50 of the Most Useful Travel Tips

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50 of the Most Useful Travel Tips

When traveling, it’s important to expect the unexpected. As much as you can plan the most epic journey ever, there’s always a chance that something c

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When traveling, it’s important to expect the unexpected. As much as you can plan the most epic journey ever, there’s always a chance that something could surprise you or go entirely wrong. That said, there are a few ways to cover your back while you’re traveling, whether it be the way you pack, how you get around, or saving money. These are some useful travel tips to help you plan, organize, and prepare to have an amazing trip:

Table of Contents

Packing

50. Pack light

First tip is to pack only what you need. This might seem like a no-brainer but I have made the mistake of over-packing too many times to count. Now that I’m a more seasoned traveler, I pack lighter and only bring the items that I absolutely need.

The key to packing light is bringing items that have multiple uses. Bring clothes that are easy to layer and mix and match well. For more ideas on packing for a quick trip, check out this weekend packing list.

49. Bring extra underwear and socks

Even though packing light is a great tip, if there’s anything you should bring extra of, it’s underwear and socks. Undergarments that you can’t wear multiple times without washing should always be plentiful when you travel. I always bring a pair of socks for every day I’ll be away, plus more undies than I think I’ll need. Being able to change into a new pair without worrying about running out brings me peace of mind when I’m on the road.

48. Use a carry-on backpack

Even if you aren’t necessarily doing the whole “backpacking” thing, traveling with a backpack as opposed to a suitcase is a game-changer. Backpacks allow for much more mobility and help you get through the airport faster. Consider a 35-40 liter pack that is big enough for all of your things but small enough to bring as a carry-on.

47. Pack your own travel towel

You might be thinking that having fresh towels in your hotel or Airbnb is a given, but that isn’t always the case. Especially if you’re traveling on a budget and staying in hostels, the towels can be less than desirable. Bring a travel towel with you that you can use post-shower, at the beach, or wherever you need to dry off.

46. Leave room in your bag

Being able to bring back one-of-a-kind travel relics is a must for me. You never know what kind of art pieces, clothing, or other souvenirs you’ll want to bring home, so leave a bit of space in your bag to be able to fit in anything you buy.

45. Solid beauty products

I’ve been using solid shampoo bars for years now, even when I’m not traveling. Not only are they low-waste, but they’re awesome to bring with me when I travel because there’s no risk of spillage when I’m en route to my destination.

You can find solid shampoo, conditioner, body soap, even shaving soap at Lush. Nowadays there are plenty of zero waste shops online where you can get almost anything in bar form, like Wild Minimalist.

44. Fill your pill box at home

If you take any medications, consider packing your pill box at home before you go, as opposed to bringing entire containers of your meds. I once had to take a trip after being horrifically sick and was overwhelmed with the prospect of needing to bring all of my meds with me. I packed them in a pill box and it cut down on space tremendously.

Flights

Where to, next?

43. Book 3-6 months in advance

To get the best price on flights, booking advance is key. Prices tend to increase as you get closer to your travel date, so book 3-4 months ahead for domestic flights and 5-6 months ahead for international flights.

42. Be as flexible as possible with dates

Depending on the day of the week you wish to fly, prices can vary greatly. I know that some people have more flexibility than others on when they can travel, but being flexible on the dates can save you a lot of cash.

41. Track flight prices

Whether you’re trying to decide which dates to travel or you’ve already picked your travel dates, consider tracking flight prices before you book to get the best deal. If you start this process early, you can save a lot on your flights. I use the app Hopper to track flight prices. Hopper sends you notifications on when flight prices change and gives advice on whether to wait or book your flights ASAP.

40. Check all nearby airports

Before you book your flight, check to see if your destination has different airport options. For example, Chicago has two airports and many cities have airports surprisingly close to one another. If you can swing a few extra hours of travel, booking your flight to a cheaper city nearby and then taking a bus or renting a car can save you money.

