back to the place that you first played it.
#18 Be nice
Be nice. To every single person. Talk. Learn about them and their culture. Most people are welcoming and happy to have you in their country. When you show interest, they are very happy to inform you about things you won’t learn in books.
Buy your food poisoning medicine at home and carry it with you. It’s not fun being in the middle of nowhere in a third world country feeling terrible and not having the right medicine. Trust me on this one. If you’re going to be unpacking and packing every day (backpackers), packing cubes are a godsend. I also like to carry some paracord. Learn some knots and hang your clothes anywhere. And of course ExOfficio underwear.
#20 Bring a Pen
Always bring a pen and make sure it’s working. You may need to fill out customs or immigration papers, or even just to do a crossword to waste time. Bringing a pen takes up very little space but can be very helpful at the right time!
#21 Wedge Door Stops
Bring one of the wedge door stops. Use it to prevent others from opening your door at night when you’re sleeping in a guest house, hostel, motel, someone’s apartment, etc. It’ll save you from bad situations when you’re at your most vulnerable.
#22 Passport Pouch
Passport pouch inside your shirt with all cards, cash, and passport. Look like you’re poor and the thieves leave you alone (for the most part).
#23 Carry-On Luggage
Bring ONLY carry-on luggage. I went to Europe (from the U.S.) with a family of five and we only had three carry-ons between us (plus each kid had a small backpack). Life-changing. My kids insist on wearing the same pants all the time anyway, so vacation is the time to say “knock yourselves out! Wear those all WEEK!”
#24 Microfibre Towels
Ditch the normal towels and get a microfibre towel. They are lighter and smaller considerably. They also dry super fast. Saved lots of space and weight.
#25 Switch to T-Mobile
Americans: If you travel abroad often, consider switching to T-Mobile. Their basic plan allows you to use your data plan in like 150 counties. The speed is throttled but it’s not unbearable.
#26 Gratuity on Cruise Ships
Gratuity is automatic on cruise ships. You can tell the crew you prefer to tip in cash and they’ll remove it. Just make sure you tip in cash.
#27 Buy Your Towels There
In my opinion, the fold-up microfibre towels just don’t do the job. That and the carry-on security restrictions on airlines. It means that you are going to be buying most useful small items again and again even if you own high-quality ones in your home country. I guess a possible answer is to pack a microfibre towel for emergency use and buy a cheap one at your destination that you can leave in your room and strap on the outside of your backpack if you have multiple stops. Then give it to some local clothes bank on the way back.
#28 Exchange Rate Fees
If you travel a lot, consider getting debit or credit cards with no foreign transaction fees and with full ATM fee reimbursement (Chase, Schwab). This way you won’t have to pay exchange rate fees.
#29 You Need Less Than You Think
You need a lot less gear than you think. Nowadays, a phone (with internet), your wallet, and a kindle will suffice. Also, bring a change of clothes if you’re picky. I might be exaggerating a bit, but my point stands. You don’t need a suitcase full of useless things to enjoy traveling around the world.
#30 Know the Laws
Be polite and respectful wherever you go and make sure you know the laws in the state, country, and area.
#31 Show Up Early
Show up early at the airport. Get all checked in. Take your time with a cup of coffee or get some breakfast. It’s way less stress that way. Some people just like having extra time so we do not feel rushed. And you never know what wait times in security are going to be like. And no, missing a flight is not cool at all when you have to be somewhere at a certain time.
#32 Stay at Hostels
Hostels are filled with friendly, well-travelled, and knowledgeable people. It’s a great way to see the world. Just lock your belongings up at night.
#33 Familiarize Yourself With Security Rules
Be familiar with what you’ll need to unpack during security before you get in line. Be ready to take off your jacket, shoes, belt, metal objects, and have empty pockets. Make sure you laptop is easily accessible, as it will need to go in it’s own X-ray tray. If you have any fluids in your bag, put them together in an easy-to-access location so the agent doesn’t have to tear your whole bag apart.
Keep a mental note of everything you put through the X-ray, people often leave stuff behind when they get flustered. There’s nothing more irritating than fumbling around before the X-ray with half your belt off, trying to unpack your laptop from an impossible location while an angry line grows behind you.
#34 Global Entry
Getting Global Entry is so worth it!! I came back from Florence to a customs line that wrapped around the entire baggage claim area. The line for Global Entry had three people in it.
#35 Be Polite To Airline Staff
Be. Polite. To. Airline. Staff. Almost any travel problem can be solved by a gate agent. Being pushy or mean is not going to inspire them to come up with that solution for you. I see this so often: yelling about how your vacation is going to be ruined is not going to get anything fixed. These poor folks have like 45 seconds to fix your issue. Be proactive and most importantly, be nice.
#36 Packing Cubes
Packing Cubes. They make life so much easier. It’s not such a hassle to fish anything out if you’ve systematically packed.
#37 No Valuables
Don’t bring anything valuable with you on your trip. That includes things like jewellery and expensive electronics, but also personal items that have sentimental value. When you pack, you should be able to look at every item you put in your bag and think, “I’m okay with losing this”—because you very well might.
#38 Power Adapters
If you’re traveling as a group, carry a single power adapter and a power strip. It’s far easier than carrying multiple power adapters.
#39 Water Bottles
Always carry a bottle of water while sightseeing on a hot day, especially while you’re at ruins or a place that’s located on a bigger, closed area. There might be no shop available once you cross the attraction gate and the sun has no mercy. It also applies to long bus trips and hikes.
#40 Buy Ugly Suitcases
Ugly, ugly suitcase. Or ‘unique’. Best to use bright, eye-torturing colors. Ribbons come off. Krylon won’t. You’ll know when it comes out of the baggage carousel by the screams. People will be kindly pointing at your bag, for you.
#41 Travel Westward
If you’re going on an around the world trip, travel westward as the time zone changes will reduce the effects of jet lag
#42 Choose Fruit Wisely
I was a peace corps volunteer for two years. Picking fruit where you don’t eat the skin (like a banana) reduces the likelihood of getting sick from produce. For others, soak them in water mixed with a few drops of bleach for 15 minutes or so. Getting sick can ruin a trip so quickly. A kind reminder that a fecal-oral disease like cholera is spread when you eat someone else’s poop. That’s how you get it. So, while you can also just rinse the fruit, I prefer a few drops of bleach to just rinsing it. You do what’s right for you, though!
#43 Half the Clothes, Double the Money
Before you leave for your trip, unpack all of your clothes and lay all of your money out. Bring half of the clothes and double the money. On a serious note if you’re travelling for a long time, go with the flow. I’ve had itineraries for a whole month and dropped all of it to do something new.
#44 Western Toilets
If you’re travelling in China or another country with squat-toilets, Western chains like Mcdonald’s and Costa will usually have clean western-style toilets for free. Makes looking for toilets a lot simpler when you’re out and about.
#45 Prepaid SIMs
Instead of buying expensive international roaming and data from your cell provider, just buy a cheap prepaid rechargeable SIM in whatever country you need service. Having both a phone and data makes for a fun traveling experience since you can keep in touch with your friends, post photos, use the GPS, and book Uber and Lyft rides, which are more convenient and usually cheaper than taxis.