Over the years, I’ve picked up a few travel tips. I don’t consider myself a perfect traveller or a travel guru, but there are definitely things that I have learnt on the road. Unfortunately, some I had to learn the hard way. So instead of forcing you to find out for yourself why it’s so important to travel with extra Ziploc bags or where to find the cheapest flights, I’m going to share my 61 travel tips.
Now I say these are travel tips for beginners because I think they’re perfect for the novice traveller about to embark on a big journey. They are the things I wish I knew before my first big trip. But I also think the seasoned traveller could find some wisdom in these travel tips too. Or at least fill me in on a few travel tips that I forgot!
So without further ado, my 61 travel tips:
1 – Google Flights is your best friend. Always start with Google Flights. It’s the most user-friendly tool and it’s so easy to plug in multiple locations, sort by dates and sort by price. If you ever need to fly anywhere, go to Google Flights first.
2 – Skyscanner is another great tool to have in your back pocket. My favourite thing to do on Skyscanner is to plug in my departure airport, choose “anywhere” for the destination and “anytime” for the dates just to see where I could go.
3 – OTAs (or online travel agencies) like Kayak, CheapOAir, etc. can be great if you’re looking for a deal. But be careful! A lot of these OTAs have strict cancellation policies and will be of absolutely no help if you need to cancel, change your itinerary, fix a misspelled name, etc.
4 – Want to save money on flights? Sign up to flight deal websites! My favourites are Secret Flying, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Next Departure and YVR Deals. Another great way to save on flights is by using airline miles and travel hacking. I’m not the expert on that but there’s tons of info online.
5 – When is the best time to book a flight? That’s the golden question. Of course, the best time to book is when you get that flight deal in your inbox. But if the deal isn’t coming, I’d say you want to book about three months out from the date. If you’re flying at a popular time, like over the holidays, book as early as possible.
6 – If you do manage to score a cheap flight (and here is how you book a flight deal), do not book anything else for at least 24 hours. Airlines can, and do, cancel flights if there was an error. They don’t always do it. Sometimes they honour it and you get to go to LA roundtrip from Vancouver for $60 CAD! But other times, they cancel it and you have to say goodbye to your New Zealand dream trip. So don’t book your hotel, activities or car rental until at least 24 hours later.
7 – And for everything you need to get through the airport, check out all of my travel tips in this post.
8 – When it comes to accommodations, your basic options are staying in a hotel, hostel, Airbnb (get $45 off your first stay with Airbnb!) or other apartment rental, couch surfing, a camper van or car, or with friends and family. All of these options have their pros and cons.
9 – Before you book, search a few different booking sites. Everyone has their favourites and some people swear their site has the best rates. My go to is hotels.com. I like this one because you get a free stay after every 10 nights booked through them. Once I’ve found a place I like on hotels.com, I usually double check it on booking.com and also directly with the hotel’s website to ensure I’m getting the best deal.
10 – Hostels are not what you think! They are not gross or rowdy. They’re not packed with annoying teenagers looking to party. At least, not all hostels are. They’re safe. Many hostels are family friendly and many families, couples and older travellers stay at them. You can also get a private bedroom and private bathroom at many hostels. Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em!
11 – Read the fine print. Read all about your accommodation and note things like extra fees, any applicable taxes, the wifi situation, if breakfast is included, if pets are allowed, etc.
12 – And read the reviews! After looking at the price and a few photos, the next thing I do is read all of the recent reviews. This is the best way to get an understanding for the place you might be staying.
13 – Location, location, location. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to stay in a central location. For example, on our most recent trip to London, we couldn’t stay in Central London because our budget isn’t banging like that. So instead, we stayed outside of the centre, but near a tube station with good transit links. Ensure your accommodation is on a good transit line and that your route to/from the airport isn’t too long or difficult.
14 – With accommodation, booking early is usually better. Especially if you’re looking at hotels or hostels, and especially if you’re booking during a busy season, you’ll want to book as soon as possible. I’ve been looking at hotels for our trip to SE Asia in January 2019 since we booked our trip back in March and the prices have been slowly creeping up. Luckily, many booking sites allow you to reserve (sometimes for a few dollars more) and then pay in full at the hotel or cancel. That way you can secure a good rate and availability but still shop around.
