These are my best travel tips to help save you money and have an enjoyable trip. Excited. Nervous. Terrified. That’s how I felt when I was 21 traveling around the world. I had no idea what I was doing, and that was okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. Right?
I used to be the one who would ask whomever I could for travel advice – any advice that they spared was much appreciated.
Natasha and I have spent the better part of a decade traveling around the world we receive a lot of questions about our experience. I thought we should share a few of our best travel tips.
My Best Travel Tips
Learn to Relax
Patience is a virtue and it could not be more important than when it comes to travel. If you travel enough things will without a doubt go awry. Stuff like a bankrupt airlines, flat tires, petty theft, sickness, flash floods, and missed buses are not reasons to fret. As Forest Gump says, Shit Happens.
Once you learn to let the little things slide and not stress too much you’ll have a much better time. That’s not to say we don’t curse a little bump in the road, but you have to relax and move on.
It’s easy to keep looking forward when things will get “better” instead of enjoying the moment. Or even worse to spend your time focused on a phone screen while you attempt to craft the perfect photo.
Travel will be far more memorable and enjoyable if you learn to be present in the moment. Take time to enjoy that sunset, coffee, or views as you travel around the world, or life for that matter. That may require turning off notifications and putting up an “Out Of Office.”
Don’t be the disrespectful American, Aussie, Brit…etc
Don’t be the loud, drunk, or insensitive vacationer that disrespects the locals and trashes a foreign city. We once got yelled at by a local in the Baltics for speaking English to each other.
Chances are it was just some cranky woman…or maybe she was just sick of privileged Westerners coming to her country and treating it like a wasteland.
You have seen them, you know who they are, don’t be them. Act like your mother is watching you and be aware of social cues. This shouldn’t need to be a travel tip.
You do not need to know the language
You do not need to know the local language to travel internationally. I mean, of course knowing French, German, Spanish, or even Zulu will help and probably enhance your experiences in a country. However, do not let that stop you from traveling.
We travel all around the world, and sadly, cannot speak another language besides English fluently. We still get from point A to point B, and we have a great time doing so. It may require some help from a translator or our personal favorite hand gestures.
Learn to say YES
Just be a YES person. Would you like to try a fried spider? YES (No). Would you like to get hit in the face with one hundred tomatoes? I suppose so! Good stories rarely ever come from saying no.
We find Americans to be the most guilty of this due to the limited vacation days. Don’t fall victim to filling every day and hour with an itinerary.
Some of our most memorable travel experiences have come from simply exploring with no aim. Try to spend more of your time in fewer places for a more enjoyable trip.
When you travel people are going to be interested in your story – accept it. Whether it be new friends or the man waiting at a bus stop with you, you may get some questions. Where are you from? How long are you traveling? Where is your favorite destination?
You’re going to get a lot of the same questions, a lot of different questions, and many, many personal questions. Accept them, and be curious back!
Embrace The Difference
Different viewpoints are abundant in the world, and that’s a good thing. The more you travel the more you understand people.
You meet all walks of life, and you begin to understand what makes other people form their opinions. We believe the vast majority of people in this world are good at heart.
Keep Your Street Smarts
That being said, a healthy sense of skepticism is important. There are a number of cons and scams that prey upon unknowing tourists around the world. It would be terrible to get yourself in to a bad situation.
It’s good to be trusting but never disclose too much personal information. For example, do you need to tell every stranger you met in a city your exact hotel or future plans? Trust your intuition and keep some level of guard up when traveling. Be wary of your surroundings.
Read A Book
When we have the time we love to read new book about a country before we arrive. Once you arrive your experience will be much more fulfilling.
You’ll find you understand more about the culture and people’s way of life. It doesn’t matter if it’s non-fiction, fiction, or even a guidebook.
If we don’t have time before the trip, we’ll bring the book along and read it on the beach or at night!
Find The Humor
It happens to almost all travelers at some point where things just go wrong. I mean getting kicked off a train at 4:00 a.m. wrong and sleeping in a train station with only a hole in the ground for a toilet. Or that shitty meal you just had to eat because everything is closed and you’ve been traveling for 18 hours straight, and then it starts to rain.
