In honor of my 100th blog post (yay!), I wanted to do something big – something I haven’t done before. So with the help of many wonderful travel writers, i’m bringing you the second portion of a two part segment that is filled with some of the best travel advice in the world.
I was recently in contact with dozens of highly experienced travel writers to ask that they each provide me with their best travel tip. Some are short and some are long, but all of them are actionable gems that you’ll be able to pick and choose from for your next trip to make it that much more enjoyable, savvy, and adventuresome. I’ve linked all of their blogs to their names, so I encourage you to head over to their websites and check them out if you enjoy what they have to say.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone involved in helping me make this happen. I’m still a new travel blogger, so it means the world to me to have such awesome people all together in one piece on this site.
I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading this as I did! (To check out Part 1)
Travel alone as a solo female most of the time. In cities in developed nations it’s more fun to travel with somebody to explore the restaurants and galleries but when I’m going to more remote places, I prefer travelling alone. People make so much of solo travel or travelling alone and I see many articles written on the subject but for me it really is the best way to see a new destination, especially when it’s of the more remote, unconventional variety.
You meet so many people along the way there’s no worry of being ‘alone’ and I think being alone in these places allow you to absorb and experience things quite differently as compared to travelling with someone you know. I’d travelled to places like the North Western Frontier Province in Pakistan, Southern and Eastern Africa including Laikipia in Kenya, the Danakil in Ethiopia and the Makgadikgadi in Botswana as well as the province of Bayan Ulgii to visit the famed Kazakh eagle hunters in far western Mongolia.
Do What You Do At Home While You Travel
What I mean by this is:
Yes, it’s important to try new things when you travel. I’ll never forget flyboarding in St. Thomas; glacier climbing in Alaska; or swimming with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico. BUT. For me, it’s also important to engage with locals in a genuine, authentic way. I love playing pickup basketball or volleyball when I travel, so we play *together* as teammates. It’s the best way to hear their stories, opinions and recommendations as peers, rather than hired help.
As I wrote in the article I linked to above, I happened upon a pickup [basketball] game in Warsaw once. I heard balls
bouncing in a gymnasium I was passing, so I introduced myself to one of the guys and asked if I could play in the next game. Language barriers didn’t matter — we got sweaty together, muscled each other around, and had a fun time. We went out for drinks after, and I got into a discussion with one of the men about the Polish word *wolność*, or freedom.
“There is a phrase in our national anthem, ‘*Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła / Kiedy my żyjemy*,'” he told me. “It means, ‘As long as I am alive, Poland is still fighting.’ Because *wolność *is a very important word to us.
My best piece of travel advice for any travel rookie (or any traveller for that matter) is that if you’re thinking about wanting to take that long term trip, is to just to go ahead and do it. Don’t think about it too much, and don’t plan it in any detail either. Nominate your start point and end point, and whatever happens in between happens. I guarantee you’ll have the time of your life and you’ll never regret it!
My best travel tip is to go into any travel experience with an open mind. Even experiences you think might not be up your alley can be great. When I got married three years ago, I received a gift certificate for a cruise. My wife and I had never been on one — cruises were for old people, had a strict schedule you had to stick to, and meant being on a crowded ship. Still, we decided to go into the trip with an open mind and give it a fair shot.
We had a blast. It was nothing like we expected. Yes, we were younger than average, but there were plenty of people our age. Since then, I’ve started the cruise site (which has turned into a lucrative side business thanks to advertising), been on more cruises, and saw a lot of beautiful places. That never would have happened without going into that first cruise with an open mind.
My number one tip is more psychological than practical: it would be to try to break out of your comfort zone and really get to know some of the people and the culture you came so far to see. The magic of your experience will be in the connections you make with others. Even a conversation in broken English can be great and insightful. Try to see how they live and why they see life the way they do. Those moments of connection will enrich you and make your trip much more memorable than any “must-see” tourist site or shiny souvenir.