39. Use a variety of travel websites to check prices

This might sound kind of crazy, but I like to check various sites all at once to see how much flight prices vary. I’ll have several tabs open with Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Momondo at the ready. These three plus the Hopper app, are my go-to search engines. I once got a round-trip flight from Chicago to Cancún for $100 using this method.

Accommodation

38. Choose hostels instead of hotels

You don’t have to be a young, broke backpacker to enjoy staying at a hostel. Many hostels offer private rooms for a fraction of the cost of an equally nice room in a hotel. Besides saving money, staying at hostels has the added bonus of having organized events and being much more social than hotels.

Booking hostels online is super easy with Hostel World, a site I’ve used for years to find decently priced accommodation.

37. Use Airbnb for more bang for your buck

Airbnb is my number one favorite place to book accommodation online. I find that the prices are much more reasonable for way more space and privacy. If you aren’t concerned with meeting other travelers, this is a great option. While I tend to stick with booking entire places as opposed to private rooms in a shared house, I have had cool experiences meeting Airbnb hosts. I once stayed with a family in Bogotá who I still keep in touch with today because they were so awesome and accommodating.

36. Be a Worldpacker

If you are looking for a less-than-traditional travel experience and want to learn something while you visit a new place, consider volunteering as a Worldpacker (get $10 off your membership with discount code “BMTM”). You do have to pay for the annual membership, but it’s totally worth it considering the money you can save on accommodation. The basic premise is that you volunteer at a site in exchange for your room.

If you’re curious about being a Worldpacker, you can read all about my experience here.

35. Try staying outside the city center

If you’re traveling to a new city, chances are that most of the attractions you’ll want to see in the center. Hotels take advantage of their superb location to charge more for their rooms. However, you can often find better accommodations outside of the city center. Plus, staying in a more residential area can give you a better idea of how people in that place actually live their daily lives.

If you do decide to stay in a lesser-known area, make sure to do your research beforehand to make sure it’s a safe neighborhood and that you’ll have easy access to transportation.

Meals

34. Cook meals from local ingredients

If you are staying somewhere that has a kitchen, consider cooking a few meals while you’re there. You’ll save money, plus hitting up the local market and cooking with local ingredients as a fun way to learn about the culture of the place you’re visiting.

33. Do fancy restaurants for lunch

Being a huge foodie myself, I tend to spend more money on food than anything else when I travel. I’ve learned that many expensive restaurants that are more crowded during dinner hours usually have lunch specials with nearly identical offerings as dinnertime at a fraction of the cost. It’ll also be much easier to get a table at lunch as opposed to dinner when the restaurant is usually full.

32. Try street food

I live in Mexico where the street food is phenomenal, so I’m a bit biased here. Street food is almost always much cheaper than eating in a restaurant and often just as delicious. Especially if you want to grab something quick while you’re out and about, stopping at a food stall is an excellent choice.

One pro-tip with street food safety is to look for the stalls where there are plenty of locals eating or in line. Sure, you might have to wait a little longer, but locals probably wouldn’t be lining up for something that isn’t tasty and safe to eat.

31. Avoid eating near tourist attractions

You’ll spend way too much money for a sub-par meal if you opt for the closest restaurant to the city’s hottest tourist attraction. Even if you walk just a few blocks away from these areas, you’ll find something much better.

30. Ask locals for suggestions

Locals know where the best food is, so don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions at your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. Hell, ask someone on the street if you’re in a pinch. Depending on how well you can communicate, you can probably get a decent recommendation from just about anyone.

29. Treat yo’self

Chances are you’re not going to regret eating gelato for breakfast while you visit Italy, nor will you look back and think, I shouldn’t have had that nutella crepe. If there’s a food you’ve been dying to try, try it. I sometimes hear friends obsess about not sticking to their diet while they’re traveling and it never makes sense to me. Remember that everything in moderation with make you much happier than heavily restricting. You’ll have plenty of time to get back on track when you’re home.

28. Find out what the national dish is

If you’re traveling internationally, find out what your destination’s national dish is and try it. Especially in Latin America, locals have a lot of pride for their local specialties. Trying the national dish is a great way to get acquainted with the country’s gastronomy and many dishes have a unique story behind them.

