#1: Understand the COVID Restrictions For Your Destination
COVID-19 changed everything for travel, especially when you’re traveling overseas. Every country has different COVID restrictions, and understanding what they are is imperative to getting to your destination without any major headaches. These restrictions change often, so make sure that you check official information pages for your country of choice right before you go.
You can check the State Department’s website or online resources
that show restrictions for any given country at a glance. Of course, it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared, so err on the side of bringing anything that you think you might need.
#2: Book Your Flights Early
The early bird gets the best flights! Buying tickets at the last minute can be costly, and you could face more extended layovers or a more complicated route to your final destination. Instead, try to book your flights about a month out whenever possible. You can also track certain flights that you’re interested in to see if the price fluctuates.
Of course, there are exceptions to this tried-and-true rule. You can certainly get great deals at the last minute, but in general, booking your tickets earlier will get you the very best price possible.
#3: Use Platforms To Search For the Cheapest Flights
Speaking of flights, it’s a good idea to use different platforms to search for the most cost-effective flights. Platforms like Google Flights
look at all of the available flights for your selected dates and give you plenty of options to choose from. You can even open up a calendar view to see how the cost of your flights changes week by week.
The beauty of using platforms like these is that you don’t have to do the research yourself. Instead, you just plug in your information and see the whole picture.
#4: Understand That Budget Airlines Have Hidden Fees
Budget airlines look excellent on paper, but they often come with hidden fees that could have you spending just as much as you might on a regularly-priced flight. Budget airlines sometimes charge a lot for baggage and only let you take one small carry-on item, if at all.
Depending on the airline, you might be charged for printing out your boarding pass at the airport. Once you get on the plane, expect to pay extra for snacks and even water. It’s a good idea to read the fine print before choosing a budget airline.
#5: Register with STEP
or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a service offered by the American State Department that provides you with frequent notifications about political unrest and emergencies. In addition, they can help you get out of the country if you need to and can assist with evacuation plans if a natural disaster hits your destination.
STEP is an excellent resource for traveling Americans who want to stay one step ahead of any trouble. If you’re traveling to multiple countries, you can activate STEP notifications for all of them. It only takes a second to sign up, and it’s well worth it.
#6: Know Where Your Embassy Is
Although you never want to be in a position where you need your embassy overseas, it’s good to know where it is in case disaster strikes. Most significant cities overseas have an embassy or consulate in them. Consulates are like embassies, but they offer fewer services and are generally on the smaller side.
If you lose your passport, are the victim of a crime, or face unlawful detainment, your embassy can help. Some embassies can even help you figure out what’s going on in the city or country of your choice and provide resources on what places to visit and which ones to avoid.
#7: Make Sure That You Have Six Months on Your Passport
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your departure to travel outside of the country. It’s your responsibility to check the expiration date before leaving, and you will almost certainly be turned away at the airport if your passport doesn’t pass muster.
The expiration date of your passport is right on the picture page, under the date that your passport was initially granted. Passports are valid for ten years. Also, you have to have blank passport pages for entry stamps.
#8: Have an Emergency Contact Back Home
Make sure that there’s someone back home who knows where you’re going. Give this person copies of your passport, vaccination cards, health insurance cards, and the contact information for your hotel. You should also provide them with your flight numbers. If you get into a jam overseas and somehow lose your passport or other essential items, this person can help you.
Ensure that your emergency contact person is someone you have regular contact with and trust with sensitive details like your social security number and passport number.
#9: Email Copies of Your Passport To Yourself
This is one of the top travel tips that are often overlooked. You should have copies of your passport as well. Take pictures of the identification page on your passport and email them to yourself. You can also keep the images on your phone. It’s always a good idea to have multiple copies of important documents, both in email form and on your phone.
In some countries, police regularly stop visitors and ask them to see their passports. Having a picture of your passport can save you the hassle of carrying your actual passport with you and satisfy the police at the same time.
#10: Research What Vaccinations You Need
Many countries are requiring visitors to have the COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter, but there might be other vaccinations that you need. The World Health Organization published a list
of which countries require additional vaccinations.
Many tropical countries require people to have a Yellow Fever vaccination. Yellow Fever vaccinations are good for ten years. You might also need to get a Malaria vaccination. As with your COVID-19 vaccination card, take pictures of any additional vaccination cards for proof. Generally, you’ll have to present the actual cards at the airport.
#11: Travel Your Way
Many people will tell you how you should travel, but what works for them might not work for you. If you are someone who loves luxury and all-inclusive experiences, that backpacker hostel or low-budget restaurant might not be for you. Take your personal preferences into account when you’re putting together the vacation of your dreams.
Ultimately, you are spending your own money and time to travel, and you should enjoy every second. Never let anyone pressure you into traveling in a way that you’re not comfortable with.
#12: Consider Going It Alone
However you choose to travel, it’s a decent idea to consider taking at least one solo trip in your lifetime. While traveling in a group can be fun and rewarding, there’s something extraordinary about being able to customize your experience fully by traveling alone. Consider this; you can do whatever you want, change plans at the last minute, and never compromise for a second.
Solo travel also gives you valuable insight into how you handle conflict and complicated situations. You will learn so much about yourself.
#13: Make Yourself a Hard Target
Making yourself a hard target is especially important if you’re traveling alone. Although we’d like to believe that the vast majority of people in the world are good, there are some who look to prey on tourists. By making yourself a hard target, you’re warding off opportunists or nefarious people.
There are a few ways to do this. First, always walk with a sense of purpose, even if you don’t know where you’re going. Try not to wear expensive jewelry in the street. Don’t hold your cell phone in your hand while walking. Know what parts of the city to avoid, especially at night.
#14: Prepare For the Worst
Although catastrophic things will likely not happen on your vacation, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Taking a realist’s perspective on travel will keep you safer and help you cope if something genuinely terrible happens.
