From the booking of hotels and flights to figuring out how you
want to spend your time and making friends with locals, the
more you travel, the more comfortable with it you become.
I’ve been something of a travel junkie for most of my adult
life, even before leaving last March to travel as Business
Insider’s international correspondent. I’ve taken countless
backpacking trips and have visited over 30 countries in my life
– yet I still feel like a novice.
Every trip I take, I feel like I learn something new, but no
matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with travel, it
is always a rewarding experience.
After a year abroad, here are the best tips I can give you.
1. When traveling with a friend or partner, pay attention to each other’s basic needs
Usually, when I tell people that my partner and I have been
traveling the world together for the past year, I get asked a
variation of “How do you not kill each other?”
Traveling as a couple can be difficult, tiring, rewarding, and
amazing, depending on the day.
I have found that the best way to reduce the number of arguments
while traveling is for both partners to pay attention to each
other’s basic needs like hunger, tiredness, stress, and needing
to use the bathroom. When one person needs to eat, sleep, or use
the bathroom, it becomes the priority, no matter how inconvenient
the break is for your sightseeing goals.
This also applies to traveling with friends.
2. Pack for trips with Marie Kondo’s advice in mind
Packing for trips can be a daunting task. It used to be for me,
particularly when I started my trip around the world. I had
resolved to pack light – with only a carry-on suitcase and a
backpack – but I had plans to travel through a wide variety of
climates and scenarios.
The best way I found to make sure I had everything I needed while
not overloading my suitcase was to follow the KonMari Method. I
gathered together everything I was thinking of packing,
organized it by category, and went item by item asking myself
“Does it spark joy?” It may sound a little goofy, but I was
really asking myself a second question: Does it serve a
purpose or function that I need?
This is a vital question, particularly when traveling. Malaria
pills may not exactly “spark joy,” but they keep me healthy when
traveling to sub-Saharan Africa.
That second question is useful when it comes to clothes. If a
pair of pants that I am bringing “sparks joy” but doesn’t serve
any particular purpose, it’s a reminder to think twice about
3. Avoid tourist attractions that have gone viral or are “Instagram-famous”
Before you trek out to the Bali Swing, the
Majorelle Gardens, China’s mountain “Plank
Walk” or any other locale you see all over Facebook,
Instagram, and YouTube, consider this: Things that look
incredible on social media are often not as fun in real life.
I encountered this reality repeatedly over the course of my year
of traveling. Often times, the issue was that something that had
previously been a fun diversion had become so popular that it
took hours to see or had become so overrun that the charm had
A perfect example is the Livraria Lello
bookstore in Porto, Portugal, one of the world’s oldest
bookstores and frequently ranked as one of the most beautiful
bookstores in the world. As the tiny bookstore has become overrun
with selfie-taking tourists and Harry Potter fanatics (it is said
that the store’s aesthetic inspired J.K. Rowling), it has become
a chore to visit.
When I was there, it was so packed you couldn’t look at a book
without getting bumped, everyone was taking selfies, getting
photos of a partner on the bookstore’s majestic spiral staircase,
or pushing to a room in the back decked out in Harry Potter books
I have yet to go to an internet-famous tourist site that was
worth the hassle. Beware.
4. Carry petroleum jelly on planes to line your nostrils
Planes are notoriously dry places with humidity lower than the
Sahara Desert. I am very sensitive to dry plane air, which often
causes me to have dry nasal passages and can even trigger
To mitigate the dry air, I line my nostrils with petroleum jelly.
Since I started using it, I’ve noticed a drop-off in dryness and
migraines and even in how often I get sick on planes.
But beware of thinking petroleum jelly is a cure-all for getting
sick on planes: Most germs are found on surfaces, and using
petroleum jelly in your nose too often can have negative effects.
5. If you want to know how clean a hotel room is, check the electric kettle.
I am constantly staying in hotels that run the range from
ultra-budget to mid-tier to luxury. Depending on the country and
the hotel company, those categories could mean very different
things in terms of amenities, quality, and cleanliness.
