Here’s how to travel smarter
Having traveled for business and pleasure since my early days of going to Europe and Asia from high school and through college and the timeframes beyond, I have learned a lot about traveling on my own or with friends and how to really focus on the positive and important aspects of traveling to a destination I’ve always wanted to visit.
I have experienced and learned a lot from all these journeys and wanted to share with you some of my best 25 travel tips that may help you with your own travel plans and how to travel smarter. And please feel free to add any other tips you would like to share in the comments below for others to learn from your own experience.
1. Do your Research
It always pays to do some initial research and read up about your destination and any details about transfers, lodging, transportation and basic information. Follow some films, read some books or look for some interesting material online from various sites on Google, Pinterest or any other relevant social media platform that shows images and tips. Getting most of your bookings and logistics set up including transfers from the airport, will help tremendously in your transition and start of your travel journey.
2. Learn a few phrases of the local language
Learn some of the common greeting in the local language. Simple greetings for a good morning, good day, hello will get you very far when you travel anywhere in the world, combined that with a genuine smile and you are good to go. Check some online sites for common terms or get a phrasebook or download a phone app for translation that can help you to learn some new phrases and communicate with your phone.
3. Travel light
Try to travel as light as you can and you won’t have to curse slepping your belongs over cobblestone streets or those extra pair of shoes that are really impractical for a nice hike in the hills. You can always buy small things when you are on location and having small luggage will curb your temptation to buy a lot of souvenirs or heavy purchases.
4. Follow your interests
If you’re a foodie person or photographer, sign up on a food tour or a photo excursion geared primarily for photographers. It will make the trip more interesting when you share/experience your passion with fellow enthusiasts. This is a better way to enjoy your passion with others and not have to worry about the details or logistics of finding out key locations and places of interest on your own which can be time consuming on your own.
5. Think outside of the tourist sites
Research the cool new neighborhoods and hangout spots, interesting museums or shows that are happening at the same time of your visit. Find an interesting food court that serves a lot of local fare so you can sample different things for a good deal. There’s really something to be said about finding the off the beaten path areas or back streets, especially in very popular tourist locations that can be overwhelming with the overdone and not so unique experience of being crowded in with visitors from around the world.
6. Respect your host destination
Be aware of local customs and respect the local culture and traditions. It’s very easy to compare to your own country and personal beliefs, but avoid that and have open eyes and ears when you travel. Understanding local customs is a great way to immersing yourself with the people, customs and traditions of that place you are visiting and you will quickly feel more connected to the people and place that you are visiting.
7. Vary your budget
Yes you should go to local markets and sample some of the local specialties and the street food being sold. But then you should also splurge for those amazing dining experiences or one-of-a-kind events like a balloon rides, or a helicopter ride over a stunning panorama. The trick is to vary your budget and make allowances according to the expensive but amazing and the cheap but tasty.
8. Build in some down time
Don’t pack your entire day with activities and tourist sites to visit all in a day and then repeat it for the entire journey. It’s great to have some down time to just sit somewhere, have a nice meal and people watch for a change. Pretend you are a local if just for an afternoon or a few hours and enjoy the street scene for a bit. Or take a nice long nap in your hotel room after you had a nice long walk in the morning and you can prepare for an evening event or stroll after your nice nap time.
9. Participate in a local program or cultural event
Learn to do something unique in that particular destination that is unique to their culture and tradition. How about taking a cooking class, sign up for a local dance class, or even a short language immersion class would be an excellent way to spend a few hours and learn something new about your host country. Educational tours are a fantastic way to learn and immerse yourself with local culture and traditions.
10. Get up early in the Morning
When you start early in the morning, you’ll see different things, less tourists around the popular attractions and you will only see locals starting the day with their typical customs and rituals, a very unique situation where you really are observing and perhaps participating with everyday rituals. Go to an early morning market or find a very popular local breakfast spot that caters mostly to locals and you will definitely be in the thick of things.
11. Use the public transportation system
Make an effort to learn how to navigate the area by utilizing the local public transportation systems. You’ll get to see interesting things with the public transport and enjoy a different point of view other than taking taxis or arranged travel bus tours. There’s something fun and also challenging in getting to master the local transport systems and getting to know the area even better than hiring a driver or cab.
12. Walk everywhere
This is probably a given but if you are in a very urban environment, instead of the metro or bus, why not walk to the destination and enjoy seeing everything on foot. If you get tired after you see the place you visited, then take the metro back to your residence. But what an excellent way to explore the neighborhoods and landmarks and get some daily exercise at the same time.