One of the best ways that you can prepare for the worst is by having backup plans. Ask yourself questions like, “what if I miss my connecting flight” and “what happens if an ATM overseas eats my bank card.” Thinking through these scenarios ahead of time will help you think on your feet if something terrible happens.
#15: Keep Valuables in Your Front Pockets
This practice is one of those travel tips we’ve all probably heard over the years. Never put wallets, hotel card keys, money, your passport, or other valuables in your back pockets. Pick-pockets often prey on people who stash their essential items in the back pockets of their jeans. Instead, keep everything that you need in your front pockets.
This is especially true if you’re in a crowded place, like a market or a train station. Similarly, if you have a backpack, consider wearing it on the front of your body while navigating a heavily trafficked area. Someone will have less opportunity to unzip it without you knowing.
#16: Listen To Your Instincts
Humans have an instinct for a reason! If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right, you should listen. Often we pick up on subconscious cues without our aware brain knowing about it. Listening to your instinct is especially important when you’re overseas and don’t speak the language.
If you’re traveling solo, err on the side of caution. Yes, it’s always a good idea to have adventures while overseas, but taking unnecessary risks isn’t worth it. If your body is telling you to pass, don’t do it.
#17: Learn About the History of the Place You’re Visiting
You’ll have a much more fulfilling trip if you learn a bit of the history of the place that you’re visiting before you go. You might even find cool new places to explore based on your interests and what you’ve read. Learning about the recent history of specific areas can even help you avoid trouble while traveling.
Certain topics are taboo in various parts of the world. For example, you might not want to talk about recent wars or conflicts or express strong opinions about religion while traveling in Eastern Europe. Similarly, speaking negatively
about the king of Thailand can get you in serious hot water.
#18: Familiarize Yourself with Local Scams
Every city in every country has different scams aimed at ripping off tourists. While these scammers are never reflective of the people or culture as a whole, they can put a damper on your travels. If you travel long enough, you will eventually get caught up in one of these scams, but you can try to prevent it by learning what they are ahead of time.
Do some research on social media boards or blog articles before going on your trip. That way, you can find out what some of the more popular scams are and steer clear.
#19: Have a Loose Itinerary
It’s a good idea to have a list of must-see destinations or attractions for your vacation, especially if you’re only going for a short period. Knowing what you want to do and blocking out ample time to get it done will help keep you on track and negate any post-vacation regrets.
Research your destination ahead of time and make a list of all of the things you want to see. You can even prioritize the list to ensure that you hit all of your top highlights.
#20: But Don’t Try To Do It All
Having said that, you shouldn’t try to do it all. Some people jam-pack their itineraries with so many activities that their vacation actually winds up feeling like a job! You will only stress yourself out if you try to scurry from one thing to the other. Instead, try to strike a balance between enjoying yourself and hitting all of the highlights in your city of choice.
Give yourself ample time to get from one place to another, and make sure to account for rest days if you need them.
#21: Use Social Media To Figure Out What To Do
Before heading out on your vacation or travels, check social media to see what’s going on in the city or region that you’re visiting. If you’re planning on being there for a while, you can even join ex-pat groups to meet new people and find fun activities. Social media is a goldmine for this kind of information.
If you do join an ex-pat group, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice. It’s polite and easy to do a search in the group to see if the question has already been answered recently.
#22: Make Sure That You Have Travel Insurance
Always have emergency travel insurance just in case. Travel insurance is often relatively inexpensive, and simply having it can give you tremendous peace of mind and spare you huge costs if something bad happens overseas. There are plenty of different options with various price points. Choose the one that’s best for you.
Travel insurance can cover accidents, disasters, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen expenses. If you’re traveling for a more extended period, you can set it up to auto-renew for the entire time that you’re out of the country.
#23: Check Your Visa Cost Ahead Of Time
Don’t assume that the country you’re visiting will allow you to get a visa on arrival. Some places require you to apply ahead of time for a visa, often filing paperwork with a local embassy or filling out a form online. Countries like Bolivia require first-time visitors to get a ten-year visa
, although you can enter the country as many times as you’d like once you have it.
You can also pay for visas online in certain places. Try to visit the official government websites, as opposed to tourism agencies that charge a premium.
#24: Learn a Few Important Local Phrases
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to become fluent in the language before you arrive, you should learn a few essential phrases. Doing this will allow you to communicate on a rudimentary level and show respect to the local people.
Good phrases to learn are “hello,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” “goodbye,” “how much?” “no,” and “yes.” If you’re feeling very ambitious, you can also learn how to ask where your hotel is. If you have any food allergies or special needs, you should try to learn these words, albeit not as fluent as you’d like them to be. You’ll have a much easier time abroad if you do.
#25: Be Aware of Political Tensions
Understand political tensions in the place that you’re visiting before going. It’s also a good idea to try to avoid scheduling your vacation or travels during any contentious political elections or cultural strife, especially in non-democratic countries.
It’s also a good idea to avoid talking politics with anyone you wouldn’t consider a trusted friend. Often political situations are very complicated, and unless you live in the country, you will not understand what’s happening. In certain countries, like Thailand, criticizing the monarchy is illegal. Foreigners are not exempt from punishment.
#26: Invest in a Good Suitcase
Choose your suitcase or backpack wisely. You’ll want it to be sturdy enough to hold up during transit and something that you can reasonably carry. Backpacks are great options for people traveling long distances over land or using public transportation. Get one with plenty of back support and straps that cross over the front of your body.
Look for suitcases that have wheels and hard shells whenever possible. They will keep your items safer during travel, and you will be able to pull them long distances in airports or on city streets.
