15 Travel Tips for the Frequent Flyer
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Travel, if you can afford it (more on that later), is a wonderful thing. You can learn about other cultures or parts of your own, and you can learn a lot about yourself that you wouldn't if you were just in a comfort zone generated by familiar surroundings. There's something to be said for enhancing your tolerance for uncertainty and helping you adapt to unfamiliar situations (it doesn't have to be scary, either; sometimes it's as basic a situation as needing to find a place to charge your phone while you're walking through a new city). The experience itself can also be quite affirming, both in terms of shoring up your confidence and forging a connection to another part of the world, neither of which really gets done in the same way if you never get past the limits of your circle.
Here are some tips for making sure your travels go well.
1. Bring a towel.
Douglas Adams knows what's up. Even if the hotel or AirBnB you secured has towels, you never know when there might be a shortage or when your need might pop up during a cleaning cycle (or when you might need one more than what's available). Your skin might also be sensitive or picky when it comes to fabric types. You also don't really want to throw money away on buying one there - not when you have a half dozen towels at home. A small or moderately thick one won't really add much weight to your luggage (and there are brands of very absorbent thin towels that will help with that too).
2. Train yourself to use a small backpack or suitcase.
If you don't foresee the trip being a shopping-heavy one where you'll need a lot of room to bring stuff home, you'll appreciate using a compact bag or suitcase. When you're working with big ones, you'll have a tendency to want to pack more than you really need, regretting it later.
3. Be open to using a map, and to ask for directions.
Google Maps has made the world a somewhat smaller, simpler place, but depending on the location you might need to refer to a posted map on a wall or a folded-up one (usually free). Either way, don't worry about the stigma of "looking like a tourist" when you use a map or ask for directions. Odds are the people already know you're a tourist, and honestly, no one cares. Your need to get somewhere matters more.
4. Getting (purposefully) lost is fine.
Depending on the location -- some places like Singapore and Tokyo are great for this -- you'll be totally safe just wandering aimlessly. Set limits on your time and how far you'll walk around, and see what there is to discover.
5. Don't rely entirely on travel review sites.
Negative experiences tend to get written up on these, but positive ones don't as much. Maybe the people feel the need to warn others but not to talk up a place (because, presumably, if you're checking travel review sites, you're already interested). Regardless of intent, this tends to skew how a place is perceived.
6. You can save some cash by not flying direct, but it'll affect your time budget.
Direct routes are rarely the cheapest ones. If the flight times aren't really in your favor anyway (or you're not rushing to pack so much into a trip's timeframe), don't sweat an extra bus ride into the city from a slightly farther airport. The flight will likely be cheaper by enough to offset that extra drive. Remember, the less you spend on the flight, the more money you have to spend during the trip.
7. You don't need a money belt... or a bunch of other popular travel accessories.
Enough said, really. Money belts tend to be "rob me" or "gouge me" signs in some places, as the element that's likely to do so knows what's in them. This is one case you don't want to look like a tourist.
8. Don't feel pressure to eat out every single night.
Locals don't; why should you? If your hostel allows it, do some grocery shopping and cook and eat in. Some countries like Japan and Korea will also have great convenience stores with healthier convenience-store fare that makes for filling eats.
9. When you go out, take only what you need.
The easiest way to lose everything is to bring everything. Even if you're not likely to get robbed, you can misplace things. Bring only a good amount of money with you and a small just-in-case emergency amount (and you probably won't need ALL your bank cards), don't bring every single device you own. The rest can wait for you in locked luggage in a locked hotel room.
10. Bring a basic first-aid kit.
"Basic" is about it. Small bandages, small bottles of iodine and alcohol, some basic meds (for a headache, motion sickness, upset stomach), and you're good. Better safe than sorry, especially if you're going somewhere where you're less familiar with their drugstore situation.
11. Try to avoid taxis unless you really need them.
These tend to be expensive, and a single trip can cut your budget down by a lot. Study up on the local travel routes, and you can save a lot.
12. Hotel (or hostel) staff are very helpful, even when you're not staying there.
Staff are used to inquiries from travelers, and will likely not give you any grief for being a tourist. They know where affordable local food and entertainment are (hotel staff aren't really known for spending a lot, really), as well as how to get around. If you're polite, odds are they'll be very helpful, even if you're not staying at their establishment.
13. Rethink eating near tourist destinations.
If you're hungry and can't wait, go for it. But restaurants near tourist destinations tend to price things for tourists (meaning, upward), and are usually a shade less authentic than those a block or so further down the path. One red flag is a menu with about six languages, which tells you they really know their tourist audience.
14. Consider cotton compression socks.
These simple choices will help you a lot during the flight (the longer the flight, the more your legs will want these) and during the walking about you'll do during the trip.
15. Don't Overplan the Trip.
The whole point is to get out there and break your routine, and give yourself room to unwind. Overthinking and overplanning will undo all of that by creating new sources of stress. Prep a loose itinerary with enough flexibility to allow for weather changes, budget shortfalls, or flights of fancy (you might discover a more interesting place to go).