Most people, about 99.99% of them, are not born the smartest traveler. Everyone has to start off somewhere and when they do, they make mistakes. These mistakes are good though; in the end, only on-the-road experience will give you the skills and experience you need to become a smart traveler. Mistakes such as missed busses, wrong turns, and many, many trial and errors. With time, your mistakes become less frequent and soon you will be coasting through airports, hotels, and enjoying the great open road. So learn from your mistakes…or at least mine. It doesn’t hurt to have a few pointers…then you can be on your way to enjoying your trip sooner than later!
Buy Travel Insurance
Number one thing. BUY IT. And not just the medical portion; get the whole package. Ever have your flight cancelled and be stuck in one of the world’s most expensive cities? Or break your arm and have to cancel your trip? I have… but luckily for me, insurance paid back the expenses.
Bring the necessities, but don’t bring your whole closet. If you really need something while travelling, you can pick it up.
Comfy shoes are a must. Transit might be a bit harder to navigate and you probably won’t have a car….meaning you are walking a LOT more. Isn’t sightseeing so much better when you don’t have blisters?
Bring a Towel
If you are backpacking or staying in hotels, a towel will be key. Or at least bring a sarong. It gives you something to sit on at the beach, use after a shower (not all hostels provide towels), and even be a blanket on those cold train/bus rides.
Let Your Bank Know Where You Are
Nothing worse then having your debit card and credit card cancelled while in a foreign country.
Book the Window Seat
You can fall asleep against the side of the plane and not on your poor travel companion or random stranger. Bonus of the window? Wicked views.
Put a Copy of Your Passport Somewhere Safe
Either keep a copy in your bag or in your e-mail. That way if your passport gets stolen (or your bag), you can easily bring a printed copy of your identification to the embassy.
Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street
It’s habit to look in one direction before crossing. But depending on the country you are from and the country you are visiting, traffic might be on the opposite side of the road…hence you stepping out into oncoming traffic.
Bring a Journal
Write down everything: the things you do, the people you meet, the places you have gone. You won’t remember everything and it’s always nice to be able to look back on your experiences.
Pack a Flashlight and an Alarm
If you don’t bring your smartphone with you everywhere you go, you will need a flashlight and alarm. You don’t want to be that person who wakes up everyone in the dorm with bright lights or miss an early morning bus, do you?
Carry a Basic First Aid Kit
Never know when you will need band-aids, ointments, or certain medications. Think of tripping over rocks on a beach. You will be glad that you have stuff to clean your cuts and bandage yourself up.
Science has done wonders in this day…and getting sick from something that could have been easily prevented is not fun or smart.
Go on Free Walking Tours
Most hostels will advertise them. Even bulletin boards in touristy areas will have the tours posted. You get to go out and explore for a few hours with a local and meet some new people. Win-win.
Visit the Tourism Office
Sometimes they can give you discounts to place, let you know what’s open and closed, and give out some pretty good recommendations.
Save Travel Points
Whether it’s through an airline, hotels, or credit cards, you can save up some serious points and get free vacations. I like the travel credit cards. With mine, I get a free flight of a year, just from redeeming points.
Eat Street Food
See where the locals eat. If it’s busy, it will be fine. Plus it’s delicious and cheaper than eating in a restaurant every night.
On the topic of eating where the locals eat– go to the grocery store. It gets boring (and expensive!) to eat out every night.
Back-up Your Photos
Every couple of days, upload your photos to a file share. Dropbox, Flickr, or even your e-mail. If your camera gets stolen or you drop it in some water, you’ll be glad your photos are saved somewhere.
Mind Where You Are
Just because you wear shorts everywhere in the summer back home, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable everywhere. A lot of countries require you to be fully clothed to go inside temples. Even if it is 40 degrees Celsius outside.
Also, remember your manners and respect local customs. Don’t be that traveler who is making an ass of himself.
Keep In Touch
Let your friends and family know where you are. Even if it’s just you posting a photo on social media, at least they can see you are alive. It’s not nice to let your parents panic over where you are. And if something does go wrong, then someone knows where you are and can hopefully help.
All this being said, you are still going to make mistakes…and that’s okay. It’s human nature, but think of it as a learning experience. Every mistake you make, gets you once step closer to being a smarter traveler.
What are some of your travel mistakes you have learnt from?