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Looking for advice for traveling? I’ve been traveling the world since 2008 and in that time I’ve learnt a lot of things by trial and error. I’ve made some mistakes along the way but I’ve also had a blast.
My passion for travel began with a 3-week backpacking trip around Australia and after that I was completely hooked. I started a travel blog and eventually became a full-time travel blogger, traveling to all sorts of far flung destinations including Madagascar, Iceland, Vietnam, Myanmar and many more.
If there’s only one piece of travel advice I could give you it’s this; book the ticket and take the ride. We don’t know if there’s anything after this life so if you’re itching to see the world, there’s no time like the present.
Of course, there are lots of other pieces of travel advice I’ve gathered along the way. Hopefully these travel tips will help you stay safe, save money, get out of your comfort zone and have a good time.
My 81 best travel tips from over a decade of travel
Turn on Find My
If you have an iPhone, make sure you have “Find My” turned on and share your location with at least one person, perhaps a family member or a close friend. If anything happens to you, at least someone back home knows where your last location was. I have a couple of close friends that I share my location with continuously.
Buy an Apple AirTag
Apple AirTag is a small circular device that can be used to track items such as keys and bags. Pop one of these inside your backpack and attach another one to your keys and put it in your purse. If you lose something, or it gets stolen, you’ll be able to check the last location.
However, if your bag does get stolen, don’t try to chase the thief down as you could end up being attacked. Instead, find a police officer or contact local authorities.
Write down the address of your hotel
Street names in foreign countries can be difficult to pronounce and your taxi driver may not be able to understand you. Sometimes your phone dies and you just can’t remember where you’re staying. Always write down the address of your hotel so that you can show it to a cab driver or figure out how to get back.
Only use no-fee bank cards
Don’t waste money on foreign transaction fees, they can really add up. Make sure you sign up for credit cards that charge no-foreign transaction fees and use those when you travel. When I first started traveling pretty much every card charged fees but now there are lots of cards on the market that won’t charge fees for using your card abroad.
From the US? For credit cards try Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Quicksilver, Capital One Venture Rewards, Delta Skymiles Platinum. If you’re looking for a debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, try Capital One 360 Checking.
Pack a Turkish towel for the beach
Ordinary bath towels are thick and heavy and they take up too much room in your suitcase. Plus, they end up full of sand if you take them to the beach. Instead opt for a Turkish towel or a thin sarong and use it to lay on when you’re tanning on the beach.
Pack a pen for the plane
You’ll often need one to fill out landing cards.
Talk to strangers
Want to really get to know a place? Talk to the locals. Strike up conversations with fellow travelers. You never know, you make some new lifelong friends and have some incredible adventures.
…but be wary
At the same time, trust your gut and follow your intuition. Keep your guard up a little bit and don’t just blindly trust everyone you meet. If something feels off, your intuition might be right.
Don’t eat next to major tourist attractions
If you’re traveling to Venice and you eat right next to Piazza san Marco it’s going to cost you. Likewise you’ll pay a premium to dine next to the Eiffel Tower or any other famous landmark. Google and Yelp are your friends. Look for places with good reviews that are recommended by other travelers. I often get my foodie inspiration from Instagram too!
Always have a little bit of cash
While many establishments take cards these days, it’s always best to have some of the local currency on you (just not too much, you don’t want to be a target for thieves). Cash is always useful for things like tipping or buying food from street vendors. In some countries, cash is still king.
Avoid changing money at the airport
Currency exchange places at the airport are usually a rip-off. If you need cash it’s better to draw money out of the ATM with your debit card. If you do need to exchange currencies, do it at your destination or back home.
Get up early to beat the crowds
If you want to get the best photos or visit attractions that aren’t swarmed by tourists, you’re best off getting up early. Mornings are usually much quieter so you’ll have a better chance at capturing photos without hoards of tourists in the way. Plus, the light is much better photos than during the peak of the afternoon.