After numerous long flights from my home in San Francisco to Europe, I’ve developed the following formula to avoid jet lag. (This advice is for American travelers crossing the pond.) Book a flight that will land at your destination in the late morning to midday.Upon boarding the plane, set your watch or device to the time zone of your destination and don’t give the time difference another thought.After checking into your hotel, have a hearty lunch in a nearby restaurant that includes (if you so imbibe) a glass or two of wine. Skip the coffee.Go back to your room, shower, collapse on the bed and fall into a luxurious dream state as you sleep off the long flight.You’ll wake up well into the night, past 8 or 9 at least, rested and hungry enough to start thinking about dinner. As Europeans eat dinner later than Americans, you’ll suddenly find yourself on their schedule, ready to enjoy your vacation among the locals.Stop thinking about what time it is back home!
I have another tip for European travel: place an ad on Craigslist and buy your Euros for even exchange. I always use the website xe.com for reference.
The best travel tip I have is to stay with a local if you can. They know the best places to go, the places to stay away from and the best part is, you might even go with them! You may meet their friends and family who would be more than willing to show you around and you also save money by staying at their house. You have the option of making your meals in their kitchen and learning more about them by having dinners together.
Pack lightly (only what you absolutely need) and use clear zip lock bags, each labeled with a sharpie for each category of what you bring (ex: underwear, pants, socks/stockings, shirts/tops, accessories, toiletries, etc.). You can purchase large zip locks at many grocery or hardware stores and makes finding what you need quick and simple.
As a travel writer, I’ve written about almost everything travel related from experiences to tips to why you absolutely must travel. That being said, my biggest travel tip is to always be optimistic about traveling. You will definitely feel like it’s not possible to travel, or like you can’t afford it or have time, but the reality is that if you maintain optimism, and keep trying to make it happen, there’s a good chance it will. After all, if you can’t find a way to travel, you can always create one!
I can’t believe I went 40 years without understanding how me and my family can travel free while responsibly taking advantage of credit card miles and hotel points bonuses. If done properly, not increasing debt, your credit score doesn’t suffer and you can literally fly around the world plus enjoy many accommodations for free!
My number one travel tip is that you don’t have to travel far to travel. I’ve done my fair share of world travel, and I used to think that you had to go a long way to travel. Then, I started exploring my own city and doing day trips to nearby places. I was shocked how many awesome places I could visit without buying a plane ticket and flying to a far-off land. Just because you might not have much time or can’t afford to travel, that doesn’t mean that you can’t travel.
In Europe, avoid restaurants with “We speak English” and “Tourist menu” signs, and those with multilingual menus. Instead, patronize those with more locals as they serve better food for less money. Lookout for restaurants with a short, handwritten menu in the local language, and choose the daily specials.
Master “No, Thanks” in the foreign language for safety.
When you visit a place where your language is not spoken, make it your duty to master a few simple sentences like “No, thank you” and “good bye” in the local language. Put emphasis on proper pronunciation. The reason is that in some touristy places you may be constantly stopped by people who want something form you (whether it’s selling you something, offering tickets or simply begging).
This situation happens a lot in major tourist destinations and can be not only annoying, but in some cases, potentially dangerous. They usually begin by trying to initiate small talk on any conceivable topic. This in itself is not considered as dangerous, once there are other people in the vicinity. However, the outcome of such small talks can be painful if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, the moment you say “No Thanks” in English, whoever approached you will figure out (and everybody around) that you are a tourist; you don’t know your way around and will leave the country soon, meaning that you are a very easy victim.
However, if you say “No, thank you” in the local language and keep on walking with confidence, whoever approached you will assume that you are either a local, or a foreigner who has been residing there for some time, is familiar with the language, and knows his way around. Automatically, you become a less desirable target as there is a greater chance that you will know how to counteract such situations or seek vengeance if something happens.
From inside knowledge of working in the travel industry, for the best deals I would always suggest booking as late as possible. You will need to have a bit of luck and nerves of steel, but in general the later you book the cheaper it will be, however this often means less choice. If you’re open to all potential destinations and flexible on travel dates and accommodation types the “leave it late” technique will work great and save you plenty of cash.
Make sure you carry a debit card that both doesn’t charge ATM fees and reimburses the other bank’s ATM fees when using an out-of-network ATM Charles Schwab has a great account that does both of these things without requiring a monthly fee or a minimum balance!
When traveling, particularly to a new country, leave your preconceived notions of how things should be behind. Go with an open mind and truly experience how other people live, talk, love, and eat. Read the national newspaper, listen to the news, tune into the local radio stations. If you can, absorb a few words in the local language. Travel is the best education in the world if you are willing to learn.
