Most people aren’t born savvy travelers. It’s something that only comes with on-the-road experience. In the beginning, you 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 to water.
I want to help speed up the process and help you avoid my mistakes (and I often make a lot of them), so I put together this giant list of over 30 travel tips that cover everything under the sun to help you reach your full travel ninja potential:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lunchtime is the best time to visit historical sites.
The sites empty out and you’ll have fewer crowds to fight.
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 bandaids, antibacterial cream, and ointments for cuts and scrapes.
Get travel insurance.
Don’t be foolish. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be out thousands of dollars in bills. Travel insurance is the most important thing you get that you never want to use.
Things will work out in the end. No need to rush. You’ll get to where you are going in due time. Travel is about the journey, not the destination.
Locals are willing to help you out, but there’s probably a language barrier, so keep your cool when something doesn’t go your way. If you don’t, you’ll end up just looking like an asshole tourist.
Don’t overplan your trip.
Let your days unfold naturally. Schedule two or three things and let the day fill in the rest on its own. It’s less stressful, and letting the day just take you is one of the best ways to travel.