After traveling to 30+ countries, I’ve compiled a list of my top travel tips!
This is an on going list that I will continually add to and update as time goes on. There are a few lists like this online and they are great to browse through as well. I think everyone has their own unique take on travel and have different advice, and it’s good to hear from different mouths.
With that said, here are some good words of advice from someone who’s done a bit of traveling!
Always buy travel insurance
You need travel insurance any time you leave your home country. If you get sick or injured in another country and the cost of that makes your stomach hurt, then you need travel insurance and there’s really no debating it. THINGS HAPPEN and you need to be prepared for it financially. You’ll also feel a hell of a lot better traveling knowing if things were to go south, you are financially covered.
Take a lot of photos of yourself
Does anyone ever come back from a trip and is like “man, I took too many photos of myself this trip!” Umm… I doubt it! There’s just nothing like taking a crap ton of selfies and then taking even more. So whether you’re holidaying in an Irish castle or roaming Iceland with the kids, get your selfies in!
Learn basic customs of the country you’re visiting before you visit
I feel it’s really important to research local customs and learn some basic words before visiting a new country. I think it’s incredibly polite and respectful when you show locals you respect their culture and you have made an effort to appreciate them. It goes a LONG way without you even knowing it sometimes.
Don’t get too drunk
It blows my mind how often I see people get so wasted they can’t keep their eyes open or walk while in a foreign country. It may be hard when you are partying hard at a full moon party, but keep it reasonable please!
Have hard copies of all your important docs and have virtual copies too
A few things you can photocopy is your photo I.D., passport, and travel docs like travel insurance. This is important to have in case you lose your actual documents, you at least will have photo copies to present to authenticate you.
Keep your passport with you if in doubt
If you’re unsure of the safety of your passport, keep it with you. For example, if you’re not going to be close to your luggage while traveling on a bus, keep your passport with you. If you are in a hostel and don’t have a locker, take your passport with you. It’s likely safer with you. Just make sure you to remind yourself you have it and stay safe as you roam the city.
Find people to travel with
After traveling for years, the best advice I can give you is to travel with others. Traveling is special, but traveling and building relationships and sharing experiences with other people is the cream of the crop when it comes to travel. That might be my biased opinion but the most memorable things I do during my travel usually involves doing something with other people. You may be a pretty strict solo traveler, and that’s great too. But certainly spend some time traveling with others as well.
Do all types of traveling
There doesn’t need to be a debate over group travel or solo travel or cruise travel or backpacking, or whatever type of travel. Travel a lot and do it all. EVERY type of travel has perks and downsides. Group tours with raging 20 year olds or solo traveling can both be incredibly rewarding. Just get out there and do a lot of everything. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying new things, because it’s new things that help you gain new experiences you would otherwise never had.
Go ahead… get crazy… do crazy… and don’t regret any of it
Listen…. you travel for many reasons, but getting away from home and “letting go” and being more free to be you is a major one a lot of people don’t admit too often. That can mean something different for each person, but while you’re abroad, make it an experience. Do what you want to do and live your life. Make sure you’re still using your head and don’t be an idiot. But absolutely get out there and live it up. Don’t come back home with regrets.
Always have a minimum of 2 credit cards with you
Firstly, I absolutely believe that (almost) everyone should have a credit card. And secondly, you should have two if you travel. You’ll need to book rooms, excursions, buy things, etc, and sometimes online… which accept credit cards. Sometimes your main credit card is compromised (perhaps you lost it or your credit card company freezes it after unusual activity detected), and you need to a spare credit card to hold you over for the remainder of your trip. So make sure you have two! Your main card should be a nice rewards credit card and your backup card can be whatever free card that is used for emergency purposes.
Always have cash with you
It pays to carry some cash with you all the time. During your travels, you’re just going to need it. You don’t need a lot, but have something with you in case of emergencies. Certain situations requires cash only but even if it didn’t, you can run into situations where cash is the only way to pay for something. Be prepared for that.
Put the business card of your hotel in your wallet
An easy way to never forget what the name of your hotel is is to grab the hotel business card from the lobby. Put it on your wallet. And when you need it, whip it out, like when you need a cab ride home.
Always bring your laptop
First of all, we all need our internet time. But besides that, you need a place to backup your photos. You’ll need a laptop for that. You can get lightweight computers in the $500 range which will be plenty powerful for basic uses.
Do all the touristy stuff and then move on to the less touristy stuff
I absolutely love doing touristy things in cities. I feel you should try and see the popular places and do the popular excursions because they are popular for a reason. If you have time left over, you can do the less touristy things. But of course, if there are certain things you love, then you should definitely do those whether their touristy or not is irrelevant!
