50 Best Travel Tips I’ve Learned After 9 Years of Traveling

50 Lessons I’ve Learned After 5 Years of Traveling

Nine years.

It feels like a lifetime ago since I bought that one way ticket to Australia, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it exactly the same.

Sure, I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve made some big ones! But that’s how we learn. I’d wish I could say I’ve learned one thing every month, but let’s be honest—I’m too stubborn for that. So I’m going to give myself some leeway.

After nine years of traveling, these are 50 of the best travel tips I’ve learned.

My 50 Best Travel Tips

1. Count your dollars, but don’t pinch your pennies

Don’t get caught up in the nickels and dimes. You won’t enjoy your travels if every single purchase is calculated. I always search for deals on bigger purchases, but I try not to sweat a dollar or two.

2. Throw out what you don’t need

There’s something to be said for simplicity. There’s a lot you have that you probably don’t need. Look at the items that you rarely use and get rid of them. I threw out my North Face jacket on my first day in Cartagena, Colombia.

This is also how I travel carry-on only!

3. Carry a water purification system

Bottled water is expensive, and it adds up. If you’re drinking two liters per day (which you really should be!), you’re looking at saving at least $60 per month. Use the LifeStraw Go water bottle  to sterilize all your drinking water and cut down on single-use plastics at the same time.

4. Spend more time in fewer places

I see many travelers powering through whole countries in less than a week. I’ve done it myself, but have learned that it’s no way to get to know a place. The number of places I’ve visited may not be as high, but I truly believe my experiences are richer.

5. Trust your gut

My gut always tells the truth. If you’ve got a bad feeling about something, trust it. Opting out of something isn’t going to ruin your day, but opting in somehow could.

6. Invest in quality gear

That $30 rucksack from China may do the trick, but it’s not going to do it well. You’re better off paying in dollars ahead of time than paying the price metaphorically later down the line.

Not sure what to get? These are my favorite outdoor clothing brands and this is the travel gear I recommend.

7. Do everything that scares you

You’re not traveling to stay within your comfort zone, so if something scares you, make a point to do it. Whether it’s jumping off a bridge or eating a new dish, you’ll regret not doing it later down the line.

8. Don’t over plan

I rarely plan anything. I’ve found that if I get caught up in the details of my trip, I stress out. If you try too hard to force plans, they won’t work out. Just let them happen, and you’ll enjoy the journey a lot more.

9. Always keep a backup

It’s easy for things to get broken or go missing during your travels. My data is the most important thing I own, and I simply wouldn’t be able to recover if I lost it all. Make sure you’re backing up to an external hard drive and to the cloud. I recommend backing up your laptop with Backblaze.

10. Wake up early

There’s just something about a new town in the morning when it comes alive and the streets begin to fill with people. You get a taste of the local life, and the best photos are always taken just after the sun comes up!

Yellow River, Kakadu National Park, Australia
Sunrise on the Yellow River in Kakadu National Park, Australia

11. Carry a decoy wallet

Keep a ratty old wallet in your back pocket with an expired license, an old credit card or two, and $20 in cash. If you become the target of a travel scam or theft, your real license, activated credit cards, and larger cash stash will remain safe.

12. Lie in hammocks

They are the most comfortable and relaxing places to be. If you see a hammock, lie in it. If only for five minutes, I promise you won’t regret it.

13. Always get travel insurance

Especially after finding out I needed major surgery in China, I always recommend getting travel insurance. I was saved from an $8,000 bill which, obviously, was completely unexpected.

It doesn’t cost much up front, and since the risk of something going wrong is always higher when you’re abroad, I recommend World Nomads for complete travel and health coverage. If you’re traveling soon, get a quote by filling out the form below.

14. Make a fool of yourself

Because who cares!? Have a good time, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You may never see these people again, so any potential “damage” to your reputation stays safe.

15. Go broke

Don’t be a bum, but it’s worth going broke (or nearly broke) at least once. The lessons you will learn are invaluable.

16. Skip your Lonely Planet—talk to bartenders and taxi drivers

No, your guidebooks don’t know the best places to go. Bartenders and taxi drivers have their ear to the ground and always know what’s happening around town. Talk to them about where to go or what to see, and you can trust that you’re being given good advice.

17. There’s nothing wrong with going to bed early

Go to bed early and wake up early. Sometimes it can feel like a waste of a night, but it gives you all of the following day. Stock up on movies and fill up that Kindle—you’ll have lots of downtime to relax and power through your shows and books.

