Looking back on my travels I wish I knew some of the things I do now. From multiple mistakes and learning lessons to learning tricks, falling into good fortune and things I wish I could have replicated.
Traveling is so exciting and what makes it the best thing ever is that sense of adventure and nervousness of the unknown. While some of the unknown is necessary, hopefully I can give you some advice to avoid mistakes, tips to add to your trip and tricks to save some money along the way.
If looking to travel on a budget check out the best travel cheap tips and tricks here.
Hunt For Experiences Not Beaches
My best times weren’t on a beach in Thailand or New Zealand but they were in Chiang Mai jungle trekking and in Sapa in rice fields, around incredible mountains or at the local market diving into the culture. I would take a week in Laos’ Luang Prabang over a beach in Fiji or Thailand any day of the week. You can go to the Cayman Islands, which are beautiful, but they seem like an extension of Florida… give me Puerto Rico, Jamaica, The Dominican or Cuba for that cultural addition.
The best example… I went to India and it was the worst trip of all time but I would absolutely do it over again. Some of the things I saw in India will be burned into my psyche forever and a lot of it for the better. I say this as it was the most uncomfortable trip I have ever had and probably won’t go back. I know there are plenty of places in India like Goa, which are beautiful but I have not met one person who doesn’t disagree that it is their least favorite place. With that said, I have sat on a beach 100x but will never have the memories, experiences or stories I had from my trip to India.
If you travel often then you have been to the beach and it is normally pretty standard on what to do there. If you have the chance, the memories and experiences will be significantly better if you seek culture and authenticity in a foreign country. Sprinkle in some beach and R&R for sure but be sure to add in experiences that will give you memories to last a lifetime, even if it isn’t paradise at the time.
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Flexible Flights & Purposeful Layovers
This is my favorite thing to do as you get to see more! Be flexible as flying direct from your hometown to your destination isn’t always the cheapest or smartest option.
Let’s say you want to fly to Greece or to Cambodia but flights are outrageously priced and 30+ hours. Take a look at flights from/to Barcelona, London, Singapore or Bangkok as they are considerably cheaper and more direct. Add in that flying within Europe or Asia is extremely cheap, like $40 flights… Do you see where I am going with this? Be flexible and change up your itinerary a little stopping in a different amazing city for a day or two before heading onto your final destination. In fact double down and get one way flights in and out of different cities so you can tour a new major city for a day or two during your trip.
Domestically if you are from a smaller airport hub be open to flying a different airline to LA, New York Or Miami then out from there. Even stay a day in a cool city like NYC that maybe you haven’t explored much. Sometimes flights are 20-30 hours due to long layovers thus make your own layover and go site see.
Be Friendly & Make Friends With Locals & Tourists
You never know who you might run into that could make your trip amazing, give you tips or you could even end up staying friends forever.
My favorite travel moment of my life was somehow befriending the Da Nang professional beach soccer team practicing and playing with them for a week then them giving me a family dinner style send off at the end. It was truly surreal and the coolest experience I’ve ever had, with only speaking the language of the game… they also became Vietnam and then Asian champs over the next year!
I spent $200 on drinks and dinner in Vietnam (which is a lot) on the guys I just met that week from one of the best experiences of my life. Another night at a bar some stranger bought be a ton of drinks just because we vibed on being friendly outgoing people.
Go To Countries Where Stock Has Dipped Recently
This is terrible to say but I have unintentionally traveled to Thailand within a year of the Tsunami and to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands within a year of the hurricane.
This was honestly completely unintentional but in the end it was intentional by the countries as they sought to get tourists back to their countries. Tourism is what will help get them back on their feet and travel sites offer cheap flights and lodging. What is also great is you are helping the economy get back while also reassuring your friends that all is good and they need to go there!