13. Don’t worry and get lost
Sure you should bring a map and have a general understanding of what you want to do and how to get to your destination but part of the process is getting lost and maybe discovering something new along the way. You can always try to engage and ask for help in directions, catch public transportation to get you back to where you need to go or even catch a cab if you really are in a hurry to get somewhere.
14. Try to talk to the locals
(hopefully some will speak your language) Or find people who do and can give you suggestions on good restaurants, out-of-the-way places to visit or unique only local spots that are frequented by people in the area and not the tourists
15. Be open to the unpredictable
Things will always change beyond your control on a trip or vacation. The key is to be flexible and open to any of these unpredictable occasions and either have a plan B or just go with the flow, there’s nothing wrong with discovering something new or just getting lost – your on vacation
16. Don’t worry about the details and the unknown
Sure it’s good to plan major parts in advance like your airline tickets, transfers and accommodations or even some general planned itinerary of your visits. But leave some in between time and don’t worry about the unknown or unfamiliar, that’s why your here to try some new foods, learn about your host country and culture and even understand the public transportation system. It’s all part of the journey and education.
17. Eat the local food
Try the street food or the specialties of the region. It will give you a better understanding of what is fresh, how things are prepared and how important cuisine is to a particular place.
18. Find a favorite spot to return to
Find a dining spot you enjoy and frequent it regularly. if you like the pastries at a local shop go back and make a connection with the owner and why not order that same dish you really enjoyed the first time. I promise that this will be one of your most treasured memories from your trip.
19. Find those free events
Did you know that many cities around the world offer free walking tours? (Actually these are volunteers from the local area that hopefully will do a great job for free). Check the local tourism bureaus in the area when you arrive to find out about free events, free museum days or activities that are available for tourist to enjoy for free or a nominal amount. These are typically sponsored by the tourism office so it’s a great time to see something interesting and free. Lots of things are free online as an example you can set up Google alerts for updates on news and events to the destination you are visiting or check Trip Advisor for their top things to do in each place. I take quite a few free city tours when I visit a new destination, here’s one I did visiting the gorgeous city of Split in Croatia.
20. Visit a museum or do something cultural
Definitely schedule some time to visit but don’t pack it all in. Slow down and enjoy the galleries that really peak your interest but don’t over do it. A nice thing to do is to take a docent tour which typically gives the highlights of a particular museums key exhibits or special treasures worth viewing.
21. Push your limits
Why not try something new or experiment and enjoy something different for a change. You’re in a different world so why not experiment and push your boundaries to really have a unique experience and viewpoint. You will only have a great story to tell in the end of your trip
22. Always have your camera ready
Whenever you have a full day planned with activities make sure to always have everything ready for your camera. Check the batteries, memory card, camera lens cleaned. Try to get your favorite settings in order so when you see something spontaneous, you’ll be able to capture a nice sharp image of something that will only happen once. Here’s some camera tips and techniques I wrote about on street/urban photography or my best photo tips using your cell phone.
23. Take care of your health
Remember to be nice to your body when traveling to various destinations. Keep up those typical health routines you typically do at home like flossing, getting enough sleep, eating healthy and not too much snacking, using sunscreen and protecting yourself from harsh elements. Only you can know what your limits are and when to slow down and rest, so pay attention to those internal signs that tell you’ve reach your limits
24. Travel more often
Traveling is a wonderful learning experience from doing long trips to weekend adventures. It’s a good thing to prioritize a home life and a life of adventure and travel which are just as important to your spirit, growth and personal fulfillment.
25. Patience is key
Traveling and bearing a grudge or being angry about a small detail on your trip can really weight you down and ruin an entire day. My advise is not to sweat the small stuff and be flexible and look at the positive. Just take a deep breath and put that though aside while you focus on another fun option that you can do instead to make it an impactful visit.
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Conclusion to Travel tips and how to travel smarter
So these are some of the most important lessons that I have learned from my many years of traveling around the world and really getting to connect to the destination I am currently visiting no matter how short a timeframe I’m at that particular location. I hope that you enjoyed this post on 25 Travel tips and how to travel smarter. If so, can you please share it with any of the social media buttons on the post, thanks so much for visiting.
Thank you for the great tips. I have a tendency to stick to tourist spots so I’ll try and keep in mind of these tips to experience the place like a local.
Thanks for the comment, I’m glad that these travel tips have helped you to explore and even experience things like a local.
This is an amazing blog and I found it very informative. You have done a great job and keep writing such wonderful articles.