Staying Organized

27. Make copies of important documents

It’s important to always have a back up plan in case things get lost, so make a copy of your documents: passport, visa or tourist card, vaccination card, etc. and store the copies in a different place than the originals. That way, you lessen the risk of losing everything all at once.

26. Use your pockets wisely

Nothing stresses me out more than rummaging through my backpack looking for something I need. To avoid spending too long doing this, dedicate different pockets in your backpack to different things, or have separate packing cubes/pouches for them. For example, keep all of your chargers and electronic accessories in one place and your toiletries in another.

25. Use a small bag or pouch for important documents

For a smooth airport experience, carry a separate bag or clutch with all of your travel documents. This way, you won’t run the risk of misplacing anything. My airport bag is big enough to fit my wallet, phone, passport, documents, and a pen. That’s it!

24. Check travel requirements ahead of time

This is easily one of the best ways to stay organized while you travel. Especially now, every country has different travel requirements and some require health surveys and other documents. If you don’t check these ahead of time, completing as much as you can before arriving to the airport, you run the risk of having to complete something in the airport. I was able to skip several lines when returning to Mexico because I completed my health surveys ahead of time and didn’t have to do it before the security line.

Saving Money

23. Free walking tours

You might be surprised at how many cities have companies that do free walking tours. While the tour might be free, keep in mind that tips are usually expected for your guide. Doing a walking tour on your first day is an excellent way to get acquainted with the city as well.

22. Use public transportation whenever possible

Taxis and rideshares can get very expensive while traveling, so consider hopping on a train or bus to get from place to place. In some big cities, the metro can actually be faster than taking a car because of traffic. Plus, public transportation is always substantially cheaper.

Safety

alakol lake
Make sure someone at home knows where you are

21. Have a safety buddy at home

Choose a friend or family member to be your point of contact at home. Have an agreement for how often you’ll be checking in so that they know you’re safe wherever you are. If you want to take it one step further, you can share your live location with them with Find My Friends or even on Whatsapp.

20. Take note of all taxi numbers you get into

Before you get into a taxi, snap a photo of its license plate and taxi number and send it to your safety buddy. I know this might sound redundant, but some countries are notorious for taxi kidnappings.

19. Use ridesharing instead of taxis

Ridesharing isn’t available in every country, but it is a safer alternative to taxis. Say what you will about taxi unions and the negative impact of ridesharing on taxi drivers, but services like Uber are much safer for solo female travelers especially. This is because of how easy it is to report a driver if something goes wrong, plus there’s a record of the ride in case of any issue.

Technology

18. Bring backup batteries

A power bank for your phone and an extra camera battery can be game changers while you’re on the road. Being without a cell phone can be annoying at best, dangerous at worst. Sure, this sort of goes against the previous suggestion to “pack light” but having backup batteries is much more useful than having a million different outfits.

17. Be careful with humidity

I’m laughing to myself as I write this one because I recently had a near-catastrophic experience with my laptop because I left it in a place that was way too humid. In extreme cases, humidity can destroy your electronics, especially Mac laptops, apparently. To avoid this, make sure that your accommodation will have a safe place for you to store your valuable items. You don’t necessarily need the place to be air conditioned, as long as it is less humid than being outdoors.

16. Download important apps ahead of time

If you know which ridesharing or navigation app you will need for your trip, download it onto your smartphone ahead of time to avoid fumbling around to get it installed last minute. You never know when you might be without strong Wifi and using your data to download an app is a waste. Also make sure your phone has enough memory to download the app, too.

Navigation

sri lanka train

15. Look up important routes beforehand

If you’ll be arriving to a foreign country where you can only use your phone on Wifi, map out important routes ahead of time. On Google Maps, you should be able to track your location without having phone signal. If you have the route already programmed, you’ll be able to make sure that your taxi or rideshare is taking you to the right place.