#27: Try To Pack As Light As Possible
If you overpack, you will certainly wind up regretting it later on. Try to pack as light as possible, only taking what you know you’ll need for your trip. Research the weather ahead of time to get a good idea of what you’ll want to wear, and bring clothes that you can coordinate together.
Roll your clothes rather than fold them. This trick will allow you to squeeze more into your suitcase, and you’ll be able to fit smaller clothes, like tank tops, into some nooks and crannies in your suitcase.
#28: Make a Packing List
Make a packing list before you start. Some people find it helpful to categorize the list by type. For example, you can always make a list of all essential bathroom items that you’ll need, clothes, shoes, etc.
Think about every item on the list. Is there a way that you can swap out a full-sized version of the article for a travel one? How can you make a bunch of different outfits from your clothes? You can also invest in packing cubes, which help keep you much more organized. Making a list will give you peace of mind that you haven’t forgotten anything.
#29: Don’t Bring Too Many Shoes
Realistically, you’ll only wear a few pairs of shoes while traveling, so don’t make the mistake of bringing too many on your trip. Shoes are heavy, and they take up a ton of space in your suitcase, so overpacking them can be a massive headache.
If you’re going to the beach, don’t bring high heels or boots. You’ll live in flip-flops. Don’t bring several pairs of running shoes when one pair would suffice. Remember, you can always pick up extra shoes in the country that you’re visiting.
#30: Bring a First Aid Kit
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so always pack a first aid kit when you hit the road. Your first aid kit should include bandaids, aspirin, gauze, Neosporin, an ace bandage, antacid tablets, and blister pads.
Don’t assume that the country you’re visiting will have the medical supplies you need if disaster strikes. Any large city is likely to have a pharmacy, but you could be out of luck unless you speak the language and know what local version of the product you need. Travel first aid kits are small and will not take up too much space in your suitcase.
#31: Know How Large Your Carry-on Can Be
Many airlines let you bring a piece of carry-on luggage with you, but there are size restrictions. Do your due diligence in advance and figure out exactly how large your carry-on can be before getting on the flight. Some airlines have weight restrictions, and others have size limitations. You might need to put your carry-on in a measured container to prove that it will fit.
If your carry-on is too big, you’ll have to check it, which can be costly. Save yourself trouble at the airport by not making assumptions.
#32: Write Down Important Information
Make sure that you write down important information like your hotel address, contact information, and other pertinent things. Many people assume that because they have this information saved on their smartphone that they’re totally covered. Unfortunately, phones die, especially after a long day of travel.
By writing down important information, you will easily get to your destination, even if you have one percent battery on your phone. If you’re able, write the information down in both English and the language of the country you’re visiting. That way, taxi drivers will be able to understand where you need to go.
#33: Bring a Lock
Having a lock with you is always a good idea. Combination locks are more practical than traditional key ones simply because tiny lock keys are effortless to lose. You can pick up a lock at virtually any hardware store or even places like Walmart or Target. Use it to link together the zippers on your backpack if you’re traveling through a busy part of the city.
You can also use the lock if you’re staying at a hostel. Shared dorm rooms often have areas where you can store your valuables, but many of them don’t have automatic locks.
#34: Give Your Bank a Heads Up
If you don’t want any nasty surprises when you arrive, it’s a good idea to give your bank a heads up that you will be traveling, especially if you’re going out of the country. Your bank could flag and freeze your card for suspected activity, leaving you stranded with no cash.
Sometimes it can take days to unlock your card, so always get in touch with your bank before leaving and have them put it in writing for you. If you’re traveling to multiple countries, make sure to list them all when you contact your bank.
#35: Diversify Your Money and Bank Cards
Don’t keep all of your money or bank cards in one spot. When you’re out and about overseas, consider leaving at least one card locked up back at your hotel and only carry the cash that you reasonably think you might spend. If you get pick-pocketed or robbed, you’ll only be minorly inconvenienced as opposed to finding yourself in serious trouble.
Have at least two debit cards with you if possible. Occasionally, ATMs will “eat” bank cards, and you could have trouble getting a replacement overseas. Additionally, it’s a good idea to only use legitimate ATMs affiliated with trusted banks during business hours, just in case this happens.
#36: Have Some Emergency Cash on You
Have some emergency cash that you don’t use unless you absolutely have to. The amount of emergency cash you need varies based on what you can reasonably afford and how expensive your destination is. It’s a good idea to separate this cash and store it in a few different places.
If you do get robbed, or if your bank account is frozen, you’ll need that emergency cash. U.S. dollars are a widely accepted currency worldwide, and you can exchange them for local currency in any major city.
#37: Use a Credit Card with Points
Using a credit card with points when you travel can help you save up for hotels, flights, or even attractions while you’re traveling. These cards are excellent for people who are on the go, and they generally have lower exchange rates on them as opposed to your debit card.
Over time, you can save up plenty of money and build your credit, all while seeing the world. Investing in a credit card with points is one of the smartest ways that you can save while you’re traveling.
#38: Budget For More Than You Think You Will Need
Take your budget and add twenty percent for incidentals and unexpected costs. When looking at local attractions, keep in mind that tourists generally pay a lot more than locals, and the tourist price isn’t always listed on the website. This twenty percent will cover situations like that, plus any gratuities or other expenses that you’ll run up against along the way.
If you spend less than your budget, great! You can always put the remainder back into your account for your next great adventure.
#39: Don’t Overextend Your Budget
Once you have your budget in place, stick with it. Don’t get caught up in the moment and rack up massive amounts of credit card debt just because you’re on vacation. It’s important to remember that your travels will end and you have to go back home sometime.
Have fun and go on lots of adventures, but be judicious with where you spend your money. Although it can be tempting to go out drinking every night with your hostel friends, or local people that you meet, try to take a few days off. Your liver and your wallet will thank you!
