Traveling can be stressful, especially if you are going on your own for the first time, or if it is your first time going abroad. The tips below should help make your trip easier and more enjoyable.Whether you’re going on a trip of a lifetime or just taking a vacation, here are 10 unexpectedly helpful travel tips for your next trip.Traveling, especially to unfamiliar destinations, can be stressful. However, if done correctly, it can be both enjoyable and exciting. This article will offer some sound advice on how to make sure your next vacation is the kind that leaves you with fond memories for years to come
1) Travel Slow
Whenever somebody asks what our number one travel tip is, we always reply with the same bit of advice – slow down.
It’s totally normal to try and fit in as many exciting destinations and incredible activities as possible when you’re on vacation. After all, your time away from work is precious. But we can promise you that you’ll gain so much more valuable experiences and memories if you travel slowly.
The truth is that unless you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort and have no intentions of leaving the property, travel is exhausting. Your sensors are firing on all cylinders, constantly taking in the new sights, smells and tastes of wherever you are.
If you’re anything like us too, the moment you leave the hotel you’re out on your feet all day, visiting museums, climbing viewpoints and winding your way through narrow alleyways. Yes, you’re on holiday, but you’re not exactly taking a rest!
Throw in that if you’re on a long-term trip as well, you need to be constantly thinking about how to get to the next place, where you’re going to stay, how to get a visa on the road, managing finances, etc.
The best way to not get completely burnt out from all of this is to simply slow down.
Give yourself more time in each city you go to. Spend the mornings sightseeing, but leave the afternoons free to chill out in a cafe. Don’t try and jam pack a million things to do into a few hours.
Staying in places longer also gives you a chance to find hidden gems, try different restaurants and sometimes even get better deals on your accommodation.
We’ve done it all – tried to fit in everything into one week, spent 7 months wandering one country, and everything in between. We can promise you that slow travel is much more rewarding, and better for the soul.
2) Think Outside the Box When Booking Flights
Depending on where you are going, flights can be the most expensive part of your trip. If you’re planning on going somewhere slightly obscure, the prices might even be astronomical.
That’s why we always try to think outside of the box when it comes to searching for our airfares.
The first thing to do is try a whole bunch of different websites to find the cheapest options. You can save money on flights with Wego as an example, or do simple online searches.
For example rather than just punching ‘Sydney to London’, try going ‘Sydney to Singapore/Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok’ or any other major hub, then from there to London to see if there’s specials on airlines that aren’t part of the same alliance.
3) Learn Some of the Local Language
Have you ever had somebody walk up to in your home town and ask a question in a language you don’t know? If you live somewhere like Australia or the United States, the chances are not likely, or if it has happened, very rarely.
It’s just not something that would happen, and in some places it’d even be considered completely unacceptable.
Now let’s flip the coin – have you ever travelled to a place where you don’t know a single word in the local language? Where you just walked up to a local and blurted out a query or question in English, expecting or hoping them to understand?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes. We’ve all done it.
There seems to be a double standard when it comes to speaking local languages, depending on whether you are on vacation, or you are at home. The fact of the matter is though it’s almost impossible to learn an entire language for a place you only plan on visiting for a couple of weeks.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try though.
Our next best travel tip is to make an effort to learn the basics of the local language for where you are visiting. Try to pick up words and phrases such as ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘good bye’, ‘where is the bathroom?’ and ‘how much?’ so when you communicate with a local, you are making an effort to do so in their language.
Showing this level of respect will go a long way in making positive interactions between tourists and local communities. If you don’t have time to learn from various apps before you leave home, on your first day in a new country ask a local to write down those keywords into a notebook, and keep that on you at all times.
4) Buy Travel Insurance
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It’s a saying that has been used thousands of times, and that’s because it’s entirely true.
A lot of the people we know who have refused to buy travel insurance do so because they feel it’s a waste of money, or they don’t travel with anything valuable, or believe that medical care wherever they are going is cheap.
We can tell you from experience that none of that matters. Alesha visited a hospital in Thailand with severe stomach pains one day, and after only spending a few hours there we were handed a bill for USD$1000.
Our old roommate broke his leg rock climbing in Canada and ended up getting a blood infection in the hospital. He spent 6 weeks confined to a bed getting treatment, and his bill came to $150’000.
Even if you don’t think you’ll get sick or aren’t planning on doing any extreme activities, accidents do happen.