15 – If you can manage it (and unless you’re moving abroad, I think you can), go carry-on only. If you go with just a carry-on you’ll save money not having to pay for a checked bag, save time not checking in a bag, save time not waiting for a bag at the luggage carousel, never risk the airline losing your bag, and be able to travel without lugging a cumbersome suitcase behind you. It’s such a win!
16 – Double check the luggage restrictions of your airline. All airlines are different and will have different size and weight restrictions. Try your best to abide by them as many airlines will measure and/or weigh your bags – including your carry-on!
17 – Pack light! No one cares if you wear the same shirt twice or go without your hair straightener for a few weeks. Plan your outfits ahead of time and be sure you can mix and match everything you’ve packed.
18 – If you’re going for longer than 10 days, plan on doing laundry. Any city you go to will have laundry facilities. Worst case scenario, you wash a few things in the sink. That way you can pack less and still go carry-on only even if you’re travelling for weeks or months on end.
19 – Remember: you can always buy stuff once you get there. If you’re travelling for a long time and worried about only having one 100 mL bottle of shampoo, just plan to buy a shampoo bottle once you arrive. Most places will have everything you need so it’s not a big deal if you forget something at home or have to leave something behind.
20 – Packing cubes are the best! I’m a huge fan of packing cubes. They don’t help you pack more, but they do help you pack smart. They’re great for organizing, especially if you’re living out of a backpack.
21 – Bring extra plastic bags and/or Ziplocs. These are perfect for storing dirty laundry, wet clothes, smelly shoes or any toiletries that might explode open.
22 – Leave yourself some room. Your bag should not be at max capacity when you leave home, unless you’re planning to discard some stuff on the road. Leave yourself room because odds are you won’t be packing as neatly on your way home – and you’ll want room for souvenirs to bring back!
23 – Bring a day bag or a purse. You’ll want something that isn’t your carry-on backpack or luggage to use day-to-day.
24 – Pack a scarf. A scarf is such a versatile accessory and so perfect for travellers! It can be for fashion, to cover you up at a temple, a towel, a picnic blanket, a beach cover up, a dress, a bag, etc.
25 – Don’t forget your universal adapter. If you’re travelling somewhere with different electric sockets, you’ll need one of these. I also like to bring a little mini power bar so I can plug multiple things into my adapter.
26 – If you’re staying in a hostel, make sure you bring a lock. Some hostels have lockers but expect you to provide the lock. Also note if your hostel charges for towels, bedding, etc. and if so, see if you have space to pack those things with you.
27 – If, for some crazy reason, you didn’t go carry-on only (tsk tsk!), make sure you have overnight essentials in your carry-on. In case your checked luggage gets lost (like poor Colin who was without his suitcase for four days in Mexico and had to wear a lot of gift shop attire!), you’ll want to have some basic toiletries, a change of clothes, chargers and any important paperwork on your person.
28 – Here’s a tip I actually haven’t utilized yet but will starting now: take a photo of your baggage. That way, if it ever gets lost, you have a photo to help others identify it.
29 – Shoes. Shoes are a big point when it comes to packing. You want to pack shoes that are comfortable and right for the weather. Try to limit yourself to just one or two pairs, since shoes are heavy and can add a lot of weight to your bag. Wear your heaviest pair on the plane to keep your bag as light as possible.
30 – Before we can talk about getting around, what about getting there? Do you need a visa to enter the country? Research this ahead of time as some visas require a bit of time and money to acquire. Read up on the restrictions of the visa so you don’t overstay your welcome.
31 – Luckily for us, most places will speak some English or have signage in English. Still, it’s nice to learn a bit of the local language. It means a lot to the local people and can help you out during your trip. You should at least learn the basics, like hello and thank you, as well as emergency words like help.
32 – Get the business card of your accommodation (or write down the address in the local language) so you can easily ask for directions to get back.
33 – If you have time, do a bit of research into the local transit system. It’s nice to get an idea of your transit options and to see if you should be buying a pass or individual tickets. Many transit stations will have attendants who can help you.
34 – Figure out your route from the airport to your accommodation. You often arrive at your destination tired, overwhelmed and perhaps late at night. You might not have wifi. The last thing you want to do is try and figure out how to not get scammed by the taxis and get to your place. Figure out your route before you leave home.
35 – Don’t be afraid to try the local mode of transportation. Jump on the bus, the tuktuk, the boat, the streetcar or the motorbike. Even if you’re not great with directions, give it a try. You’ll save a lot of money and have another cultural experience. Don’t spend your whole trip hailing taxis.
