Travel resources: the best travel tips and tricks
Travel resources: the best travel tips and tricks
Travel is way beyond something I love, it’s who I am, so after years going round the world, I compiled all the travel tips and tricks I’ve learnt. Here’s everything you need to know to travel like a pro. In this page you’ll find the best travel planning tools: all the steps on how to plan a trip, the best travel tips, the top rookie mistakes (and how to avoid them), my greatest travel hacks, and a list with all packing essentials. Safe and happy travels, my dear reader!
My 5 maxims to have a great travel experience
How to plan a trip in 10 steps
1. Get inspired. How to pick a destination? Well, 21st century has plenty of options for you: travel blogs, tourism boards’ websites, coffee table books. Start by taking a look at my bucket list and to these books for inspiration. Keep in mind your budget, how much time you have, which weather you prefer, if there’re any festivals or events you’d like to attend, and the activities you’re interested in.
2. Research. First of all, check if your chosen destination has any visa or vaccination requirements. Then put together an itinerary draft, just a quick list of the places you’d like to visit within the place you chose. While at it, see if there’s any neighborhoods you’d prefer to stay in.
3. Check your passport. Get one if you don’t have it. Check its validity if you do. Keep in mind that most places will ask you to have a passport valid for at least 6 months before the date of the trip.
4. Book tickets. Start booking long-haul tickets and then focus on internal movement. Remember that airplanes are not the only option. Trains allow you to see more, are much more sustainable, and sometimes they’re even cheaper than low-cost flying (always remember to add the cost of getting to and from the airport). In Omio you can compare the fares for planes, buses and trains.
5. Book accommodation. If you’re going during high season, you’ll have to be stricter with your planning, because you’ll need to book your entire stay. If you’re going off season (which I cannot recommend enough), then the first night or two will do if you want to keep the trip flexible. I always compare prices in Booking.com and Hostel World, and book my chosen accommodation through the cheapest one.
6. Book activities. Again, if you’re visiting during peak season, you want to make sure your preferred activity is not sold out. If you’re going off season, then you have to let them know you’re coming, otherwise you might find that they don’t offer something you were looking forward to, or that the opening hours (or even days) are reduced. If you’re traveling during shoulder season, you should be fine without booking in advance, unless it’s an extremely popular destination. I can recommend checking Get Your Guide out for a myriad of alternatives on tours and activities.
7. If you’re going to rent a car, use the same advice as for activities. Also remember to check if you need an international driver’s license, so you can get one or check the validity of the one you have.
8. Get travel insurance. Nothing happens until it happens. And when it does, you will want to be prepared. Personally, I’ve never had to do any claiming on my insurance, but I never leave home without it. I recommend World Nomads, since you can buy it even if you’ve already left home and extend your coverage and make any claims online, and because it covers a range of adventure sports and activities that most others don’t. It seems more expensive than other companies, but it doesn’t have a deductible, so you won’t need to pay anything additionally to your policy.
9. Pack. Make sure you pack in advance. The day before the trip your luggage should be absolutely ready. As for what to pack, check my list below.
10. Enjoy! Make sure you’re not late, get some snacks for the road, and start the adventure! Leave the stress of planning behind, and concentrate on having an amazing time!
The best 10 travel tips you’ll ever get
1. Have a photocopy of your passport with you. It’s always wise to have a backup, just in case. Also, save a scanned copy to your Dropbox/OneDrive/Any.Cloud.You.Choose or send it to your email. This also goes for your visas and travel insurance policy.
2. Take a photo of the contents of your wallet. If it gets stolen/lost, you’ll know exactly which documents and cards you had with you, so the process of blocking things will be easier.
3. Write down the data of the trip. With pen and paper. The old-fashioned way. Don’t completely rely on technology. Dates, times and numbers of flights/buses/trains, and the address of your accommodation will do. Also have the number of your Embassy at hand.
4. Keep your passport in a resealable bag. Even if you don’t intent to take it into any adventurous activity, unexpected rain might fall, or something in your bag can spill. Better keep the little book safe.
5. Bring a dummy wallet. You can never be too safe, can you? Put a couple of small bills in it, and have it at hand if you get robbed. Your money and cards should go into a hidden wallet, like a bra, belt or scarf.
6. Always carry more than one card and keep them in different places. Keep one with you, and leave the other in the safe box or locker of your accommodation. When on the move, put them in different bags.
7. Keep someone informed of your whereabouts. You don’t need to report every step you take, but it’s wise for someone to know about your current location.
8. Be careful of what you post on social media. Tagging the exact place you’re visiting while you’re there is too much information if it lands in the wrong hands. Think stalkers and thieves. Tag a broader area, or check in a place after you leave it.
