So much of life is a “you can’t really learn from other people’s mistakes” experience, but not travel!
This is the one area where tips from people who have “been there, done that, may or may not have gotten the T-shirt” can really pay off. Great travel tips come from lessons learned the hard way, whether that’s wearing something more substantial than shorts on the airplane or brushing up on the how to say “where is the restroom, please?” in any language where it might come in handy.
Other tips are sheer genius, including novel ways tourists should use duct tape and why you might want to ring your dad before packing. Ready to take on the world? Newbies and globetrotters can both benefit from these hard-earned words of travel wisdom.
35. It’s Fab To Have Your Own Laundry Detergent
Carry the travel-size packets of laundry detergent (Tide makes good ones) so you can wash clothes in your bathroom sink. This works surprisingly well, particularly for undergarments and socks. And hotel laundry fees are insane. Avoid at all costs, unless your employer is footing the bill and won’t reject the expense.
34. Packing Prohibited OTC Meds Can Be A Headache
Be careful packing any medication when you travel, some countries may have restrictions on what you can bring in without a prescription (eg ibuprofen in Singapore) and may have harsh penalties.
33. Number 11 Of The 142 Ways To Use Duct Tape While Traveling
For photo equipment or all kind of expensive stuff: put some duct tape on it. If it looks broken, nobody wants to steal it.
32. Or At The Very Least, Clean Underwear
Pack a complete outfit in your carry-on. Delayed baggage is extremely common and it’s best to ensure you have backup clothes so you can at least wash them without having to hang around a hotel in a robe half of the day just to have some clean undies.
31. Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Keep Those Clean Clothes Rolling
When you pack, roll your clothing. I can fit 10 t-shirts, 12 underwear, 2 sweaters, 3 pair of pants, a hoodie, socks, and pajamas in a carry on bag and still have room for books and toiletries
30. Make It Impossible For The Airline To Lose Your Luggage
I travel for work constantly, I’m actually writing this in an airport. My best tip is to eliminate checked baggage. This won’t help if you’re going on vacation, but I can’t tell you how many time this has saved me.
Tight connect? Your luggage doesn’t get left behind. Want to grab an earlier connecting flight? The first thing they’ll ask is if you have checked luggage. If you eliminate checked luggage, you can literally walk off the plane and to your car or hop into a cab without breaking stride. This goes without saying, but the airline can’t lose your luggage if it’s with you.
Note: Please use only approved size luggage for carry on travel. If I see you on a flight with your whole life in multiple suitcases, I’ll recline my seat into your lap as far as it can go.
29. Save The ‘Smell My Feet’ Routine For Trick Or Treating
Foot odor avoidance: hotel floors are gross, even at the fanciest of hotels. Early on I found that I would get foot odor only when I traveled. It turned out that it was because I was walking around my hotel room barefoot and collecting bacteria. Solution: scrub feet in the shower in the morning, only step on clean towels, apply deodorant to bottom of feet, put socks on. Your goal is to avoid bacteria. When you get home, deodorize those shoes.
28. Talk The Talk, At Least A Few Words Of It
Learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you’re in. Ex: hello, thank you, I am lost, where is the bathroom, etc. Have a phrase book handy. Many countries now have a high English-speaking population but you never know. And it makes you look like a more considerate tourist.
27. Choose A Futuristic Outfit
Dress for the climate that you are going to, not the one you are leaving. I took a trip with my family to Hawaii from Denver, in December. I wore shorts and a t-shirt and they all wore jeans and sweaters. Yeah, I was cold for a bit when we left the house until the car warmed up, but when we got to Hawaii and were waiting for the rental cars, and then more waiting at the hotel check-in, I was way more comfortable than everyone else.
26. Your Most Useful Foreign Phrase Might Be ‘Here’s How I Like My Coffee’
If you’ve only learned phrases, there’s no way you’ll be able to understand the answer to a question (except perhaps ‘good’ in reply to ‘how are you?’ and ‘yes/no’) — so if they do anything more than point, it won’t help you much. But knowing how to ask for bread at the bakery or a coffee at the cafe is something that is quite useful, as it will allow you to have a meaningful (if simple) interaction fully in the other language. Numbers are good too. It’s such a lovely feeling to successfully interact in another language, even if you literally only say, “One coffee, please. Thank you.” 🙂
25. Become Your Own Entertainment Director
Spend the time before you go to max out your own in-flight entertainment. All of my overseas flights have been by myself, so I realized very quickly that I need to be my own best friend for however long I’m on that plane. Give yourself options, too, because you just might not be in the mood to watch a movie at that exact moment. I’m flying again in a week and my current options are: a crossword book, about 60 new downloaded songs, a downloaded language textbook for self-study, four or five new games on my phone, a couple of books, movies, and some new PC games to play off my laptop. I definitely won’t use all of those, but having the options means I can pick exactly what I want in any one moment to avoid hours of self-hatred and boredom.