Learn how to use a camera well
I’ll say it. You really want to invest in a high quality camera that’s more than your phone, and learn how to use it. While your cell phone can take great pictures when the lighting is good, you can get exceptional photos if you learn basic photography and use a good quality camera. If you travel a lot and like to capture the areas you visit, then it’s a no brainer. You need a good camera. So get on it if you’ve been on the fence about this (cause you know you’ve been thinking about it!)
Take your camera everywhere
On top of having a good camera, always have your camera with you. Because photo opportunities will find their way to you no matter what. I suggest buying a camera backpack where you can store your camera and a few light things while you roam around a new place. If you have your camera with you always, you will take more photos and more to look back on when you get home. That sounds good right? YASS.
Keep your room tidy and simple
I don’t understand people that make rooms so incredibly messy. Like it’s so hard to find things. And why does your clothes need to be everywhere? Packing is a lot easier, it’s easier for your cleaning lady, it’s easier to find things, it looks more pleasant… it’s just better to keep things tidy. Don’t be messy. A lot of people don’t like it! lol.
Go do stuff that you actually enjoy
I think many of us fall into the trap of doing what’s expected of you when you visit a new place. Well, if you have zero interested in doing that, or eating that, or whatever, then don’t do it! It’s your trip and you need to experience it however you feel is best for you. You’re going to NYC and couldn’t care less about the Empire State Building? Well don’t visit! It’s as simple as that. If you want to eat doughnuts in Portland, go do it!
Talk to the locals all the time
I highly recommend asking locals for advice on everything. Sure, your planning on the internet will tell you some things, but literally nothing is better than hearing something from a locals mouth. Ask your waiter, bartender, shop keepers, people on the street, etc. Ask them anything. What’s amazing is that everyone will help you. And they tend to give you really good advice. Better than what you’ll get on the internet. They’re locals after all and they know this place!
It’s never going to be as planned and you need to be able to wing it
Things will always go wrong during a trip or things will not happen as planned. There are so many variables that affect your travel plans that are way out of your control. So firstly, it’s totally okay! that’s the travel life! And second, be okay with winging it. Be okay with a change of plans. Be okay with all that is crazy and wild with traveling! that’s part of the experience of getting out and exploring! And the random adventures that happen from a change of plans will turn out to be even better sometimes!
You will go over budget pretty much always so expect it
I don’t know anyone who comes back from a trip and says they spent less money than they budgeted. More often than not, you’ll spend more money than you think. That’s how traveling usually goes. Unexpected expenses come up, you end up shopping way more, eating way more, and basically you end up yoloing it up because you’re abroad and that’s what you should be doing. So create a budget to stick to, but maybe add a bit more to it just in case 😛
Plan Plan Plan, but adventure when you get there
I think it’s a great idea to plan a lot of your vacation. You want to be prepared for what’s coming. You want to know where you want to go and what you want to experience. Because the last thing you want is to visit a new city and not know where to go or what to see. You want a big list of things you could potentially do. NOW, I am fully up for adventures. And you can still adventure abroad, but do it with a solid plan. A good idea is to pick a few things you will do each day and go out with the intention of doing them. You may or may not do all of them, you may find something else better to do. It’s still an adventure. But do have a plan to start with!
I really recommend traveling slow, which means spending more time in one location rather than running off to to the next cool thing. First and foremost, it’s cheaper because you spend less money on transportation, but secondly, I feel it’s better to really get a feel of a city or wherever you are rather than just scratching the surface of an area then moving on to the next. A city like Paris or Barcelona could take you a week or more to really get an idea of what it’s truly like. It’s so nice to simply walk around and soak it in when you know you have time rather than running around with your head cut off hitting every tourist spot and then moving on to do the same thing again.
Decide what type of traveler you are
If you’ve traveled even just a little bit, you probably have a decent idea of what type of traveler you are. You’ll know if you like to explore places with people or you may like the challenges of traveling solo. But it’s hard to figure out what type of traveler you are without actually experiencing the style of travel at least once. So I recommend to do cruises, travel with your partner, and go on group trips. Do it all! Figure out what types of travel and tourism is best for you!
Journal your adventures through written words
I really recommend spending 10 mins or so each day simply jotting down the main things you did, and some highlights of your day. Include good and bad things. Write down things that scared you or things you found exciting. Just keep notes of your adventures. Reading through them when you are back home will bring you back to a world you just lived through and I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to re-live it. And you often realize just how much you did and how many cool experiences you got (and have forgotten about already!)
Buy a high quality backpack
I made a big mistake the first time I went backpacking South East Asia because I bought a backpack that was too big and heavy, and also picked out the backpack myself without any help. My bag was overall just too big and heavy but also caused my back to hurt because it was not the right fit for my body type. I generally recommend to get the smallest backpack you can get and learn to pack less! And make sure you get help when choosing your backpack! Expert advice will save your back!