Every time I enter a hotel room or an Airbnb, I check the
electric kettle or coffee maker – a standard item in
nearly every hotel room – to see how clean it is. Poorly
maintained or sloppily cleaned hotels will often have dirty,
rusted, or outright moldy electric kettles.
6. Reduce stress about losing important cables, chargers, or electronics devices by using an electronics “Dopp kit.”
During my first six months on the road, I kept encountering the
same problem when leaving a hotel room. Did I remember my
extra-long USB-C cable? What about my headphones?
It’s an awful feeling when you realize that you’ve forgotten
something but just can’t remember what it is.
After returning home to reset, I realized there was one item I
needed to pack that would make my next trip less stressful and
more organized: an electronics travel organizer, often known as a
Dopp kit. The kit works like your regular toiletries bag, but for
your devices. I packed it with all my travel adapters, cables,
chargers, devices, and accessories.
Whenever I need to start work, I just whip it out and pull out
the cables I need. When I enter a hotel room, I know exactly
where to go to get my devices charged.
When I leave a place – a hotel room, the airplane cabin,
etc. – I can flip the kit open and quickly take inventory. The
kit is usually so loaded with doodads that if there’s an open
space, it means something is missing.
7. If you want to avoid jet lag, slowly adjust your sleep schedule in the days before your flight to correspond with your destination.
I am constantly taking long-haul international flights, switching
time zones, and then working the next day. However, I rarely
suffer from the worst effects of jet lag thanks to careful
preparation and some science-backed strategies.
In the days prior to the flight, I slowly adjust my sleep
schedule to match that of the time zone I am going to, forcing my
body to go to sleep earlier or later, depending on the
destination time zone, a strategy backed by researchers
on the subject.
On the flight, I drink tons of water and operate according to my
new time zone. When I land, I force my body to stay awake until a
8. Find great food in any country by researching which recommendation app or crowdsourced review site is popular with locals.
As someone who travels full-time, I rarely cook and I am
constantly looking for good, healthy, and cheap food near me. But
that’s difficult when you are in new places you haven’t explored
My best tip for finding good, healthy, cheap food in a new place
is to research the restaurant recommendation app or crowdsourced
review site most used by residents of the place you are visiting.
Usually, there is one app that has the most active local
community doing the usual: leaving tips, posting food porn, and
dropping reviews for their favorite spot. I have found that it’s
rarely, if ever, Yelp or Foursquare.
In China, the app to use is Dianping or Meituan.
In Hong Kong, everyone uses OpenRice. Singaporeans
use OpenRice and HungryGoWhere, among others
(Singapore is a city of foodies, so there are a few). In
is the way to go. In Dubai, everyone uses
If you know which one people use in a place, you can tap into
locals’ knowledge instead of relying on the concierge at your
9. If you don’t want to pay for Global Entry, the $100 US program for approving “trusted travelers” for faster customs entry, use Mobile Passport.
A lot of travel bloggers recommend Global Entry, a US government program
for approving “trusted travelers” to gain quicker access through
customs after international travel. It requires a $100
application fee and a screening process.
Instead, I use Mobile Passport, a free app officially authorized
by US Customs and Border Protection that lets you complete
customs forms on your phone.
Like Global Entry, Mobile Passport users have their own separate
line at major US airports, getting you out of long customs lines
but without the hassle of the screening process or the $100
10. When booking hotels, guesthouses, or apartments check prices across Airbnb, Booking, and Expedia
Home-rental service Airbnb is
now directly competing with travel booking sites like Booking.com,
and others, as all of the sites have both traditional hotel
listings and non-traditional apartment and home listings on their
As the companies’ strategies for growth converge, I’ve observed
that more and more rental listings can be found on multiple
sites, often with wildly varied pricing due to different fee
structures and pricing algorithms.
Save yourself a ton of money on your next vacation by
cross-referencing listings that you want to book across multiple
sites. I often found discrepancies of $100 or more per night by
checking listings between Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, and
11. Before you book a flight with a budget airline, make sure you know any and all extra fees you may have to pay
Last August, I booked a cheap flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to
Lisbon, Portugal for what I thought was the bargain price of $89
on WizzAir, the budget Hungarian airline.
