Over the past 20 years, Caz and I have been fortunate to have visited over 50 countries and lived in 5, and today we’d like to share with you our 20 best travel tips!
Whilst our style of travel has evolved from solo travel to traveling as a couple and to now traveling as a family of four, there are some core travel habits that have served us well, and we continue to follow them to this day.
For us, travel is not just about checking places off our list.
Our motto has always been “accumulate memories and moments, not just possessions”, and we like to do that through travel.
From our travel experiences and 10 years of travel blogging we’ve accumulated our fair share of top travel tips along the way and it was difficult to limit this to just twenty!
We hope this list of our best travel tips will inspire and help you to travel, and travel more often!
Our 20 Best Travel Tips
1. Make Travel a Priority
If you want to travel more, you’ve got to make it a priority!
Seriously, if you don’t have enough money for travel yet you have a wardrobe full of designer clothes that you never wear, or a garage full of expensive toys collecting dust, then you’re not clear on your priorities and purpose.
We’ve been able to travel overseas consistently over the past 20 years because we made travel one of our top priorities.
We channeled most of our energy, focus, and finances towards travel.
Currently we don’t own a lot of stuff, but we sure have a lot of memories.
2. Spend More Time in Fewer Places
When you’re planning a trip, don’t try and go everywhere and do everything – that’s a recipe for burnout and blowing your budget!
Instead of racing from one end of a country to another, or tearing through 6 countries in 6 weeks, get to know a region well.
Constantly having to pack and unpack, spend time searching for cheap flights, deal with different time zones, currency changes, and even visa issues can lead to burn out.
And moving around to too many travel destinations can really eat into your finances.
Slow down and take more in. This way, you’ll get a better feel for a place.
Traveling with kids?
Plan for a slower pace than you would if traveling solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you accomplish, especially when traveling with toddlers.
The less you feel you have to see and do, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
Understand that you will never have time to see and do EVERYTHING. And be okay with that.
3. Don’t Expect Things to Be Like They Are at Home
If you want everything like it is at home, then what’s the point of going anywhere?
Keep an open mind to learning and experiencing new things when you travel abroad, that includes trying new foods which can tell you a lot about a culture – and don’t be scared to eat the street food!
We travel abroad to experience different cultures, environments, and ways of thinking. So don’t shut yourself off to experiencing all a country has to offer.
If you travel with an open mind you can have a much more enriching experience.
There will be moments when other cultures will shock you. Don’t judge them. When this happens, sit back and say, “Isn’t that interesting, tell me more!”
4. Travel Does Not Have to Stop Once You Have Kids
We often get emails or have conversations with people we meet on the road who express that once they have kids their travel days are over!
Take it from us, family travel is possible and need not be a hassle. In fact, it can be one of the best experiences you have as a family!
Sure, we don’t travel around the world like we used to or party as much as we did pre-kids, be we obviously still travel and so do MANY other families – the family travel niche is alive and growing.
Over the past 20 years, our travel style has evolved from traveling solo, to traveling as a couple, to now traveling with our two daughters and many of our readers are inspired to follow in our footsteps.
Yes, family travel has its challenges and there are pros and cons of traveling with kids, but creating priceless memories is something to cherish!
There are valuable benefits to traveling with kids. They force you to evolve your style of travel, and in my opinion, usually for the better.
Top Tips for Traveling with kids:
There are three key essentials to having a stress free family vacation. 99% of the time your child will be irritated, cranky or screaming because they are either:
Provide enough opportunities for them to rest and an environment for them to get a good nights sleep.
Choose a kid-friendly destination that has enough activities to keep them occupied, and bring along a few home comforts such as a stuffed toy, reading books, or activity packs which can be a lifesaver on flights and road trips.
Pack enough healthy snacks to keep them satisfied, especially on flights, buses and road trips. Long road trips or flights can leave kids feeling cranky and hungry.
When eating out, go out for breakfast or lunch as we find it easier to handle than dinner as they tend to be cheaper and more casual affairs. Plus by dinner time our kids are tired and can get a little crazy!
A hungry or tired kid is a grumpy kid, much like me actually!
- 25 tips for travel with kids
- 17 tips for flying with kids
- 5 reasons why traveling with kids creates a better traveling experience
- Embracing Family travel and our 18 month road trip (podcast episode)
5. Plan it Together
Sit down with all members of your family and talk about your trip.
The best way to get your kids interested and excited is to have them involved in the travel planning process.
- How many days will your trip be?
- What types of places will you visit: beaches, mountains, big cities, small towns?
- Do you want relaxation or adventure?
- When will the trip start?