24. Save Time For Fun You Didn’t Plan For
Don’t be afraid to do some unplanned stuff! People always map out exactly what they want to do and I’ve found it’s nice to talk to some local people and just see what happens instead of following timetables, stressing and stuff.
23. Six Not-So-Easy Steps To Beating Jet Lag
Jet lag cure:
Once the plane takes off, set clocks to destination time. Try to stay awake until something like a normal bedtime at your destination (this will be easy or hard depending on direction of travel and the time you leave).
Get a small rest on the flight if you can. Try not to get up again until it’s in the AM at your destination.
Once you land, DO NOT HAVE A NAP unless you have seen the sun go down (unless your flight is weird and arrives at night time). You need that melatonin to start flowing. Use (legal) substances if you have to.
Just as important: once the sun is down, and it’s a reasonable bedtime, GO TO BED. Again, use (legal) substances if you have to.
Repeat on your second day (seeing the sunset is vital, don’t stay in that hotel room!) and you should be gold.
Source: regularly fly across the Pacific, hasn’t failed me in 5 years.
22. Be Awed, Not Dazed
Don’t unplug your brain because you’re on vacation. Bad people look for people who are in La-La land to rob.
21. Keep Your Cool Constantly
When traveling (flying, driving, etc) don’t let yourself get hot at any point. Take off layers when you know you’ll be walking through terminals or waiting in a line carrying a heavy bag. If you’re able to not even for 5 minutes be too hot, you’ll reach your final destination feeling significantly more fresh than if you aren’t conscious of this during your trip. Very captain obvious tip but I do a lot of 4 stop type trips and this is the best.
20. Become The Power Ranger At The Airport
Get a multi-power converter and a multi-plug power board to plug into it. You’ll always be able to power your devices, and you’ll make heaps of friends.
19. Giraffes Also Prefer Emergency Row Seating
For tall travelers. Try to get the emergency row seating, I know this one is obvious for frequent flyers but for those who are less experienced, the emergency row seating has more legroom and will make the flight far more comfortable.
18. See If A Hipster Dog Can Spare You The Material For A Fine Eye Cover
An eye cover is crucial for getting good sleep when the guy on the plane next to you has the window open and his light and computer on. The ones you buy in stores are flimsy, I bring a bandana and tie myself a blindfold. Then when I get where I’m going I’ve got a multipurpose bandana instead of a single purpose eye mask.
17. Gotta Go? The Answer Is Always Yes At Nice Restrooms
ALWAYS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RESTROOMS. always do your business before leaving and, if at any point during the trip you stop, go again even if you don’t have to. It will save you time and save you from uncomfortable holding it in.
16. Not All Photos Are For The Folks Back Home
When in unfamiliar places use your phone to take pictures of landmarks that stand out. That way if you want to get back to a certain place you have a picture to remember it on your phone.
15. American Bums Should Prepare For Pay Toilets
Also some countries charge for public toilets and others never have toilet paper (not the “ran out” that is usual for public toilets, but no spot for it at all) so having a bit of change on you and a few tissues is always good. In Spain, my friends and I would often have whoever had the largest purse carry an entire roll of toilet paper to dole out to the rest of us.
14. A Cancellation You’ll Welcome (And Not Because Of the Refund Policy)
Noise canceling anything. I regularly travel and I can’t imagine a time before I had a set of headphones that I could click on and automatically since the loud noise of the engine, crying babies, etc. These are a godsend for long flights.
13. Never Let Them See You Sweat
Don’t Panic! It’s not just a hitchhikers guide reference, it’s good advice. When traveling stuff changes, things go right, things go wrong, stay cool and you can really make it work. Best example: my passport got taken from my bag in a hostel, panicked, canceled my passport (like you’re meant to) and the wallet with it was found the next day (sans cash)… Now I needed a new passport in a foreign country. Later in the trip (after the lesson learned) I missed the only train to the city where our accommodation was booked, didn’t panic, booked a train to a different city which I could make a connection to the right place, used the time between trains to see an exhibit of da Vinci’s codex.