14. Download public transportation maps

Having a map of public transportation is a huge help when visiting a new city. When I went to Mexico City solo the first time, I was overwhelmed by the gigantic metro system but it was totally doable with the digital map I downloaded.

Research

Dinner with a local in Tokyo, Japan

13. Learn a little bit of the local language

This might feel like an impossible task you’re traveling somewhere totally different than what you’re used to, but it’s totally worth it. Even if you only learn simple greetings, knowing a little bit of the language is a great way to show respect and kindness to local people.

12. Brush up on local history

While going to a new place totally fresh is cool, knowing a little about a city or country’s historical context can add a level of depth to your trip. It also might help you understand cultural nuances and connect with locals in a more authentic way if you are able to consider how history has shaped a specific place.

Avoiding Crowds

11. Visit during shoulder season

Shoulder season is the sweet spot between high season and low season when prices are affordable and there are fewer tourists. Usually high season in a given place coincides with better weather and low season is often cold and/or rainy. To get the most out of your travel, book between them to have a better chance at good weather.

10. See the sights during lunchtime

I hadn’t thought of this until I accidentally tried it. Lunchtime is usually the least crowded time to visit big attractions, so plan to eat early or late so you can take advantage of the smaller midday crowds.

9. Look for off-the-beaten-path gems

Sometimes the best places are the ones that few travelers go to. This is definitely the case in many beach destinations where tourists tend to gather in one specific spot, leaving other just as beautiful beaches untouched. Sure, some of these places will be more difficult to find and get to, but having a gorgeous beach, waterfall, or overlook to yourself is totally worth it.

Meeting People

womens spiritual retreats
Retreats are another good way to meet people while traveling.

8. Take a class

A great way to meet locals and other travelers is to take a class while you’re in a new place. Whether you’re into yoga, kickboxing, pottery, etc., keep an eye out for flyers around town for classes. I’ve noticed that a lot of cafés tend to have a board for this sort of thing. If not, check Google Maps for any cultural centers or gyms that offer classes to the public.

7. Participate in hostel activities

Even if you aren’t actually staying in a particular hostel, you can ask about their organized activities and sometimes they’ll let non-guests participate, often charging a small fee. Hostels tend to be the best at organizing social activities because so many travelers specifically choose hostels for their social atmosphere.

6. Chat with wait staff

Being kind to wait staff is essential, but if you want to go the extra mile to opening up the possibility to meeting new people, strike up a conversation with your waiter or waitress. Sometimes they might not be into chatting or just too busy, but wait staff usually know the best places to go and can help you find out about social gatherings.

I write this tip because I had a wonderful experience in Mexico City where my waiter invited me to a drag show later that evening and it ended up being the best night I had during my entire stay.

Mindset

5. Don’t overplan

Avoid overwhelming yourself with an endless list of activities and instead give yourself ample idle time during your day. This way, you can go with the flow and have a more spontaneous trip. Sometimes the best experiences happen unexpectedly and you won’t have that if you build a strict schedule for yourself.

4. Stay active

If you live an active lifestyle, don’t let travel stop you from moving your body. Go for a hike, opt for walking instead of taking a car, or join a workout class. These are all great ways to take care of your mind and body while you travel.

3. Keep an open mind

Traveling is all about having new experiences. Keeping an open mind about the local culture, gastronomy, and activities is essential. You never know what you can learn from other people, which you can’t do if you are closed off to everyone and everything around you.

2. Remember that things will go wrong

No matter how long you’ve been traveling. Having things go wrong is inevitable sometimes. As much as you can micromanage your schedule and every aspect of your experience, there’s always a chance that something just won’t work out.

The key here isn’t avoiding any kind of mishap. It’s being mentally and emotionally prepared for when things will go wrong and being able to roll with the punches.

1. Try traveling solo

This is the tip you’ve been waiting for. As you know, we’re all about solo travel here at BMTM. That’s because traveling solo can be a liberating experience for anyone. Moving at your own pace, choosing your next adventure, and being able to enjoy your own company can be life-changing. Some of my absolute favorite travel memories happened when I was out exploring on my own.


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