If you’re on a budget, stay in hostels
Hostels are budget friendly and they’re also a great way to meet people. They usually have common areas and organize activities such as bar crawls or walking tours. Nowadays there are lots of boutique hostels that are just as stylish and modern as hotels. Staying in a hostel doesn’t necessarily mean you have to slum it.
Take extra credit cards & debit cards
Always take a couple of extra credit and debit cards with you and keep them in a separate place to your other cards. That way, if one of your cards gets lost or stolen, you can easily cancel it and you still have access to money on another card.
Being a traveler doesn’t mean you have to wear ugly travel shoes
I see quite a few bloggers recommending comfy shoes for travel. Things like velcro sandals, water shoes or crocs. Do you see the locals wearing them? No. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to wear shoes designed specifically for travel.
I still like to be stylish. I wear dress sneakers, boots, leather sandals or flip flops. Occasionally I’ll pack walking boots or athletic sneakers if I know I’ll be going on a proper hike but usually I can get away with dress sneakers.
Obviously you can wear what you like; if you like the look of them then go for it! But just know that you don’t have to wear them.
Start travel hacking and take advantage of rewards credit cards
In the US credit card companies offer large sign up bonuses for signing up to their travel rewards credit cards. Bonuses are usually in the form of air miles or points that can be redeemed for flights and hotels. I personally use the Delta Skymiles Platinum credit card but another great card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
If you live in the UK then you could sign up for the British Airways American Express card. Check out my guide to collecting air miles if you’re from the UK.
Use these cards for all your daily spending and big purchases and you can soon rack up lots of miles that you can use to get free travel (you just have to pay the taxes and fees).
Don’t be afraid to travel alone
If you wait for your friends to be ready to book a trip, you could be waiting forever. I started traveling solo mainly because I wanted to see the world but my friends always had excuses not to travel.
Traveling alone is a really liberating experience and I recommend you do it at least once in your life. It forces you to socialize and meet new people, plus you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want! Looking for inspiration on where to go? Check out my list of the best places to travel alone in the U.S.
These days I travel as light as possible. The more you travel the more you realize you don’t need too many clothes and you can rewear things.
If I’m going away for less than a week then I fit everything into a small backpack that can be considered a “personal item” on flights. Budget airlines will often charge hefty fees for carry on luggage and sometimes the fee can be more than the cost of the flight.
For longer trips I fly with a wheeled carry-on bag. Flying with just carry-on allows you to get in and out of the airport quickly and you don’t have to worry about the airline losing your bags.
Layer up for the plane
Planes are cold! Even if I’m traveling to a warm country I tend to wear extra layers on the plane and if I’m traveling with coats or jackets, I wear them so that they don’t take up space in my luggage.
You don’t have to travel with a backpack to be a backpacker
I’m 5ft tall and super petite so there’s no way I was going to carry around a large, heavy backpack on my back. When I was backpacking in my 20s I always traveled with a wheeled duffel bag and never really ran into any issues.
Learn a few key phrases in the local language
You don’t need to be fluent in the local language to get around but it does help if you learn some basic words and phrases, such as “Hello, how are you?”, “Where’s the bathroom?”, “Please” and “Thank you”. A lot of people throughout the world speak some English these days but this isn’t always the case and the locals will appreciate the effort if you choose to speak in the language.
If you’re interested in learning a new language, check out my article: 20+ ways to learn a language.
Use the Google Translate app if you’re stuck
If the language barrier is getting in the way and you’re stuck, use the Google Translate app on your phone. You can speak into it using your phone’s microphone and it will translate whatever you said to the person you’re talking to. You can also use your phone’s camera to take a picture of a menu and it will translate the text for you. Best of all, you can download offline translation files so that you can translate the language even when you’re offline.
Take photos of your passports, visas and licenses
Take photos of all your important documents, including your passport, driver’s license and your visa if you have one. This way if they get lost or stolen it’s much easier to prove your identity. Email them to yourself or make sure they’re uploaded to a cloud drive.