9. Carry a pen. Sounds like a silly tip, but trust me, when you have to fill out forms and you see people queueing to get to a pen, you’ll remember me.
10. Double-check the obvious details, no matter how obvious. Let’s say you’re booking a trip for 05/09. Is that May 9th or September 5th? Depending on where in the world you are, the way dates are written varies. If the speed limit is 100, make sure you know if that’s kilometers or miles. As a general rule, triple-check numbers.
The top 10 rookie mistakes (and how to avoid them)
1. Exchange money at airports. Simply don’t. What works best for me is to use Revolut, a debit card that doesn’t charge commissions when used abroad, and to withdraw local currency from an ATM for pocket money. Take a few Euros or American Dollars with you as backup, and if you want to exchange, look for a local currency exchange office or a bank. Quick online research will tell you which one is best in your specific destination.
2. Fly everywhere. Unless it’s a long-haul trip, there’s not always a need for flying. A train trip is much more sustainable, it allows you to see more of the place you’re visiting, and it can even end up being cheaper (remember to add the cost of getting to and from the airport to your low-cost ticket price).
3. Forget about visa requirements and passport expiry dates. I’ve heard many many times stories from fellow travelers about how they missed a flight because their passport was expired or how they were not allowed into a country because they didn’t have a visa. Sounds crazy, but it’s way more common than you think. Double check it!
4. Forget to call your bank. If you’re using your cards abroad, you need to let your bank know when and where you’ll be, otherwise your cards could end up being blocked, leaving you money-less.
5. Stick to the guidebooks, plan too much or try to see it all. Sounds like a cliché, but getting lost is an important travel experience, so if you pack your itinerary, you’ll be missing out. Leave time for unexpected discoveries, and to socialize with locals and fellow travelers. It’s also important to be flexible. Whether you like it or not, sh*t happens: things get cancelled, you run into strikes, flights get over sold. Embrace it, and enjoy the journey, with all its unforeseen events.
6. Don’t trust your gut. Sounds silly to make decisions out of a gut feeling, but the more you travel, the more you develop a radar for danger. If something feels fishy, better not to risk it. Always trust yourself!
7. Overpack. Ladies and gentlemen, I should introduce myself as the former queen of overpacking. When I started traveling my motto was ‘what if’, so I packed things I was sure I would never need just in case the irrationally unexpected happened. It never did. Now I travel only with a carry on, and I’ve almost never needed anything that’s not in my backpack. There was the time I was invited to a wedding in Iran and I had nothing to wear, but buying a pair of shoes was definitely cheaper than carrying an extra pair through all my travels. Remember, you can always get anything you might need at your destination.
8. Deciding not to book in advance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the freedom that “winging” a trip gives me. But I always book at least the first night. I want to have an address when entering a new country, and a bed secured for the night. If you’re traveling during high season, this is no longer optional. If you don’t book in advance, there’s a big chance you’ll end up sleeping in a bench, or in a super overpriced room. Same goes for attractions that are likely to sell out. Booking in advance will also save you the headache of queuing to get tickets. I learnt this after spending 4 hours in line for Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. Seeing how people bypassed me and went inside in 5 minutes wasn’t even close to a highlight in my trip. When I went to the Vatican museums I knew better, so I booked a skip the line ticket. I was the one bypassing the huge queue. It felt sooo nice!
9. Look for the comfort of home. When in Rome, do as Romans do. They don’t go to McDonald’s, so neither should you. Look for local food, attend local events, talk to local people. Staying in a bubble won’t allow you to be part of the culture of your destination, so get out of your hotel room, ditch the tour group, and embrace the customs and traditions of the place. A great way to do this is to use platforms like Meet Up or Couchsurfing hangouts.
10. Sleep through your alarm. There are many reasons why you could miss a flight or ride, but oversleeping shouldn’t be one of them. Set 2 alarms. 3 if needed.
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10 awesome travel hacks
1. I discovered the perfect card to travel: Revolut card. Their standard plan is completely free, and it gives you a UK bank account, a debit Master Card, no fee ATM withdrawals up to 200€/US$300 per month, fee-free currency exchange, and the possibility of spending in over 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate.
2. While at home, charge everything you buy to your credit card. Most banks have excellent programs to collect point that can be used to get tickets or accommodation. Just make sure you’re organize and don’t overspend.
3. Be loyal. The more you use the same company, the more benefits you’ll get, whether that’s in the form of miles, points or cashback, so take advantage of consistency.
4. Book smartly. Keep an eye for prices of tickets and accommodation by setting price alarms, shopping when there have promotions (like Black Friday or Cyber Monday), and check last minute deals. For accommodation I always compare prices between Booking.com and Hostel World. If I’m going to a small place, I also look into AirBnB (follow this link to get up to €33 off when you sign up).
