I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I have learned over the years travelling. Wanting to compile a useful list of tips and tricks is one thing, but limiting it to just 50 is another! That’s right… I didn’t struggle to think of 50 of the best travel tips, I struggled to know which ones to include! There’s so much I want to share with you – starting with:
You never know when your luggage may be lost or delayed, and the first thing you want to do in a new city is most probably not go on a mission to buy underwear.
Drinking plenty over water, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and fresh air are the best ways to avoid jet lag or at least shake it quickly. Better yet, a shower is as good as liquid sleep… just be sure to head outside right afterwards, as the fresh air will wake you up for the day.
One you learn how to wash your clothes in the sink like a pro, you’ll never use a laundromat again.
The never ending packing debate has resulted in a few claims to fame, but a combination of both rolling (delicate, wrinkle-prone items) and folding (jeans, etc.) results in a pro packing approach. Better yet, pack clothes that don’t wrinkle. Better better yet, never buy clothes that require ironing!
If you’re going on a Euro trip or visiting another region where you’re covering a lot of ground, consider booking x2 one way tickets (e.g. one way into Paris and one way returning from Moscow). This can save you a lot of time and money as you won’t have to back track.
Ever travelled with a hat, only to arrive with it more or less resembling a scrunched up piece of paper? Learning how to pack your hat like a pro can change that. All you gotta do is pack the head with clothes (small items like undies and t shirts), sit it in your suitcase, pack around it firmly and voila!
On that note, packing becomes about twenty times easier when you do your laundry beforehand.
Sometimes there won’t be a shower. Sometimes there will be delays and showers will be days apart. Avoid feeling icky (with a strong odour) and bring along baby wipes for a quick clean slate.
Make yourself a DIY SOS pack for the plane to ensure you’ve got plenty of snacks and things to do… you’ll never hate flying long-hauls again!
Ever arrived at a destination and found something broken, be that inside the suitcase or the case itself? Buying a hard case was the best investment I ever made: no more broken camera gear, no more worries (I’ve even packed glass bottles inside before with no troubles).
You can only wear one pair of jeans at a time and to be quite realistic, jeans last a fair amount of wears before needing a wash! The less you pack, the less you carry. If you find yourself in a pickle there will be somewhere nearby to purchase that item – don’t sweat it!
One day I decided to stop buying kitsch souvenirs (so long ago I cannot remember when it was precisely), but I haven’t looked back since. Instead of buying souvenirs I try to capture as many special moments as possible on camera and once I’ve returned home make my own souvenirs by scrapbooking a DIY Travel Photo Book.
If all else fails the sneakers will prevail.
If you have intolerances or dietary requirements that DOES NOT MEAN you cannot enjoy local cuisine! Do a little research before your trip and you will invariably find vegetarian equivalents of famous local dishes or in the worst case scenario, go nuts on the sweets section!
For many years I had always been to shy or concerned not to do things – like being unsure if I was allowed to take photos or not knowing if I was allowed to enter a certain door. In the end I realised that if I’m doing something wrong, I could apologise afterwards. Better to see, do and try everything than to never know. Plus a smile goes a long way to get you off the hook!
Hell, even if its only a few dot points in the evening – write it down! You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget those intimate little moments like when you caught eyes with a stranger or the finer details like the scent of those fresh blooms… and one day you’ll want nothing more than to remember.
One of the best things I did a few years ago was take the time to learn key phrases for each country I was visiting in Europe. Knowing how to say “NO”, “Please”, “Thank you” and “Do you have vegetarian?” has been a huge help over the years.
On a day trip, on a week-long trip, on a plane trip… always pack snacks. You just never know when you’ll next find something to eat.
One of the worst things to happen to me whilst travelling was losing my purse with all my credit and bank cards inside. These things DO happen. In an ideal world I would have had some cash stored away in my suitcase for an emergency, but I didn’t. And boy was that a long, drawn out, hungry day.
Chances are that little old lady peeking up from her newspaper is just dying to give you directions. All you gotta do is ask.
On that note, start asking locals for suggestions instead of always consulting the interwebs (it does help A LOT of the time, but sometimes it is best to just ask a local). They can tell you some great local insider tips and often will offer to show you around or at least take you to the place you’re looking for.
Too many times when I have been abroad looking for an activity to do, I have found myself in line at the cinemas going to see a new film. I speak from experience when I say: DON’T DO IT… that film isn’t going anywhere! Instead, opt for something fun where you can actually meet people and mingle with locals, like a bowling alley or local sports event.
Learning how to properly wash my clothes in the sink has been a lifesaver. Best of all, you can dry them in a matter of minutes!
…and have a solid answer when asked “What is your profession?” Instead of answering “well I’m a writer, kinda… more like a blogger really… I just, yeah, I just write and take photos”. Never ends well!
Believe me this should not be overlooked. More often than not I have packed one book, just one chance of survival at that 12 hour flight. And more often than not, that book has sucked. Try starting at least a few pages, maybe even a chapter of a book before deeming it plane worthy. Otherwise, bring a backup!
After losing my bags in Africa, I will no longer leave a country without packing a few handy essentials in my carry-on, including: my toothbrush, toothpaste, some spare underwear, deodorant and a spare outfit.
You’ll be surprised how much better an experience you have when you just remember to be patient and understanding of the situation. Remember life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it!