#40: Download the Right Rideshare Apps
Download your travel apps before you hit the road. It’s a good idea to figure out what rideshare services are available in the country that you’re going to. Of course, if you’re traveling domestically, there’s always Uber or Lyft. In parts of Asia, Didi
, and Gojek
are popular choices. Bolt
is popular all over Europe, and Yandex
is the way to go in parts of Eastern Europe.
You can find Uber in parts of South America, but Cabify
is much more prevalent in certain areas. Often, you’ll have to verify your phone number, so it’s best to set up your preferred rideshare app while you’re still stateside.
#41: Consider Traveling By Land
Traveling by land is an excellent way to see the country and get a feel for how life is outside of the larger cities. In many cases, it’s a comfortable, cost-effective way to immerse yourself in a new culture fully. If you’re traveling in Europe, consider taking a train to different countries.
You can also use “hop-on, hop-off” buses to explore countries like Bolivia and Peru. These buses allow you to spend as much time as you’d like in each city and then hop on to go to your next destination. You have a personal account where you can keep them updated on all of your plans and when you’d like to leave.
#42: Never Stow Your Most Important Items
Always carry your essential items with you. Never stow your phone, passport, wallet, ID, or other precious things that you can’t afford to lose. This is one of the standard international travel tips and especially true if you’re traveling on public transportation or taking overnight buses between cities.
If you’re planning on sleeping on the bus, ensure that your passport, phone, and wallet are tucked into an inside pocket.
#43: Prepare To Go with the Flow
Things won’t always work out when you’re traveling. That’s okay. Pack your patience, and you’re bound to have a good time no matter what. Going with the flow is essential, especially in countries that don’t share your culture or have a more flexible understanding of time or schedules.
Always have something to do when you’re waiting for the bus or train. Downloading an audiobook or having an exciting podcast to get into will keep you entertained if there are any delays or schedule changes.
#44: Avoid Faux Pas
Research the culture in advance to avoid any accidental faux pas or cultural insensitivity. Also, remember that things that are considered rude in your culture are not automatically frowned upon overseas.
For example, it’s common in parts of Thailand for people to make comments on your weight and appearance, two things that are considered the height of rudeness in the United States.
In Asia, you should remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. Failing to do so is considered atrocious manners. In Colombia, it’s terrible manners to refuse food or coffee. You should only do so if you have an allergy.
#45: Arrive Ten Minutes Early
Do yourself a huge favor and make a habit out of arriving ten minutes early for everything, especially air travel. Those ten minutes can be a lifesaver if you hit unexpected traffic on the way to the bus station or if you can’t find your terminal at an unfamiliar airport.
Even if you don’t need the extra ten minutes, you’ll still be able to arrive relaxed and refreshed and maybe even pick up a coffee or some snacks before you travel.
#46: Bring a Jacket For Overnight Land Travel
Even if you’re traveling in a more tropical climate, always bring a jacket with you for land travel. Overnight buses tend to crank up the air conditioning to keep the drivers awake and alert during their entire trip. Although it might be 90 degrees outside, the inside of the bus can get down to a frosty 40 degrees.
Bringing a jacket or a heavy sweater with you will keep you toasty warm and able to get some well-needed sleep on the bus. Make sure you have it with you.
#47: Be Open-Minded
Whether we like it or not, we’re all set in our ways. When you travel, especially overseas, you might run into cultural quirks or lifestyles that seem strange to you. It’s important to remember that you are a guest in their country, and unless you have some kind of moral conflict with what’s going on, keep an open mind.
If you do have moral or ethical concerns with customs in certain countries, do not visit them. Listen to what the local people have to say, and you might even learn a thing or two that you can apply in your life.
#48: Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things
Another huge part of being open-minded is trying new things when you’re out on the road. While you certainly shouldn’t do anything dangerous, be open to new activities. For example, take a salsa dancing class in Brazil or a Muay Thai class in Thailand. You might find something that you love doing that you never thought about before.
You can find new experiences through social media or Airbnb Experiences
, which offers activities and excursions hosted by local people. Step outside of your comfort zone, and you never know what you’ll discover.
#49: Have Extra Passport Photos
You never know when you might need extra passport photos, so carry a few with you in your wallet. If you’re crossing a land border and need to apply for a visa on arrival, you’ll need at least two passport photos to give to border control. It’s easy to obtain extra passport photos, and it’s not too expensive either. Even if you don’t use them, it’s not a hassle to carry them with you.
If you don’t have extra passport photos and you need them for something, you could spend a lot of time trying to find a local office to take your picture. This is especially true if you don’t speak the language.
#50: Buy a Power Bank
Portable power banks can be lifesavers if you’re in a place where you can’t charge your cell phone. You can buy one online or in the electronics section of virtually any store. You’ll often find that your phone gets drained quicker when you’re traveling because you have different applications running in the background. For example, if you use Google Maps, expect your battery to last just a few hours.
Portable power banks are small, easy to carry, and contain enough charge to get your phone back up and running in no time.
#51: Backup Your Photos
Your photos are probably your most precious souvenirs, so make sure that you take good care of them. Back up your photos onto the cloud or your computer so you don’t lose them. Phones can get damaged, stolen, or even lose some of their data mysteriously due to a bug. If this happens, you could be without all of your precious memories.
You can also save your photos on a jump drive or email copies of them to yourself or family members.
#52: Understand Elevation Changes
If you’re traveling anywhere in the mountains, you need to understand how elevation can affect your health and wellbeing. Very high destinations, like La Paz, Bolivia, are 3,640 meters above sea level, and you might experience altitude sickness when you’re there.
Altitude sickness is generally not serious, but it can be uncomfortable. You need to listen to your body. Upon landing, you might need to rest for a few hours or even a day to acclimate to the altitude. If you’re staying in the mountains, remember to drink a lot of water, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and try to eat light, balanced meals.