Memorable trips are those where each member of your family gets to experience something they love.
Grab a few brochures or travel magazines and flick through the colorful pages. Everyone gets to choose a destination and activity they’d like to see and do.
Go through the list as a family, discuss the pros and cons of each and vote.
Next, jump online or on the floor with a big paper map and plot out your basic route with a highlighter, leaving room for flexibility.
When you plan a trip it’s important you choose a destination and activities that suit the interests of all family members. If your kids (or you) are bored or dislike a place it’s not the recipe for a memorable vacation.
6. Talk to the Locals
One of our best travel tips and what we always do is talk to the locals!
They usually have the best travel advice and insider knowledge on what to see, do and eat in their own town.
It’s truly amazing what you will learn by striking up a casual conversation.
We ask simple questions like:
- Where can we get the best coffee?
- Where is the best spot to see the sunrise?
- What are the top three things you would show a friend from out of town?
You’ll find that the locals love sharing travel info and stories about their town and are more than happy to help you have a memorable visit!
Some of the best locals to talk to are those working behind the front desk in your hotel, or the bell boy. We always ask them for tips on where to eat, drink and explore.
15 tips for planning a trip
Our video will outline a clear pathway to making travel a reality. Subscribe to our YouTube channel!
7. Learn the Basics of the Local Language
Do not shout at the locals, they are not deaf, they probably just can’t understand you!
And NEVER complain that the people of the country you are visiting do not speak fluent English. Remember where you are!
Learning the basics of the local language is a great way to show respect and break down barriers. Plus a smile, a wave, and a friendly attitude can break down any barrier where language isn’t understood.
Get a phrase book, or an app, and make the effort to learn at least a few basic phrases.
It can make life easier for you, you’ll immerse yourself more in the culture, and the locals will respect you more.
8. Travel In Your Own Backyard
If you can’t afford to travel overseas or out of state, if you don’t have the time to go away for more than a few days or the thought of traveling makes you nervous, start off by traveling in your own backyard.
You don’t have to be rich to travel and it doesn’t have to involve long flights.
A great way to bring more travel into your life is simply by exploring new areas in your home city or state.
Start off by taking a day trip to a nearby town or a weekend getaway to the coast or mountains. Or simply explore your own town with new eyes.
- Visit a new cafe or market
- Go kayaking in a nearby river
- Climb a new mountain
- Visit a different park or beach.
- Grab a drink at a different bar
- Walk around a different neigborhood
After a while, you’ll be looking for bigger and longer adventures.
This strategy is one of the most overlooked and cheapest ways of bringing more travel into your life.
The benefits of local travel include:
- Less planning
- Less packing
- Les time away
- No jet lag or burnout
- Usually cheaper
9. Do the FREE Stuff
If saving money when you travel is a focus for you, then one of our best budget travel tips is to seek out all the free things to do.
Most of the time the best experiences in life are free, or extremely low cost.
There is absolute joy in the simplest of moments, such as swinging in a hammock while watching the sunset over the horizon.
Other free things:
- Take a walk or bike ride
- Swim at the beach or lake
- Climb a mountain
- Catch a magnificent sunrise
- Attend museums or tourist sites on free days or when they are discounted
- Play in the park
- Visit a market
- See a street fair or cultural event
We LOVE walking. It’s one of the best ways to get to know and appreciate wherever you are instead of racing around by car.
When you walk around you have time to stop and marvel at all the nooks and crannies.
You are better able to soak up the atmosphere and feel the energy.
And walking is FREE and good for your health!
10. Stay in Apartments or Airbnb (and share the costs)
This is one of our favorite vacation tips!
Depending on the length of our trip and the destination, we tend to chop and change between accommodation styles.
If we are planning a trip that is longer than a weekend getaway, we prefer to stay in apartments or an Airbnb.
They offer several benefits:
- Access to a full kitchen (saves money on eating out)
- Separate bedrooms from the living room (easier to get the kids to sleep)
- You have your own laundry.
- You can book a 3 or 4-bed apartment and split the costs with another family or friends.
These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
Apartments and Airbnb are also typically cheaper and more practical than a hotel – especially for families or small groups.
But if it’s only a short city stay, or we’re just traveling as a couple, we’re happy to stay in a hotel.
11. Fly Where the Deals Are
This is one of our best travel tips on how to find cheap flights!
Instead of choosing a destination and then spending days or weeks looking for a deal, considering flying to where the deals already are.
Skyscanner is one of the best travel websites, a flight search engine that lets you type in your departure city and search for a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world.
Simply go to Skyscanner and click in the “To” box and a drop down menu will appear allowing you to search for flights to everywhere from your departure point. This is a fun tool to plan a vacation.