Don’t leave home without it. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Its that simple. What is also simple is using the WOW discount code when booking your travel insurance with Southern Cross Travel Insurance! Just type “WOW” in the promotional code offer for 10% off – for Australia & NZ only.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a scarf has come in handy whilst abroad. Not only to negate the effects of airlines thinking they should resemble the weather on offer in Antarctica, but also in situations where covering up is required.
When travelling for an extended period of time you’re likely to accumulate hundreds and thousands of beautiful memories in the form of photographs and videos. Imagine how you’d feel if you lost said memories and could not ever get them back? I would strongly suggest a cloud system (online back up) instead of lugging around a hard drive, or if you store all your photos on a blog somewhere that is also a great help!
On that note, lets take a moment to talk about photos. I wanted to simply write “take lots of photos” but I strongly believe you can take too many photos, to the point where it becomes overwhelming and you leave your photos for months after your travels before sorting through them (by which time people no longer wag their tails like puppy dogs hopeful of hearing all your great stories). So take lots of photos, yes. But learn how to take better photos so that you can spend more time and effort getting that “great” shot instead of 50 mediocre point and clicks.
And on that note on that note, I believe the single most determining factor that led to less stress when I travel was learning how to take better photos and knowing all the lurks and perks of my gadgets inside out. Trust me on this — you’ll never miss that gorgeous pastel coloured sunrise again if you just know how to work that camera.
If you go overseas and have a really good time, you’re bound to go over budget. If you don’t go over budget, you’re probably not having as good a time as you could (splurge a little!) So whenever I budget for a trip I always have a booster budget (a few hundred dollars above budget) for the fun stuff I might come across and just want to say yes to, without having to worry about finding the funds to do so!
It might seem like an obvious one but we’re all guilty of not drinking enough water daily… especially when we travel! For myself I try to stick by the rule of not drinking anything BUT water, and when I do, I have to drink the same amount of that drinks in water alongside it (sounds a little crazy but trust me, it works!)
I speak from experience when I say that having high expectations hardly ever leads to a positive trip abroad. Remember that when you travel things will always be different to the way you expect them and these are often things outside of your control (take the weather for example). Stay positive – it could be worse! You could be at home on the couch watching the travel channel!
I once read this travel tip years and years ago and laughed it off, thinking there was no way I could remove half of my luggage after spending so much time diligently picking out each and every item I just knew I would need on my trip. But I promise you, less is more (plus you’ll have more room for purchases).
If you’re prone to illness or you’re spending more than a few weeks overseas, chances are you will fall ill on your trip at some point time. When it happens it really does suck more than at home as you’re in foreign surrounds and your best chance of survival is to come prepared.
Imagine if there were no borders and you could travel without customs and immigrations, without long lines and airport waiting areas? You can! Travelling close to home is one of my favourite ways to counteract my relentless desire to get away and explore. The best part is you can go whenever without any prior planning!
When it comes to learning new languages I pretty much suck for the most part. There, I said it. But while I can’t learn a whole new language and retain that knowledge, I can (and do) make an effort to learn a few key phrases in every language of countries i am visiting and once you start it is hard to stop! Besides getting over the fear of “sounding funny” is half the hurdle. Once you’re find with trying new words and sounds it is much easier to learn a new language as it becomes so much easier to practice on anyone and everyone you meet.
If I had a dollar for every time I have found myself exploring a city for hours, always ending up kilometres away from my hotel with no idea how to return… well, I’d probably have enough for a new plane ticket! A great way to avoid becoming legitimately lost is to write down your hotel name, address and room number in your phone so that you always have something to refer back to. Better yet, take a screenshot of your hot pin on Google Maps from your phone before you leave for the day!
Okay I know I probably shouldn’t say this (because eating out is all a part of the local experience and all), but sometimes I just feel like a quick and cheap bite to eat that I can take home to enjoy or eat on the walk home. If you’re in a city like London then you’re in for a real treat – Marks and Spencers, Tesco and Sainsbury’s all make reasonable meals to go!
If you’ve spent any amount of time on my blog whatsoever I’m sure you will know by now that I’m no stranger to the sporadic splurge. While I admire budget travellers for their frugal ways, I myself have a little too much intrigue when it comes to new experiences (be that food, activities or seeing a theatre show) and just can’t say no. If it makes you feel good; do it. If it doesn’t; don’t. Simple!
Before you get in a cab, before you commit to buy that kitsch souvenir, before you walk in to a restaurant… always check the price before you commit or be willing to pay more than you’d like for something you may not even like at all!
Spontaneity is the key ingredient to a fun-filled getaway. Not knowing where you will end up that day or how you will get there is almost always as exciting as the activities you get up to anyway!
Ask a local where’s the best coffee in town, ask your receptionist if they have spare bathroom supplies before buying them, ask if you can try a flavour before you buy… its true that if you ask, you shall receive!
One of the biggest tips I have for you when scoring a hotel upgrade or getting a better seat on the plane is just to be kind. Even when you don’t want something from someone, be kind. Always be kind.
Sick of spending too much time in lines and in airports? Arrive late (though don’t miss your flight… that would not be good) and leave early (run off that plane and fly to the front of the line at immigration).
And last of all my favourite travel quote of all that I heard many times in South America – “Its not wrong, its just different”. Always try to keep an open mind and remember that your way is not necessarily right, but just the way you know it to be. Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective – its the best way to learn!