Five years after we met in Stavanger, Norway to travel around Europe we’re still exploring the world. It’s hard to believe that in those years we’ve been to nearly 80 countries across six continents! After all this time, we consider ourselves well traveled for two twenty-somethings, but still manage to learn something new every day.
It wasn’t always like that.
On my first solo trip to Iceland, I was young, nervous, and naive. I made a lot of travel mistakes during that time, but I also got a lot right. Travel it turns out is not so difficult. At the moment we’re in Taiwan – my 76th country – after all this travel a number of key elements remain the same. This is how we travel the world and what you can learn from it.
How to Travel the World
Set Up the Finances
Many claim they don’t have to money to travel, but we’re hard-pressed to believe that is true for everyone. With smart saving strategies, you can save money for your next trip.
Once you’ve secured the funds make sure you’re set up to travel abroad. We suggest picking up a good travel credit card, a low fee bank, and a travel wallet to carry your passport and make sure your cash is secure. You can read more about our travel banking tips.
If you understand the basic principals of finance while traveling you’ll be able to save your hard-earned dollars. Which, in turn, can lead to more travel. This way you’re not stuck wondering about the best travel credit card or how to exchange foreign currencies and avoid ATM fees.
It’s all an endless cycle smart financial decisions lead to more travel.
Decide and Book Travel
If I don’t know exactly where I want to travel I start with a general region of interest. Since we work for ourselves fulltime we have a lot of flexibility in selecting dates. Flexibility is the key to finding a good deal. High season typically results in high prices.
You can find a great deal with an open flight search using Skyscanner’s everywhere feature of Google Flights map feature. They’re easy to use and brought us to many places on a whim like Latvia, South Africa, Bali, and Cusco.
To use the feature on Skyscanner type in your departure city in the “from” field and then hover over the “to” portion until you receive a popup that says “Can’t Decide Where? Search Everywhere.”
Select the specific date you want to travel or put in “full month” so that it will find you the best deals on the best dates of the month. The world is literally your oyster with an endless selection of possibilities.
Google Flights has a similar feature that we find ourselves using more often. Once on their homepage you can easily select your departure city and leave the “Where to” section blank. Select “flexible dates” and see what you get!
Plan an Itinerary
Once you book flights and decide on the country you want to travel, it’s time to start working on an itinerary. I’m certain you don’t want to stay in the city you flew into the entire time. This is when I start researching online and on travel blogs to determine a good itinerary.
We like to use fellow boggers itineraries and travel information as it’s one of the best resources online for travel information these days. Once we get a general idea of where we want to go we begin with booking accommodation. We start with the first night which is generally an easy hotel room close to the airport unless our flight arrives early in the morning.
Decide on Accommodation
Depending on the type of traveler you are now may be the time to book accommodation. We do a mix of planning and taking it day by day, but we always book the first night before we arrive.
If you like to have all aspects of your trip sorted before you arrive, begin with checking the various platforms to get an idea of availability and pricing such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Agoda. This ensures you often get the best price and place to stay.
However planning and booking in advance also means you have to adhere to a schedule and if you don’t like a place much it’s tough to change plans.
Score a Place for the First Night
It’s definitely okay if you want to wing your trip. We do it quite a bit, even at the expense of less appealing accommodation options. If you decide to wing your trip I would recommend at least booking accommodation for the first day of your arrival.
No one wants to get into a foreign destination after a miserable long haul flight and have no place to go and rest. No matter what time you get into your destination book at least your first night so that you can settle, rest, and recollect your thoughts. Trust me it will make the rest of your trip much more enjoyable.
It also helps with immigration as it’s often the first question they ask.
Pick Your Means of Transportation
During our planning process, we have to decide how to get around the destination. Some places the public transport, train, or bus system is great (notable places of mention include most of Europe and Asia).
In other destinations, your travel will be severely limited if you don’t have your own means of transport (hello North America, Australia, and Africa). That doesn’t mean you can’t get around via public transport, but you should think about access you’ll have to the places of interest. That goes for parts of Europe too!