My best travel tip is “Do your homework” – Before you go, do a little reading about your destination. Guidebooks, history and literature all provide a framework which will help you fit in and enhance your experience. It’s neat to know the inside story, and cultural awareness will help smooth your path. Here are a few examples:
Knowing that the Chinese love to bargain prepared me for shopping in their markets.
The resourcefulness of the Mayans made sense to me because I knew they were the descendants of people who had abandoned their homes to make a new life in the forest rather than go down with the imploding Mayan empire.
It saved me much embarrassment to know that Ghanaians are offended if you hand them anything with your left hand, and knowing why gave me great appreciation for their sanitation challenges.
Throughout my travels, one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is the importance of staying in one area for a longer period of time. Many times when we travel we want to “see everything” and just hit the biggest names and maybe we even do a sort of checklist for that country or city. I will never forget my first visit to the island of Borneo, Malaysia. We hiked through Mulu National Park, but unfortunately, we did not have the time to get to the Pinnacles rock formation which seems to be incredibly unique and beautiful – that’s what I gather from the photos anyway. To my regret, we had to turn around to catch our flight the next day. The Pinnacles are on my bucket-list now, but at least I learned an important lesson. If we give ourselves time to really get to know a place, its people and its culture then we also open ourselves up for a boundless amount of unique and unforgettable experiences. Chances are, you won’t regret staying for at least a little longer.
Go solo! Independent travel is the best way to see the world and have your own memorable experiences. The possibilities are limitless when you travel alone, as you’re the only one making decisions. Not only can you do what you want at your own pace, but you’ll meet people along the way. When you travel solo, you’re actually never truly alone. It can be very social and lead to new relationships, if you allow it. Solo travel provides opportunities, and is certainly the best way to go!
Whenever possible, travel on foot. Not the major sections; I’m not saying walk from Paris to Berlin! But if you go out for dinner, or if you are doing two attractions that are close to each other, or even just if you have an hour spare around the hotel, go for a stroll. You’ll find a lot of interesting experiences are hidden “down that little street” or around the corner from a mega attraction, and if you simply take a cab everywhere, you don’t expose yourself to these. Walking around, you also get a much better taste of the local culture – with urban growth these days, most tourist attractions are buried in the heart of thriving communities, but due to the high tourist pressure at the attraction, you’re unlikely to meet locals on the scene (unless they’re trying to sell you something!)
My #1 tip is to JUST GO! Allow yourself to book that trip to that one place you’ve always wanted to go. You deserve it. But you don’t really need me to tell you that – you need to believe it yourself. Travel often. Getting lost will help you find yourself. (More context linked above).
If I could offer one travel tip, I would suggest making yourself a little bit uncomfortable on your next trip. It seems counterintuitive to seek out discomfort on a vacation, but venturing out of unfamiliar territory will yield the most authentic experiences and give a glimpse of local life instead of life as a tourist. Take public transport, talk to strangers, stay in a hostel or couch surf, try that strange local dish, etc. You’ll be glad you stepped out of your comfort zone.
Men, a back pocket wallet is never 100% safe from pickpockets, so never ever carry passports or credit cards in one. But you can carry enough cash to get through a day and significantly reduce your chance of getting pickpocketed if you place a pocket comb, teeth facing up, in the crease of your wallet. When the villain (in our last experience, a group of “nuns” in Milan) tries to extract it, the comb will catch on the inside corner of your pocket. You’ll feel a tug and turn around to see the pickpocket disappearing–without your wallet–down a side street. We have lots of tips for specific cities in Drinking In the Culture, Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe.
Savvy Online Travel Research Makes Your Trip Better:
Before you plan any trip, do as professional travel journalists and meeting planners do and research your destination in depth online before you make reservations. If you learn the best places to stay, must-sees and the don’t-bother-seeing things at your destination and the best ways of getting there and getting around once you are there, you are miles ahead in making the most of your precious travel days. The Internet houses a cornucopia of useful travel information. The trick is to know where to find it and how far to dig before you book. Time spent ferreting out resources can save you time, aggravation, money and contribute to a trip that meets and even exceed your expectations.
