At Least One of These Travel Tips & Tricks Will Make Your Trip Better

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A Safe Bet

This ever-evolving and possibly too-long collection of travel tips and tricks is what Kim and I believe is the greatest approach to making the most of our vacations.

You’ll probably disagree with a lot of it. (This is especially true if you’re a comfort-seeking, risk-averse, checklist-checking traveler.)

And you’ve probably seen some of these suggestions before. (This is especially true since that other travel bloggers are regurgitating our suggestions.)

Nonetheless, you should probably skim through our list and save it. (Especially because it increases the amount of money we make from our obnoxious advertisements.)

Because we’re willing to gamble that:

At least one of these travel hacks will be something you hadn’t thought of before.

We bet—no, guarantee—it will make your next vacation a little better if you really attempt it rather than merely reading it, thinking, “Hmm, intriguing concept,” then having those brain cells replaced by some idiotic internet meme two minutes later. Perhaps even a whole deal better.

We Hear Too Many Dumb Travel Tips & Tricks (and What to Do Instead)

✗ Ditch travel guidebooks
✓ Read a guidebook cover to cover

Reading them from cover to cover is the key to unlocking their value, but most people are too preoccupied these days to try it. You’ll get a great history and culture lesson as a result, and you’ll learn about festivals, events, locations, and attractions that information-regurgitating bloggers and Instagram “influencers” aren’t aware of.

Because guidebooks are bulky, if you’re a minimalist packer like Chris, read the physical version at home and then bring a light Kindle version with you.

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✗ Learn the common local phrases before leaving
✓ Learn one unusual phrase

Preparing for your trip by learning local words is a waste of time.

When you arrive, you’ll learn everything you need to know, including how to say “please,” “thank you,” and “hello,” out of necessity.

Master something unusual if you want to learn the local language before you go. “I’m from Canada, and I do handstands for exercise,” for example. Locals will be surprised and think it humorous. And, unlike a typical “hi” or “thank you,” such an uncommon remark will bring you new acquaintances and open doors to new adventures.

✗ Don’t exchange currency at the airport
✓ Know the right exchange rates

Not all currency exchange offices at airports are swindlers. Some of them have the finest deals in town.

The currency exchange booths at Mexico City’s airport will pay you to take US dollars off their hands. Seriously. As a result, try to have additional pesos on hand before leaving, and exchange your money at the airport.

Similar currency exchange booths may be found at Cairo’s airport. They have such a great need for US dollars that they are willing to pay you better-than-market prices to obtain them.

✗ Roll your clothes
✓ Don’t get to the point where you have to roll your clothes

If you have to roll your things to save room, you’ll need a larger bag or, more likely, less stuff.

Pack wrinkle-free clothing and leave some room in your bag for souvenirs or duty-free drinks. That way, you can cram whatever you want into your suitcase.

✗ Carry a photocopy of your passport
✓ Carry your travel insurance contact info

If you’re harmed, the first thing you should do is phone your insurance company (after you’ve stopped screaming and wailing in agony or sickness). If you don’t, there’s a danger they won’t approve the hospital or therapy you want and won’t cover you entirely.

If you’re too hurt or sick to call, whoever is caring for you will need to know who to contact, so keep the phone number handy.

Read our eight-step guide to choosing the best travel insurance to learn how to choose the right policy at the right price. Here’s what to look for if you’re purchasing travel insurance while already on the road.

✗ Don’t go to McDonald’s or Starbucks
✓ Do go to McDonald’s and Starbucks

If you don’t want to, you don’t have to obtain anything from them.

By comparing their menus to those at home, you might gain insight into the local culture and cuisine.

Flavors that are unusual. Check out what kinds of chocolate bars McDonald’s uses in its McFlurrys—Toblerone was used in Geneva, and there’s a neon green lime flavour in South Africa—and what unique spices Starbucks uses in their coffee.
Prices are different. Compare prices to those in your native country and other nations you’ve visited, just as the Economist does with their Big Mac index.

✗ Don’t judge people 
✓  Judge judiciously

Every “best travel tips and techniques” list is correct in advising you to keep an open mind regarding the people you meet. It’s awful to pass judgement on someone you don’t know. That is bias in its purest form.

But don’t pass judgement after the fact.

Investigate why this person you’re meeting is acting, believing, dressing, thinking, or smelling differently from you. There are no definitive answers, so you’ll have to make your own decisions. This is how you improve your understanding of the world and become a better person.

✗ Be open to strangers
✓ Be wary of strangers who approach you for no good reason

Be wary of those who seem unusually kind and speak surprisingly strong English. If you don’t, your next surprise could be a bad one.

Chris had to learn the hard way.

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In Istanbul, he was approached by a really pleasant man who offered to join him for a beer. Chris concurred. Then, when they sat down, henchmen surrounded their table. They told Chris that he had to pay them 100 euros for his drink or… well, there was no other choice. His new “buddy” had tricked me into falling into a trap.

Give too pleasant and shockingly fluent strangers the reverse of the benefit of the doubt (the harm of trust?) to prevent similar situations. Alternatively, respectfully turn them away. Yes, there’s a chance they’re telling the truth, but the risk isn’t worth it.

Packing Tips

✓ Don’t forget anything by starting your packing list early

Be wary of those who seem unusually kind and speak surprisingly strong English. If you don’t, your next surprise could be a bad one.

Chris had to learn the hard way.

Kim and I compile a list of reminders on our phones weeks before we leave. We jot down anything we need for our journey there whenever we think of it.

When it’s time to pack, we double-check those lists, and before we leave for the airport, we triple-check them.

✓ Stay plugged in by bringing an extension cord

My extension chord is my secret travel weapon, as I mentioned in a previous Unconventional Monthly. It turns one plug into three and allows me to reach outlets in hotels, Airbnbs, and cafés that are inconveniently located.

✓ Be covered just in case by packing a couple of hundred U.S. dollars

Have cash in US dollars on hand in case your cards are canceled or lost, you go somewhere without ATMs and run out of cash, or you go to a nation were exchanging them for local currency is cheaper than withdrawing from an ATM. The latter occurs more often than you might think.

✓ Avoid the risk of being stuck with one outfit by packing a change of clothes in your carry-on

You don’t want to be in a scenario like I was in Jordan, where I had to hike around the desert in my jeans and one of Kim’s t-shirts because your checked-in bag didn’t make it.

✓ Be kind to the environment by using refillable toiletry tubes

Pack only the essential toiletries in your carry-on, which must be less than 100 mL. Rather than buying travel-size shampoos and other toiletries, invest in refillable toiletry tubes like these.

✓  Be prepared by bringing some Ziploc bags

We always pack a handful of Ziplocs with us when we travel, and we always use them up before our trip is through.

We use them to protect our devices from water on occasion (in which case, we double bag). Other times, it’s to bring snacks with you. It’s sometimes to keep unpleasant, stinky socks from getting into the rest of our baggage. You never know what might happen.

One Last Travel Tip

You’ve just read every possibly beneficial travel tip and technique we could come up with.

But here’s one last piece of advice:

(It’s also corny.) Sorry.)

Many of these travel tips and tactics can also be used at home. It’s a journey through life. It will be more spectacular if you live it with curiosity and adventure.

It’s difficult to avoid being stuck in a rut. That’s why we created the Consider This email, in which we bring you a fresh concept every week to motivate you to get off your mental or physical couch and make the most of your life.

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About the author: Noor Ul Huda Naeem

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