Many destinations in Europe can be done with public transport, but are best done with a car rental like in Scotland or Ireland. While in Asia you can get by with public transport for large destinations and then a cheap motorbike to get around regions or cities.
In general, the sooner you book a car rental the more you save. No matter what, make sure you are booking your car rental at least 24 hours in advance as booking systems will raise the price significantly with less notice. Check out all our car rental tips here.
Bring the Right Luggage
For an open adventure in developing countries where we will take public transport and moved a lot, we always prefer to take an Osprey Farpoint. The backpack allows you to be flexible, save on airline baggage costs, and move on and off public transport.
If we are staying in one place for awhile, on a business trip, or want our belongings to stay organized we will choose a rolling suitcase over a backpack. Typically, if I am traveling in Europe or throughout North America a suitcase is the go-to choice of luggage. It is better suited for traveling short distances from cabs to the hotel room and protects nice clothes.
Our last option would be a duffel bag that is great for more rugged adventures. If you plan on taking a safari in Africa it’s a great safari bag.
Here are the exact pieces of backpacks and suitcases we travel with:
- Osprey Farpoint for Natasha’s backpack
- Osprey Daylight for day bag
- Osprey Atmos for Cameron’s backpack
- Dakine Ranger Duffle 60L (Black, One Size)
- eBags Hardside Spinner
- LowePro Whistler BP450 AW for camera backpack
Pack for Your Trip
Typically a month or so before a major trip I’ll begin thinking about what I need for the destination. Usually, that’s travel adaptors, travel towels, a new piece of luggage, down jacket, or even new wardrobe.
Check the weather in all the locations you plan to spend time. Just because you’re heading to one country doesn’t mean the weather will be the same throughout. Take Peru for example, it’s one of the most diverse countries in the world with nearly every biome on the planet.
I would suggest doing a mock pack at least a week in advance of any long trip so you can ensure you have everything you need.
Here are some of our packing list to get an idea of what we pack:
- 25 Essential Beach Packing List Items You’ll Want for Vacation
- 25 Packing Hacks For Your Next Trip • Pack Lighter, Smarter, and Faster
- The Best Winter Packing List for Europe and Beyond
- The Africa Packing List Items You’ll Want to Have
- The Best Women’s Clothes for Travel • Tested by a Full-Time Traveler
Purchase Travel Insurance
We don’t travel without insurance and neither should you. I feel if you can’t afford travel insurance you don’t have enough to travel yet. Of course, I wish you well and hope you have the most amazing trip, but we all know accidents can happen.
It’s a smart idea and good precaution to be prepared for an accident or any unforeseen issues. For short-term trips, we recommend travel insurance with World Nomads.
They have flexible plans and an easy to use website interface. Since we are long-term travelers and don’t spend any time in our home country we are insured with expat insurance through IMG Global nowadays and a separate personal property policy with Clements. Thankfully, we’ve never had to make any claims but they offer competitive rates and good plans.
Download an Offline Map
Before we board the plane to our destination we make sure to have an offline map on our phones of the new city/town/country. You can download an offline map from Google Maps, but sometimes it takes quite a bit of memory and can take a while to download. So, I suggest you ensure you have it on your phone before you arrive at the airport.
Offline maps are our saving grace for navigation in a new country when we know we may not be connected to the internet. It’s an amazing tool and they are great for walking around a city or for turn by turn driving directions too.
Know the Exchange Rate
Another thing I like to do before I get to a new country is to make sure I know the exchange rate. XE is my favorite app for this as it gives me up to date currency conversion. You’ll need to be connected to the internet the first time you put a new currency on your phone so make sure you do this before you arrive to a new destination.
I once met someone who paid $26 for a Big Mac combo in the Dubai Airport because he didn’t know the local currency and just figured it couldn’t be that bad – don’t be that guy.