Download offline maps
Most of us rely on Google Maps these days to get around but what if you don’t have phone service or you’re in a destination like Cuba where it’s difficult to get online? If I’m going to a new city I go to the “Offline Maps” setting in Google Maps and a map of the area to my phone. This way if I can’t access the Internet I’m still able to navigate my way around.
Be flexible and don’t stick to a rigid itinerary
Try not to plan out every moment of every day. It’s nice to have an idea of what you want to do but if you meet some cool people, don’t be afraid to ditch those plans and see where the wind takes you. You may have a much better time!
Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry large amounts of cash
As a tourist you can be an easy target for thieves. Don’t wear expensive watches, flashy jewelry or anything that someone might want to steal. Carry just enough cash for the day and leave the rest of your cash locked up in a safe in your hotel (or in a locker if you’re in a hostel).
Always watch your drinks
A friend of mine went to Colombia and never came back. A mystery woman put the world’s scariest drug in his drink and sadly, he died. Always, always watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from random strangers.
Travel with a lock
If you’re staying in a hotel then it’s likely there’ll be a safe in the room. But if you’re staying in a hostel you’ll need to put your stuff in a locker. Carry a padlock with you so that you can lock your stuff away and keep it safe.
Read about the destination before you go
You don’t need to read an entire guide book but definitely read some blogs and go on Wikipedia to learn a little bit about the country’s history before you go. This way you’ll have some basic knowledge about the country you’re visiting and you’ll have an idea of what you want to visit when you get there.
Use a few flight search engines to get the cheapest flights
When trying to find the cheapest flights your best bet is to use a few different search engines. I like:
For more tips, read my guide on how to get the cheapest flights.
To save money, book shorter trips
With flights, hotels, tours, meals out and activities, travel can get really expensive. To cut down on spending, consider booking a shorter trip for say, 3-5 days max. You can still see and do a lot in a short space of time and you won’t need to take too many days off work. To travel more, try booking shorter trips to lots of different places as opposed to blowing all your cash on one two week trip.
Cook your own food occasionally
If you’re traveling for longer than a week, you may want to consider staying in an apartment rental or villa so you can cook some of your own meals at home. Eating out for every meal can soon start to get tiring, so pay a visit to the grocery store and buy some items for breakfast and lunch. If you’re headed to the beach, pack your own lunch and have a picnic. For more tips, check out my article on how to save money on food while traveling.
Take advantage of lunch deals
Want to eat out? Restaurants usually offer special lunch menus which are much cheaper than their regular dinner menus. So if you want to dine in an expensive restaurant, consider going at lunch time.
Book in advance to get the best prices
Flights often get really expensive when booking last-minute, so try to book 2-3 months in advance to get the best deals. You can sometimes find really good last minute hotel deals on Hotel Tonight but if you’re planning to travel to a popular destination in peak season, look for hotel deals well in advance of your trip before things get booked up.
Check what vaccines you need before you go
For certain countries you’ll need to make sure you have specific vaccines before you go. Check the NHS Fit for Travel website or the CDC Travelers’ Health website to see a list of countries and required vaccinations.
Educate yourself on animal welfare
When I was much younger I went elephant trekking in Thailand and I swam with dolphins in captivity. That was a long time ago and now I’m much more educated on animal welfare and what is/isn’t ok. Don’t go riding elephants or petting tigers that have been drugged. Do feel free to volunteer at animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers that are working hard to help animals.
Be wary of scams
In Thailand there’s a common scam where tuk tuk drivers will tell you a major attraction is closed and then insist on taking you to a tailor shop and a bunch of other places. This happened to me when I first went there. Be aware of scams and read up on them before you go.
Eat street food
Don’t be afraid to try the street food, it’s delicious. In all my years of traveling I’ve only had food poisoning twice – once from a fancy hotel restaurant in Madagascar and once from a market in Portland, Oregon. I’ve never had any issues with street food and it’s often the freshest because it’s cooked right in front of you.
