Travel bloggers are, by their nature, a globetrotting bunch. Along the way from Cairo to Copenhagen, or Dubai to Denver, they’ve learned some great tips for navigating the world of travel.
We asked some of the worlds top travel bloggers to share their travel tips for getting started on a trip. They dish their best tips on everything from planning and packing to saving money on flights.
Be flexible. When traveling, always allow room for changes in your schedule. Do this by having an open plan for the day, week or month. Make it a point to see something you would like, but don’t cram a lot of things immediately around it. This gives you time to see what you want, possibly more, and without being forced to leave too soon. I know that its happened to me personally and to most everybody I know. We try to fit in too many things and skip out on going on a random adventure or never fully embracing a place.
Be open to unpredictability. Most types of travel (especially Independent travel) are unpredictable. Just go – and don’t try to plan out all the details!
Don’t overplan. I often get asked: how much to plan and how much to leave to chance? I recommend starting with a few big activities to design a big trip around. Then, book travel to and from the destinations and the first night’s hotel. Everything else, I recommend leaving to when in-country. It’s tempting to plan more, but with the knowledge that there are usually other travelers or local guides, ATMs, and transportation – and now wifi – wherever you are going, all can be worked out. Over plan and the serendipity of travel may not have room to come into the schedule.
Don’t worry. I have found this out on my own through a lot of traveling and overseas experience — fear is often blown out of proportion when it comes to discussing certain countries. Whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of logistics once you arrive, or fear from media reports. Even countries that are marked as ”dangerous” often have certain regions that are safe to visit.
Be prepared. Commit your family’s passport numbers (and expiry dates) to memory. It makes filling out immigration arrival cards so much quicker and easier.
Plan for the unexpected. When planning a trip, jot down the top 2 or 3 things you want to be sure to do on your travels, and then build in some flexibility for unexpected opportunities that crop up. You might find out about a great day trip or learn about a festival or market you want to go to. It is often these unplanned for activities that end up being the best part of your trip.
Get in the know. Set up Google Alerts for the cities or countries that you will be visiting next so you can get updated on the news of what’s going on. Instead of searching for information, let it come to you.
Do The Research. Though you can always find great deals when you are actually face-to-face in a place, we’ve found that doing the online research beforehand has prevented us from a lot of undue stress. Online research helps us know approximate costs so we don’t get ripped off. Online research helps us know the key places we’ll want to visit and the different options of how to get there. Again, we usually close deals when we arrive, but knowing what to expect, what the most common scams are, and what I’m looking for, has helped us create more positive travel experiences.
Shop for flights three months to a year in advance. If you are looking for summer airfares in early June, start looking as early as the year before. Before seats fill up, airlines are often willing to offer their best deals to early customers.
Use social sites for savings. A few months beforehand, sign up for Groupon, LivingSocial, and other deal sites in the locations where you’ll be traveling. Keep an eye out for things that you’d like to do. Once you find a deal you might like, do your research – check Urbanspoon, etc. for real reviews. If it looks good, buy it! This is a fun way to learn about an area – and forestall some on-the-spot decision-making when you’re hungry or the kids are bored. We’ve gotten coupons for laser tag, meals, coffee shops, museums, and stores. We’ve also discovered some pretty great restaurants which would not have been on our radar.
Look for one seat. Even if you are flying with more than one person, searching for two seats will give you the lowest seat price for two seats together. Looking for one seat will give you the cheapest seat available.
Check Out The Low Cost Air Carriers Often. We’ve been in South East Asia for over a year now. We constantly check and recheck Air Asia, Cebu Air, and other low cost carriers and often find these amazing deals which dictate our next home. Because flying within South East Asia is so cheap already and there are so many local airlines competing, they will send you deals that are literally cheaper than bus fair. Sign up for their notifications and you’ll be amazing how you can hop from country to country (if you are flexible with your dates) for a fraction of the expected price.
Fly midweek. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly. Pay attention to the restrictions for many of the airfare sales as you can find the best deals on these days.
Use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price. I have been able to save well over $1000 just in the past year using this site for hotel discounts. The key is to take an hour or two to really do some research and understand the bidding strategy beforehand. Find the area that you want to stay and determine your own budget. Then open up Priceline.com and Hotwire.com to compare and contrast areas, pricing and amenities. Next, go right to a site like BiddingForTravel or BetterBidding and peruse the message boards, you can usually get a good indication of what bids are being accepted. From there, start your bidding, one zone at a time until you get the hotel you were looking for. Most of the time I can narrow it down between 1-2 hotels before I start bidding so it’s not really a surprise once my bid is accepted.