Another example is traveling to countries where the economy has been hit such as Greece when the economy fell out and the US dollar was incredible in comparison. Or look at countries where the dollar isn’t doing too well… a quick google search of “biggest national dollar dip in 2019” just let me know the Australian Dollar has hit a 10 year low.
It sounds a little morbid but take advantage of timing and also know your travel is helping so you aren’t just taking but helping as well.
Alcohol On Flights
If you are an alcoholic like one of my friends you come up with this genius idea… bring the mini bottles of liquor on your flights in clear plastic bags and…. wow… game changer right!
Netflix & Chill
Don’t want to spend money to watch movies or TV on some airlines? Or maybe your airline doesn’t offer TV, like Southwest on some “International” flights. Well… Netflix has an area where you can download certain movies and series that will be on your phone/iPad or laptop so you watch them on the plane!
Spending Extra For Experience Is Worth It
If you are trying to stick to a budget and are really hurting than ignore this… but then again maybe don’t.
There is a fine line between spending a little extra or sticking to your budget but sometimes it is worth it to pay more to enhance your experience. You will make $100 thousands of times in your life but when will you be back in Bali again? So if it means spending $100 you don’t have now to avoid a 12 hour bus ride and losing one of your 10 days in the country than do it. In the long term spending to save time and have one day in Bali is going to be much more important than $100 you may put on a credit card.
I remember I was a broke student backpacker and skimped on paying $10 extra a night for air-conditioning or to be in a better area right where the fun is. One time I decided to take the bus for 12 hours vs. fly for $50 more and save an entire day. Looking back I wish I spent that little extra as the money will come back but the memories I could have had will not.
Stay safe of course… but go take a right instead of a left. Everyone sticks to the same path and you’ll never see anything new if you just follow others.
If you’re familiar with Chiang Mai you know it is one big square you drive around it one-way the whole time… One time my friend and I were on scooters, got bored of the lefts and took a right and we ended up being the only White people for miles coming across the soccer version of Rucker Park. To this day it is a top 5 favorite travel moments of my life as we played pickup soccer under string light-bulbs for 5 hours not speaking the same language as anyone. I also got my camera stolen just before that to but… oh well.
If a Local jumped off a bridge or ate a snake would you? Yes… do it
If it doesn’t scare you it won’t change you.
I mean… trust your gut but at the end of the day when are you ever going to jump off a cliff into the South China Sea or have the chance to eat a scorpion again? Do some things that scare you, within reason, as the stories and memories you will make will stay with you forever.
Reach Out To Your Network
Don’t forget to tap into your network as you may never know someone who knows someone that has a place for you to stay.
There are millions of people like me and I once took complete strangers in my house for a drink, set them up with a hotel and invited them to party with me and my friends. They had driven 8 hours for an NFL game and I met them selling my tickets online. One of them ended up getting arrested and they both missed the game but that’s not the point of the story is it conclusions jumpers.
Anyways, even if it’s just for the start of your travel your friend’s friend could put you up and then guide you with the best place or area to stay, things to see getting a head-start and local’s perspective and guide to your trip. Travelers love to help other travelers so put a feeler out there and maybe could end up with a free place to stay or a local guide! Maybe your friend’s friend has a blog website for travel and you’re reading this right now… and sharing it with your friends… and commenting below to help the Google ranking… maybe?
Download Offline Google Maps
This is a game changer as you can download an entire region or country to your Google Maps and then have access to the maps without needing to have your data on or use wifi.
Travel By Yourself Once In Your Life
I say this but I would never let my daughter (if I had one) do this so take it with a grain of salt.
With that said, traveling by yourself can be just as fun as traveling with friends. You can be on your own time, you can sleep in late when you want to sleep in, exercise when you want to exercise and overall just do whatever you want without having to consult anyone else.
Stay in a hostel
Sure the movie Hostel was scary but so is being alive in the USA these days…
You’ll meet so many people, often the best parties are there and you’ll get tons of amazing advice from people who are doing the same thing you are. If you’re getting older and boujee… like me… you can normally get your own room since I’m not staying in a room with strangers anymore and want my own bathroom.