Always travel with travel insurance
I once had a scooter accident in Bali and didn’t have insurance. Don’t let that be you. Always make sure you have adequate travel insurance because you never know what will happen. You might have an accident or lose your passport. Your bag may get lost or stolen or your flight could be delayed.
Respect the local culture
Don’t be an idiot, respect the local culture. Educate yourself on things like clothing, etiquette and local customs.
In some countries and cultures women are expected to cover up. Don’t go wearing booty shorts and a crop top just because that’s what you wear back home. Not only will you offend people but you’ll probably attract a lot of negative attention. Pack a pair of leggings or a long skirt and a long sleeve top.When you’re in another country, always respect their rules and traditions.
Carry a pashmina
When visiting religious sites and temples women are often required to cover their shoulders. I always carry a pashmina or a cardigan in my bag so I can easily cover up before entering.
Carry earplugs and an eye mask
Noisy neighbors, crowded trains, loud music…there are bound to be times where you want to just drown out all the background noise and doze off. Pack a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask so you can get some much needed rest.
Pack electrolytes and ginger candy
Sometimes hangovers while traveling are inevitable. Sometimes you get a bout of diarrhea or motion sickness. Pack some electrolyte sachets such as Dioralyte so Liquid I.V so you can mix the powder with water and rehydrate quickly. Ginger candy is also very good for settling an upset stomach and nausea.
Carry a spare charger, and a portable one
When you’re in a rush to check-out of your hotel room it’s easy to leave things like chargers behind. Carry a spare charger and travel with a portable power bank so you can keep your phone charged while you’re out and about.
Sign up to flight clubs
Flexible with your travel dates and don’t mind where you go? Sign up to flight clubs such as Jack’s Flight Club (UK), Scott’s Cheap Flights (US) or Dollar Flight Club (US). These flight clubs are basically email newsletter services that send you insanely cheap flight deals and some mistake fares too. Just be sure to book quickly before flights sell out and prices go up.
Book tickets to attractions online before you go
Waiting in line for attractions is a pain and you’ll often pay more at the door. Buy your attraction tickets online before you go so you can save money and skip the lines.
Get a Citypass for cities in the U.S
Citypass offers attraction passes for a number of cities around the U.S including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, NYC, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Toronto. These bundled passes allow you to get into all the top attractions and you’ll save up to 50% compared to buying all the attraction tickets separately.
Don’t get burnt
Burnt skin is uncomfortable and can ruin your trip. If you get burnt on the first day then you’ll probably spend the next few days avoiding the sun and the beach. Pack sunscreen (I like the clear spray ones so they don’t leave white streaks). If you’re flying with just carry-on you can buy mini sunscreen to take with you.
Try to live in the moment
In a world with mobile phones, iPads and laptops, people are becoming more engrossed in what’s happening on their devices than what’s going on in the real world. Put the phone down at dinner. Observe what’s going on around you. Look out the window. Speak to the person sitting next to you. Chat with the locals. You have plenty of time to check social media when you get back home.
Like a place? Stay a while…
If you fall in love with a place, don’t feel like you have to leave just because you have a set itinerary. Book a few extra nights. When I went to Brazil I was supposed to visit Rio, São Paulo and Iguassu Falls. I ended up staying in Rio for the entire 2 weeks and I had so much fun! I once went to Portugal and ended up extending my stay over and over again. As long as you don’t have to be somewhere important (like go home for work) then enjoy your time and do whatever your heart tells you.
Roll your clothes
When packing your suitcase or backpack, roll your clothes. This way you’ll have more space in your bag and you’ll be able to fit more stuff in.
Take lots of photos
Take lots of photos because you never know when you’ll be back again. There are definitely some trips where I wish I’d taken more photos so I’d have more pictures to share with you in my articles. I would often take pictures of the major landmarks but forget to take pictures of “life” in between, such as photos of transportation, bars or local life.
