Make the best of your trip by following these 44 super helpful travel tips.
Before You Book
Use Pinterest. Not just for recipes and DIY projects, Pinterest has thousands upon thousands of great trip ideas. You can search for trip itineraries, tips and hacks, and travel reviews. Just go to the search bar, type in the place you are going to, and voila!
Steal Itineraries. Assuming you aren’t going on a package deal or with a tour group. Feel free to log onto tour websites and steal from their itinerary. After all, they’ve already done the research and the itinerary will ensure you see all the places worth seeing in a time-efficient way.
Know the shoulder seasons of your destination. You can save hundreds of dollars by booking just before or just after high season.
Understand your destination’s exit requirements. Colombia for example, will not let you enter unless you can show how and when you are leaving. If you planned on buying a one-way ticket in and playing it by ear, this could be a problem.
Understand your destination’s visa requirements. Don’t just assume you can get a visa on arrival. Also, make sure you read the fine print on your visa. You need understand just what you are allowed to bring into the country, and what you cannot bring in. And understand the difference between a single-entry and double-entry visa.
Hit the gym before you go. If you don’t exercise regularly, start hitting the gym a few weeks or months before your trip. You’ll be so much better prepared for a sunrise hike, or a canyoneering excursion. Even if your vacation is a simple lay-on-the-beach kind of getaway, hitting the gym will make you feel better in your swimsuit.
Booking Your Flight
Use Seat Guru. Unless you don’t mind an overnight flight in a seat that doesn’t recline, or sitting in the bassinet row with babies, or having an aisle seat where the bathroom lineups occur. Seat Guru is an invaluable tool to help you select the best seat possible.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: The section in front of the engines is the quietest. The rear of the cabin is noisiest and bumpiest. Be aware of your proximity to the restroom. You could fall victim to the smells and the flushing noises, and the people lining up are guaranteed to bump you if you’re in an aisle seat. The last row of seats, and the row in front of the exit row, do not have reclining seats.
When flying solo, select a seat where the window or aisle is already taken, and the middle seat is empty. Then choose the window or aisle for that row. As long as the plane isn’t full, those middle seats are the last to fill up. This tip gives you a better chance of having the seat next to you empty.
Know when flights are cheapest. Historically, you will find the cheapest fares 6-7 weeks ahead of departure on short haul flights, and 18 weeks ahead of departure on long haul flights. If you’re looking for a last-minute weekend getaway, shop the Tuesday prior. Deals are typically posted at 3:00 pm.
Typically, the best prices are for flights that depart on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. The most expensive, leave on a Friday or Sunday.
Flights that take off at the crack of dawn are normally cheaper, and the best option if you are leaving from a snowy climate (flight delays from weather tend to back up throughout the day).
Check the discounters like Flight Network, Expedia, etc., but before you book with them, compare their price with the actual airline’s website. You’ll be surprised to learn that you can often get the same flight for the same price as the discounter. Booking directly with the airline instead of a third party is preferable in case things go awry.
Purchase each ticket separately. Sometimes an airline will have a certain number of discounted tickets. If there is only one left, but you are shopping for two people with one purchase, you will both be charged the higher price.
Embrace the layover. Rather than looking for a connecting flight with a short layover, consider a longer one so you can explore the city. This is especially fun if you arrive around 9:00 am – pick a connecting flight that leaves at 9:00 pm, and be a tourist for the day. Some major hub cities like Amsterdam and Paris are super easy to get to and from the airport into the heart of the city.
Before you buy a return ticket, see if two one-ways aren’t cheaper. You could save yourself a few bucks when you research all the options.
Use Airbnb, but don’t overlook hotels. Airbnb is awesome, but before you book one, be sure to compare the price and amenities with local hotels. You might be surprised. Bonus: If you do choose Airbnb, and this is your first time, try it out with this link and save $40.00!
If you are staying 1-4 nights in the same hotel, book yourself an upgrade only for the first night, then a basic room for the balance. When it comes time to switch rooms, go to the front desk and compliment the suite you were just in, but alas, it’s time to switch. If the upgrade room isn’t reserved, there’s a good chance you will keep the upgrade for the rest of your stay, paying the lower price. Hotels would rather see you happy than have to clean 2 rooms for one visitor.
Before You Leave Home
Start taking travel photos before you leave home. In particular, take pictures of the following, and email them to yourself.
- passport information page
- travel insurance contact page
- airport parking spot identifier
Buy Travel Insurance. But before you do, check your employee health insurance, you might already have out-of-country coverage. Also check your credit card perks (requiring your travel purchase was made using that card).
Make sure you’re buying your insurance at the right time. Some providers require you purchase your insurance at the time of booking. Others, like World Nomads will let you purchase whenever you like, even while you’re on your trip.
Buy your car rental insurance from your personal provider, not the rental agency. Let your home/auto insurance provider know you’ll be renting a car out of country, and make sure you are covered. It will save a ton of money. You can also check with the credit card company to see if you’re covered.
Figure Out How You Plan on Getting to the Airport. You have lots of options, from driving yourself, to airport shuttles, to asking a friend for a lift. But know which is cheapest, easiest, and least taxing on relationships before you decide.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to the airport. This is especially important for long flights. Feet can swell on an airplane, so be sure your shoes are easy to slip on and off for comfort.
Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans. If you are suddenly spending money in France, you don’t want your cards frozen from “unusual activity”.
Don’t rely 100% on your electronics. Pack a small notebook and keep it in your carryon’s top pocket. In it, write:
- flight info (gate, departure time, flight number)
- hotel address and directions on how to get to your hotel from the airport
- critical information (in case you lose your pictures of your passport info page or your insurance contact info)
Prepare for rain. pack a small umbrella and rain poncho in the front compartment of your suitcase. If you arrive at your destination airport in pouring down rain, you’ll be glad you did! This is of course assuming you’re not one of those pack-so-light-you-don’t-have-a-checked-bag sort of traveller. For those folks, I recommend at least a thin poncho in your backpack.
Bring a one-size-fits-all sink plug. Unless you’re staying in hotels and using laundry service throughout your stay, a universal sink plug will allow you the opportunity to do some hand wash wherever there is a sink (often the plug is missing).
Pack all liquid bottles in ziplock bags. Air pressure can do awful things to shampoo bottles in your luggage. Make sure the bottle isn’t filled to the brim (to allow for some expansion), and then place all liquid bottles in a freezer bag. For an extra measure, I use two bags – one upside down.
Pack all medications, a change of underwear and a fresh t-shirt in your carryon. If your luggage gets lost or delayed, you’ll need to have these.
Keep an empty water bottle in your carryon. preferably a collapsable one. Once you get through security, fill up at a water fountain instead of paying for bottled water at the airport. It is super important to stay hydrated before and during your flight.
Carry a spare lock. You can’t keep everything in a hotel safe. A combo lock with a wire cable can loop into your zippers and attach your bag to anything, making it harder for someone to walk away with it.
Pack your heaviest items in the bottom (closest to the wheels) of your suitcase. This will save your shoes from smushing your favourite outfits.
Pack flip flops no matter where you’re travelling to. They take up very little room, and are super nice to have in your hotel, campsite, boat, etc. for those quick trips to the bathroom, lobby, snack machine, deck, outhouse, etc.
Put a pen and a mini light in your carryon. Handy for when you need to fill out your customs card on the plane, or finding something in your bag from the backseat of a dark taxi.
Use packing Cubes. Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, packing cubes will keep everything organized and easy to find. I bring a spare cube and use it to keep my dirty laundry separated from the clean stuff.
Pack an antimicrobial bag. These may be hard to find. I found mine at a swimsuit store. Having an antimicrobial bag is a godsend when you are ready to pack up from your trip, but your swimsuit, or towel, or t-shirt is still damp. This bag will keep it fresh so it won’t get mouldy and stinky during your travels.
Remember a power bank for your cell phone. If you are using your phone for posting pictures, using maps, etc, the battery can drain quickly. A small power bank can be a life-saver.
Dare to leave the DSLR at home. Unless you’re a professional photographer on safari in Africa, today’s compact cameras are amazing.
Roll your clothes. Have you heard this enough? That’s because it’s true. Rolling your clothes rather than folding them will take up less room and produce less wrinkles. Bonus tip: pack your sock rolls inside your shoes – treat every space like valuable real estate.
Use patterned duct tape on the outside of your luggage. patterned duct tape can be a fun and creative project. Buy some , and create a fun design, or your initials, or whatever you like. Your luggage will be easy to spot as it comes down the carousel. And chances are no one will mistake it for their own and walk away with it.
At the Airport
When you check in, ask if there are any seats in the emergency row. Often airlines won’t offer these seats until they see you in person. They want to make sure you are in fact physically able to deal with the responsibilities of the row, and that you understand English. There is nothing nicer in economy class, than the coveted emergency row!
Check your credit card perks for airport lounge memberships. Priority Pass is one that I use, and is free with my Airmiles Mastercard. This pass is valid at over 950 airport VIP lounges worldwide. The lounges are comfortable, quiet, and have free refreshments, tv, newspapers, wifi and charging stations. My perk includes two free passes/year, and then the cost is $27 per visit. Still, well worth the price!
Get in line behind singles over families. Often single travellers know the drill and will move quickly through security. Families on the other hand, especially with small children, can hold up the line forever. It’s not meant to be critical, it’s just true.
Bring a luggage scale. Even a slightly overweight bag can cost you a hefty fine. It’s best to be certain before you get to the baggage counter. If you are overweight, you will have time to shift a few things into your carryon or even your pockets.
Know the common tourist scams. When a local in Paris begs you to sign a petition for a great cause, keep walking – it’s a pickpocket scam.
Taking little ones to the beach? Roll your cell phone and wallet into a diaper, and tape it up like you would a soiled one, and leave it near your chair. While you are playing with your toddler at the water’s edge, it’s a pretty safe bet no thief will look in the diaper!
Have your accommodation address ready. Better yet, know the best way to get there so you aren’t ripped off by taxi drivers. If public transportation is an option, know the drill (how to buy a ticket, where to get on and off). These are the sort of details you can plan while you’re waiting at the airport, and write them in your notebook.
Don’t be an asshole. Wherever you travel, behave like a guest and be grateful you have the privilege of visiting your destination and the people who call it home.
Did I miss anything? Leave your favourite travel tip in the replies below. I would love to update this post in the future (and will give credit or a referral link for your suggestions).
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