Or when that freak thunderstorm almost washes your truck away in the middle of the night. Just learn to laugh, otherwise, you’ll just be miserable. And yes it does suck.
Money Saving Travel Tips
Get a Rewards credit card
And a travel related one at that. Our favorites for Americans are the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Barclay World Elite, Citi ThankYou, Chase Reserve, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
We never pay foreign transaction fees, can dispute false charges easily, and rack in some serious airline and hotel points. Learn more about our favorite travel credit cards.
Take Advantage Of Financial Products
With competition these days between banks and financial institutions there is no reason to pay foreign transaction fees.
We travel with no-fee debit and credit cards that allow us to withdraw money or pay bills anywhere in the world. A few percentage points adds up over the course of a trip.
Save on Flights
You can use a couple of tactics to save on flights. Try to book flights 2-3 months in advance as it’s the sweet spot between not booking too early or late.
Next do not be afraid to experiment with dates and different regional airports. Sometimes you can save a lot of money by flying to a slightly further airport.
That being said, do not obsess over finding the cheapest flight. Also sometimes it pays to pick reliable carriers and a direct flight. Minimizing travel time is a great way to fight jet-lag.
Hide your money
You never want to be caught somewhere without money. Many places in the world are cash only and if you are robbed, loose your wallet, or you have drained your bank account you could be facing some trouble.
We have money and extra credit cards stashed in a suitcase or backpack just in case something unexpected happens. I like to hide money in empty chapstick containers, and always in a stable currency. Read more about how we protect our money abroad here.
Know the exchange rate before landing
I will never forget meeting a traveler that went to Mcdonalds in Dubai, ordered his meal, figured 100 UAE Dirhams couldn’t be that much and ate away. I hope it was the best Big Mac he ever tasted because the burger ended up costing $26!
Always have a general idea of exchange rates before arriving at your destination, we use the XE Currency Converter application on our phones to stay up to date on currency fluctuations.
Student ID’s are gold
We can’t get away with this one any longer, but for a long time we traveled with our old university IDs.
If you look relatively “student aged” then make sure to always bust the card out in museums, train stations, and special events. Some places will require you to be from a certain region, but it never hurts to try!
Cook Your Own Food
A great perk to short-term rentals or hostels is the ability to cook your own food as they often have a kitchen. We almost never eat out at home and can find it exhausting when we travel.
Dining out for every meal can make a trip much more expensive, to save on money we’ll cook our own meals. This really helps with things like breakfast, plus I’m hungry right when I wake up.
Don’t think you’ll be missing out on the local food either as it’s a great chance to head to the local market or supermarket. You’ll often find fantastic local products that you can cook yourself.
Avoid currency exchange offices whenever possible
I can count the number of times we have used currency exchange offices on one hand. They typically give crap exchange rates and have hidden fees – we avoid them like the plague and my best travel tip is that you do too.
Get your cash from the ATM for the very best rates. On top of that never allow the ATM to determine the exchange rate for you, ATMs around Europe specifically love to rip travelers off with bad exchange rates.
Our minds are always thinking about the amount of foreign currency we carry when we are in a new country. We try to never leave a country with leftover currency as once you leave the country chances are you won’t use it again unless you are a frequent traveler to that area.
Know Your Cab Fare
It doesn’t matter what part of the globe you’re around the world travels take you. A cab can be one of the best ways to get scammed.
To avoid overpaying or being scammed it’s important to always ask for the meter to be turned on or agree to a set price beforehand.
Tips For Traveling
Clear your cookies
Not on your plate. If there is one thing I have learned while searching for flights it is to clear my browsing data and cookies before searching.
Airline booking engines can track your recent searches and may raise the price next time you search for it, demand meet supply. All because they know you want it like Cookie Monster wants a cookie.
Download an offline Map
Whenever possible, download an offline map before arrival. This allows the app to run smoothly without WiFi. This is particularly helpful when you land in a new country without a local SIM card. Once you download a map make sure to save your accommodation address and any points of interest.
Do your research beforehand
If you’re on a budget, go around and check out prices in your new destination before purchasing anything. Take a gander into a couple shops, ask around for current prices, and even research online the correct price of things.
I kick myself when I find out I pay a “tourist” price when I could have been paying the fair local price for things. This tip is big for food and drink costs.
