Travel Tips

I’ve collected a few travel tips over the years. Some apply to every trip; others are more specific. I thought I’d share with you, my dear readers.

  • Know your budget. I always have a budget for every trip I take. It helps to know ahead of time if you can afford that extra excursion or not.
    • Overbudget or round up. Always estimate and plan for the highest possible cost (for example, if flights to that area cost $300-$500, plan for $500). You won’t be caught off-guard that way, and any money saved is more money for fun purchases.
    • Shop for low prices. This is almost a given with the Internet, but take a few minutes and look for comparison prices. A price difference of $10/night could add up to a $70 excursion.
    • Look for free events or activities. Almost every city has a tourism website where a calendar of community activities is listed. If you have a few hours to kill between events, it doesn’t hurt to see if there’s a walking tour or a sculpture garden down the street.
  • Call your bank. Make sure your bank knows you’re traveling out-of-state or abroad ahead of time. You don’t want your account to be frozen. It’s not fun to sort out.
  • Carry cash. I wouldn’t recommend carrying a large amount of cash around, but always have some on hand for tips or those vendors that only take cash.
    • Know the tipping culture. Some countries tip; others don’t. Some tip only by rounding the price up to a round figure (a $13.87 bill to an even $14, for example). Look up the proper tip amounts for where you’re traveling and also for services outside of restaurants as well (such as when you take an airport shuttle, have a bellhop, or use a valet service).
  • Plan for weather. Always check the weather for your trip. If it looks like it might rain, pack one light jacket or even a travel umbrella (I like mine because it takes up the same amount of space as my glasses case). Bring or purchase sunscreen if you’re doing things outdoors. No one wants sunburn, ever, and UV rays can still get to you through cloud cover.
  • Keep plans flexible. Schedule tours and events all you want, but I always try to build in a few hours here — or a day there — to have some downtime or time to explore on my own.
  • Try new foods. This is one of my favorite tips. I love trying new foods — or highly recommended restaurants — wherever I travel. It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. Whether it’s legitimate New York-style pizza or minke whale, new flavors are exciting.
  • Pack with transport in mind. Be aware of how long you’re going to be carrying around that suitcase, and where it might end up if you’re flying (lost luggage happens, despite best efforts). I like to pack a backpack with the essentials (valuables and one change of clothes, if possible) and leave only clothing/souvenirs in my suitcase.
    • If it’s too early to check into your hotel/hostel, ask if you can leave your suitcase in a storage room. Most places are pretty understanding of that.
  • Double-check directions. Google Maps is great, but it can lead you astray. Ask locals or hotel staff for a second opinion if you’re unsure.
  • Ask for recommendations. Don’t hesitate to ask friends and family for recommendations for travel (train, car, bus, air) , places to stay, restaurants, or activities. Sometimes you find things you would have never thought of before.

More tips might be added as I think of them, but here’s a start. Feel free to comment with suggestions!