…but don’t just do everything for Instagram
Let’s face it there are lots of locations around the world that have become a magnet for Instagram influencers. Don’t visit places just to get the perfect Instagram photo and then leave. Don’t spend your entire trip posing for hundreds of photos trying to get the best one. Visit a place for the experience and for you, not for superficial reasons. Try to live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around you. Instagram isn’t everything. Social media isn’t everything.
Get out of your comfort zone
Be open to new things, even things that scare you. Strike up conversations with strangers or try new adventure activities that you’ve never done before, like skydiving or white water rafting or ziplining. When you get out of your comfort zone you feel such a thrill and it builds confidence in the long run.
Treat yourself occasionally
If you’re backpacking you’ll probably be trying to stick to a budget. While you can definitely save money by being frugal, it’s important to treat yourself once in a while. Don’t be afraid to splurge occasionally on things like a nice meal or an activity you really want to do. If it improves your experience and your wellbeing, then give yourself permission to splash out when you need to.
Bring an empty water bottle to the airport
Bottles of water are usually expensive at the airport. Bring your own water bottle and fill it up at a water fountain once you’ve gone through security.
Don’t get behind families in line at the airport
Whether you’re at the check-in desk, waiting in line for security or queuing up for immigration, avoid standing behind families with small children because they usually take a while. Get behind businessmen because they’re usually flying with carry-on and they’re often well versed with the airport process.
Carry extra camera batteries
You don’t want your camera to die while you’re out for the day. Always carry a spare battery so you can continue capturing beautiful photographs.
Go on free walking tours
Hostels will often run free walking tours of the city, so take advantage of them. Walking tours are a great way to learn a bit about the history of the place you’re visiting.
Be adventurous with food
Explore a new place through its cuisine. Try foods that you’ve never tried before and always sample the country’s national dish at least once. Be adventurous with your palette and don’t turn down food if it’s offered to you (unless you have allergies or it goes against your beliefs).
Don’t let media coverage deter you from visiting a country
Whenever I go to developing countries my mother will usually say something like, “Be careful! Did you hear about that tourist who got murdered there?”. The news is full of bad stories. Theft, murder, protests… This can happen anywhere. Obviously you should be careful while traveling but don’t let it stop you from seeing the world.
The world is friendlier than you think
One major thing I’ve noticed is that the world is a lot friendlier than the media and movies would have you believe. On the whole I’ve had good experiences with locals and I’ve experienced quite a few acts of kindness along the way.
Backup your photos
Have an iPhone? Pay the extra for the iCloud subscription and make sure all your photos are backed up to the cloud. I’ve had a couple of incidents where my phone just decided to give up on me and I lost all of my photos, so now I make sure my photo library is always automatically backed up to iCloud.
The same goes for your proper camera. Don’t just leave all your photos sitting on an SD card inside the camera. If your camera gets stolen or your SD card gets damaged then you’ve lost all your snaps. Back them up to your computer, an external hard drive or a cloud service like Amazon photos (which is free).
If you meet new people and they invite you somewhere, say yes (unless they’re creepy AF). Say yes to new things and you never know where it will lead.
Visit the tourism office
Tourism offices are usually stocked with maps and pamphlets on things to do. Yes you can do your research by reading guidebooks and blogs but there might be something you’ve missed. Tourism offices are always able to give directions and plenty of information on their destination. They’ll often have free-Wifi too.
Pack a toothbrush and swimwear in your carry on
If you’re planning to check a bag, always make sure you have the essentials in your carry on. That way, if your luggage goes missing, you still have some things to wear. If you’re going somewhere warm, put one swimsuit in your carry-on so that you can easily hit the pool or the beach even if your bag is lost. Always put a toothbrush in your carry-on so you can easily brush your teeth on long journeys. No-one wants to be going around with stinky breath.
Take a travel pillow for long flights
Economy seats can be cramped and uncomfortable, so to make the journey more bearable, pack a travel pillow for long flights.