#53: Try To Find Refundable Accommodations
Things change. Finding refundable accommodations is a great way to give yourself peace of mind and not lose money if you need to cancel. Many hotels, hostels, and AirBnbs offer refunds and cancellations, but there are certain conditions. For example, you might need to cancel your accommodation 24 hours before arrival to get your full deposit back.
Always check the fine print to make sure that you’re in the clear. If you have any questions, reach out to the hotel staff or your Airbnb host for clarification before booking.
#54: Consider Staying At Hostels
Hostels have a reputation for being just for younger travelers. Still, many older vacationers and wanderers are learning that they are fantastic options for budget-friendly lodging with a built-in community. There are several different types of hostels. Party hostels cater to travelers in their 20s and early 30s predominantly, and some even have age caps on them.
Other types of hostels welcome everyone, and they even offer private rooms for those who don’t want to stay in the dorms. Hostels also provide plenty of events and meet-ups. If you want to make friends, hang out at a hostel. HostelWorld
is an excellent resource for finding the perfect hostel in your destination.
#55: Look For Places with Kitchens
Chances are, food expenses will make up a considerable chunk of your budget. If you’re able to a place with a kitchen, it can cut way back on these costs and let you practice your culinary skills with a whole new set of ingredients. Most hostels have shared kitchens. If you stay in one, label your food and make sure to clean up after yourself.
Similarly, a lot of AirBnbs and hotels have kitchens. If you’re unsure about the amenities, simply ask your host before booking.
#56: Remember To Take Lots of Pictures
Although it might feel cheesy to constantly pull out your camera on vacation, you will regret not taking those pictures later. There’s a good chance that you might never go back ever again. You’ll look at those pictures years later and relieve all of the fantastic times you had on your trip.
Don’t worry about being an expert photographer. While making gorgeous, Instagram-quality pictures is fun, it’s more important to capture the memory. After your vacation, you can put the images in a separate file on your laptop or phone where you can enjoy them often.
#57: Learn From the Locals
If you want to discover genuinely unique or off-the-beaten-path experiences, it pays to talk to local people. It’s easier to do this if you speak the language, but you can use Google Translate to communicate even if you don’t. People are generally very willing to share tips and tricks with travelers.
Ask them where they like to eat, what they do for fun, and any hidden gems that you should know about. Often locals can recommend fun day trips, obscure restaurants, and cheaper attractions where you’ll find fewer tourists but all kinds of cultural relevance.
#58: Be Courteous and Generous with Your Hosts
Being courteous and generous will go a long way to building rapport with your hosts. If you stay at an Airbnb for an extended period, consider buying your host a gift. If someone does something nice for you when you’re overseas, like inviting you to their family home for dinner, you should always bring a gift.
Flowers are a great option. If your hosts drink alcohol, you can always pick up a nice bottle of wine as well. Make your gifts personalized and sentimental without being too far over the top.
#59: Don’t Photograph People Without Their Permission
Although you should remember to take lots of pictures on your trip, don’t take any photos of people without asking them for their permission first. Some travelers and vacationers photograph local people because they think they look “exotic” or are wearing unfamiliar and unique clothes. This behavior can be very offensive.
Instead, ask people if you can take their pictures. If they say “no,” don’t push the issue. There are plenty of cool and exciting things to photograph instead.
#60: Use Smart Travel Apps
These days, there are apps for just about everything, including making your travel easier. In addition to the rideshare app of your choice, you can also download currency converters, maps, and restaurant guides. Apps like Culture Trip
will tell you the most incredible places to go in your city or town.
You can also download the Airbnb app, HostelWorld, or Booking.com. Best of all, most of these apps are free, and you can download them both on Apple and Android devices. Browse through your App Store before going on your trip. If you decide not to use an app, you can always delete it later.
#61: Stay in a Group When Visiting Remote Areas
There is always safety in numbers, so stay in a group when visiting remote areas. In addition to protecting you from nefarious opportunists, groups can also keep you safe from unexpected circumstances or accidents. This is especially true for people who go hiking or trekking. Surprise animal encounters, falls, or altitude sickness can all be very dangerous.
Try to have someone in your group that speaks the language. Although it might be tempting, try not to wander off. While the world is a fascinating place, it can also be pretty dangerous. It’s essential to keep your wits about you and stay in a group.
#62: Break Your Sightseeing Excursions Into Chunks
When you’re exploring a new city, try to break your sightseeing up into chunks. Map out all of the places you want to go to, and then visit the few closest to each other on any given day. By simply being a little bit more organized, you will see more of the city and cut back on your transportation costs.
Google Maps lets you save destinations and create visual itineraries. It’s also a good idea to have one rainy-day itinerary, for days when the weather isn’t the greatest. You can see museums or visit indoor attractions on this day.
#63: Check Out City Walking Tours
Walking tours are a great way to see the best of the city, and for the most part, they’re free. You can find a list of walking tours simply by checking out the message boards of the most significant hostels or Googling walking tours and your city ahead of time. You’ll learn a lot about the culture and history of the city, get a full day of exercise in, and have a cost-effective afternoon.
Although these tours are usually free, gratuities are appreciated. It’s polite and expected to tip the guide at the end.
#64: Avoid Attractions At Busy Times
Popular attractions are usually mobbed with people on weekends and holidays, so if you want to avoid huge crowds at places like Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, go at off times. One of the best ways to truly experience the wonders of the world is to go in the very early morning. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu are both extraordinarily beautiful first thing in the morning, so you will have the chance to take some truly unique photos.
If you’re not an early bird, don’t worry about it. You can still beat some of the crowds by going on weekdays.
