18 Travel Tips That Actually Work

Travel Features Travel Tips
18 Travel Tips That Actually Work

“Get Out There” is a column for itchy footed humans written by long-time Paste contributor Blake Snow. Although different now, travel is better than ever. Today we examine tried and true travel tips for maximum awesomeness.

Travel inspires us to see, taste, and try new things. It might not be rational, but it is in our genes. So if we’re gonna do it, we might as well do it well. Here’s how, according to 18 lessons I’ve personally learned from a half-life of travel. 

1. Bypass airport security lines. Enroll in TSA Precheck for just $85 for five years. This will save you 30-60 minutes of lines each way and let you keep your dignity and shoes on while doing so. If traveling out of the country, use the Mobile Passport Control app for free, priority, and crazy fast U.S. customs lines (for Americans and Canadians only).

2. Don’t eat or do things that are better at home. If you live in America, you get the best burgers in the world. So it doesn’t make sense to order those abroad. Seek out things that foreigners do better, like gelato in Rome or safaris in Africa.

3. Book a walking tour on your first day. Many of these tours are free with a local guide and will orient you to the area on what things you might enjoy more. You can also search for a “self-guided walking tour” on Google that will superimpose a route on your Google Maps app for similar effect. I’ve done both and they’re a fantastic way to get the lay of the land.

4. Travel to cheaper places. Everyone should see Paris, New York, or Venice at least once. But with 200 countries and four million cities in the world, you can see and do a whole lot more if you focus on cheaper destinations. Think Mexico, Thailand, Portugal, China, Greece, India, Egypt, Albania, and dozens more that will inspire you just as much as (if not more than) the bougie spots.

5. Don’t follow the herd. If seeing Paris doesn’t excite you, don’t go just because I or a million others tell you to. Wherever you go, go with all your heart. It will make for a much more enjoyable vacation that speaks to you and probably results in a lot less aggravation or self-doubt.

6. Pack light (backpacks and carry-ons only). I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this, but I cannot overstate how limited baggage can help you go farther. That’s why it’s one of the most common travel tips you’ll hear from the pros. It will save you hours in airport lines alone. If Rick Steves can spend four months in Europe with only a backpack, you can do the same in two weeks. At most, limit your stuff to one carry-on only. Here’s how…

7. Roll your clothes. It’s the most proven space-saving method and even prevents more wrinkles than folding. You’d be amazed how much stuff you can fit in a backpack or carry on with this method.

8. Sink-wash your laundry. Do this with travel detergent or hand soap in a pinch. To dry clothes, ring ‘em out, flap ‘em in the air, then roll and squeeze them with your bath towel. If you have the means to pay the hotel $18 to wash a shirt or spare time to visit a laundromat, knock yourself out. Morale of the story: make laundry a part of your pack-light travel routine. We’re all peasants here.

9. Download offline maps in spotty coverage. This ensures you can still get to where you want to go, especially in wilderness areas.

10. Bring and refill your own water bottle. This applies to land, sea, and air excursions. You’ll feel better, eat better, and make better decisions when you’re hydrated. Never let the lack of a bottle or convenience store prevent you from doing so.

11. Don’t over schedule. One of my favorite personal travel tips is to leave open days in your itinerary to allow for spontaneity, power lounging, or adventure audibles. To do this, you must believe that you cannot and will not “see it all.” As a rule of thumb, I limit my sightseeing to no more than one or two things a day, while leaving open either a morning, afternoon, or night to allow for other cool things to happen.

12. When traveling with kids, do these five things. Pay for conveniences, get them involved, take what they’re giving you, prioritize pools, and summon the magic screen.

13. Learn “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “toilets,” and “how much” in the local language. Not only is this well-mannered and considerate, it can get you just about anything you really need, especially when coupled with pointing, gestures, and friendly smiles.

14. Try to eat everything. Raw baby squid in Japan is an inky, horrible mess. But I didn’t know it until I tried it. And the act of trying will introduce you to so many wonders, making the rare misfires totally worth it. In life, you don’t have to like it, but you should at least try it.

15. Book your flight first. Don’t overthink your next adventure. To commit, just buy your airfare first and the rest will follow suit. That’s because the fear of not having shelter, food, and transportation is far too great to let it slip between the cracks.

16. Don’t take too many photos. Seeing the world with your own two eyes is a lot more rewarding and high definition than seeing it on a five inch phone screen. By all means, you should take photos as they enhance our post-trip appreciation. But just take a couple of key moments then live in the present the rest of the time.

17. Walk whenever possible. Doing this lets you see, smell, feel, and hear a new place so much better than by car. Biking is the next best thing. But slower is almost always better when visiting someplace new. And there’s nothing slower than walking.

18. Go with the flow. Flight got canceled and you won’t get to your destination until the next day? Stressing or feeling entitled won’t speed the clock. So when things go wrong while traveling (which they do upwards of 20% of the time), take what the road gives you. You might just learn something or even laugh at yourself if you do.

If you follow these travel tips, your next vacation should be a dream.

Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a bodacious writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his adolescent family and two dogs.

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