Don’t Stress Small Stuff or Things You Can’t Control & Slow Down
If you’re in a third-world country hiccups are going to happen so just know that right now. However, it is important to not let it ruin your trip, a day, an hour or even two minutes.
Remember you aren’t in a rush, you are so lucky to be where you are and at the end of the day it is just some money or time you may have lost while being in paradise. People are so frantic to see the next thing or if there is an issue they freak out. However, when traveling abroad it is definitely time to leave that all behind, go with the flow and don’t sweat the small stuff or things you can’t control. Enjoy your time where you are, don’t be in a rush and truly live in the moment.
Don’t Overplan Your Trip
Planning is important but so is being flexile, be open to spontaneity and unique opportunities.
You never know what you may learn when you get there and you may even decide to pick-up and go somewhere completely different due to some tips you learned.
Copy A Tour Guides Itinerary
Instead of paying for a tour or a guide just use sites like this one or Google “top tours in Barcelona” to see what is on the tour then just go do them yourself.
I personally hate tours, being on a tours time, waiting for people and all that. I just go see the sites myself and ideally do it walking or running so you can see even more of the city you are visiting vs. just where the bus stops.
If the locals are eating it then you can eat it.
Sure some stomachs aren’t all the same but stop worrying about catching something and dive into the culture and food of the country you are visiting. Not only is the food incredible it also is going to be much cheaper than the more comfortable or americanized dining you may seek.
Instagram Search Is A Great Reference
One of my favorite tips is to use Instagram to search for the perfect places to visit, eat or stay.
Are you tired of seeing all these amazing hidden spots or beautiful pictures IGers are checking out… well go to “Places” in Instagram and type in the location and see all sorts of inspiration and ideas for your next trip to see that secret spot for the perfect memory or picture.
It is also a great idea if you are trying to decide between locations or places to eat! Use other travelers as your bloggers and quickly scroll through all of their pictures and posts to see what looks like something you can’t miss.
Jet lag Is For Babies – Ways to Fight It
Jet lag really should only exist on your flight back when you have to go back to your job and you feel like Tommen after his mom killed his wife…
A great way to avoid jet lag is prep yourself on the plane. Whether it is taking a sleeping pill right away… or if it is 7pm then drinking red bull vodkas or espresso martinis and riding that travel excitement high until 4am or 5am and watching some movies before falling asleep. Either way, use that travel time to get adjusted and go all out trying to do so.
If you want to travel cheap then be open to going anywhere on earth at any time of the week, month or year.
Did you ever play that game in school where you spun the globe and put your finger down to see where you were gonna live when you grow up? Well do that now but with search engines for your trip. Being flexible can open up tons of cheap options and locations for you to checkout as you search for a great deal.
Don’t be the person who stands in the money shot of a travel pic… but do offer to take someone’s picture. Nothing is worse than the jerk who sits down in the spot everyone wants to take their picture. At the same time, offer to take someone or a groups picture and in the end they will do the same for you.
Driving Around Site Seeing? Use This App!
If you are driving around a city to see attractions and you want to be as efficient with your time as possible then use the Road Warrior App! It is incredible and you can optimize your route saving hours of your day! Or use it if you are hopping to different cities in Europe or wherever you are.
Empty Middle Seat Trick
Traveling with a friend? Purchase the window and aisle seat hoping no one will sit in the middle. If someone does then just ask them if they would like the aisle and you can switch seats to sit next to each other.
Favorite Travel Deal Sites
There are hundreds of travel sites out there and be sure to price shop a few of them to find the best deals.
Skiplagged.com is great! I used this to go to the NCAA Championship game in Minneapolis a day before the game… My flight was to Buffalo and I got off on the layover. You can’t check bags but I saved $300 with the $250 flight. It’s unreal! With that said, it is nerve-racking as hell as you get the worst boarding placement and if there is no room for your carry-on it is getting checked and you are in trouble… so just take a backpack?