#65: Do Touristy Things
Some travelers will tell you that you should avoid doing “touristy” things while you’re on vacation, but there’s a good reason why specific destinations are so popular; they’re simply astounding. While you should certainly get off the beaten path and find those hidden gems, there’s nothing wrong with visiting the “must-see” sights in your country of choice.
Go to Oktoberfest in Munich. See Buckingham Palace in London. These trips are notable for a reason, and you’ll really feel like you’ve missed out on the experience if you don’t visit them.
#66: Visit the Markets and Bazaars
For an authentic taste of the local flair, you need to visit markets and bazaars. Often these places are full of bustling activity and are the true epicenter of a city’s cultural experience. Not only will you find things that you might never see anywhere else, but you’ll also get the chance to mingle and haggle with locals.
Plan to spend several hours in the market and pack your patience along with your cash. Many markets don’t take credit cards, and crowds can move slowly through the marketplace, so it’s essential to allocate plenty of time to your visit.
#67: See If You Can Get Discounted Passes
In some cities, you can get discounts if you purchase passes to multiple attractions or museums. If you’re planning on staying in a particular place for an extended period, or if you really love visiting museums, this could be an excellent option for you.
Often, these passes come with a time limit, so make sure you get clarification on how long you have to use them. You can also get passes for specific tours and trips in and around the city. For example, in Peru, you can buy Cusco’s Touristic Ticket
that gives you access to several different ruins.
#68: Consider Volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to meet friends and even cover part of your stay. Often, locals will exchange accommodation for services. You might even get free meals out of the deal. Volunteers can help with local schools, farming projects, or even run the front desk at hostels to check people in.
One key factor is to ensure that your skillset is relevant. Don’t volunteer to build houses unless you have some basic carpentry experience, for example.
#69: Stick To Your Exercise Routine
If you’re on vacation, it’s okay to splurge a little bit. It’s okay to overeat or drink a little bit too much for a week or two, but if you’re doing long-term travel, you will want to get into a healthier routine. If you’re staying somewhere for a while, consider joining a gym or getting into an exercise routine.
It will help balance out any other bad habits that you might have and ultimately keep you healthier. Plus, gyms are great places to meet new friends and develop a sense of community.
#70: Get Out of Your Culinary Comfort Zone
Although it’s okay to eat at a Mcdonald’s from time to time on the road, you really should try to get out of your culinary comfort zone whenever possible. You could very well discover a new favorite food by sampling local flavors.
Try incorporating a new local food into your diet every day. If you’re traveling in a more tropical zone, try all of the delicious local fruits. If you find yourself in parts of Eastern Europe, try pierogi. Local food tends to be cheaper too, so even if you don’t like something, you won’t be out too much money.
#71: Try Street Food
A lot of travelers avoid street food because they think that it’s unsanitary, but while you might run into dodgy situations from time to time, this isn’t the norm. Street food is generally acceptable to eat, and if you see the locals lining up at a particular vendor, you should certainly give them a try.
Street food is cost-effective, highly-flavorful, and a unique dining experience. In certain countries, like Thailand, the street food is arguably better than anything you’ll get in a fancy restaurant. Also, you can get it at any time of day or night.
#72: Make Lunch Your Biggest Meal
Making lunch your biggest meal is one of the best ways to save some money while you’re traveling overseas. Plenty of restaurants try to draw visitors in with elaborate lunch menus and great specials. For example, in Central and South America, you can get the “Menu del Dia” or menu of the day with the main course, sides, a drink, and sometimes a dessert.
In parts of Europe, they offer similar lunch specials. The food on the lunch menu is the same as you would get for dinner, just at a much lower price.
#73: Use Local Transportation
When you use local transportation, you get a much better feel for the place you’re visiting. It’s also much cheaper than taking a taxi, and often safer than walking. Many cities have excellent infrastructures that support all public transportation, from buses to subways and skytrains.
Buy a public transit card, so you don’t have to purchase individual passes. Sometimes you’ll need your passport or ID to do this, so always check in advance if you’re not sure.
#74: Figure Out the “Backpacker Trail”
Most countries have what they call the “Backpacker Trail.” The Backpacker Trail pertains to long-term travelers and people who stay in hostels who don’t mind roughing it a little bit. Essentially, it’s a route that many backpackers take to check out a country. Usually, the trail hits significant cities and then some smaller towns or attractions.
Often, fellow backpackers can tell you how to get from one spot to the next on the trail, where to stay, and pointers on what to do when you’re there. The benefit of following the Backpacker Trail is that you’ll meet fellow travelers along a tried-and-true route.
#75: Consider Buying Toiletries When You Arrive
Unless you’re going to an exceptionally remote part of the world, there will be places where you can buy toiletries when you arrive at your destination. Larger cities have the luxury and well-known brands from all over the world, and you can usually find the local equivalent of your shampoo or conditioner.
Toiletries take up a ton of space in your bag, and they can leak. Unless you really need a special lotion or hair product, consider buying toiletries when you arrive. If you must bring them with you, consider travel versions of your favorite products.
#76: Be an Early Riser
Although it might be tempting to sleep in, being an early riser certainly has its benefits. You’ll meet fewer people at popular attractions, have more time to enjoy the day, and be able to interact with more locals. Plus, many places are far safer during the day, so if you’re traveling solo, it pays to wake up with the sun.
Try to wake up at the same time every day to get your body used to getting up early.
#77: Take Advantage of Free WiFi
Chain restaurants like Starbucks and McDonalds almost always have free WiFi. You might need to order a coffee or something to eat to use it, but it’s a lot more cost-effective than tapping into your data plan. If you want to support local businesses, you can always look for cafes or coworking spaces in major cities.
The only thing that you really need to watch out for are hackers. Public WiFi is not secure, so avoid doing bank transactions or sending out sensitive information when you’re using it.