But, after booking, I found that I was charged fee after fee that
ended up costing more than my entire flight ticket, including
fees for baggage, administration, airport check-in, and an
All in all, I ended up spending $126.50 on fees for an $89
flight. My cheap airfare didn’t end up being so cheap after all.
12. Get cheap internet by unlocking your phone and using foreign SIM cards
travel means traveling to foreign countries that work far
differently from the US. Having cheap internet access can make a
lot of things, from navigating a new city to sending emails, a
lot less stressful.
With a little planning and forethought, you can use your
smartphone abroad without worrying about eye-gouging roaming fees
or racking up international “day passes.” All you have to do is
buy temporary SIM cards in whatever country you are visiting and
you’ll be enjoying cheap pay-as-you-go internet.
In order to use a foreign SIM card in your phone, you’ll need to
get your phone “unlocked” by your mobile carrier. Make sure to
call ahead as sometimes it can take a few weeks for the request
to go through.
13. Use Google Translate to read signs in foreign languages and even conduct real-time translated conversations with locals
Nothing is a substitute for true fluency when traveling, but new
and improving technologies are getting closer to bridging the
gap. It may not be sexy, but Google Translate is the one app I
can’t live without.
Google Translate has several features tailor-made for travelers,
like its camera function, which translates signs instantly, and
“conversation mode,” which allows you to speak directly into the
microphone for real-time translated conversations.
While visiting Japan last year, I became acutely aware of the
app’s amazing camera function, which can scan and translate text
in real time.
As I walked through a supermarket in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood
and encountered one unfamiliar food after another, the camera
translated each kanji character into English before my eyes. It
was like putting on glasses for the first time.
14. If you aren’t too picky about your vacation destination, use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search to find the absolute cheapest flights
Sometimes, when you are planning a vacation, where to go isn’t
the most important part of the equation.
For me, any number of factors can determine the destination: Is
it relaxing? Is it interesting? Is it exotic? Have I been there
before? If a destination hits any of those factors, I could be
interested – as long as airfare is the right price.
When I’m booking flights, I almost always use Skyscanner’s
“Everywhere” search, which lets you search for flights all over
the world to find the cheapest destination to fly into on the
dates of your choice.
I’ve gotten sub-$400 round-trip flights to Europe, South America,
and the Caribbean that way. It never fails.
15. If you are traveling to popular cruise ship destinations, check a “cruise ship calendar” before booking your dates
Cruise tourism is at an all-time high with an
27.2 million passengers this year, according to
The Telegraph, up from 17.8 million in 2009.
That’s good news for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian’s
bottom lines. But it’s bad news for those of us who want to
the overtourism that plagues hot cruise ship stopping
points like Mallorca, Venice, and the Galapagos
Islands, among other places.
Before booking my dates to Croatia a few years ago, I consulted a
cruise ship calendar like those on CruiseCal,
Center. Such calendars will show you how many cruise ships
are in port on certain days and the passenger load of each ship.
While it’s pretty much impossible to avoid every cruise ship
that’s coming into port for certain locations (like Dubrovnik,
Croatia), you can navigate your way to less busy days.
16. Use Couchsurfing’s “Hangout” feature to meet locals and find other travelers to sight-see or get dinner with
On a trip to Tokyo in 2017 to help launch
Business Insider Japan, I found myself like many business
travelers: alone in a foreign city. By the time the
weekend came, I was getting stir-crazy.
Bored and lonely, I opened Couchsurfing, the online
community that connects travelers with locals for free lodging,
and found it had changed considerably. The company
introduced a “Hangout” feature that made the community – the
best part of Couchsurfing – accessible to anyone.
The feature, which is something like Airbnb-meets-Tinder if
Tinder were for making new friends, led me to a wild
night with Tokyoites that I never would have had otherwise. I saw
the ambient rock band Tycho, ate at a hole-in-the-wall izakaya,
and sang karaoke with a packed bar of Tokyoites deep into the
17. In countries other than the US, Uber and other ride-hailing services should be your first resort, not your last
After using taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber in
of countries, I’ve become convinced that ride-hailing apps
are here to stay, with or without regulation, for a simple
reason: They serve a need.
