We’ve been traveling around the world on and off since 1997, including living in 5 countries for extended periods, so we’ve accumulated our fair share of travel tips along the way.
Whilst our style of travel has evolved throughout those years from being solo travelers, to travelling as a couple, and now as a travelling family, there are some core travel habits that have served us well, and we continue to follow them to this day.
But, for now, the following list of tips will not only help you to have a more enriching and deeper traveling experience, but will help you save money and burn out.
32 Travel Tips
1. Spend More Time in Fewer Places
Instead of racing from one end of a country to another, or tearing through 6 continents in 6 months, get to know a region well. Having to pack and unpack, deal with many airports, bus terminals, boarder crossings and even visa issues can lead to burn out. And too much transport can really eat into your budget.
So slow down and take more in. That way, you won’t suffer from burn out, and you’ll get a better feel for a place and learn about the best things to see and do. Understand that you will never have time to see EVERYTHING. And be okay with it.
2. Talk to the Locals
It can go a long to a friendship, good advice, and even a discount. A good starter is to ask for directions or advice (“Where’s a good restaurant?”). Get a phrasebook and make the effort to learn at least a few phrases of the local language. It can make life easier for you and the locals will respect you more.
3. Blow Your Budget
Every now and then throw your daily budget calculator out the window. 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, jump out of a plane, do something incredible. Even if you have to go under budget for a few days or a week to compensate for your splurge. It’s worth it.
Read our post on Is Budget Travel All that Matters?
4. Get Up Early in the Morning
It really is the best time of day. You’ll see a city come to life, there will be fewer tourists, and you will have more time to explore. Also, the early light is less harsh and can be the best time for your photography.
5. Leave Room for Flexibility in Your Schedule
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 places you thought you only needed 2 days in you’ll need a week.
Places that sound great from your research at home turn out to be a dive. If all your flights, tours and accommodation are pre-booked, it can be costly to change. Go with the flow a little.
6. Travel With An Open Mind
We travel abroad to experience different cultures, environments, and ways of thinking. Don’t shut yourself off to experiencing all there is to offer. If you travel with an open mind you can have a much more enriching experience.
There are times and moments when other cultures will shock you. Don’t judge them. When this happens, we just sit back and say to ourselves …“Isn’t that interesting?”
7. Sign Up for e-Mail Notifications
The best airfare and hotel sales can go largely unannounced, unless you’ve registered on their web sites and signed up for their e-Newsletters. It pays to belong by signing up to their mailing list. Special promotion codes can save you money and you can also be notified of last minute deals in this way.
8. Become Facebook and Twitter Fans
Go and “like” your favorite travel sites on facebook and “follow” them on twitter. Just like with signing up to their newsletters, it’s getting more and more common for sites and companies to release hot deals directly through their social media channels.
9. Use the Free Days
Attend museums or tourist sites on free days or when they are discounted. Most museums have special discount times or free nights. Before you go anywhere, make sure you look on their website or facebook page to find out if they offer free visiting hours or discounts.
10. Travel Light
Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll things. Choose shoes first, and plan outfits around them. Wear your big hiking boots onto the plane rather than pack them. Stuff your underwear into your shoes even. It’s always best to halve your clothes and double your budget.
Read our post on how to pack a suitcase efficiently.
11. Make it a Working Holiday
If you’re considering long term travel, a working holiday can give you the opportunity to experience a new culture, gain new skills, and it’s a great way to fund your travels for an extended stay.
By participating in a working holiday, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the people and their day to day lives, you’ll get a real feel for the heartbeat of the country, and you’ll get out of your comfort zone by trying different and unusual jobs.
12. Consider Living off One Wage
If you are a couple and are saving for your dream trip, consider living off one wage and put the other away into a dedicated savings account. That’s what we did for a whole year and it really adds up.
13. Get Flashcards Made Up
If you are traveling in a foreign land with a difficult language, get some flashcards made up with basic commands. e.g. When we travelled China we had a flashcard saying we were vegetarian.
