The idea of traveling to a new place can be daunting, especially if you’ve never traveled before.
So here is a list of travel tips to help you get started and traveling like a pro in no time.
Please feel free to post any questions and suggests below.
Tips for Planning
- Just Do It.
No, this isn’t a Nike add, it’s simple real life advise. If you want to travel, then travel. I hear all of the excuses, “When I have money, when I retire, when I find someone to go with.” If you want it, just do it. I had $45 dollars in my bank account when I made the decision to travel. I sold all my things, worked my ass off, and was on a plane to Thailand four months later. I didn’t even have a full-time job. If broke, lazy ol’ me can do it, so can you.
- Don’t Fear
Guess what? The entire world isn’t out to get you. You’ll be surprised how similar many cities in the world are to your own. Just like your own hometown, you’ll find good and bad people no matter what town you are in. Be smart. Don’t hitch rides with drunken strangers at 3 am, and you’ll more than likely be fine. Do some research on the country and area you’ll be traveling to and go forward with confidence.
- Keep It Open
Don’t buy a return ticket or plan out every little thing before hand. Now I know this is impossible for most people, but it is so influential to the experience of traveling I felt I needed to include it to inspire those on the fence. Travel is about exploration; arriving with preconceived ideas, notions, and plans not only limits your possibilities, it’s a setup for disappointment. For those of you who have to buy a return ticket, keep the rest of your trip open. Let the moment guide you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- Delete Cookies
When searching and booking flights, remember to delete your cookies. Travel sites will often track your searches and sometimes raise the prices when you’ve looked multiple times.
Often the cheapest time to buy and fly, is on Tuesdays. Apparently this is when the big airlines reduce fairs to compete with budget airlines. Whatever the explanation, I’ve found it to be true.
- Window and Isle
If you’re traveling with a companion and you get to choose your seats, book the window and the aisle seats. If the middle seat doesn’t sell, win! If it does, politely ask to switch seats.
My favorite search engine. It allows you to search flights creatively and almost always has the cheapest options. Use the “everywhere” option to find the cheapest places to fly to from your current location. Even if you have a final destination you can sometimes find cheaper flights by flying to an in-between country first.
- Utilize Layovers
If your destination is on the other side of the world find out where your layovers would be and try breaking up the trip by flying straight to your layover. Sometimes spending a few days at your would-be layover, before heading to your destination, opens up cheaper flight options while allowing you a “free trip” to an unexpected location. Even if you don’t save money, this trick can get you to more locations at the same price you would have spent anyway.
- Where To Stay
Don’t be afraid of hostels! That movie was fiction and not even good. Use Hostelworld.com to search, but try to book directly through the hostel itself. That way the small business hostel gets all of your money without having to pay a commission to Hostelworld. Set up a Couchsurfing.org account and use it. I love couchsurfing, I love the community, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with it.
On The Road Tips
- Currency Exchange
Be wary of airport currency exchanges, they often charge a hefty commission. Ask before exchanging and if they do charge, find a bank. If you have your passport with you most banks exchange currency without charging commission and some banks even allow you to do a direct withdrawal from your card.. If a bank doesn’t work, find a nearby ATM. The five dollar transaction fee is better than a $20 cut from the currency exchange booth.
- Get Free Wi-fi
If an airport doesn’t provide free wi-fi, apparently by adding “?.jpg” to the end of any URL you can get around the charges. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m hoping it works.
- Headphone Storage
Buy a small coin purse or wallet to store your ear-buds in. Coil your headphones, slip them in the purse, throw the purse in your bag, and ta-da! No horrific tangled mess at the bottom of your backpack.
- Pee When You Can
Especially when departing on a long train or bus ride. One of the worst experiences in the world is desperately needing to urinate on a bumpy road in the middle of no where with no rest stop in sight. You don’t know torture until you experience this. Even if you don’t have to go immediately, do it anyway.
- Learn The Language
At least the basics; hello, thank you, sorry, and I really recommend learning the numbers. Not only is this polite, you’ll often be treated more sympathetically. I’ve found that knowing the numbers helps in bargaining, when someone sees an effort to respect their culture, they respect you.
- Offline Maps & Screenshots
To use Google Maps while offline type in, “OK Maps” to save the visible area for future access. Another handy trick I use for saving maps, itinerary, and hostel information is the screenshot feature on smartphones and tablets.
- Bring an Extra Bank Card
This one speaks for itself. Keep them in separate bags in case one gets stolen and make sure they don’t expire soon. It’s no fun being left without a way to extract cash. Trust me on that one.
- Pack Light
You will never regret this. Toss that extra outfit, forget that extra pair of shoes, and no, you don’t need a mosquito net. For more information, check out my ultimate packing guide.
- Carry Tissues With You
Especially in countries that are less Westernized. Most rest stops, and sometimes restaurants and cheap guesthouses, don’t provide toilet paper. Or they do for a fee. It’s always a safe bet to carry a few tissues or wet wipes with you.
- Check Visa Dates
Pretty self-explanatory, you don’t want to over stay your visa and risk paying a hefty fine.
- Airplane Mode your Phone
Not just for the airplane. If you need to save battery or want your phone to charge faster, put it in airplane mode.
- Travel As the Locals Do
Taking the local bus is often just as nice as the “VIP” tourist buses, and always cheaper. Bonus: you meet locals and become less of a tourist and more of a traveler. And yes, there is a difference.
- Passport Pages
If you are planning to travel many countries and for a long period of time, make sure your passport contains enough pages. Visas will often take up an entire page, and the border control rarely consider space while giving you a stamp. Don’t be afraid to ask the stamp to be placed in a specific place, and be sure to keep track of your pages.
Especially if you will be traveling to tropical climates. The smallest of cuts don’t like to heal in tropical environments. Liquid iodine does a beautiful job in sanitizing and drying out wounds so they can heal.
- Copy Your Passport
Take a quality photo and email it to yourself so you can always access it. It also might be smart to photocopy it for when you need ID while your passport is being sent for a Visa, and some countries require a photocopy with your application.
- Carry Spare Passport Photos of Yourself
Especially if you plan to do a lot of border hopping. I had about ten cheaply printed at one time and they’ve already saved the day when I’ve unexpectedly needed visa photos. If you can find a cheap place, you’ll save a lot of money as well. On location photo services are often over priced.
- Buy DVDs
Most long distance buses in Southeast Asia allow you to play your own movie for the ride. Just make sure it contains subtitles for the appropriate country you are in.
- Don’t Trust the Desperate
If your hope is budget travel, transportation and accommodation first-responders are not to be trusted. Proceed with caution if you’re bombarded by in-your-face taxi drivers or you find yourself being suddenly ushered by a tour guide. And remember, desperation doesn’t mean kindness, but it can mean good bargaining opportunities.
More to come! I have to catch a bus.