36 – Many places have free wifi. You’ll often find wifi at restaurants, cafes, hotels, etc. There’s no need to spend tons of money on roaming charges when you can just pop into a Starbucks or stand outside a McDonald’s. You should also download an offline map or use an offline map app so you’re not reliant on wifi to get you around.
37 – The absolute best way to spend money abroad is to use a credit card and/or bank card that doesn’t charge you any foreign transaction fees. This is slightly harder to do in Canada but not impossible. My American friends always recommend Chase as a good bank for this.
38 – The worst way to spend money abroad? Bringing a bunch of your home currency and exchanging it at an airport currency exchange desk for local money. You will get the worst rate possible and you’ll be stuck carrying a ton of cash around.
39 – A better option? Take out money at an ATM in the country. There is no need to go to your bank or a currency conversion place ahead of time to get money. You can do it when you get there. The ATM will charge you a fee and your bank will charge you a fee as well – mine is $5 per transaction with TD. But the conversion rate will be the best you can get. If you go this route, limit the number of times you pull out money so you aren’t paying as much in fees.
40 – Another good option: use your credit card. Many countries around the world accept credit cards (you usually need a chip and pin card). That way, you don’t have to spend money on ATM fees, carry a ton of cash, or get stuck with local currency when you’re heading home. If you don’t have a card without foreign transaction fees, you will pay a fee for using your card – usually 2-3%. But again, the conversion you get will be way better than any of those currency exchange places.
41 – For most countries, you do not need to land with local currency in your pocket. Even if the country isn’t credit card friendly, there will be ATMs at the airport where you can withdraw local currency. If you are really worried about this, keep a small amount of USD on you for emergencies.
42 – To save money, consider pre-booking your activities online. Many tourist attractions will give you a slight discount for booking online – and some even require you to book online! The same is true of transportation. Many trains can be booked online and ahead of time to secure the best price.
43 – A question I hear a lot is, “What should my budget be for travelling to X?” Well, that’s almost impossible to answer. Are you staying in a hostel, taking the bus and eating street food? Or are you staying in a hotel suite, taking cabs and eating at Michelin starred restaurants every night? When trying to figure out your budget, look at your big line items first: flights, accommodation, major activities and major transportation. You can then estimate smaller things, like food and minor activities. On any trip, there will be lots of places to save and lots to splurge. It depends where you are and what you value.
Eating & drinking
44 – If you’re a picky eater, do a little research on the local food before you go so you can get an idea of what you’re in for. Consider trying some of that cuisine at home, like by visiting an Indian restaurant, to do a trial run.
45 – If you have an allergy, write it down in the local language on a piece of paper. When you’re out, show the paper to your server so they can make sure your food is safe.
46 – Is the water safe to drink? In many countries, this may not be the case. Get used to buying bottled water or using a water sterilizer and only drinking that. You may also want to use bottled water to brush your teeth. Avoid ice and any fruit or vegetable that doesn’t have a skin that is removable (like an apple, where you eat the outer skin, vs a banana, where you don’t) and is served raw (washed in the dirty water but not cooked to remove germs).
47 – Don’t eat near a tourist attraction. For example, all of the restaurants in and around Times Square in New York are going to be overpriced and not authentic. Walk a few blocks away for something much better.
48 – Look for deals. Check out happy hour bargains or opt for the cheaper lunch menu instead of going for dinner.
49 – If you’re trying to save money on food and drink, consider: cooking in your hostel or hotel kitchen, buying pre-made food at the grocery store, packing snacks for a day out, and buying your booze at the store instead of the bar.
50 – Don’t skip out on street food! Often this is the cheapest and most delicious food. It’s generally safe, as you will get to literally watch the vendor make your food right in front of your eyes. And they wouldn’t be lined up if they were making people sick.
51 – Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Some foods might look funny or smell weird, but give them a try. That’s why we travel, right? To do something different. If you’re unsure where to eat, look up suggestions online (Yelp is your friend) or ask fellow travellers or locals for their suggestions.
52 – The best way to stay safe is to just be aware. Be present, be aware of your surroundings and don’t spend the entire time with your face in your phone.
53 – Pickpockets are real. Look out for them and read up on some of the latest scams. It’s sad, but you should be suspicious if someone comes up in a train station and tries to help you buy a ticket. That’s a well-known way to steal your money or purse when you’re distracted. Watch what’s going on and be on guard.
