101 Travel Tips by travelingmitch
The idea to write a post about travel tips occurred to me the other day, and I thought, "why not challenge myself to write 50?" Then I thought, "why not challenge myself to write 100?" And finally I thought, "let's do 101, baby!"
You can see now that my ambition often leads me to places like that, where I finally sit down to do something and think, "wait...I mentally agreed to do what?" But, alas, I'm not a breaker of promises, not even with myself, and, perhaps, especially not with myself.
I'm going to write 101 travel tips below in no particular order. The truth is, I've travelled to over 70 countries now, visited hundreds of cities, and taken innumerable forms of transportation uncountable times, and I'd like to think I know a thing or two. And so does Bri, so a few of these are from her well travelled mind as well. Let's see how we do:
2. Be yourself. No one knows what hat you wore in your homeland.
3. Try the tea. Most nations have a beautiful culture surrounding the famous leaf. I still dream about the jasmine tea from Thailand. Not to mention, I now drink tea every single day living in Istanbul.
3. If it makes logistical sense, a road trip is always the best way to see a country because of the agency you'll have in your own itinerary.
4. You may not be able to speak the language, but you can share a smile, a laugh, or a drink.
5. Try to be cognisant of the present. The place you came from may have been wonderful, and the place you're going next might be unbelievably exciting, but don't let that detract from where you are.
6. Bring a book related to the country that you're visiting. It'll help you unconsciously contextualise what you're seeing.
7. Download podcasts to listen to for long journeys.
8. If you're on the fence about spending money on a particular experience, go for it. You can make money at a later date, but you may not get another opportunity for that experience.
9. If you're worried about money, remember that you can't be buried with your money, but you can reflect back on all your experiences towards the end of your life.
10. If you can, travel with your partner in life.
11. If you make a connection with someone, be sure to grab their details. I've had some incredible chance encounters years and years later with people I only went out with for one night in a foreign place way back when.
12. Give up the expectation of what a bathroom should be, and instead, prepare yourself for what it might be. I specifically recall an overnight boat in Southeast Asia with engine fuel swishing around my feet where I just had to say, "well...alright then, there we go."
13. Go on a safari in Africa - watching National Geographic Wild will never be the same afterwards.
14. Learn the ten most common words in the language. Obviously, I usually try to do even more, but even this has payed off for me in ways I can't even begin to describe.
15. At customs or wherever else, remember that losing your temper rarely pays off. Swallowing your pride and continuing to be respectful (even while you're being disrespected) is the way to go.
16. Go to places that others don't. You might just find that the city, region, or country in question has been severely underrated.
17. If you're not on a fixed schedule and you fall in love with a city, stay there longer. Hostels will often let you stay for free for months on end if you mind the front desk or contribute in some way.
18. Be aware of the fact that every trip you take will, like anything, have its highs and lows. Some days you'll have an unparalleled zest for life, and others you'll feel absolutely burnt out. And that's okay.
20. Don't be nervous about your travel ambitions being too outlandish. Life is about taking risks.
21. This is going to sound basic, but get yourself a quality, large water bottle and bring it with you everywhere.
22. Make a top ten list of countries you want to visit. Then, from there, you can do the planning necessary to build a plan to visit those countries. If necessary, give yourself ten years to do it, but make sure it happens.
23. Before, during, or after visiting a country - watch movies from said nation with subtitles to get a feel for the flow of the language, a sense of the culture, or to reflect on what you've experienced there.
24. Don't be scared to leave the city or hub you're in to do a day trip or two.
25. Trust your instincts. It's scary how correct your initial intuitions are. If a situation just doesn't feel right, it's like because it isn't.
27. Don't forget to reach out to folks back home while on your journey. Friends and family love to relish in your exploration, but only if they feel like they're along for the ride.
28. Say yes more than no (within reason, of course).
29. Be weird. That's allowed.
31. Ask questions. You're not supposed to have all the answers, and I've found my curiosity has often been regarded positively by locals and the like, as it's a sign of my sincere interest.
32. Plan your trip around your interests, not around what will get the loudest "oooohs" and "awwwws" from instagram Though, Ideally for the travel bloggers of the world, you can do both!