18. Visit restaurants for lunch, not dinner

If there’s a restaurant you’re dying to try, save your money by going there for lunch instead of dinner. Dinner is always more expensive.

19. Talk to that girl (or boy), even if you don’t speak the language

It’s always worth it—they’ll think it’s cute that you’re trying, and hey, you never know until you try!

20. Excuses will be your worst enemy

There are so many reasons not to do something. Not enough money, not enough time, too many responsibilities. You need to stop making excuses and take control of your life. If you want to do something, stop messing around and do it already.

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand

21. You are an ambassador for your country

Everywhere that you go, you are an ambassador for your country. Do your best to represent yourself and your people in the most positive way possible. It’s a satisfying feeling to know that I have changed the perspective that many people have of Americans.

22. Stash your money in multiple places

Always keep a couple reserve stashes of cash spread throughout your person and your belongings. I like to keep some money in my shoe, some in my pocket, and some hidden in each of my bags. Plus I carry my decoy wallet if I’m going to be in a busy or crowded place, or somewhere I might be at risk for pickpocketing.

23. Visit all the local events and festivals you can

If there’s any sort of local festival or gathering happening while you’re in town, make sure you’re there. You gain a much deeper insight into the people and culture than by simply visiting the popular attractions. If there’s something big happening, it might be worth adjusting your trip, like the time I stayed in Colombia for Carnival de Barranquilla.

24. Leave your bucket list at home

I don’t like to travel to “do,” but rather to experience. A bucket list never stops growing, and rather than simply just being able to enjoy, you end up operating off of a checklist.

25. Tip appropriately

Research the local tipping customs and follow them. It’s respectful, and it contributes to the economy in a responsible way. If you come from a non-tipping culture, remember that your tip actually pays that person’s wage. If you can’t afford to cover the tip, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking there in the first place.

26. Get lost once a week

It not only helps you to learn your surroundings, but you’ll stumble upon local gems that you otherwise wouldn’t have come across. Plus, getting lost and finding your way again is just plain fun.

27. Keep an open mind

Don’t carry your own judgments into new experiences in new locales. There is often a lot that you don’t know or don’t understand, and your opinion may have been formulated entirely out of context or with a lack of knowledge. If you disagree with something, ask the hard questions, evaluate, and do your research.

28. Vote with your dollar

Especially when you travel, the way you spend your dollars are a direct vote in favor of whatever you’re purchasing. If you ride an elephant in Thailand, you are voting in favor of animal cruelty. If you buy local, you are supporting the local economy. Which would you prefer?

29. Ride local buses

They’re the best way to catch a glimpse of local life, and you’ll end up seeing some new parts of town that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

30. Pack a good camera

It’s worth it. Your photos and memories are the only things that will last your lifetime, and five years from now you’re going to wish you had better photos (I sure do). Take some time to research basic photography techniques as well.

Li River, Guilin, China
On the Li River in Guilin, China

31. Eat everything in sight

Bugs, stomach, eyeballs, whatever it may be—try it. You might actually like it (or you might throw up), and it makes for a great story down the line. At the end of the day, it’s not going to kill you.

32. Pack extra deodorant

Some countries just don’t carry the one you want. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with roll-on or spray when all you want is a stick.

33. Have a backup plan

Things will always go wrong. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I didn’t have a backup plan when I got stuck in Colombia, and I sure wish that I did. That being said, if you just put a little faith in the universe, things have a way of working out.

34. Put some faith in the universe

Sometimes you just have to let go of control, and allow things to happen in the way that they will. Travel plans will not always work out, and you have to have faith that, in some strange way, the universe is unfolding in the way it’s supposed to.

35. Get a SIM card on your first day

Having a local number helps immensely, and buying a pre-paid card for data isn’t usually that expensive. With full access to apps like Foursquare and Google Maps, the city is always right in your pocket. I had unlimited 3G data in Vietnam for $7 USD.

36. Take naps

For one simple reason: they’re awesome.

37. Apply value to your time

Finding a good deal is absolutely worthwhile, but spending an hour looking for a $5 savings may not be. Sometimes it’s just easier to pay a little more for the convenience and time savings.

38. Use dating apps to find out what’s going on in a new city

It’s a great way to meet locals and to learn about the best places around town!