5) Ask for Prices Before you Agree to Anything
Never, and we mean never, get into a cab, sign up for a tour, order a meal at a local restaurant or agree to anything that involves money without knowing exactly how much it will cost you.
Unfortunately in quite a few countries, unscrupulous locals may see tourists as a walking money bag (especially taxi drivers, don’t get us started on taxi drivers), and if you haven’t determined how much something is worth beforehand, they may feel they can make up a higher price at the end.
At this point you’ve already received your product or service, and can find it hard to argue a lower price, even if you know they are trying to rip you off.
So our big travel tip is to always negotiate and agree on a price beforehand, and make sure you iron out all of the finer details first (one-way or both ways, per person or total, etc).
6) Get a VPN
If you’re like us and are constantly connecting to random wifi networks around the world, you need to learn to protect your sensitive data when browsing the web.
Hackers are getting smarter and more cunning, and might be monitoring web traffic on an unprotected network, and if you happen to punch in your bank login or credit card details on a compromised network, you could be at risk of having your accounts cleared out.
For this reason whenever we are doing anything involving money, we use a VPN to create a secure connection.
Some countries as well block access to various social media platforms and websites, and you can get around these restrictions by using a VPN.
Beyond that, this is also very handy if you are trying to use a website that is geo-restricted, or perhaps has different prices for people buying products outside of their home country.
(For example we’ve seen websites try to charge us up to 25% more for something because we’re trying to buy it in Australia. Change location to the US, and get the same thing for cheaper!)
7) Apply for a Credit/Debit Card That Has Zero International Transaction Fees
Did you know that many banks will charge you a fee for making purchases in a foreign currency, or using an international ATM?
This is usually 3% for a currency conversion, plus $5 (more or less) for using your card overseas. It might not seem like a lot, but if you’re on a long trip, or making regular purchases in different currencies, this is going to add up.
For this reason we always carry a bunch of different debit and credit cards that offer zero international transaction fees to keep our needless expenses down. Because at the end of the day, who really wants to give banks more money?
You’ll need to do your own research to see which banks offer these products in your own personal country, but here in Australia we’ve found a couple of great ones:
Bankwest have a Platinum MasterCard with zero annual fee and zero overseas transaction fees.
CitiBank has a debit card that doesn’t charge you anything to withdraw money at an overseas ATM (you still pay the local ATM fee though).
ANZ also have a ‘Travel Rewards’ Visa credit card that doesn’t charge any fees for overseas credit transactions, plus it lets you collect frequent flyer miles.
8) Never Exchange Money in Your Home Country
Speaking of money, one common question we get from readers, friends and family is what to do about having access to cash when they travel. We always tell them over and over again, just get your money there in the country.
Gone are the days of needing traveller’s cheques or having to exchange your money in your home country before you start the vacation.
In fact these methods will actually end up costing you money!
Airports and banks offer horrible exchange rates on international money, and you’ll up losing a lot of money in currency conversions if you give them your business.
Instead we recommend waiting until you are in the country and withdrawing money at an ATM. Remember how you picked up that awesome debit card without international transaction fees? Yep, it’s going to work wonders here.
Even if you don’t have one of those awesome cards, getting money out an ATM will almost always be better value than exchanging money at the bank or airport.
For those that always want local money as well for when they land, most airports have ATMs in the terminal, and while they might have higher ATM fees, you’ll usually get the current market rate for currency conversions.
9) Have Multiple Copies of Your Important Documents
You’ll be surprised how many places ask for a photocopy of your passport, or in some places like Iran perhaps even to see you wedding certificate if you’re sharing a room with your significant other.
Rather than always having these important documents on you at all times, we recommend having a number of photocopies that you stick into your backpack and can show if ever asked (without presenting the real versions).
It’s also a good idea to take photos of these and save them everywhere – email them to yourself, upload them to Google Drive or Dropbox, and keep them in an easy-to-find folder on your phone.
10) ABC – Always Be Charging
This one is particularly important for people like us, who always have laptops, cameras and phones in constant use. Keep them charged!
There’s nothing more frustrating than being out for a full day of exploration, and finding out that your phone/camera is flat.
You never know when you’re going to get a chance to charge your electronics, so if you find yourself somewhere with a spare powerpoint and a bit of time to kill, throw everything you can on charge.
Another great accessory to pick up is a USB battery pack, so you can charge your smaller items throughout the day without needing to find an electrical outlet.
As you get ready to take off for your next vacation, don’t forget these 10 helpful travel tips that can save you time and money, and help you have a great experience on your trip.