Greatescape.co is an amazing ideas combining skiplagged & Kiwi.com to find you truly the cheapest way to go anywhere from any destination. I have used both skiplagged & Kiwi before and they worked out but it wasn’t without scary moments. There are a ton of horror stories with both of those sites thus take this advice with a grain of salt and don’t just blame me if something goes wrong.
Check The Boat or Bus Before Purchasing
If you can, make sure to see the exact bus or boat you are going on before you purchase.
I am a decently smart traveller and human being yet have been scammed or shown a pretty picture only to find out it is far from that in reality.
Take Only What You Need When You Leave Your Hotel
I like to just bring my credit/debit card, an ID and then some cash.
The world isn’t swarming with pick-pockets but it happens and the last thing you want to do is head out with your passport and the $1,000 you withdrew before you left then lose it all. With that said, also bring emergency cash on your trip and store it someplace safe just in case you lose you credit card or if your debit card won’t work. $200-500 is a nice safe bet.
Try To Be As Outgoing As Possible
You may be a wallflower but when out there traveling try as best you can to meet people as you never know the help, tips or experiences you can have.
If you can eat your meals out, or get a drink or join in games on the beach then do it. You can meet some amazing people who maybe have been there for a while that will give you some great tips or things to do and see. In reality you and other people are just like bears… they are just as scared to talk to you as you are to them.
If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
Have a bit of common sense, price shop and triple check things that seem too good to be true.
If you think you are getting some amazing deal, especially in a third world country, best be safe and ask around or be extremely sure you’re getting what you think you are. That LV bag for $75 probably isn’t real and the sailing trip for 50% the cost of all the other trips could be on a tin fishing boat.
Try to experience the local culture
Go pray at their temple or church, eat their food or do a home-stay in their houses… similar to what I have said already, get these experiences you will never have again!
It will help you to pack light and no one but you cares or will notice if you wear the same three things anyways. Not to mention you will probably buy a ton of stuff on your trip while you’re there.
With that said, bring a thin fold up backpack in your luggage or buy a cheap one to bring when you return for shopping goodies you acquired along the way.
Download Media & Bring Mophies
If you have a 12-24 hour flight be sure to download shows, music, games or movies onto your laptop, iPad or iPhone.
Sometimes media is terrible on flights or you don’t have a charger so come prepared!
Turn On Private or Incognito Mode On Your Web Browser
With travel site algorithms you can be sure to know that you are cookie’d the second you go to any website and your purchase habits are tracked.
There’s a reason sought after destinations are more expensive during busy times like the Super Bowl or Spring Break in Cancun. It’s essentially supply and demand with algorithms going back years on purchase behavior. Help yourself and everyone by being free from the tracking to avoid prices going up.
Credit & Debit Cards
Be sure to use the correct credit and debit cards to not only save money but maybe pay for your trip with points.
If you have a significant other you could take turns opening a new travel card each year and then canceling without dinging your credit too much. Some of the best cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Card or the Platinum Card from AMEX.
For debit cards check if your bank has a sister bank to save on withdrawal fees. Never do the airport conversion pop-ups as they take the highest percent. If a sister bank isn’t an option then take out larger sums to avoid the one-time fees over and over.
Make Copies Of Your License and Passport
This is just obviously something smart to do.
Get Travel Insurance
It’s unreal, in the USA my health insurances costs $500 a month but travel insurance to Asia for two months costs like $25. I asked if I could just use my travel insurance as my USA health insurance but no dice.
Anyways, be sure to get this as it is so cheap and I keep telling you to push your limits and boundaries so I don’t want you coming back to me with a $10,000 hospital bill.
Berkshire Hathaway has some amazing plans, so amazing I literally made the agent repeat himself 15x because it was that cheap and covered so much.