#78: Bring Snacks To the Airport
Although you can buy food at the airport, it’s generally much more expensive than bringing snacks from home. Pack a few granola bars or some nuts to tide you over while you’re waiting for your plane. You can’t bring open bottles of water or other beverages through security, and you should avoid bringing fruits with you as airport officials might confiscate them.
If you’re going on a long flight, consider packing a protein bar. Protein bars will keep you full for the long run and can fill in as replacement meals in the event of flight delays.
#79: Avoid Drinking Alcohol on Planes
Although it may be tempting to “cheers” for your next big adventure while on the airplane, consider limiting your alcohol intake in the air. Flying can be very dehydrating and take a lot out of you, and you might find that the booze you consume hits you a whole lot harder than it would on the ground.
If you’re hungover when you land, the jet lag will probably be a whole lot worse too. It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and drink a lot of water while you’re flying.
#80: Never Change Money At the Airport
Airports are notorious for having terrible exchange rates, so avoid changing money at the airport at all costs. In fact, you’re far better off using an ATM instead if you have to. It’s a good idea to carry a little bit of the local currency so you can grab coffees, hail taxis, and cover other little incidentals when you land.
Wait to exchange your money until you get to your destination. Even then, try to avoid very touristy-looking places and opt for something off the beaten path.
#81: Know When and Where To Haggle
Knowing when and where to haggle can save you from unnecessarily irritating local people and might even net you a better price. There are some hard and fast rules about haggling, specifically that you shouldn’t do it in malls or restaurants, but bazaars and markets are certainly fair game.
The best way to determine if haggling is part of the culture is to simply do your research ahead of time. In Asia, you can haggle with taxi drivers and at local markets and fairs. However, always keep it friendly, and never be afraid to walk away if you think that you can get a better deal.
#82: Download Google Translate
Google Translate will undoubtedly save you a lot of hassle overseas, especially if you don’t know the language. Although you should be fluent in a few key terms like “hello” and “thank you,” there are specific phrases that you won’t know. Google Translate has both text and voice activation, and you can even take pictures of menus with it.
Google Translate can help you make new friends and get out of sticky situations if you need to. You might also be able to pick up a little bit more of the language simply by having it on your phone.
#83: Get a Universal Adapter
There’s nothing more irritating than arriving in another country and realizing that you plug in your phone or computer. Fortunately, by picking up a universal adapter, you can avoid any serious problems and get your devices charged up the second you arrive.
If you travel a lot, look for an adapter that can convert to any plug in the world. You can easily find one of these online or at electronic stores before you leave. Try to avoid buying a universal adapter at airports. They tend to be far more overpriced.
#84: Earplugs Are Your Friend
If you’re flying on a redeye flight or taking an overnight bus trip, you’ll need to have soundproof earplugs. Earplugs can save you from noise on planes, snoring in shared dorm rooms, and let you get some work done in busy coworking spaces. Investing in a quality pair of earplugs can undoubtedly make your travel much more pleasant.
As with universal adapters, you will want to buy your earplugs ahead of time. They tend to cost at least twice as much at the airport. Plan ahead, and you’ll be able to travel in style, comfort, and noiseless bliss.
#85: Use Your Destination’s Timezone To Avoid Jet Lag
Jet lag is the bane of every traveler’s existence, and while it’s sometimes unavoidable, there are ways that you can make yourself feel much more comfortable once you reach your destination. The number-one rule is to try to sleep on airplanes. Use your destination’s timezone to dictate when you should fall asleep.
One fundamental trick is to start doing this at home. Arrive at the airport tired if you’re going overseas. Bring an eye mask, your noise-canceling earplugs, and try to get some sleep the second that the plane leaves.
#86: Bring a Travel Pillow
Most airlines give you flimsy pillows that don’t offer a lot of neck support. Travel pillows can help cushion your neck and head during long flights and allow you to get the proper amount of sleep. The same goes for traveling by bus, train, or car.
Look for the “u shaped” travel pillows that cradle your neck and can snap onto your carry-on. They’re light, easy to carry, and can be a real lifesaver.
#87: Personalize Your Luggage
When you personalize your luggage, you’ll have an easier time finding it at baggage claim. How you decide to personalize it is totally up to you. You can buy a suitcase with a flashier pattern that stands out from your standard black or navy blue luggage, or you can get a hefty, colorful tag with your information on it.
The reality is; sometimes airports lose your luggage. If this happens, you’ll need to describe the bag and its contents. If you have a colorful pattern or a prominent name tag on the luggage, you’ll have a much easier time getting it back.
#88: Consider Renting a Car or Scooter
While many places in the world have some type of version of Uber, renting a car can be worth it. Smaller countries like Costa Rica are best explored by car because taxis are expensive there and you can see a lot more of the countryside. You are encouraged, but not required
, to have an International Driver’s License.
In certain parts of the world, you can get away with a scooter or motorbike. In Thailand, it’s popular to rent a motorbike to cruise around the islands. Before setting out, avoid taking your motorbike out in the rain, and be aware of road conditions, like hairpin turns or sandy spots.
#89: Pay To Have Your Laundry Done
If you’re staying somewhere long-term, it’s a good idea to have your laundry professionally done. This can be a lot cheaper than you think, and it keeps you from handwashing or buying new clothes. Also, knowing that you can get your laundry done ahead of time will keep you from overpacking.
Hotels generally have laundry services on-site. Hostels and AirBnbs might have washing machines that you can use. Alternatively, you can take your laundry to a laundromat or service and pay to have it washed and dried for you. Often, you can pick up your clothes the next day.
#90: Consider Getting a GoPro
GoPros are great for people who want to take pictures underwater. They’re lightweight, can move in virtually any direction, and can get you some impressive footage. If you’re planning on traveling anywhere near a beach or going snorkeling and diving, your GoPro or alternative action camera is essential.