Kayak Explore is another one of the best travel sites to search for flights to anywhere by simply typing in your departure city.
After you have used these flight search engines and found your cheapest airfare, go directly to that airline’s own site to see if you can get it cheaper.
Many airlines have lower fares only available on their own website.
12. Blow Your Budget
Every now and then, don’t be afraid to blow your travel budget on those once-in-a-lifetime-experiences.
We go away to experience things and create lifelong memories. Don’t limit yourself to just traveling for the sake of traveling.
Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, learn to scuba dive, take that hot air balloon flight, do something incredible you’ve always wanted to do!
Even if you have to go under budget for a few days or a week to compensate for your splurge, it’s worth it.
We spent $650 for a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. And $600 to trek and see the gorillas in Uganda – expensive at the time but lifelong memories! We share our adventures and memorable travels in Uganda in this episode of our podcast.
13. Be Flexible
One of our best travel tips, especially if you travel with kids like us, is to leave room for flexibility in your itinerary.
If you’re on an extended trip, don’t pre-book everything. You’ll meet people along the way who will recommend great places you’ve never heard of.
You’ll discover interesting cultural activities and tours, and activities you thought you only needed 2 hours at you’ll need all day! And places that sound great from your pre-trip research can turn out to be horrible!
If all your flights, tours and accommodation are pre-booked it can be costly to change. Go with the flow a little and don’t over plan.
Of course, if you are on a short trip with limited time and there are popular attractions you want to visit, it pays to book ahead.
14. Don’t Travel Without Travel Insurance
Probably our most important trip advice. I’ve said this over and over…“If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel”.
It’s that simple. Especially if it’s an overseas trip!
No, I don’t like paying for it either, but buying travel insurance can be so cheap it’s a no-brainer and the peace of mind is priceless!
I would rather spend an extra $100 or so for our trip and most likely never use the insurance than wipe out my bank account if something did go wrong.
Why do you need travel insurance?
What happens if:
- You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
- A hurricane damages your destination
- There is a terrorist event
- You get sick or injured on your trip
- Your luggage is lost or stolen
- You lose your passport
If you are an American, or someone visiting the USA, you should definitely NOT skimp on travel medical insurance.
Health care costs in the U.S. are ridiculous, so large that people go bankrupt.
15. Working Holidays Are a Great Way to Experience the World
If you’re interested in long term travel, consider a working holiday.
Caz and I have lived and worked in 5 different countries using the working holiday strategy.
Just three days after Caz graduated from University in Australia as a school teacher, she moved to London to teach for two years on a working holiday visa.
Since then we have both lived in Dublin (Caz teaching, me working in construction), lived in Bangkok teaching English, and lived in the US on J1 and J2 visas (Caz teaching, me in construction).
In each of these countries, we arrived with little money and little contacts, but we made it work and they became some of our most cherished memories and a great way to immerse yourself in a culture and travel a region whilst earning the local currency!
If you desire to live in another country and travel abroad, we recommend making it a working holiday!
Most of us have to work for a living and we need money to travel. Why not combine the two?
Why we love the working holiday visa strategy:
- You don’t have to save up as much money before leaving home.
- You’ll be earning local currency.
- You experience a culture deeply by working, living, traveling within it.
- Weekends and days off become adventures.
- You’ll travel more like the locals, which usually makes it cheaper.
- You form deeper friendships and connections with people.
- You’ll learn new career skills and processes.
- You may get perks such as free accommodation, meals or even flights.
- The jobs we’ve had working around the world
- 9 ways to prepare and protect yourself before working abroad
- How to teach English overseas
- How to teach English online to Chinese students
16. Pack Smart
Just thinking about packing can be stressful when you are planning a trip, but the best thing to do is pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it once there!
Our top travel packing tips are to select versatile, comfortable and loose fitting clothes and neutral colors that can be worn in multiple combinations so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit.
If you travel with kids, encourage them to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach them travel planning skills.
And with toddlers, pack a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day in case of accidents.
Packing cells have been a life saver for us – in each cell we roll up each item and arrange clothes based on type and season.
You can even stuff your underwear into your shoes to save space.
And Caz loves her underwear organizer.
Worried about the weight of your suitcase? Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight, including your big hiking boots!
And don’t forget to bring a sarong!
A sarong doesn’t weigh anything and can be useful for so many things like covering yourself in holy places, a bed sheet, a towel, a picnic blanket, a scarf, a sweater, wind protection, a privacy screen, shade – they are amazing!
Top 5 Travel Packing Tips:
- Know the weather of the destination you are visiting, which helps reduce over-packing.
