Travel Tips
Top Tips for Travelers

Top Tips for Travelers

Los Angeles


Most people aren’t born savvy travelers. It’s something that only comes with on-the-road experience. In the beginning, you will make a lot of mistakes. Travel savviness is a process born of missed buses, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny errors. Then, one day, you begin to seamlessly move through airports and integrate yourself into new cultures like a fish in water.

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  • Always pack a towel. It’s the key to successful galactic hitchhiking and plain common sense. You never know when you will need it, whether it’s at the beach, on a picnic, or just to dry off.
  • Buy a small backpack/suitcase. It will force you to pack light and avoid carrying too much stuff.
  • Pack light. It’s OK to wear the same t-shirt a few days in a row. Take half the clothes you think you will need…you won’t need the rest of it.
  • But take extra socks. You’ll lose a bunch to laundry gremlins so packing extra will come in handy.
  • Take an extra bank card and credit card with you. Disasters happen. It’s always good to have a backup in case you get robbed or lose a card. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere new without access to your funds.
  • Make sure to use no-fee bank cards. Don’t give banks your hard-earned money. Keep that for yourself and spend it on your travels.
  • Travel by yourself at least once. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to become independent. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Traveling solo taught me how to fend for myself, talk to people, and handle unfamiliar situations with ease.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a map. Looking like a tourist isn’t as bad as getting really lost and ending up in the wrong neighborhood.
  • But don’t be afraid to get purposefully lost. Wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you find.
  • Always visit the local tourism office. They know about everything going on in town. They can point you to free activities, special events happening during your stay, and everything in between. Use this resource.
  • On international flights, book window seats so you can rest your head on the bulkhead. Also, book seats close to the front so you can beat everyone to the passport control line.
  • Don’t buy a money belt — they’re stupid. Thieves know they exist and being seen with one basically shouts, “Look at me, I’m a tourist with money! Rip me off!”
  • When you go out, take only what you need. Limit the amount of cash and bank cards you carry with you, so if something does happen, you can easily recover.
  • Always carry a lock. They come in handy, especially when you stay in dorms and need to lock your stuff up.
  • Make extra copies of your passport and important documents. Don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself so you’ll almost always have access to them, one way or another.
  • Look both ways when you cross the street. Especially in countries whose traffic flow is different than you’re used to.
  • Ask hotel staff for information — even when you aren’t staying there. They deal with budget travelers all day, every day. They know exactly where to go for cheap meals and attractions.
  • Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination. The locals will appreciate it and it will make your interactions easier.
  • Read a history book! You can’t understand a place’s present if you don’t know anything about its past. Read up on the destinations you are visiting.
  • Don’t be ashamed to walk into a Starbucks. Sometimes familiarity is comforting.
  • But to be ashamed if you go into McDonald’s. Seriously. That shit is gross and unhealthy for you.
  • Shop around. When booking flights, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into airports close to your final destination, and then take a train or bus to where you need to go.
  • Always get behind business travelers when in security lines. They move fast. Try to keep up.
  • Never get behind families. They take forever. It’s not their fault; they just have a lot of stuff.
  • When you check into the hotel, don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade. They have a lot of flexibility, and it can’t hurt to ask.
  • Libraries, Starbucks, and most cafés have free Wi-Fi if you’re staying someplace that charges you to connect.
  • Lunchtime is the best time to visit historical sites. The sites empty out and you’ll have fewer crowds to fight.
  • Never eat in a touristy area or near a tourist attraction. As a general rule, I walk five blocks in either direction before I find a place to eat.
  • Locals don’t eat out every night and neither should you. Go grocery shopping. You can learn a lot about locals’ diets by seeing the type of food they buy.
  • Eat at expensive restaurants during lunch. They offer lunch specials — same food as dinner but half the price.
  • Pack a flashlight. It will let you see at night, help you avoid stepping on stuff and help you tell ghost stories. Who’s afraid of the dark?
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit. Accidents happen, so be prepared. I take with me band-aids, antibacterial cream, and ointments for cuts and scrapes.
  • Book flights 3-4 months in advance to get the best price. And don’t drive yourself too crazy trying to get the absolute cheapest fare. Spending five hours to try to save $10 will cause you a lot of stress.
  • Stay in hostels. They are cheap and you’ll meet a lot of people! Hostel bars are also very cheap.
  • Use Meetup, the sharing economy, and hospitality websites to meet locals. They’ll be able to give you the insider’s perspective on your destination.
  • Be open to strangers. Not everyone bites. You just might make some lifelong friends.
  • Try new food. Don’t ask what it is. Just put it in your mouth and see if you like it. If you put your guard up, you might miss out on some unusual and delicious local cuisine.
  • Avoid taxis. They are always a budget buster.
  • Take an empty metal water bottle through airport security and fill it up at your gate. Drink from the tap when you can — you’ll save money and help the environment.
  • Take free walking tours. Besides being free, these tours will give you a good orientation and background of the city you are in.
  • Take pictures of your luggage and clothes. If your bag gets lost, this will help identify it more easily and speed up the process of having your travel insurance reimburse you.
  • Carry emergency cash. Because emergencies happen. Like that time in Romania when I couldn’t find an ATM and needed money for the bus to the hostel!
  • Get vaccinated. Because falling prey to an illness in a foreign country is not fun.
  • Learn to haggle. Haggling is a fun, playful way of not getting charged the foreigner price. It’s the art of negotiating and one that will help you throughout all of life, not just at the market.
  • Use points and miles for free travel. You can go a lot further in the world when you don’t have to pay for it. Make sure everything you do gets you miles.

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