54 – Carry your money smart! I like to use a cross-body bag. That way, I can hold it in front of my body. I also use one with a zipper and a flap overtop so it’s doubly hard for people to access the inside of my purse. If I’m very nervous or going into a crowded place, I may also leave some of my money and ID in another place like my bra or shoe.
55 – Make a copy of your passport and other important ID. I scan all of my important documents onto one piece of paper. I then print a few physical copies and leave them in my bag. It’s good to have a scanned copy in one bag and your actual ID/passport in another bag – so if one gets lost, you have the other. It’s also a good idea to keep a digital copy of these scanned documents so you can access it from anywhere. Email it to yourself or leave it in an online drive.
56 – “Where do I leave my passport?” There’s a great debate here. I prefer to leave my passport at the hotel/hostel in a locked room or in the safe. I believe that’s the safest place. Other people prefer to keep their passports on their person. I don’t like this because I think there’s a greater chance of my passport getting lost or stolen if it’s in my purse all day while I’m out at tourist attractions, rather than in a hidden place in a locked room. Some countries do require you to have your passport on you, so be aware of that.
57 – Another great debate? Money belts! Personally, I’m not a fan. I feel like I can keep my belongings secure in my cross-body purse. And I leave my passport back in the hotel in a locked room. Thieves are aware of money belts and have been known to find ways to cut them or access them. If you do decide to wear a money belt, please remember to wear it under your clothing. The entire point of a money belt is that it is hidden. If you’re out shopping, don’t be pulling out your money belt every few minutes to get your money. That defeats the whole purpose! Keep some spending cash in a purse or wallet and leave bigger bills or valuable ID in the money belt.
58 – Some good safety travel tips? Sunblock, always. I burn like a lobster so I’m a big believer in sunblock and reapplying.
59 – Another good safety note: vaccines! Before you go, research what vaccines might be mandatory or recommended. Many vaccines require you to visit a travel clinic well in advance of your travels and some even need you to go multiple times to get all of the doses. So be prepared and look up the vaccines ahead of time.
60 – When it comes to travel insurance, get what you need. Check if your credit card or even your job benefits offer any type of travel insurance. You can use a site like InsureMyTrip or BestQuote to compare different travel insurance options. And it really doesn’t have to be that expensive! When Colin and I went to Ireland, we only paid $18.75 each for 11 days of coverage!
61 – Solo female travel: If you’re travelling as a solo female, there are some extra safety precautions you may want to take. Before I share some of my safety travel tips for solo females, I do want to say that while dangers do exist and it’s important to be aware of them and prepare for them, the world is a wonderful place and should be explored. Don’t let any of these dangers keep you at home! Travelling solo is amazing and everyone should experience it.
- So my first tip, to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, is doubly important as a solo female traveller. Be aware always. Put your phone away!
- Know your routes. For your safety, avoid looking like a lost tourist. Don’t pull out a big map and look nervous while standing on a street corner. You may be inviting the wrong kind of people to offer you help. If you do get lost, head into a coffee shop or a hotel – somewhere with other people that’s well lit – and use their wifi or ask the staff for help.
- Dress more conservatively. I’m not here to shame women for what they want to wear. No outfit is an invitation for you to be hurt or taken advantage of. But when you’re travelling alone as a woman, it helps to dress slightly more conservatively for your safety.
- At night, you should be even more aware. Avoid sketchy areas and really keep your wits about you. I’m not much of a nightlife person, so I don’t usually go out to bars or clubs anyway. You don’t need to avoid these, but just be on guard. Watch your drink, don’t become too inebriated, go with friends, have a plan for getting home, etc.
- Use the buddy system! If you are going out somewhere at night or to a sketchy area, try to take a friend with you. Many hostels organize pub crawls where you can go with other people from the hostel.
- Report back to someone. If you’re travelling alone, have someone who you check in with on a regular schedule (e.g. a text every night). That way, someone back home is able to keep tabs on you and if they don’t hear from you, they’ll know something isn’t right.
- Be extra cautious with the new people who you meet. Nine times out of ten, they are going to be wonderful people. But there is a chance they’re not, so it’s important for you to have your guard up. Don’t share a ton of private information, keep your distance, don’t go out with a stranger alone, etc.
And there you have it! My 61 travel tips!
What would you add? What tops your list of travel tips?