After over ten years of consistent travel, I’ve definitely learned my fair share of lessons. Like the time I was robbed on a train because I let my guard down or the time Scott and I showed up at the Bozeman Airport only to find that we no longer had a car rental. Some of these travel mishaps can be avoided and some of them are just a part of traveling. You simply cannot plan for everything. However, keeping a few important things in mind will make your travels much easier. So, in no particular order, here are my 25 best travel tips: My 25 Best Travel Tips After 10 Years of Traveling the World Be Flexible We always plan for delays and try not to get upset when things inevitably go wrong. Patience is extremely important when traveling! Make a List About a week or so before each trip, I make a mental list of items I don’t want to forget — which I WILL forget if I don’t write them down. I’ve learned that when I think of something, I need to write it down. Learn Common Phrases of the Local Language A simple “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry” in the local language goes a long way. I also like to learn the word for beer, but that’s just me. Don’t Forget an Extra Camera Battery (or Two) Have you ever gotten to that epic sunset photo spot and realized your camera battery is dead and you don’t have a back up? I try to bring at least three camera batteries on all of our trips so that we don’t miss out on that perfect shot. –>> Read more: A Travel Photographer’s Camera Kit Always Bring a Sarong Sarongs can be used as a wrap when you are cold, a towel, a curtain, or a piece of clothing that can be worn dozens of different ways. Solid colors are great, but if you want something that stands out, I love this sarong. –>> Read more: 8 Ways to Wear a Sarong Travel Fashion Tips Always Buy Travel Insurance A medical emergency can wipe out your savings — or even worse. We use and trust World Nomads for travel insurance. Make Photocopies of Important Documents In my early twenties, I was very good about keeping a copy of my passport in a separate bag from my actual passport. Then I got lazy. Recently, a friend of mine lost her passport at the airport. She was told that if she had brought a copy of it and extra passport photos they would have let her travel. Since she didn’t, she was forced to forfeit a $2,000 flight and a week in Europe. I now carry a copy with me. –>> Read more: Checklist for Overseas Travel Pack Extra Underwear Undies are small and it’s always a good idea to have a few extra pairs in case of emergencies. Another option is to pack these quick-dry underwear so you can easily wash them on the road. Pre-plan Your Outfits I’m a lazy, last-minute packer, so I’ve spent too many trips with all black or all grey outfits because I didn’t plan my outfits before packing. I look back at photos and wish I had put more effort into packing. –>> Read more: How to Stay Stylish While Traveling Best World Travel Tips Put Electronics, Medications, Toothbrush, and an Extra Pair of Underwear in Your Carry-on A few important items should always go in your carry-on. A swimsuit is also a good idea if you are going on a beach vacation. You can buy most of these things if your bag gets lost, but having them in your carry-on will save you money and time if your luggage gets lost in transit. Enquire about the price BEFORE You Take Public Transportation It’s a good idea to ask about the price before you hop on a bus, guagua, or other form of public transportation. We learned our lesson in the Dominican Republic. –>> Read more: Guaguas in the DR and How to Avoid Getting Overcharged Bring Lotion in Your Carry-on I fill both sides of a contact lens case with hydrating lotion (I use this all-natural hydrating lotion) because they rarely have it in the lavatories and airplane cabins are exceptionally dry. Stay Hydrated on Planes I know it’s fun to get drunk at 30,000 feet, but it’s also much easier to get dehydrated. Staying hydrated — especially on long-haul flights — makes it easier to get over jet lag too. Put Your Room Number & Hotel Address in Your Phone Am I the only one who can’t remember my hotel room number?? There has to be others out there like me. Ask the locals – My top travel tips Ask The Locals We always ask the locals to point us to the best restaurants, awesome spots to watch the sunset, the best coffee shops, etc. I do like to tell people what type of food I’m craving though. I’ve been led to some interesting restaurants that wouldn’t have been my first choice. Beware of Free Public WIFI I always try to avoid logging into bank accounts or entering any passwords while I’m using free public WIFI at a place like an airport. I’m not as strict about it once I’ve gotten to my hotel, especially if they have a password for their wifi. Alert Your Bank