39. Wear solid colors

They match better, and you can make more outfits out of fewer pieces of clothing.

40. Learn the local language

A few phrases like “hello” and “thank you” can go a long way. Even more importantly, learn the names of foods and some of the local dishes—you’ll be using them three times a day.

Vieques, Puerto Rico
On the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico

41. Expect the best from people

The world is not out to get you and you are not always in danger. Be smart about your surroundings, but remember that people are generally good and will usually partake in incredible acts of kindness if given the opportunity.

42. Get out of Gringoland—party with the locals!

Going out for the night? Avoid the tourist bars and hit up some of the local spots. You’re guaranteed a more genuine and interesting experience. Some of my best nights out didn’t happen in nightclubs or fancy bars—they took place in local dive bars and pool halls.

43. Save your miles

There are so many rewards programs out there, it’s almost foolish not to use them. Whether you’re booking a flight, staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, buying gas, shopping for holiday presents, or purchasing groceries, make sure you’re earning miles or rewards.

44. Pick the one place you don’t want to go, and go there

If there’s a specific reason you don’t want to go, you’re probably lacking a certain understanding of what makes that place so special. I never wanted to go to China, but after spending time there, it has become one of my favorite countries.

45. It’s okay to splurge

Traveling is exhausting, so treat yo’ self! Pay for some luxury once in a while. You deserve it.

46. Seize every opportunity

If we’re not making the most of every day, then it’s a waste. I hate turning down opportunities, and I try to make the most of every single one I’m provided with. Maybe those opportunities require risks, but the rewards are far greater.

47. Don’t give too much weight to other people’s opinions

You probably don’t know what the context of their opinion is, so don’t give it too much credibility. Go see and do things for yourself and formulate your own. You’ll become a more opinionated person because of it, which, despite some connotations, is not necessarily a bad thing.

48. Slow down

You have time. Seriously, don’t stress yourself out. Take things easy, go sit in a park, read a book. Don’t get caught up in your travels and trying to do something every moment of every day, because you can never appreciate what you’ve done if you don’t take the time to reflect on it.

49. It’s never too late

Just a couple weeks ago I met an English couple named Jim and Jenny, both in their late fifties, who were riding a motorbike from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Prudhoe Bay, Alaska—from the bottom of the world to the top. Never give because you think it’s too late. The fact is, it never is.

50. Just go!

If you want to travel, the first step is booking a plane ticket. It’s never the right time, and the circumstances are never perfect. Once the ticket is booked, that’s it–you’re going. And everything else will fall into place. I promise.

Valle de Cocora, Salento, Colombia
Valle de Cocora in Salento, Colombia

What’s one of your best travel tips? Let me know in the comments below!


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  1. Hi,
    I love travelling and I make 2 family overseas trips a year.
    I thank you for giving incredible advise on every single details of travelling.
    Despite my own travel experience I have learned so much from your article. The most useful is first one (to make travelling top priority ) . I have 2 kids, and my next trip will be very much different with your great tips.

  2. Great article! I will put many of these tips to use, really liked the “talk to the bartender and cab driver” tip, so true!

  3. nice to read this article. you explain very well, being a traveler you have knowledge of such things.

  4. I agree…Slow down! In the beginning of my travels I always wanted to do too much. But at the end I could not really enjoy the day. Now I do it different!

  5. Two thumbs and two toes up.
    Could I say it better? Who cares — I haven’t!

    Wonderful write. Love to share this one far and wide.

    My number one recommendation: travel contributes to peace. Always be kind, be generous of spirit, and make someone elses day better.

      1. Hell yes x 2! It honestly does not matter where yOu are.

        I learned from a fabulous woman to laugh in the face of crisis. When airplanes leave without you, buses stop running, booked accommodations are given away – if yOu can laugh and get service people to join in, there is always a way to find a solution and everyone feels like it is a win. This works in many life experiences.

        Laugh
        Your
        Guts
        Out

        It will release the pressure snd invite others in to see e absurdity of it all.

  6. I had been following you on the instagram for the fact that I like the photography and your travel picture are amazing! Having to say this, just read your article of 50-lessons-after-5-years-of-traveling. I could not agreement more on this and you just come up right of the 50 lists. There are pretty awesome and inspiring! Thank you! ??

  7. Hi Jeremy!

    This is an awesome list. I love #3 and #16. I agree that the bartenders are in the know and they are a wealth of information. You are awesome!