While taxi services in major US cities are usually reliable and
efficient, taxi services in many foreign countries are
unreliable, riddled with scams, or frequently price-gouge both
tourists and locals.
In countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia, using
ride-hailing services over taxis was a a matter of safety – there
are “counterfeit” taxis driving around that may scam you – while
in China, I found that I could rarely get a taxi to stop for me
because drivers didn’t want to navigate the language barrier.
18. Don’t be afraid to skip landmarks or attractions that don’t interest you, even if it’s something as major as the Great Wall
Spending all this time traveling has hammered home one truth for
me: Forget about FOMO (fear of missing out). If there’s an
attraction, landmark, or museum that doesn’t interest you, don’t
be afraid to skip it.
There are often too many things to see in the place you are
visiting to waste your time on a site that doesn’t interest you –
even if it’s something as monumental as the Taj Mahal or the
Great Wall of China.
The persistent sense of FOMO is one of the reasons
hate bucket lists. They are a constant pressure to see and do
things that other people say you have to
do, rather than what you actually want to
In the past, that dynamic led me to spend half a day in Bogotá,
Colombia at the Museo del Oro, a museum exclusively displaying
pre-Columbian gold. In Europe, I visited ornate medieval church
after ornate medieval church. In Stockholm, Sweden, I spent a day
trudging through the stuffy rooms of the Royal Palace.
Looking back, there were a dozen other activities I would have
rather spent that time on. This time around, I turned off the
little voice in my head that screams “FOMO.”
19. If you are going to splurge for a fancy hotel, double-check that it has a spa
It may sound a bit over-the-top, but the longer I travel, the
more I keep an eye out for one particular amenity when booking a
hotel: a spa, or, at the very least, a steam room and sauna.
While budget hotels aren’t likely to have such an amenity, if you
plan on booking a high-end hotel, with a little forethought and
research, you can find a hotel that includes an extensive spa
among its amenities, replete with sauna, heated pool, and a
variety of hot and cold baths and steam rooms. And, if such a spa
is unavailable, you can absolutely find a hotel with just a sauna
or steam room.
Many high-end hotels like the Mandarin
Oriental and The
Peninsula, which have locations all over the world, offer
hotel guests access to their luxurious spa facilities during
guests’ stay. Other hotels, like Hotel
Vitale in San Francisco, will give guests access if they book
a treatment or massage. Some, like St. Regis,
whose hotels include facilities by Remède Spa (ranked
No. 1 by Travel + Leisure) will allow hotel guests to pay for
a day pass. If there are any questions, make sure to ask before
booking the room.
20. If you are frequently traveling internationally, getting Priority Pass is essential
While I’ve heard horror stories about
airport lounges in the US, I can tell you unequivocally that
are a haven.
While each one is different, all tend to have a few essential
features: comfy chairs to work or relax in, speedy Wi-Fi access,
televisions, a buffet of fresh food, endless coffee and alcoholic
beverages, and, most importantly, a space away from the chaos of
The easiest way to get access, if you travel frequently
internationally, is to get Priority Pass. Priority Pass is a
network of 1,200 airport lounges that members can access. While
sells memberships directly, if you have a travel-focused
credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get membership
Access to lounges has made traveling a much more relaxed and
21. Without fail, the best places I’ve visited haven’t been hyped destinations
The truth about the world’s most famous and hyped destinations is
that they are often overcrowded and overpriced. I experienced
this most prominently in Mykonos. While the island was as
beautiful as advertised, it was overrun with hordes of
cruise-shippers and family holiday-makers, and the hotels were
After two days, I got on a ferry to Tinos, a smaller and less
well-known island an hour away. I found a beautiful hotel for a
great price and spent five days enjoying the island’s beaches,
charming town, and friendly locals. Everything was half the
price of Mykonos and Santorini – or less.
Unless you care about the “scene” in a place like Mykonos (or any
other ultra-hyped destination), there is always a less well-known
place that will give you a similar, but better, experience for
Source: Read Full Article