Document your documents
Take a photo of your passport, credit cards, insurance cards, and anything else that may be important. Send it to your love ones, save it in the cloud, or print out extra copies and keep them with you.
You never know when you may need to revert back to these. We also like to travel with passport sized photos of ourselves in case we ever need extra ones at border crossings for visas (This happened between Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and saved us $20).
Learn How To Say “hello” and “thank you”
I hate to admit it, but I am a horrendous linguist. Sometimes, we travel fast through certain regions and the languages are always changing.
Despite this, we always learn “Hello” and “Thank You” in the local language. Trust us, these two words can make all the difference in your experience with a local. There isn’t a culture in the world that does not appreciate a “thank you.”
Purchase travel insurance
Thankfully we have never had an injury while traveling, but that doesn’t mean that we travel without insurance.
Purchasing travel insurance is crucial. Just like at home you never know what can happen. We use World Nomads for all our insurance needs.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Yes, this age old saying also applies to travel destinations. Bus stations are almost always located outside the main city centers, and sometimes train stations can be located in some downright dodgy locations. There have been countless times when we have got off our bus and thought “this place doesn’t look that great.”
It’s important not to let first impressions get the best of you and to delve into a new destination a few days before labeling it undesirable. For example, we’ve heard from many people that Napoli is a total skip in Italy, but we found it to be one our favorite Italian cities.
Visit The Tourism Office
Tourism offices are great resources that are not used by enough travelers. Their job is to help you and provide you with some great information.
Some tourism offices will offer discounts on locals attractions and activities. This makes for a great travel tip to save money.
Travel during the off-season
Traveling outside of the summer months will generally yield lower prices, friendlier locals, and fewer crowds. Not to mention peak summer is a miserable time to be outside in most places.
We travel during all periods of the year, but truly love traveling in the fall and early spring when crowds are fewer and we get a destination all to ourselves. Of course, there are a few places where the high season is truly the best.
Use public transport
Unless it is absolutely unavailable, or we arrive somewhere new past midnight we always take the local public transport options.
Whether it be the metro, bus, or a tuk-tuk, we get around like the locals do. 99% of the time public transport will be cheaper, 99% more eco-friendly, and 100% of the time it will be more of an adventure.
Don’t Be Afraid To Drive
While public transport can be adventure so can renting a car. One of our favorite ways to travel abroad is with a rental car. In fact, we rent cars on most of our trips these days as we love the flexibility it provides.
It means you aren’t limited to public transport hours and stops. You’re also capable of heading to destinations that are off the beaten path and frequented by locals. Driving in a foreign country is not as stressful as it seems.
Eat and shop local
This goes for anywhere in the world – traveling or not. Would you rather support the large companies or the local merchant?
Do you fantasize about putting fruit into your body that has been imported from other continents or eating the fresh local produce from the farmers market?
Eat good food
When traveling the world your days are often filled with so many foreign flavors, and you’ll discover new food in every region of the world. Explore with your taste. Don’t be afraid to join the locals, if they have a passion for something chances are it’s pretty good.
While you’re at it don’t be afraid to spend the money on good food. We find it’s the middle ground between cheap and expensive where food dies.
Don’t Eat In Touristy Places
It’s best to avoid restaurants that are located next to prime tourist destinations. Generally the closer you are to major attractions prices climb and the quality declines.
I’ll save a number of restaurants around the area we’ll be in for the day. That being said, we’ve had plenty of amazing eats by just following our nose. If a place looks busy with locals chances are it’s for good reason.
Wake Up Early
As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. If you want to enjoy the best attractions, hikes, and sites to yourself it pays to arrive first.
Morning light is the best time for photographs and it’s nice to watch the locals getting ready for the day. You can really capture the true heart of a destination early in the morning.
Think before you haggle
Many shops in South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East operate on a bargaining basis. These are my favorite as I love a good deal, and I believe I have a self-awarded gold medal in bargaining.
However, sometimes it’s important to stop and think about who really needs that money – the local villager or the traveler? Sometimes I find myself getting caught up haggling over 50 cents, then I really have to stop and think relatively about this.
Don’t feel obligated to buy unnecessary trinkets if you’re being hassled. If you give-in you’re just perpetuating the cycle. If you like something, go for it!