33. Reflect after your trip. That's where most of the learning is solidified.
34. Understand that you're going to make mistakes. You may miss a bus by just a minute because you couldn't gauge how congested the streets would be with traffic (Cities like Bangkok, Delhi, and Istanbul come to mind), but it's okay. I mean this literally and figuratively - "there's always another bus."
35. If you've got a lengthy layover, get out of the airport and do some exploring. More than likely, they'll be a tour company that does exactly that. Doing this in Panama City paid off for me in spades!
36. At the beginning of my travels, I'd immediately search the hostel for a fellow Canadian. Now, I do the opposite. It's nice to meet people from your homeland, but don't use those folks as a crutch to avoid interacting with others who likely have viewpoints and understandings of the world that differ greatly from your own. Travel is about expanding your horizons, after all.
37. Fit a little yoga and meditation into your schedule. In my experience, this is the best way to appreciate the present, and live your day mindfully.
38. Visit castles. Need I say any more?
39. This may sound obvious, but take an hour or less to thoroughly read the wikipedia page for the country you may be visiting. It helps immensely. Specifically, understanding common religious and cultural practices can aid you making sure you're being respectful from the moment you land.
41. Go to bookstores. Creative people open up bookstores and, occasionally, you find yourself in their mental playground, with their dreams fully realized in building form.
42. Don't underestimate the value of a niche festival. I'd return to the Boryeong Mud Festival a thousand times again before ever going back to Bonnaroo.
43. Post a status on facebook or other social media to let people know where you're headed. I can recall at least a dozen times that this has led to a chance meet-up, or friends introducing me to one of their friends via the good ol' internet.
44. Assume the best. Plan for the worst.
45. Wearing flip-flops and sandals consistently in warmer countries can save you room in your luggage or backpack as you can go easy on the sock laundry, or socks at all.
46. Invest in a great camera, and process to take a great photo or two.
48. To quote Susan Heller, "when preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money." Nowadays, there are ways around spending a ton of money, but it's not a bad idea to at least consider how this quote should factor into your packing and preparation.
49. Bask in as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. They are the moments to feel part of the present.
50. Find a way to interact with animals. It does wonders for the spirit.
51. If you're on Twitter, search out what the country's username is. I always follow them about a month before to follow tips, as well as shoot them a message or reply to ask about specifics. As a travel blogger, it's also good to be familiar with the tourism board, especially if you're doing any collaboration as well.
52. Don't be scared to travel solo. Some of my fondest memories on the road involved only me, myself, and I.
53. Research common scams before you even arrive in the country (if the country has a reputation for such things.) Even talking to travellers in neighbouring countries before you arrive in the next country on your list can save you a lot of trouble. This strategy was invaluable while backpacking for four months in Southeast Asia.
54. For the love of god, don't count calories on the road. Get dessert, it's good for your soul.
55. Don't worry so much about where you're resting your head that night. If it's not comfortable, it'll likely just make for a good story later.
56. Order food you've never heard of.
57. While the national museum can often be impressive, quirky museums offer a real opportunity to experience something a little different, and can be very worth visiting.
58. If you feel like it, go ahead and shed a tear. I've definitely had profound moments thinking about lost friends, or the beauty of life which warranted an emotional moment. Travel can be emotional, and it's worth embracing that.
59. Make room in your itinerary for exercise. Hiking, biking, and long walks can liven up your spirits when you're often taking lengthy trips on boats, planes and everything in between.
60. If where you are isn't what you thought it was, don't be scared to call an audible and go somewhere nearby. Travel is precious, and you should put yourself in a position to enjoy every moment.
61. Type your destination into Instagram and check out the tags for your destination. I've found some interesting vantage points I didn't know existed by noting the cafe someone tagged a particular view from.
62. Know approximately how much your cab should cost if you know you'll need to take a cab a fair distance. I always check if I know I'm getting a cab from the airport. You can google it, or head to TripAdvisor's forums, I've had good luck there.
63. Make sure you try the one food a nation is famous for, even if know you won't like it.
64. Wake up early, stay up late.
65. If you want to become familiar with the city as soon as possible, check to see if there are any free walking tours. Sandeman's does a pretty darn good job for a tips only service.
66. Do one thing that scares the living hell out of you in each country you visit.
67. Think about being creative and capturing footage on your trip that you can turn into a video at a later date. I've had a lot of fun with that in the past.