and Credit Card Company of Your Travel Plans This is a great habit to get into if you don’t want your credit card company or bank to put a hold on your card while you are overseas. Wear Sunscreen My face moisturizer has SPF. This is just something I do every day, but it’s especially important while traveling. Take Plenty of Photos They make the best souvenirs! Keep an Open Mind Don’t judge other customs. You are a visitor. Be respectful. Best Travel Tips Leave Room for Spontaneity Don’t plan your entire itinerary ahead of time. It’s tempting, I know, but those unplanned moments while traveling can be the best memories. Let Someone at Home Know Your Plans This is extremely important when traveling solo, but it’s still a good idea no matter how many people are in your travel group. –>> Read more: Travel Tips for the Solo Female Adventurer Separate Your Personal Items When Scott and I travel together, we mix our personal items into each checked bag (assuming we have more than one). That way if one of our bags gets lost, we both still have some clothing and personal items. Separate Your Sources of Money Don’t keep all of your cash and cards in one spot. I usually hide some cash and a back up credit/bank card in a separate bag — not the same bag as my wallet. –>> Read more: Tips for Keeping Your Valuables Safe While Traveling Travel First Aid Kit We pack up a small first aid kit with aspirin, Benedryl, cold meds, Tums, cough drops, bandages, Activated Charcoal pills (these are a life saver for traveler’s diarrhea and minor allergic reactions), Neosporin, and other things that we may not always have easy access to when traveling. J&J sells an inexpensive mini first aid kit.
Safety should be a key consideration no matter where you travel, and part of staying safe in an unfamiliar place is dressing to blend in — or, at least, not dressing to stand out. Beyond avoiding matching T-shirts, baseball hats and white sneakers, not to mention “I Love NY” sweatshirts, keep in mind local customs and attitudes, as well as religious beliefs, when choosing your attire. This will help you avoid causing offense to locals or becoming a target to thieves. tacky tourist “My adventures have taken me, as a solo female traveler, through primarily Muslim countries as well as primarily Christian countries,” says frequent traveler Lisa Munniksma. “I’ve always been modest in my appearance, but after traveling and meeting so many travelers and locals from various cultures, the importance of respecting traditions in dress has been driven home.” Before you get out your suitcase, here are 10 things you may wish to leave in your closet as you pack for your next trip abroad. Note that this list offers broad guidelines; you’ll want to research your specific destination to find out which ones are and aren’t applicable for your particular trip. Religiously Immodest Clothing It’s wise to dress conservatively in any country holding deeply religious views, such as those in the Middle East (if you’re not sure, your travel agent or guidebook can offer advice on local religious customs). Women in particular should avoid miniskirts, tank tops, bra tops, short-sleeved shirts, shorts and sometimes even capri pants. Revealing dresses and cleavage-bearing necklines are also huge no-nos. Men should avoid shorts and sleeveless tops in many Middle Eastern countries or when entering a church or other holy place. Pants and long skirts are a safe bet, and women should carry a shawl in their bag or purse just in case. As a general rule, travelers should cover their shoulders and knees when entering any church or holy site to avoid unwanted stares or being denied entry. It’s also wise to keep your feet and ankles covered. When in doubt, stick to long sleeves, and men, keep that chest hair concealed. Five Things You Shouldn’t Wear on a Plane Flashy Jewelry Never wear expensive, flashy jewelry abroad, unless you want your diamond rings, pearls and pricey watches to be tagged for someone else’s collection. Since there’s probably no need to impress anyone that much on your trip abroad, leave the valuables at home. Sneakers and Open-Toe Shoes In many parts of the world, sneakers are for sporting activities only. White tennis shoes, Crocs and Birkenstocks are notably frowned upon by Spaniards and Italians. Instead, wear comfortable leather walking shoes in the city, and keep them polished and in good shape. White, lace-up tennis shoes are the calling card of American tourists (and don’t even think about Velcro sneakers). If you’re traveling anywhere but a beach, it’s generally wise to stick with closed-toe shoes, which can help prevent insect bites or cuts on your toes from gravelly surfaces. “It is not sanitary to wear flip-flops and other open-toe shoes when traveling to some areas because you can get infections,” notes Talia Salem, a communications specialist at PlanetWildlife. 18 Surefire Ways to Get Sick While Traveling Shorts Yes, we Americans do love our shorts, but some other cultures — such as Indonesians and Vietnamese — don’t wear them for everyday walking around, no matter the season or how close they are to the equator. Consider reserving your khaki shorts for beaches, parks, tennis clubs and hiking trails. Religious Imagery, Curse Words or National Flags Avoid clothing sporting religious or military symbols, swear words, national flags and any words or symbols written in a language you cannot translate. There’s no need to unintentionally spark an emotional debate while on vacation. It’s also not a bad idea to leave religious jewelry, even cross necklaces, at home. If you must, wear them under your clothes so they’re not visible to anyone. Bright Colors Unless loud colors or bold patterns are the norm in your destination, consider sticking with conservative hues like navy, blue, tan and gray. Look put together, opting for classic, well-fitting clothing. You want to blend in, not draw unwanted attention to yourself (and nothing does that better than a neon green tank top). How to Blend In with the Locals: 20 Tips Inappropriate Colors In the Western world, we may wear black to wakes and funerals, but in parts of Asia, white is the funereal color — good to keep in mind on the off chance you may be mourning someone’s passing while on holiday. Meanwhile, stay away from wearing black or blue in central Africa; these are the favorite colors of large, biting tsetse flies. Jeans Jeans are increasingly popular around the world, so they don’t scream “Tourist!” the way they used to. That said, they should fit well and be wrinkle-free. It’s even better if you opt for black or dark blue jeans. Baggy or ripped jeans are frowned upon in some cultures, and they may look disrespectful if you wear them into churches, mosques or other holy sites. If you’re traveling to a warm and/or rainy climate, consider alternatives to jeans; they don’t breathe well and take a long time to dry, making them impractical for many itineraries. tourists map Backpacks Planning to spend the summer backpacking across Europe or Southeast Asia? Then a large backpack is practical and probably a better bet than a rollaboard suitcase for lugging onto trains and traveling between destinations. But bring a secondary bag, like a small fabric tote bag that can be worn across your chest, for everyday touring around cities. Any kind of backpack, big or small, may mark you as a tourist. They’re also easy to reach into and steal from if you’re wearing one on your back on a busy bus or train. Cameras This advice isn’t workable for pro photographers, but casual shutterbugs should snap a photo or two, then put the camera away. Nothing screams tourist like a camera permanently hanging from your neck. Not only do you stand out, but you may also get targeted by thieves. Carry a camera or smartphone that you can fit into your small bag. Don’t Miss Top Travel Tips — Sign Up for Our Newsletters A Few More Tips Dressing appropriately while abroad not only helps you fit in with locals and receive friendlier service, but it also protects you from standing out to pickpockets. When in doubt, look at what the locals are wearing. “The best thing a traveler can do is go to a local clothing store and buy a couple of outfits — then no one will ever mistake you for a tourist,” says travel expert John E. DiScala (a k a Johnny Jet). Plus, your new wardrobe additions make great souvenirs. Beyond watching what you wear, there are a few other things you can do to make yourself look like less of a traveler. For one, look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, even if you have to fake it. “Standing in the middle of the block looking confused — or worse, unfolding a map — calls you out as a tourist,” notes Matthew Reames, who traveled extensively through Europe a few years ago. “[Instead], pop into a coffee shop or something like that to give yourself time to pause and get your bearings.” Be wary of hand gestures, both making them and wearing clothing depicting them, because these can have different meanings depending on where you are. In Bangladesh, for example, the “thumbs up” gesture is considered obscene. Since you may never know what certain images suggest in another country, avoid them to keep from offending anyone. Visit Guide.CultureCrossing.net to read up on common local gestures and taboos. Sometimes even more important than how we look is what we sound like. Many Americans can be readily identified by their loud (and often complaining) voices. Keep your sound level low and your speech polite, though this suggestion can certainly be applied to travel anywhere, even within your own home town