Don’t Be Overly Cheap
There is a difference between being thrifty and cheap. Don’t miss out on something you’d like to do because it costs money. Also, don’t waste your time in the effort to save a few bucks.
Take Lots of Photos
Don’t be afraid to take photos and more importantly don’t be afraid to ask to take photos. We love a good selfie and love to take them with new people we just met.
It’s a great way to save memories. We couldn’t be happier that we have this amazing website to save so many travel memories.
Travel Tips For Gear
Pack A Towel
I know it sounds a little crazy, but we always pack a towel. This is pretty standard for backpackers and it’s a habit that has stuck with us even as we aged.
Despite staying in hotel, lodges, resorts, and vacation rentals we still love to bring an extra travel towel in our luggage. They’re very handy for the beach, picnic, hike, or just drying off.
Carry an Extra Battery
We all love to take photos to cherish our memories and nothing is worse than when your camera dies. For most people that means a smartphone, but your phone is often a lifeline abroad.
Your phone carries reservations, addresses, maps, important apps, and provides safety. It never hurts to pack a power bank and extra battery for your camera.
Pack Ear Plugs and an Eye Mask
A pair of ear plugs and an eye mask always travels in our carry-on luggage or bag. It can help with catching some sleep on the plane.
However, the real importance is that it can save you a bad night’s sleep at the destination. You’ll be sleeping in a new bed so there isn’t always a guarantee you won’t have a noisy neighbor or annoying lights in the room.
You may never need them, but when you do they are a life saver!
Always check for your passport and phone
This one is one of my very best travel tips. What are your two most important travel accessories? The number one thing you do not want to lose is your passport. It’s small, it’s expensive, it’s a legal document, it’s your means to travel, and it means you can get home.
My second most important travel accessory is my phone. It gets me from point A to point B, allows me to check my emails, and holds some pretty precious photos That’s why after every bus, taxi, plane, and train ride I habitually check to make sure they are still on me.
Make sure to throw some sunscreen in your bag. Skin damage is serious and can ruin a trip. It can also save you money as a destinations love to overcharge for knock-off sunscreen. We like to travel with eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen.
Carry A Travel Water Bottle
The best way to stay healthy and fight jet-lag on the road is to stay hydrated. Purchasing bottled water leads to a heck of a lot of waste and if you haven’t noticed we’re currently destroying our planet.
A water bottle is an easy way to save money, the environment, and your health. We carry a Grayl purifying water bottle when we travel for safe drinking water anywhere.
Buy A Smaller Suitcase or Backpack
Our bags are never overweight when it comes time to check-in at the airport because we can only fit so much. If you purchase a larger bag you’re more likely to fill it with unnecessary stuff.
Wear Good Travel Shoes
When you’re out exploring a new place you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet. When we’re in Europe in particular we spend a ton of time on our feet. Sometimes we even avoid taking transport to see more of the city on foot.
It’s a good idea to invest in good travel shoes that are lightweight, comfortable, and fit a multitude of occasions. We really love Allbirds!
If you’re traveling to an outdoor destination invest in proper hiking footwear, sneakers for running, and the gym are not the same.
Extra Socks and Undies
Wearing pants and even shirts multiples times in a row is not a big deal. However, fresh socks and underwear are always appreciated! We always try to pack a few extra pairs of both.
If there is a washing machine – use it
I’ve never met anyone who feels comfortable paying $13 a pair of socks for a wash at a hotel. Free washers are a rare find, but should never be passed up. If a hotel or hostel offers a cheap laundry service, we typically take them up on it, no matter the number of dirty clothes we have.
Even when we’re on a short trip we’ll take advantage of the wash because it means coming home with clean clothes and avoids a smelly suitcase. This is a great reason to enjoy vacation rentals as they often include washers.
Pack Some quick-dry items
Cameron and I travel with a number of quick-dry items in our bags. Many countries don’t have dryers for their clothes, so the quicker my clothing air dries, the better. Cotton may be the most popular material for clothing, but it sucks at drying in humidity.
Don’t Forget a Jacket
Weather can be unexpected. An emergency jacket even when cold weather is not expected never hurts.
One Final Travel Tip
Out of all of our best travel tips that we can share with you, the number one is to smile. It’s the most common language in our world.