12. And You Won’t Need To Loosen Your Belt After A Big Lunch This Way Either
For going through security: it doesn’t matter how nice you like to dress for flights, dress with consideration to having to take your shoes off (depends on the airport), jacket off, belt off, and pockets empty. People, probably including you, just want to get through security. It’ll benefit everyone for you to not be scrambling trying to get those tight, strapped or buckled shoes off and dumping your pockets full of loose change and receipts. Dress with efficiency.
11. Become An Exchange (Rate) Student
Find out the dollar conversion rate or download an offline app to do it for you before you leave. I once paid a crazy amount for airport sushi in Japan because I didn’t know the conversion rate. Most every airport has an ATM that will dispense cash in local currency when you leave the terminals. Call your bank before you go or they will likely put a hold on your account for suspicious activity.
10. So This Is Where All The Lost Chargers End Up
If you do lose or forget a charger, remember that hotels almost always have a box of random chargers behind the front desk. Ask nicely and they will give or lend you one.
9. Be Ready To Create Your Own Plan B (And C, D, E and F As Needed)
Sometimes, when you miss your flight, you have to do the work to get on another one, do not put all the effort on the airline workers. This past trip, I flew from Atlanta to London. We missed our flight because we were stuck on the previous flight for about an hour. The employees couldn’t find any flights for us the next day, even by splitting our party of 5 up. My dad had to go on the website and find flights for us, and then just tell the employee to book us for them.
8. Making A List And Checking It Twice Is Not Just For Santa
With regards to the point about forgetting your charger, one of the best habits I’ve adopted to improve my travels is to make a list of what I need to pack well in advance of my trip. If you make an effort to write down absolutely everything you plan to bring and cross each item off as you pack it, you are less likely to forget things, and you have the added benefit of realizing how much of what you were planning on is unnecessary so that you pack lighter.
7. Instant Human Being, Just Add Contents Of This Kit
Shower immediately before you leave to go to the airport, and then have your “human being kit” ready to use upon arrival. This has kept me from feeling like a complete zombie even after 15-20 hour trips. Your “human being kit” should have wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste, some kind of lightly scented body spray, and (at least) a change of underwear. Do you know how nice it feels to change your underwear and wipe the grime of sitting in the same place for 14 hours off immediately upon landing?
6. Do Trendy Clubs, Do Not Do Trendy Luggage
Don’t buy trendy four-wheel, polycarbonate luggage. This is a huge trend right now and these are the worst bags for travel. They’re terribly on non-smooth, flat surface, the dent and scratch VERY easily (just look at the floor models in your local luggage shop), they’re slow, and they have easy-to-break wheels. A durable two-wheeled roller is superior. Get one with nice, big rollerblade wheels. And spend money on a good one. It will last longer.
5. A Colorful Approach To Remembering Valuables
Carry a ten-foot length of brightly colored string/paracord in your suitcase. If you use the hotel safe, tie one end to the handle and the other end to something you can’t possibly forget, like a suitcase. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that you’ll forget that you put things in the safe and will have to get the hotel to ship it to you. Not that I learned this lesson the hard way…
4. That’s More Socks For The Dryer To Steal, Too
On a social consideration point, if you want to remove your shoes on the plane take a fresh pair of socks to change into. No one likes being stuck next to the smelly feet guy/gal for 13+ hours.
3. Another Reason To Love Clothing With Lots Of Pockets
What I started doing was wearing a jacket to the airport. I put all of my stuff into the zippable pockets of the jacket while in line. I then take the jacket off and send it through the x-ray machine. That way, if you are running late, you can grab your jacket and go and reorganize things into pockets when you have time.
2. Drink Like The Bus Won’t Stop
I would always intentionally avoid drinking anything on/before long bus trips. A touch of dehydration is better than painfully clenching your bladder while desperately praying for the next stop any day.
1. The Trade-Off Is That He Might Give More Space For TV Remotes And Mismatched Outfits Than You’d Like
Ask your dad to help you pack. Being a father makes you inherently good at packing mad stuff into a bag.