Forget about time zones and jet lag
When I travel with other people they’ll often say something like “What time is it now? It would be about 6pm back home then.” Don’t translate the time. If you don’t want to be jetlagged, don’t think about it. Forget about what time it is back home. Adjust your watch to the new time zone while you’re in the air and when you arrive, try to stay awake and tire yourself out until it’s bedtime.
If you’re going to be in a country a while, you may want to get a local SIM card
Here in the U.S I’m signed up to T-mobile, which offers unlimited data and texting in 210+ destinations with its Magenta plans. I can usually get by with that and Wi-Fi in restaurants and hotels. However, if you’re going to be staying in a country for a while then you might want to get a local SIM card so you don’t have to worry about roaming charges.
Book hotels that offer free breakfast
To save money, opt for hotels that offer free breakfast over ones that don’t. This way you’re only eating out for lunch and dinner. Plus you’ll easily be able to roll out of bed, eat your hotel breakfast and then get down to the important stuff; sightseeing.
Bring a first aid kit
You never know what’s going to happen on your trip. Perhaps your shoes will rub and you’ll get a blister. Maybe you’ll fall over while running to catch a bus. Bring a basic first aid kit containing things like band aids, antiseptic cream and tweezers.
Carry stain remover on longer trips
On longer trips I carry stain remover in case I get food stains on my clothes. Something like a Tide pen or a Vanish stain stick will do. I also carry a travel-size detergent so I can wash underwear in the sink if I can’t easily do laundry.
Sign up for a VPN service
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is essential if you’re visiting China so that you can access the websites and social networks you would use back home. A lot of them are banned by Chinese authorities but using a VPN will help you get around this. VPNs are also great for protecting your privacy when you’re using public Wi-Fi.
Consider apartment rentals over hotels
If you’re traveling on a budget then you may want to try booking an apartment rental over a hotel. Not only are they often cheaper than hotel rooms, they also tend to have kitchens so you can cook some of your own meals at home. I really enjoy staying in apartment rentals because they feel like home away from home.
Food tours are a great way to see a city
Food tours are just more fun than other types of tours. You get to eat lots of yummy food, and perhaps enjoy some beer, wine or cocktails too. One of the best ways to discover a new culture is through its cuisine and restaurants.
Don’t bring clothes that crease
If I know there’ll be an iron at my hotel then I might be tempted to bring something that would need ironing. But on the whole, it’s just easier to pack clothes that won’t crease. Often you’re so busy exploring that you don’t have time to iron your favorite dress or shirt. Stay away from fabrics such as linen and cotton and go for fabrics such as polyester, poly cotton, denim, wool, and cashmere.
Carry a general antibiotic and ibuprofen
I always try to travel with a general antibiotic in case I fall ill on the road and it’s too difficult to get to a pharmacy or a doctor. Ibuprofen is also an essential in case of headaches or minor pains.
Learn how to drive manual
If you live in the U.S then you’ll probably be used to driving an automatic car, yet most people in Europe and other parts of the world drive manual. If you plan on renting a car when you go overseas, then be aware that your car rental will probably have a manual gearbox (even if you select automatic). Learn how to drive stick shift before you go so that you don’t run into any issues.
Always carry extra contact lenses
If you have bad eyesight like me then you’ll need to make sure you bring your glasses and contact lenses. Always carry extra contact lenses so that you don’t run out on your trip. Sometimes your eyes get dry, you get dust in your eyes or they fall out.
Avoid arriving in unfamiliar destinations at night
While sometimes it’s unavoidable, it’s always better to land in the daytime so you can easily get your bearings. Public transportation also sometimes stops late at night which means your only option is a taxi to your accommodation.
Fly in the early morning
If I’m faced with a choice of flight times, I usually pick the early morning flight because it’s more likely to depart on time. Here in New York, thunderstorms often occur in the afternoon and can cause flight delays.
A final word…
My best piece of advice for traveling? Be spontaneous. Go wherever the wind takes you.