    Emily

  8. Great advice to trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable with your taxi driver then you can call a new one. It’s a lot safer when you put your trust in yourself.

  9. #41 Preach !!

    So many people that I have met both at home and when I’ve been away are so mis-trusting of people and their motives. Admittedly, sometimes they do have exterior motives (I have been on the receiving end) but the majority of times, by trusting people, I’ve ended up with the most incredible ‘luck’.

    This is way i believe in the phrase ‘you make your own luck’.

    1. Hell yeah! We make our whole environment. More often than not people are good, and the experiences we walk away with because we trust our instincts are invaluable.

  10. Wow, so much to learn, I liked your health insurance point the most and the water too. I have learnt a lot during my travel too. Most importantly “Never give up”. My most recent post says about it too. Thanks for sharing , you are a great inspiration 🙂

  11. my favorite part was about throwing out the itinerary and bucket list. I have things I want to see, but having it all planned out makes you miss out on so many things! And, the suggestion to ask bartenders and taxi drivers was something I hadn’t considered but makes perfect sense. They see and hear so much information around town!

  12. I love all of these, especially the decoy wallet. My husband has his wallet stolen on our honeymoon of all times. We usually do the spread money around thing, but I like the decoy too. Thanks for all the great tips.

  13. Excuses ARE indeed your worst enemy! Say ‘yes’ to everything when you travel – well, almost everything 😉

  14. Really great write up, Jeremy. I’m going to share it! –Happy & Fun travels to you (and thanks for the recommendation to the Adventure Junkies!) – Hilary

  15. Great tips Jeremy,
    It’s awesome to be able to learn from each other adventures. However I know from experience, that no matter how many times someone tells you, it’s only after you have been on the road for a while that you learn to conquer your FOMO, relax and enjoy their travel.

    Ann

    1. I used to have the worst case of FOMO, but I think I’ve done so much that, at this point, I don’t mind missing out on a few things 🙂

  16. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jeremy! Sounds like travel has truly transformed your perspective on life 🙂

  17. I completely agree wit all of these but number 4 definitely spoke to me. When I was getting started all I wanted was to go from place to place without really enjoying each of them. It was more about numbers than experiences. I wish I learned this earlier.

  18. Inspiring list ahead.. Real life travelling teach us several lessons of our life. I loved the post you crafted and posted.

  19. Great list. I love reading about what other people have learned along the way as it inspires me a lot.
    Oh, and for some reason, lying in a hammock is something I look forward to the most! 🙂

  20. Thanks for this inspired post! My friend judge me because I go to bed early and wake up early, but they don’t see all the beauty I see. 🙂

  21. Traveling is probably the thing that teaches us most about life and ourselves, and it looks like it has taught you a lot. Good on you, and congrats on making it to year 5!

    1. Just because I know it doesn’t mean I always do it 😉 But I have learned that getting up nice and early is the best way to start a day.

  22. Travelling is a very ending lesson of life!! I’m glad you’ve learnt so much on the road. Number 25 and 35 are those lessons I’ve also learnt!! 🙂

  23. Great tips you have here! Always having a backup is really important for me – and you should always be ready for things to go completely different than you’ve planned. That’s how things are when you travel and that’s part of the fun. If you don’t let it ruin the experience, at least!

  24. I really agree with spending more time in fewer places, I’m always trying to pack too much in!

  25. Those are all great lessons you’ve learned!

    I can certainly relate and understand many of them, particularly getting up before the crowds, getting lost on purpose but doing that which we fear really hit home as I just recently started doing more of that 😉

    Keep having a great time and enjoy what the world has to offer!

    Happy travels 🙂

  26. Thanks for all the great insight Jeremy! I especially agree with your final point “Just go!” After stressing out about whether or not I could do some real traveling I recently bought a plane ticket to Europe and am just going to see where the adventure takes me!

  27. Hi Jeremy,
    Great post, there is a lot in there and I more or less agree with all your points (I started to list which I fully agree with but it was a least half of it).
    #16 was a bit of a surprise, I have to try this one…
    And for #49, I just took my father to Cambodia (one month) and India (one month): at 77, he loved it, so no, it’s never too late (but it’s better if you start somewhat earlier 😉
    Cheers, Gilles

    1. Yes! Always talk to taxi drivers and bartenders. They will always give you the best advice! Sounds like you and your father are having some amazing adventures. Have fun!

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