68. Don't leave the country without trying their spin on coffee. I'll never forget my first sip of spiced coffee that I had in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
69. Go on a temple stay, if that's an option in the region you're visiting. It's amazing how mentally and physically refreshing it can be to get away from it all.
70. Don't rush.
71. There's some confusion as to who this is attributed to, but my friend has this quote tattooed on her arm, and I always thought it was very applicable to travel. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
72. Go to sporting matches, and it doesn't matter what the sport is at all. I've seen the heavy hitters of the sporting world go head-to-head (football teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona), but it's Korean Baseball and Japanese Sumo Wrestling that really put a smile on my face in retrospect.
73. Make a photocopy of your passport and keep it in your bag, away from your physical passport. This can really come in handy should you lose your passport.
74. Get lost in long conversations in broken languages.
75. Look past TripAdvisor's top 2 or 3 things to do. My personal favourite site in Istanbul sits quietly at number 5, but I'd say it's one of the most incredible and enchanting tourist spots around.
76. If you're roughing it with a backpack, shell out a few extra dollars for a hot shower every once in a while. Few things few better than a clean room when you're feeling irreparably dirty.
77. Always bring Ziploc style plastic bags. They come in handy over and over again.
78. Bring a pair of shoes that are multi-purpose. I always like shoes that I can use as running shoes during the day, but don't necessarily look like running shoes at night.
79. Bring a voltage converter hub. I love the Bestek Voltage Converter which has 4 USB ports, and it's been extremely useful for me. Check it here if you're interested:
80. Once you've got a rough itinerary, post on reddit asking for suggestions in the country's subreddit. That's been my most useful tool for planning.
81. Don't be scared to buy used guidebooks, such as those by Lonely Planet. Though they may be a touch outdated, the notes that are often written in the margins by those before you can end up being pretty helpful.
83. Bring sunscreen you like. As it turns out, if you're picky like me, you might not be alright with the greasy sunscreen from the local shop which gives you acne like you're 15 again.
84. It's never a bad idea to throw some TUMS into your bag, or Pepto Bismol. If you'll eat anything and everything like yours truly, then you might wake up some mornings needing it.
85. When you wake up each morning, check the weather forecaster of your choice. Especially on tropical islands, it's important to plan your day around sun. A lot of places I've been have afternoon showers in rainy season, so it's important to anticipate that. I personally like The Weather Network.
87. Now, this one might just be for me, but I always love to keep some quotes close to my heart when I'm on the road.
88. If possible, register with your homeland to let them know you're going abroad. You'll get updates about any possible situations there and, if crisis strikes, they'll know you may need assistance. Canadians can head here.
89. For a long time, I've stood by using a compression bag as a laundry bag in my pack. You keep your laundry separated from your clean stuff, and can also tighten the bag to make it smaller, and more contained. I recommend the one below:
90. Learn to be comfortable alone in the middle of nowhere, which you'll later find out was somewhere.
91. Bring tide packets to wash small items on the go (or something similar). Bring a laundry line as well, if you want to be super nifty!
92. Pack a quality 3-in-1 body-wash which can also serve as shampoo. It saves room just carrying around one small bottle.
93. Take a cooking class and learn how to appreciate the small differences in preperation that make a big difference when it comes to taste.
94. Support the local economy in responsible ways. Research tour companies and ensure that what you might give them will in fact return to the people.
95. Though you might be tempted, ensure that your itinerary has gaps with nothing planned (on a daily level, I mean). If you meet people at lunch and want to hang out, you don't really want to tell them that you can't hang out because you've still got six tours left that you've already paid for, you know?
96. Create a folder in your email where you move documents related to your trip.
97. Try to keep your exaggeration in check (we North Americans are great at doing the opposite). Not every day is going to be "the best day of your life." It's important to be real with yourself, and accept when something didn't live up to your expectations.
98. Laugh, laugh, and laugh.
99. This one is from my lovely girlfriend, Bri - "If you're going on a long trip, pack in a similar colour pallet, so that everything will more or less go together well."
100. Get yourself a lightweight rain jacket.
101. Take one minute before you go to bed every night to remember that how wonderfully lucky you are to see the stars on the other side of the world.
Anything I left out? Anything you found useful? Let me know in the comments below!
And, tips are great, but so are the practicalities, so you may also want to check out the Adventure Packing List!