- When flying take a change of clothes in your carry-on just in case your checked-in luggage doesn’t arrive with you.
- Know the activities you will be doing so you can pack appropriately.
- Know the types of accommodation you will be staying at. If you are staying in hotels you won’t need to take things like towels, hair dryers or linen.
- Charge your electronics and load up all your tablets and portable devices with things to read, play, watch.
Take it from us, dragging heavy suitcases around airports and onto public transportation becomes stressful real quick!
As they say, “halve your clothes and double your budget”.
- 11 of the best check-in suitcases
- 8 best carry-on suitcases
- 10 of the best backpacks
- How to pack a suitcase efficiently
17. Have More Than One Way To Access Your Money
We all want ease and convenience when traveling, especially when it comes to accessing our money.
One thing to know is should you have a checking or savings account when traveling? Well, it can depend on the country you’re visiting.
On a previous trip to trip to Thailand, we had an issue accessing our money using our ATM card because our card was a checking account. For it to work in Thailand it had to be a savings account.
We did not know this at the time. Check with your specific bank regarding this.
It’s best to have more than one option. When we travel, especially overseas, we use a combination of:
- Debit Cards
- Credit Cards
- Travel Money Cards
If traveling with a partner split up the locations of your credit cards and cash in case of theft.
Notify your bank and credit card company where you will be traveling to and the dates, this is to stop them putting a freeze on your card if they see unusual transactions from overseas.
18. Use Credit Card Reward Points
One of our favorite travel hacks we’ve used in the past is accumulating reward points from our credit card that we can redeem for free flights or accommodation.
One of our friends here in North Carolina is an expert at this and has inspired us to become better.
Get the best rewards credit card you can and use it to pay all your bills, groceries, fuel, eating out and earn reward points.
You have to pay your bills anyway so why not use your Rewards Card.
BUT, you have to display self-discipline and be smart with your spending and pay off the balance!
Which is easy to do by setting up a direct debit from your checking account to pay off the balance each month.
This strategy is one of the fastest ways to gather points you can put towards travel, and they can add up fast.
Since our recent move to the US, we got ourselves the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card which gave us 50,000 sign on bonus points.
This Chase card has been helpful for us in setting up our new apartment in Raleigh and after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months we can redeem $625 towards travel.
We are still on the lookout in the US for the best rewards credit card that we can accumulate points on to be used on any airline or hotel. Can you recommend one?
Check the program and benefits for your current credit cards, you might be able to use your points for travel.
And for expert tips on this topic check out The Points Guy.
19. Get Up Early
I know, waking up early can be tough when you’re on vacation and especially if you have to drag kids out of bed.
But it can be the best time of day.
Early in the morning you can take a peaceful walk and see a city coming to life or catch a beautiful sunrise, like the one above from our morning river walk in Knoxville, Tennessee.
If you’re driving you can beat the rush hour of traffic, and you can avoid the heavy crowds at popular tourist destinations – like we did at The Twelve Apostles and Wineglass Bay.
When you get out of bed early it’s amazing how much more you can get done in a day, and the light is nice and soft too making it a great time for taking photos.
20. Put Down Your Phone and Camera
We are guilty of this as much as anyone, considering we are full-time family travel bloggers and spend a lot of our time taking photos, putting out updates on Facebook and Instagram, and creating YouTube videos.
But it’s important for us to remember to step away from behind the camera, to put our phones down, and simply be present in the moment.
Sure, it’s nice to look back on your photos and videos, and social media is addictive, but the only time we have is right NOW in the present moment.
The past has past and the future never arrives – so take the time to just sit and be fully aware of where you are with all your senses!
If you spend your whole vacation looking at it through the confines of a lens, or keep jumping on Facebook every 5 minutes to see what everyone is up to at home, you are not fully present and can miss so much going on all around you!
You’ve spent valuable money and time to be there in the first place, don’t let the moment pass you by!
Read More: 10 Principles to Create awesome travel experiences every time
Our 22 years of travel in podcast
Get inspired to make travel your lifestyle. Based on 22 years of experience, we show you HOW to make travel your priority no matter your lifestyle or budget. We did it without loads of money and, often, little savings.
- Episode 1: Solo Travel and Working Abroad before we met
- Episode 2: Our 5 year honeymoon living and traveling the world
- Episode 3: The Dark times and Birth of the girls and travel blog
- Episode 4: Embracing Family Travel and our 18 month Australian road trip
- Episode 5: Getting a green card and traveling the US (our dream realized)
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What are your best tips for traveling? If you have any travel advice to share with us all, please leave a comment below!