The first place to visit online is your destination’s tourist and convention bureau CVB). Use a search engine and enter “(your destination) convention and visitors bureau” in the search box to locate the right web site. Once there, drill down and you should find a good sampling of what the area is proud of and the featured attractions that interest you. For a listing of many such sites, go here. Most CVB’s (local and state) are happy to send you a visitor’s guide often accompanied by maps, discount coupons and other travel resources if you contact them. Be sure to contact them several weeks before your trip since many resources are sent by snail mail, although many CVB’s also have online versions of the guides.
If you have any special interests such as skiing, hiking, photography, wildlife or what have you, make sure to mention these since CVB folks are usually happy to tailor their trip resources to your interests. It is always helpful to see what others travelers think about your destination choices. The 800 lb. gorilla site for unpaid travel reviews is Trip Advisor. While individual opinions are not necessarily reliable, a clear pattern of negative or positive reviews usually reflect what you are likely to find.
Other good sources for research include About.com and Wikipedia.com and the web sites of travel bloggers and travel magazines. Although Wikipedia is not a travel resource, per se, it can be a good source for history, demographics and other things that can enrich your knowledge of an area and reveal sites you might want to visit.
If your travel takes you out of the country, remember that this is an uncertain world. Be sure to check the U.S. Department of State site to check current danger spots and to register your trip.
Getting There And Getting Around:
If you are looking for airline reservations, check your frequent flyer program or credit card travel perks after you have looked at least a couple of online flight booking sites. Which is best depends on when and where you are trying to go. Try several and compare. Recently I have used Matrix with good success but your experience may differ.
Don’t forget about rail travel. It is often a better deal than airline travel over land and a great way to see the countryside in comfort as you travel. In the U.S.A. and Canada, start with Amtrak.com or VIA Rail Canada and be sure to look for specials and discounts. Most of the time, traveling by train beats renting a car and driving yourself in both price and convenience.
For European rail travel, the old standby is Eurail but another very useful site for Europe and elsewhere is The Man In Seat 61. If you are set on renting a car, the airline reservation or the hotel site you use can usually book one for you. Google map, is a superb resource for figuring out routes, times and for directions to and from specific attractions in most places in the world.
If you want to travel by ship, Cruises Only is often a good choice but you can also find good deals with some travel agencies and sometimes directly from the cruise lines.
There are many good sites for hotel information, rates and booking. Which is best at any given time varies. My advice is to check several and compare. And if you have a favorite hotel chain, you can try calling their reservations line directly and ask for their best rate. Sometimes it is lower than the rates you can find at other sites and sometimes it is not so compare.
If bed-and-breakfasts fit into your style of travel, start first at Bed and Breakfast and then compare your finding to the listings as your favorite hotel search sites. Sometimes one or the other is your best bet so comparative shopping pays off. Enjoy your trip. If you are anything like me, researching your destination is almost as much fun as the trip and builds anticipation.
Street food is probably one of the best things about traveling and experiencing another country. It can also be one of the sure ways to ruin your trip if you are not careful. Getting a parasite in your stomach and maybe even having to go to the hospital is not how you want to spend your trip. The experience might make for a good story later but in the moment it is a nightmare. My tip is not to avoid street food but instead look for where the locals are going and go to places that are crowed. In my experience places that have long lines and that are full of locals will never leave you feeling like you’re dying later on. Crowds of people never gather to eat bad food so you can never go wrong doing this.
My best tip, which my readers tell me has saved them quite a bit of money, is to always join AAA, even if you don’t own a car. If you have a child young enough to require a car seat, Hertz gives free car seats to AAA members. This could save you $10-$15/day, so one weeklong trip with a car rental and you’ve more that earned the membership fee back and then some. Additionally, membership comes with discounts to a range of attractions from theme parks to museums. And for those nights when you wind up walking into a hotel without a reservation, AAA will get you at least get you 10% off the rack rate. Then there is the travel planning, travel insurance, roadside assistance, etc. too.
Randy: When asking for directions or advice—say, for example, which bus to take—always ask two different people, preferably women.
Bethany: Expect nothing. Enjoy Everything
There is a ton of useful information in here and I learned a lot from what they had to say as i’m sure you did as well. I’d like to thank all of the participants in this once again for doing me a huge favor by joining up to make this happen, this is the best segment I could ask for for my 100th. So thank you!
If you want to check out Part 1, you can here.