How To Travel Like A Pro
Any trip has the potential to go awry. From being stranded and running out of money to not fully understanding the culture, discover the best tips and tricks for traveling to help prepare yourself.
Let’s face it, we’ve all heard about a travel nightmare tale in our lifetime. It may even be the case that you have a personal horror story that played out during your own travels.
Frequently, these mishaps can be avoided by being prepared and taking steps to make sure your trip goes according to plan. Whether you are new to traveling, or a veteran traveler taking a trip abroad, make sure to read these tips and tricks for a smoother voyage.
TIP #1: Do Your Research
You wouldn't want to go into an exam without doing your research first, would you? Taking an enjoyable trip, especially abroad, is no different. Doing a bit of homework can do wonders for being on time and staying on schedule, knowing exactly where you'll be staying, how much money you'll need, and many more important factors that will contribute to your peace of mind. Some crucial points to know and research should include:
- Destinations you want to visit
- Locations of your hotels
- Methods of transportation
- Currency and currency exchange
- Climate and weather
Depending on where you are traveling, you will likely want to expand your research to include the neighboring areas. It is generally a good idea to start answering these questions during the planning stages of your travels.
TIP #2: Dress Appropriately
Understanding the weather forecast where you will be visiting will be essential to how you will pack and what clothes you will wear. If you have done your research above, you should be prepared for this step. For instance, it may be a given that you should pack a summer wardrobe when going to Hawaii in July. However, if you plan to visit Denali—which is a destination that is very cold during the summer months—you may want to pack your winter boots.
Another reason you may want to research wardrobe is to avoid any cultural faux pas. There are several countries that have a strict dress code, and the general public is expected to dress modestly. When in doubt, it is always suggested to dress appropriately.
TIP #3: Learn The Language And Customs
Dressing appropriately is only one element of respecting the culture in the locale you will be visiting. Learning the local language and abiding by their customs will be important items to research as well. It's one thing to be a tourist, but a tourist who is actively trying to embrace the local customs can develop more personal relationships with the local population, and may even gain some lasting friends.
If you expect tourists to live by the customs present in your home country, it is good form to live by others' when visiting their homeland. Not only is this the respectful thing to do, but it can keep you out of serious trouble. For example, when traveling to Muslim countries, you may want to research their cultural customs on language, food, photography, etiquette, and appropriate dress; note that visitors are not allowed to take pictures at certain locations.
Of course, learning the entire language of a given country or region's is not expected—especially when traveling there for the first (couple of) times — but there are common phrases you should brush up including:
- Please and thank you.
- Excuse me.
- How do I get to [city/hotel/street].
- How much is this?
- My name is…
As you can see, these phrases can help you greet local individuals, navigate, and understand how much money you are spending. It is important to also learn common answers to these questions if they are straightforward.
TIP #4: Spend Money Wisely
Even a trip abroad doesn't have to break the bank. By implementing a few money spending tricks, you can capitalize on both large and small money-saving opportunities.
- Keep an eye on your bank balance. This is a typical money-saving tip, however, while abroad you don't want to ignore the expenses you pay on hotels, transportation, and food, because they can rack up quickly.
- Make sure your credit card is without Foreign Transaction Fees (FTE). If you can use a credit card without FTEs, every purchase you make (which may be many) will be without the attached fees.
- Use cash and/or local currencies. This tip will please both parties of a transaction. Merchants pay commissions to credit card companies when charging credit cards, so they generally mark up their goods to accommodate. Paying with cash can help you negotiate a lower price for both you and the merchant. Additionally, many small shops and street food carts only accept cash.
- Know your exchange rates. Different national currencies are of more or less value than others. Knowing the exchange rate of your currency into the currency of the region you're going to visit can let you know exactly how much money you are spending. Additionally, knowing where to exchange your money is valuable, as some locations and ATMs charge more than others. Try to avoid exchanging currency at the airport (as they tend to have the highest fees).
TIP #5: Say Thank You
A heartfelt “thank you” can go a long way. It can come in many forms—simple words (in a native language), tipping tour guides and tourist season workers (in cash), and an even bigger gesture in the form of giving gifts to hotel and restaurant staff that you've become friends with. Make sure you take the time to say thank you when you've appreciated what has been done for you.
In addition to the tips above, it is important to keep the following in mind before flying out. Doing so will make for a smooth, more enjoyable vacation.
- Make copies of important documents. All too many vacation horror stories begin with a lost passport. Without your passport, you may not be able to get in or out of a country. It is vital that you make copies of important documents, such as passports and birth certificates, in the event they are lost or stolen.
- Buy trip insurance. Many times, you will lose the money you spent on your tickets for a trip if something unexpected comes up and you can’t make it. Having trip insurance can get you that money back if you need to change dates, or if anything happens on your trip.
- Consider an international phone plan. Roaming phone data and international calls can be expensive, and could make a significant dent in your budgeting plan for your trip if you do not speak to your phone company about purchasing an international phone plan.
- Get your vaccines. Certain destinations will require vaccinations prior to travel, and you or your children may end up getting very sick if you do not know which vaccinations to get for the country you are traveling to.
- Bring an electric current converter. Electrical outlets and current converters vary from region to region. If you want to charge your phone, or have found the best hair dryer for your trip (as hotels aren’t always guaranteed to have them), make sure you bring the correct current converter.
- Pack lightly. Lugging around several large and heavy bags can make you a bane at the airport, hotel, and on the street—not to mention make you look like a quintessential tourist. Pack lightly to save yourself time and stress. Opening image: Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash