Happy 2016! We start off the new year with a guest post by Scott W. Scott has been an independent traveler to over fifty countries,and has learnt a lot along the way. Scott believes that travel is a mindset, but it helps to travel light! Here are his best travel tips, to get you traveling right this year:
1.The greatest fear is fear of the unknown. Plan ahead. Planning ahead and gathering lots of information about your destination ahead of time will have a direct impact on your experience. It is true that sometimes going blind or with little information will lead to new and interesting experiences, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of having a good trip, then plan ahead.
2.Figure out your hotel transfer ahead of time. Try and book a hotel with an airport transfer option or off public transportation. If these options don’t exist, contact your hotel close to your departure time and see if they can send a local driver to avoid the hustle exiting the airport. If they can’t send a taxi ,ask if they can give you the approximate cost of a taxi to the hotel to avoid any scams. You can be overcharged even if you know the correct fare ahead of time, but at least you will have a point of reference to go by.
3.Giving your hotel a heads up on your arrival time a day or two beforehand may get you early check in to your room. There is nothing worse than arriving at the hotel after an overnight flight from the US to Europe (a common itinerary) and having to wait in the lobby until your 2pm (check in time), sleepy and groggy.
4.Bring a pen. If you’re not in first class, getting the amenities kit with a free pen, you will need it on the plane to fill out your immigration forms prior to landing. I always carry a pen in case to make notes on my trip: places to eat, or places to go, suggested by others you meet along the way.
5.Before heading out for some sightseeing, take a business card from the hotel front desk. That way, if you get lost or need help later you can always show it to a taxi driver. This will help you get back so you don’t have to sleep on the street.
6.Pack a light foldable bag
to take on day trips and sightseeing with water, snacks, etc.
7.Pack light! Here’s a great video from Tim Ferris on how to pack light.
8.Make a copy of important documents and store them separately from your actual documents. That way, if you lose your passport, you can take the copy to the Embassy and it will help speed up the process of getting a replacement and help you get back home. Think beyond just passports. You may need a copy of your marriage license if traveling in countries with strict morality laws, like many Muslim countries .
9.Carry a lock bag
. This comes in very helpful if renting a car and you need to leave valuable inside you can just lock them to the beam under the seat. This also works well for hostels or hotel rooms without a safe in the room. All you need is something fixed to lock it too.
10.Bring health essentials. Sometimes things are hard to get in remote places, like Neosporin and sunscreen (I got really bad sun poisoning on my legs once in Vietnam from faulty waterproof sunscreen, I think it was water mixed with snake venom, In Nam, man, In Nam!)
11.If in the US, then sign up for global entry
, $100 for 5 years and includes TSA pre-check, skip the $80 pre-check only option. TSA pre-check will give you a Known Traveler Number (KTN). Then you will be able to add this KTN to your itinerary when booking your flight and it will give you the option to take a shorter security line and keep your shoes, belt, light jacket on. It will also let you keep your liquids under 3 oz, and computer in your bad. You won’t have to go through the sterilizer also, only the normal metal detector. If you place all of the objects in your pockets in your bag ahead of time, then you will be able to get through security in no time. Global entry is of great help skipping the re-entry lines, if you travel internationally a lot. Without checking a bag, I have gotten through customs and immigration at JFK in 5 to 10 minutes on many occasions. Also, for frequent travelers, you will save room in your passport, since you will no longer get a stamp returning back to the US. There are some credit cards that offer Global entry as a benefit. For example the American Express Platinum card includes a credit for Global entry along with other benefits, but has a $500 yearly fee. But if you travel often enough, and can take advantage of the Priority Plus options at the airports you fly out of, this may make sense for you.
12.The dollar is king, so bring some. Taking along singles for tips is helpful. For exchanging to foreign currency, take only higher bills that are in good condition — no tears, or happy faces drawn on them. The banks in most countries are very strict with what they will accept, and in turn the people taking money for exchanges are picky also.
13.Check the US state department Website
for any warning or advisories you may have missed in your planning.
14.Yelp it up! Often finding places to eat is one of the more difficult things to do when traveling to an unknown place, especially when traveling to more remote places, or where there is a significant difference in cultures. Think Japan and the US, for example (though it helps that most restaurants in Tokyo have little fake plastic examples on display to help you figure out what you want, just point). Research as much as possible before you go using Yelp or Lonely planet and write down at least some options so that you have something to go by before you arrive, in order to stack the deck in your favor. This is meant to be used as a complement to asking the hotel desk or fellow hostelers where the good place to eat is. Anthony Bourdain’s had some good advice on how to find a good place walking down the street in an unfamiliar place that I have always tried to follow on his TV show. “Always go to the place where the line is the longest”
15.Before you leave, purchase and download to your tablet or computer some movies that you want to watch. Amazon prime will let you download purchased material to your hard drive. If you bring along a simple headphone splitter
, you don’t have to watch alone. This comes in handy if you get stuck waiting at the airport or in your non-tv hotel room on a bad weather day. Also carry a desk of playing cards.
16.Bring along some small gifts or trinkets with you to give to people on your journey. Something a simple as magnets of the NYC skyline (my hometown is NYC) is a nice gesture for when people in another country are kind to you, or invite you to their house. Its always nice to have something to offer as a gift — this is something universal in most cultures.
What are some tips you have from your adventures?!? I would love to hear them!
Safe travels everyone!