5. If you want to connect with locals (and save in the process), instead of booking accommodation, lend a hand through Workaway or Worldpackers, ask for some spare space through Couchsurfing, or even get a whole house through Trusted Housesitter.
6. Pack snacks. Nothing says overpriced as airport food. Steer clear of it and bring some snacks with you. A sandwich and an energy (or chocolate) bar usually do the trick for me. For the road, don’t be afraid of local markets. You can always carry some nuts with you for emergency hunger, and get some bread or fruits to keep you going through the day.
7. If you’re flying, wear your heaviest clothes and shoes. This comes especially handy when you’re coming back, since you might have picked up some souvenirs and have your luggage weighing a bit more than when you started the trip.
8. Get the Google Maps app. Set the map of your destination and type “OK map” to save it so it’s available offline. Then add stars or labels to the places you don’t want to miss, and to useful addresses, like your accommodation, the bus/train station, your embassy, recommended restaurants or bars, and a nearby market.
9. Another useful app is Google translate. Get the languages you might need downloaded and you’ll have them available offline.
10. Make sure you have a ride service app. Uber, Cabify, Bolt, Yandex, Snapp, or whichever one your destination might have available. It tends to be safer than a taxi, since you get the data of the driver, and the route gets recorded. Even if you don’t have data on your phone, you can always connect to wifi to request a car.
Ultimate travel packing list: the essentials
My trips usually last for about 2 months at the time. What I’m listing bellow is everything I take with me. It’d be the same if I was going for a week, though. Travel light is a motto for me. Not only it’s way more comfortable, but it’s much more sustainable too. Give it a try, you won´t go back!
Basics: the correct luggage
I recommend to only take a carry-on backpack or small suitcase and a day pack.
- The perfect carry on shouldn’t be bigger than 40 liters. I can assure you that everything you need fits perfectly there. This Osprey backpack is a fantastic alternative (and the one I have my eye set on when my old pack retires).
- As for daypacks, whether it’s a fanny pack, a crossbody bag or a small backpack, make sure it’s comfortable, has space for all you can need, and it’s pickpocket-safe.
- For organized packing, I also use packing cubes.
- Trust me on these ones, even if they sound silly: a padlock, a carabiner and earplugs.
- A quick-dry towel
- A powerbank
- A kindle (keep your recreational reading and your travel guides in it)
- A safety belt (or bra or scarf)
- A small first aid kit (make sure to include antihistamines, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, imodium, and rehydration packs).
- If you plan on doing any adventurous activities, add a survival kit and a paracord bracelet. These items can be literally lifesaving, so don’t leave them out.
- To avoid expensive and unsustainable bottled water, and to be able to filter water from the tab (where it’s not potable) or to drink in the outdoors, get a collapsible and reusable water bottle and a life straw.
- For zero-waste and to steer clear of single use plastic, take with you a reusable shopping bag, reusable containers and bamboo cutlery and straws.
Think layers and colors to mix and match (slight variations will follow according to season). Also remember you can do laundry while traveling, so no need to overpack.
- 4 t-shirts
- 2 long-sleeved shirts
- 1 dress
- 2 pants (I pack a pair of jeans and a pair of hiking pants)
- 1 legging
- 1 pair of comfortable shoes (mine are hiking shoes)
- 1 pair of ballerinas (or any other lightweight, comfortable shoes)
- (if staying in a hostel) 1 pair of flip-flops
- Emergency raincoat (like this one)
- 7 pairs of underwear + 2 bras
- 7 pairs of socks
- I personally don’t take jewelry with me, but if you do, get a small pill organizer to keep it in
Add-ons for winter
- A light-weight jacket
- First layers
- Gloves and hat
- Change one pair of shoes for boots
Add-ons for summer
- 1 pair of shorts or a summer dress
- Change one pair of shoes for sandals
- Solid toiletries: shampoo, soap, deodorant and moisturizing (Lush has amazing options, but you can also take a look in Amazon)
- Bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste tablets (like these ones), and dental floss
- Reef-friendly sunscreen and eco-friendly bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- A menstrual cup
- Lip balm (I wear one with color to compensate that I don’t wear make-up. If you want make-up, just pack a small kit)
Now, if travel photography is your thing, then you have two options. A DSLR or a mirrorless camera. Personally, I have a Sony Alpha that is beautiful to travel with: light, versatile and reliable. If you prefer a full DSLR, I’d recommend to go for this great Canon.
Make sure you also have extra batteries and a charger, an extra memory card, and a travel-sized tripod.
Phew! If you got this far, you’re more than ready for your trip. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Safe and happy travels!
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