Also, get the hotels business card with the local language printed on it so you can show taxi drivers the location of where you are staying.
14. Bring a Sarong With You
It 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. Amazing!
15. Go Directly To The Airline’s Website
Once you have looked at all your favorite search websites to find your cheapest flight, as a LAST resort go direct to that airlines own website. Many airlines have lower fares that you can only get when you book online at their site. Sometimes airlines like to keep benefits for their own people.
16. Be Flexible With Your Dates and Times
Give yourself the best chance to capture a cheap flight. Leaving a few days before or after your ideal date could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. Also, taking the red-eye, or flying at unpopular hours increases your chances of getting a cheaper flight.
17. Fly Off-Peak Days
A Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday are off-peak days which usually means lower fares, less passengers, and a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats.
18. Join a Frequent Flyer Program
So you can earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, and free companion tickets. It may take a while to accumulate points, but they CAN pay off big time if you fly a lot. The programs are free and many airlines are partnered now so they’ll recognize and honor each others miles.
I’ve used my points to fly a free return trip for from North Carolina-Atlanta-London-Johannesburg-Cape Town and back!
19. Sign Up for an Airline Affiliated Credit Card
If you are going to be using a credit card anyways, you may as well start accumulating frequent flyer points. Benefits depend on which country you live in and what cards you have access to.
20. Stay More Than 1 Night
Many hotels and hostels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
21. Call the Hotel Directly
A last minute phone call directly to a hotel or hostel and asking about cheap rooms can prove fruitful. They don’t like having empty rooms so will discount.
22. Stay over Sunday
Many hotels recieve Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights. Plus, always ask for an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
23. Apartment Rental
Most big-city hotel rooms were not built for families with young kids. They usually have no refrigerator or microwave, floor space is at a premium, and neighbors can hear every tantrum. But with an apartment you get more space, thicker walls, a kitchen, a washing machine, and separate bedrooms.
24. Sleep While Traveling
When taking a flight, train, or bus, try and plan it so you are traveling at night. That way, you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation.
Eating and Drinking
25. Go out for Breakfast or Lunch
Try and avoid dinner as restaurants raise prices. OR, have brunch instead of 3 meals a day. Many restaurants offer lunch specials where items on the dinner menu are offered for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for the same meal in the evening.
26. Eat Away from the Tourist Streets
Just go one street or one block over and it will usually be cheaper and more authentic.
27. Self-Cater Where You Can
When we take an extended trip, we make self-contained accommodation with kitchen facilities a priority. Purchasing your own supplies from the grocery store can save you big bucks. Unless you are in Asia where eating out is incredibly cheap.
And when booking a hotel or hostel look for one with breakfast included. Also, have picnics, barbeque’s, and house parties. This saves precious money. And take your own food on flights, buses and trains where practical.
28. Eat from the Street Carts and Vendors
It’s cheap, and the great thing is you can see what is actually being cooked and is cooked fresh right in front of you. Pay attention to where the locals eat and what is popular, that way you can be assured it is safe to eat there.
Read this guest post on The real reason you should eat street food on your travels
29. Leave the ATM Card at Home
When going out drinking, just take a certain amount of cash. When the money is gone it’s GONE and you won’t be tempted to withdraw more. Your wallet and your head will thank you in the morning!
30. Drink in Before Going Out
Then, take advantage of any happy hours and don’t drink expensive import stuff – give the local stuff a go.
31. Travel Like the Locals
Use public transport where possible. You get great knowledge and insight by hanging with the locals, it costs you less, and is a more authentic travelling experience.
We have met so many amazing local people from traveling at close quarters with them on public transport.
32. Walk as Much as You Can
You can experience more things just by wandering around a city and getting lost, talking with locals, and people watching. It’s a great way to soak up the local culture, and get a real feel for the atmosphere of a place.
Get active and see things at a slower pace, and walking is always FREE! You can explore local markets, wander around and take lots of photos, or even hike to the top of a hill for an awesome view. Stay in accommodation that allows for this and you will also save money on transportation.