Mishaps on the road is really just an adventure presenting itself to you
Things will always NOT go as planned. So firstly, expect that. But secondly, it’s really just another adventure waiting to happen. So just go with it and have fun with it. Your cancelled tour means you have to spend an extra 3 hours in this random small town? That could be an incredible opportunity to really get to know the place now.
Wake up early and get used to it
You’re on vacation and you do want to have fun and relax at time too but you also want to make the most of it and a lot of cool things happen as the sun rises, so you really want to make sure you get up early. You may not need to do it every day but it’s something I recommend doing often because you are missing out some of the best moments of the day. Sunrises are so special because it’s usually calm and quiet even in chaotic locations, and it’s also an incredible time for photos.
Keep spare cash somewhere
Always keep spare cash somewhere you can access it if needed. For example, in your backpack, or in a safe at your hotel, or in a random place in your luggage. Sometimes you run out of money and need backup cash fast, or you lose your main wallet but have spare cash at least to hold you over. You may not need to hide the cash, but just make sure it’s available for emergency purposes.
Travel alone (for at least some of your trip)
Take time to travel alone whenever you can. You don’t have to be a dedicated solo traveler, but for some of your trip, or for a trip, go at it alone. You will learn so many things about yourself when you have to do it all and figure it all out on your own. When it’s Friday night and you’re by yourself and need to figure out how to make your night fun. It’s all challenging and you will only grow from these experiences. You can make half your trip solo and half with friends or a group tour to “balance” your trip if you don’t want to add some variety into your adventure.
Bring basic drugs with you when departing
Don’t leave home without basic drugs like Advil, Pepto, bandaids, and whatever over the counter drugs you might need. Don’t be one of those people that go “I’ll buy it there if I need it” because the pharmacy is usually not around the corner… but Advil in your backpack is whenever that random head ache strikes.
Bring a large bag to put your dirty clothes in
Use a laundry bag or even a black garbage bag will do to put your used clothes in and keep them there until you have time to do laundry. This will make sure the stink in your used clothes don’t infect your fresh ones. It’s a game changer if you’ve never done this before so definitely try it!
Always keep your electronics charged as often as possible
If you’ve got time to charge batteries, your phone, your laptop, whatever, make sure you do it. While on the road, you just never know when you’ll get a chance to charge these things again. Next thing you know, you’ve had a big night and have get up early and you didn’t get a chance to charge your phone and now it’s dead and you cant Google maps or take photos. That would really suck. So whenever you can, boost those batteries as full as you can!
Have a high quality cell phone
It blows my mind when people go on expensive vacations and all they have to capture the moments are an iPhone 4. Like come on… anyway.. all modern phones have great cameras nowadays so must of us are good. In case you are one of the few with an old phone with a less than stellar camera, if this is your only camera, then really think about upgrading your phone before your next big trip! Good quality photos make a huge difference when you look back at your trip. If you go to a colorful place like Cartagena, you want to capture it as beautifully as you can!
Take all the guided tours you can
Free walking tours and even paid guided tours of cities, castles, whatever, are really really really great things to do. Even if the tour ends up being super crappy, you will learn things you never knew and it always makes you smarter and more appreciative of where you are. Make time for guided tours. A lot of them are often free and you only need to tip the tour guide in the end.
Do it now if it’s available for doing and don’t say tomorrow
Traveling is all about seizing the opportunity when it’s in front of you. The shop that’s open right now, or the sunset that’s crazy good right now, or the show that’s playing right now, or the photo opportunity that’s in front of you right now, all these things needs to be seized right then and there. Don’t say I can come back later or find any excuses to put it off. You don’t control the environment and things can change later or the next day. So make sure you get it now while you can guarantee it.
Track all your spending
It’s a good idea (and it’s fun) to track every little thing you buy. Keep track on your phone every time you spend money and keep daily tabs on what you are putting your money towards. You can manually type your spending in on a notepad, and there are also apps that help you track spending. Firstly, this helps prevent you from blowing your budget too hard, and second, it’s a good guide on how you spend money so you can manager your finances better while on the road.
Use a smaller backpack / suitcase
Going lighter is usually the better way to go when you need to lug your stuff around all over the place. Not only will you learn to figure out how to bring what you actually need, you’ll also be more organized and have less stuff to worry about when traveling around.
Try the hostel life
Hostels are accommodations where you stay in a room with many other people (sometimes as much as 20). They’re really really fun because you have the chance to meet a lot of other people. The social aspect of hostels is a huge benefit if you are traveling alone and are worried you may get lonely and not like it. But besides that, hostels are the most budget friendly option for a traditional room stay. If you’ve never done it, give it a shot. I think it’s important to try a lot of things and hosteling is just one of them.