Deal with my Flight
The day is finally here – the day I leave for another fabulous trip! But first, I have to deal with a long haul flight. If my flight crosses oceans I will try to book with a carrier that I love. Emirates, Qatar, Turkish Airlines, and Cathay Pacific are just a few of my favorites.
A great airline can make or break a flight experience and set your whole trip up for a good time. I will avoid budget carriers at all costs if I can, but sometimes it is the only route and there is no choice. There are also instances when the money savings are too great to avoid.
A few things that help me deal with a long haul flight are:
- A sweatshirt as it’s often very cold on planes.
- Preorder a vegetarian meal as special meals are served first.
- Invest in TSA Precheck if you travel around America.
- Bring headphones that are better than the crappy plane ones.
- Pick the right seat even if that means paying for seat selection, sometimes it’s worth it to be comfortable. (Aisle seats are the best)
- Consider getting Priority Pass or some form of lounge access.
Check out more of my long-haul flight survival tips here!
Grab a Sim Card
Yay! Landed in a new country or destination. You’re likely groggy, jet-lagged, and feeling dirty. I know all you want to do is get to your hotel so you can shower and rest, but first I would recommend picking up a sim card if you want to be connected in your new country.
Because of our jobs, we like to stay online when we can, plus we find 3G and 4G often works a lot better than hotel WiFi networks. The airport is the easiest place to pick up a sim card. Even though it’s usually more expensive at the airport it saves us the hassle of dealing with locating and navigating our way through a new city just to save a few dollars.
Before you leave the airport strap yourself with some cash. Many developing nations operate on a cash basis and you could struggle to use your credit card. Even if you’re traveling in Western Europe you should still always have some cash on you in case of emergencies.
We don’t ever recommend using exchange offices, especially at the airport. They often have hidden fees and terrible exchange rates. Instead, we use the ATM and that gives us the most up to date market rate. See more of our travel banking tips here.
In the rare case that the airport ATM’s are not working you’ll want to at least have some backup cash on you. USD or Euro is the currency of choice and the most valuable – and I put an emphasis on the USD over the Euro. It’s also helpful to have in the event of emergencies.
It’s uncommon that the airport ATM’s won’t work, but it can happen in developing nations or small airports. We recently had it happen when we landed at 2am in Bali. I’m thankful I had $100 in my wallet to exchange. That at least got us a cab to our hotel until we could find a local ATM.
You’ve landed, you have your cash, you are connected to the internet, and alive! Take a second to collect yourself and your things. Sometimes I just like to sit and have an overpriced cup of coffee and chill for twenty minutes at the airport Starbucks.
It’s our moment to make sure we’re leaving the airport with all of our belongings and directions to our place.
Grab a Ride to Your First Place
Now it’s finally time to get to your first hotel from the airport. You’re almost there – you can rest, chill, and do what you came to do – travel! Many airports have buses or trains that will bring you to the city center. From there you can hire a cab or walk to your place of rest.
If we are coming off a long haul flight and don’t feel like dealing with anything else we will pay for an expensive taxi cab to take us direct to the hotel. One thing I’ve realized throughout my travels is that sometimes it’s worth it to pay!
If you’ve rented a car from the airport now is the time to pick it up. Always check for damages, take photos, and look for hidden charges before you drive off. We like to pick up and drop off rental cars from the airport. Even if there is a surcharge it will save money on a taxi to and from the airport and create less hassle for us on already stressful travel days.
Explore, Don’t Buy Souvenirs, Research
Now that you are in your fantastic travel destinations it’s time to sit down, do some research on what you want to do, read a few travel blogs (aka The World Pursuit 😁), and enjoy your travels.
I often like to take my first day just to explore the area, hop into a cafe or restaurant and get a feel for the environment. And unless I just have to have something I don’t buy souvenirs until the last few days of my trip. This gives me a general idea of pricing and allows me to pick what I like best – plus I don’t have to lug everything around with me throughout my whole trip.