Your GoPro can even take video
, which is great for people exploring wrecks or coral reefs. Make sure you capture the best of your vacation both on land and in the sea with a GoPro.
#91: Try Not To Lose Your Temper
It’s always a good idea to keep your cool on vacation or while traveling, but in some countries losing your temper is a huge taboo. In parts of Asia, there’s a strong cultural element of “saving face
.” Causing someone to “lose face” by screaming at them or otherwise embarrassing them in public is considered highly offensive.
You should try to keep your temper in check, even in cultures where it’s not taboo to lose it. Losing your temper can make you look foolish or even deter local people from helping you. Instead, step aside, take a few deep breaths, and try to approach problems more calmly.
#92: Charge Your Devices Whenever Possible
The reality is unless you’re in your hotel room, you never know when you’re going to be near a plug again, so charge your devices whenever you can. Many airports have ports that you can use to charge up, and you can also find plugs at cafes and restaurants.
Charging your devices can also keep you out of hot water while traveling. What if you need to use GoogleTranslate on your phone or call a Yandex from far away. By keeping your devices charged, you can avoid the stress that comes with the dreaded one percent battery notification.
#93: Pack Clothes That Don’t Wrinkle
Pack clothes that can stand up to being stuffed in your suitcase for long periods. While some hotels and AirBnbs might have irons, it’s not a guarantee. Instead, pack stretchy clothes that look just as good when you pull them out of your suitcase as when they’re hung on the rack.
If you do find that some of your clothes are wrinkled, use the old shower trick. Hang your clothes in a steamy bathroom to let them unwrinkle while you hop in the shower. You can also bring anti-wrinkle spray to spritz on your clothes before going out.
#94: Bring a Microfiber Towel
If you’re staying in hotels or higher-end AirBnbs, you’ll almost certainly have access to towels. The same isn’t true if you’re staying in hostels or more rustic places. Traditional towels can be bulky and take up a lot of space in your suitcase, which is why you should consider bringing a microfiber towel.
Microfiber is a much lighter fabric than wool, and you can easily cram it into just about any corner of your suitcase. Microfiber dries quickly too. These types of towels are just as effective as your standard towels. If you’re not sure if your accommodation provides towels, pack a little microfiber one just in case!
#95: Use Sunscreen
If you’re going anywhere near the equator, you will need to have powerful sunscreen with you. Sometimes sunscreen can be more expensive at popular holiday destinations, so pick some up from home before you go. It’s one of the toiletries that you should invest in.
Also, if you’re traveling to a place with a high altitude, you need to keep the sun’s proximity in mind. The sun is much more intense in the mountains. Even if it feels cooler on the ground, you can still get a nasty sunburn. When in doubt, apply sunscreen.
#96: Get an App That Tracks Your Finances
Apps like Buxfer
help you to set up a budget and track your expenses on the road. They can help you avoid overspending and even give you an overview of what you’re putting your money towards. There are plenty of other apps that can do the trick too, so just choose the right one for you.
You’ll want to keep an eye on your money while you are in “vacation mode.” It’s easy to overspend, so make a habit of tracking all of your expenses on your phone. Your post-vacation self will thank you when you’re not staring down a pile of credit card bills upon your return.
#97: Take a Cooking Class
One of the best ways to get immersed in the local culture is to take a cooking class. Cooking classes are generally inexpensive ways to learn about local ingredients and get pro-tips from a great chef. Occasionally, these cooking classes even involve a trip to the market. You might also meet people through your cooking class and have the opportunity to taste new foods.
You can find cooking classes online or through the experiences section of Airbnb. The good thing about using Airbnb is that you can read the reviews of each class to see if it fits your specific needs. Just as with the hosts, the people who run these experiences are given star ratings based upon how good it was.
#98: Buy Souvenirs
Although photos tend to be the best souvenirs, sometimes you really need that locally-made bag or trinkets to bring back to your friends and family back home. Buying souvenirs from local people helps the economy and gives you keepsakes that you can treasure forever. Choose your souvenirs wisely; anything too large or breakable might be challenging to bring back.
There are also restrictions on what you can bring home, especially pertaining to food or alcohol. Always check in advance. A good resource for Americans is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website
, which details what quantities of food and alcohol you can bring in and which items are restricted.
#99: Understand Which Souvenirs Are Culturally Inappropriate
There are some souvenirs that you shouldn’t buy. Anything that uses exotic animal parts, such as rhino horn or ivory, is inappropriate and might even be illegal. Similarly, some tonics or powders from certain parts of the world contain ingredients from illegally poached animals
Although Buddha memorabilia is sold all over Thailand, it is considered offensive to display the Buddha in specific ways. It’s a kind idea to be aware of how the Buddha is portrayed, so try to purchase Buddha statues, figurines, and depictions in traditional poses if you do so.
#100: Document Your Travels
Finally, document all of your travels. You never know when or if you’re going to get back to the country. If you don’t have the patience to keep a daily journal, at least jot down a few things that struck you as interesting or exciting that day. Make a record of different foods that you’ve tried, people you’ve met, or things that you’ve learned.
There’s a good chance that you will look back on your journal for years to come, so take the time to make notes of the exciting things that you see and do. You can even use your journal to keep track of places where you’d like to stay if you ever returned and jot down contact information for new friends that you make.
Before You Leave
Traveling in 2021 might be a little bit more challenging because of the new COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that things are changing all of the time. Fortunately, there are plenty of new technological tools, apps, guides, and travel tips like these that will help you navigate the post-pandemic world and travel safely and comfortably all over the planet.
From figuring out the ideal itinerary to finding suitable accommodation, traveling is a personal experience. Use these top travel tips and tricks to customize your experience and have a safe, comfortable, and welcoming experience wherever you are in the world.