Sign up for Airfare alerts. If you know your destination or when you want to fly, sign up for airfares deal from your departure city. Each airline will send you the latest airfares sales and alerts via email.
Go for free. There are many ways to see sights for free. You can get many free city walking tours worldwide, and museums are often free during off-peak hours. Other museums are based on donations and plenty museums cost nothing to begin with. Art galleries are usually free (and, if you happen to arrive during an opening, you might get a glass of wine too). Parks and nature spots are usually free of charge.
Save on airfare. As perpetual travelers, airfares are our biggest expense. So we always try to search for the best online deals. There are two URLs you should keep in mind when looking for cheap deals: Skyscanner & Kayak Explore. Kayak Explore is a great page if you are flexible on the areas you want to travel. For example; If you know you want to travel to South America but are not sure which country, Explore will show you the cost of all flights from your home town to the area of interest. It makes it a lot easier to choose the location when you can compare all flight costs on the same screen. Skycanner is great if you know the location you are traveling to. They compare all the major booking airlines and sites to find you the cheapest flight to your chosen destination. This saves a lot of time comparing costs on each individual airline.
Is there an app for that? My husband and I were preparing for an African safari, a real bucket list trip. We found out at the last minute that passport-size pictures were required for our visa to Tanzania. How fortunate we were to find out that there is a free, instant app for that. ID PhotoPrint is an app (available for iPhone, iPad and IPod Touch that provides an on-screen template that allows you to take perfect 2×2 passport-size photos.
Don’t overpack. No matter how long you’re trip, packing light is key! To maximize your clothing options, choose long lasting items that you enjoy wearing and that can be worn in a variety of settings. Plan to mix and match to ensure that your wardrobe goes a long way and use packing cubes to fit more in less space. Never pack “just in case” items and know that you can buy practically anything you may need along the way. Above all, try not to over-plan. Learning along the way is all part of the process and the fun!
Save some room. Pack less than you think you’ll need (clothes, toiletries, etc.). You can re-wear some clothes or have them washed along the way and you can buy extra toiletries anywhere. Save some of that space for things you’ll want to bring back from your trip. Or, we take an extremely lightweight nylon duffle bag (like a gym bag) that rolls up smaller than a sausage. Then, on our trip, we put dirty clothes in the duffle and bring it back as an extra bag, saving room in the main luggage for souvenirs.
Rolling saves space. When packing, roll your clothes tightly rather than fold them. They take up less space this way – not only that, but they won’t tend to be wrinkled as much that way, either. Stuff footwear with rolled up clothes, too, be it underwear, socks, or whatever. You might be pleasantly surprised by the extra space next time you pack!
Keep it clean. Leave all of the possible use items at home. This means stuff like your rain poncho, umbrella, headlamp, extra toiletries and so on. A lot of the time you won’t end up using them and more often than not you can buy those items wherever you are. This frees up space in your bag and gives you a smaller list of things to account for and worry about!.”
Travel light. Both your knees and your back will thank you when you get older. If you forget something at home or need something while abroad – many places in the world will have what you need. I’ve had too many problems with luggage being lost or delayed in the past when I check it in at the airport. There are also security advantages to be in control of your possessions whenever possible. You can keep it with you in say a taxi (rather than putting it in the trunk) and generally keep it with you on buses.
Split your stuff up. In packing for trips, we split pack everything. I carry half of all the clothes (both mine and my wife’s) and she carries the other half. We have had several instances where the airlines have misplaced one of our bags, but not the other. By splitting clothes, we both have something to wear for a few days until the rest of the luggage can (hopefully) catch up to us.
Money and Safety
Cut it in half. The best travel tip I’ve heard (from multiple sources). Take only half of the stuff you originally planned on bringing and double the amount of money you had planned on. Nothing worse than shlepping a bunch of crap you don’t need halfway around the world or missing out on a great experience because you didn’t bring enough money.
Double up. Get a second bank account, preferably one that offers ATM fee reimbursement around the world (Schwab, Fidelity in the U.S.). Now you have two ATM cards in case one is lost, stolen or won’t work, though obviously use the free withdrawals as your main card. Next, only keep a reasonable amount of money in that second account and occasionally transfer more as needed. This will limit any potential losses. Finally, keep the two cards stored in separate locations on your person or baggage.
Did you enjoy this post? We’ll be posting another article with some great tips from travel bloggers on how to get more out of your next trip soon. Sign up to get our posts in your email inbox so you won’t miss it.