Traveling can be the most exhilarating experience but it can also turn into your worst nightmare real quick. Through my years of travel and having my fair share of over packed suitcases, missed flights and cultural faux pas, I’ve come up with a few tips on how you can be a prepared and savvy traveler. This travel guide will save you on time, money and in some cases, embarrassment.
1. Research – I cannot stress this enough. You really want to be fully aware of where you’re going. Take a brief look at their customs, rules and regulations. Maybe you need to wear headscarves to enter a place of worship or maybe you can’t take photos of certain monuments. You need to know how to get around via ground, the standard of living, areas that should not be visited, opening and closing times of attractions you’d like to visit, and so on and so on. Traveling unprepared is never a good idea.
2. Book online – Any good travel guide would recommend this. This applies to flights, hotels/apartments, car rentals, restaurants, attractions and anything that can be booked online beforehand. Discounts and upgrades are sometimes given for booking and purchasing online and you tend to get really good deals overall. Not to mention it saves a lot on time. We beat standing in long lines to gain access to attractions in Paris because we booked everywhere we wanted to visit online.
3. Pack lightly – Preplan outfits and only pack what you need. Wear your bulkiest items, like jackets and boots, on the flight as they tend to take up quite a bit of luggage space. There’s an entire post on traveling light and only with a carry-on but in short, just think about not having to wait for what can turn into hours on checked luggage.
4. Put your room number & hotel address in your phone – If you’re like me and lack any sense of direction and have really shallow memory, please note in your phone your hotel, it’s address and telephone number. Also note your room number and pin/mark your location on an app such as Google Maps to help you remember where you’re staying.
5. Use miles and credit card points – I honestly can’t remember the last time I booked a flight and paid for it in full out of pocket. I always use airline miles and credit card points for flights and hotels. Even if I have enough for only a one way ticket. It may take time to build up but when you get there, the most you’d have to pay is taxes and maybe a couple other fees.
6. Rent apartments instead of hotels – I always see this tip in travel message boards and blogs. I have tried it and it’s always cheaper and you tend to get a full kitchen or kitchenette where you can store and cook your own food if you choose to do so. I know some hotels really frown on bringing food back to your rooms, so this will help with that. Also, many times the bedroom is separate from the living area, creating more space and privacy. You may not have the comfort of a 24 hour concierge in some cases, but I think you’d rather have the extra cash for spending on food and activities.
7. Be flexible – Plan but leave room for change. There are so many things that are out of your control when traveling. It’s important to be flexible and open to making spontaneous changes.
8. Do an itinerary – Know where you’re going, when and with whom. It doesn’t have to be detailed but it can act as a travel guide and will allow you to map your activities wisely and get the most of your days. Include travel and hotel check in and out times and don’t forget costs and opening and closing times of places you want to visit.
9. Visit attractions early and around lunch time – If you want those pristine photos and the opportunity to see an attraction uncrowded, rise early and visit as soon as they open. Lunch time people tend to fizzle out a bit to grab lunch depending on where you are, so you can jump at this opportunity as well.
10. Eat local food – What’s the point of being there if you don’t partake in local cuisine?? How can you go to Paris and not eat the crepes? I’m not the most adventurous where food is concerned but I am hardly ever disappointed.
11. Get lost – Be aware of your surroundings at all times but feel free to walk and wander. Again this all depends on where you are, but I’ve found that I enjoy a place more when I wander and get lost in its beauty. You find the best food that way!
12. Spend more time in fewer places – Bustling and rushing from one location to the next, running around from this attraction to the next is no way to enjoy a destination. For me at least. I like to go slow and savor where I am. To see and appreciate little things, to people watch and to get a feel of the culture. I’d rather spend two weeks in one destination than visit five in that same time. Simply because I can’t say I’ve traveled somewhere if I can’t tell you a good restaurant to eat in, or a good ice cream man on the corner or give quick tips on how to dress. You truly enjoy a place when you’re done with all the site hopping and wheeling around. Going slow and observing is so so worth it.
13. Learn the basics of the local language – At least the greetings. Hello, thank you, excuse me, sorry, goodbye. It warms up the interaction so much, even if a greeting is all you know. Have you ever had a tourist stop you to ask for directions and instantly begins speaking another language? It’s frustrating for all parties and can come across a bit rude.
14. Do free stuff – Walking tours, beaches, monuments. You can’t go wrong. Museums around the world many times have days you can visit for free. Do your research and save some cash.
15. Copy your passport and email to yourself – For convenience and safety purposes. You never know what can happen. You always want access to your passport or at least the information in it.
16. Web check-in – What a life saver! Larger mainstream airlines offer web check-in from 24 hours before. Less waiting time at the check in desk and you get to choose your seats beforehand!
17. Give up style for comfort – Listen, I get it, you’re in a new place and you want to deck off. You want to look stylish and trendy or classic in your photos but let me tell you, comfort is key. Especially if you’re doing tons of walking. I love destinations where I can walk a whole heap and for this I need comfortable and supportive shoes. Not to mention when you’re at airports. Stilettos are not suitable for running from gate to gate with bags in tow. I’ve tried it, it never works. Don’t forget those compression socks.
18. Alert your bank of travel plans – Some banks block credit and debit card transactions when there is activity outside of the country in which you reside. Always shoot them an email giving your travel dates and destinations.
19. Take photos and videos but live in the moment and enjoy – You want to forever have memories but make sure to also live in the moment and enjoy it.
20. Keep an open mind – Research and be mindful of different cultures, language and customs. Always be respectful.
21. Tell someone home where you will be – share your itinerary with someone at home and be sure to keep in touch throughout your trip. Just so that loved ones at home knows you’re safe and sound.
22. Get travel insurance – It’s not a hassle to get (online has a variety of reputable companies) and it’s pretty cheap. This can give you peace of mind when traveling. They cover lost baggage, illness while at the destination, flight and airline issues and so on.
23. Use Trip Advisor – Last but not least, the amazingness that is Trip Advisor. I use the travel forums to get real life feedback and guidance on coveted destinations. The review pages are really helpful for hotels and other accommodations as you can find visitor photos (which show the real thing and are most times not edited) and feedback. I live on Trip Advisor when going anywhere.
Do you have any tips to share on how to become a savvy traveler?
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S ~ Photo Diary ~ A Day Trip to Tobago and Holiday Gift Guide for the Travel Inspired Woman.
Published: January 8, 2018 6:30 AM