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I love this! Although I don’t really travel overseas due to the complications of traveling with a pet, so learning the language is not overly important. The other tips you suggest are great, and I will definitely use these in my upcoming trips.
I have a lot of domestic places that I write about, hope you got some good tips on this.
Nice Travel tips ..This article is very useful. Hope you have more posts. thanks !
Really handy tips thanks for sharing, so many helpful reminders!
Building in some down time is so important. Ive used to underestimate the time required to explore a place and end up with a hectic itinerary and come back tired from my vacation. Over time, Ive really started appreciating adding in an afternoon nap or an evening walk or just some space where nothing is planned and I can rejuvenate.
Free time to explore and just be in a new destination is definitely one of the best travel tips here and traveling smarter
Thanks for the advice, I’ll try to keep these tips in mind!
The tip on getting lost is perfect! Get lost and then use your phone to get back to your hotel.
Great travel tips. Happy to find this important information
I was wondering about your camera. Looks like a 70D or similar? I had one of those, plus that exact same excellent walking around lens, but found it was too much camera for travel. Add in a couple of primes and a battery grip, you’re humping a lot of weight around.
Love the B/W shot of a night market. That worked out well. Must try something like that to unify a busy image.
Normally I try to find quirky museums, craft breweries, sporting events or weekend festivals in the cities that I travel to. The quirky museums and craft breweries are usually less busy than the more popular attractions, so you may get more opportunities to speak with the locals here and learn more things about the city/country that you are in. Sporting events usually give you an insight into local culture, and if you are lucky, you might end up meeting some interesting locals during the pre-game festivities at the local pub! As for weekend festivals, I list that mainly as they are usually free or low cost ways to explore the city. They may also provide you with some excellent photo opportunities, as well, especially the market stalls you within the festival grounds.
Nice list of learnings that any traveler can read and use to improve their experiences abroad … great post!
Great post! Traveling light is definitely important, and makes things so much easier! Sometimes hard to do, but worth it 🙂
What wonderful advices .I am currently working in the beginning stage of planning my own 1 trip around the world and I can’t wait to read what else you have learned on your travels and I would love to share my experience after coming back from my trip.
Great tips, Noel!
I’d add one thing here, if you don’t mind: opposite of “22. Always have your camera ready”, I think putting your camera away and just enjoying a place for a moment without the distraction of the camera can make some great memories 🙂 Just a thought.
Noel, fantastic list mentioned out, involving almost all the activities to be considered while travelling.
I completely agree. The photos are amazing specially the ‘sunrise in East Hawaii Island’
Great tips and I agree with you. I think getting lost is the best way to learn the city and talk to locals is the best way to learn about the hidden places off the city.
Really great info provided by you! I really like all the content specially WALK EVERYWHERE
I personally follow this idea to know more about any place or city at your own.
I love the Travel Lighter tip.
Really great list!
Tips 2 and 17 are my favourites, a little bit of local language goes a long way and eating the local food is good too. I’ve have found sometimes that some of the local food in Thailand is too hot for me and that is where the language comes into play, mai phet (not hot) or nit noi plik (little bit chilli), doesn’t always work though, but it’s worth giving a try!
These are great tips for travel as well as for life. I’m a particular fan of respect your host destination and be open to the unpredictable.
Great tips Noel. And good for mentioning the health care tips.
I love all of these tips! …Well, maybe not the “get lost” one, so much. I’m a little chicken!
I love these tips Noel (and the photos to go with them of course). Yay to #25: travel more often. My favorites, and ones that I’m always preaching, include: don’t be afraid to get lost, learn a little bit of the language/culture, eat the local food, and just overall – do something different!
Walking everywhere is a great way of going local. We knew there was a reason we don’t have a driving licence. Top, top tips, Noel.
Great tips! Travel more often is the one lots aspire to, yet so few realise how easy it actually can be. Travel doesn’t need to take you far, you just need a fresh pair of eyes on your local surroundings. If you can’t notice the real beauty at home, how will you see it when you are far away.
Such excellent tips! Keeping an open mind and a flexible schedule will always enhance your travels.
I feel like a totally different person when I travel, sometimes! I’m outgoing and active by nature, but more so when I travel. I’m more conscious, awake and open to adventure and spontaneity!
I definitely agree with walking everywhere, though it usually leaves me a bit exhausted!
Noel, I couldn’t agree more with these travel tips. Building downtime is so key!
Gorgeous photos as always. I love the black and white one in Marrakesh!
Good list – Walking, getting up early, trying out the local language while on public transport and down time are key.
Some really good tips, Noel! I’d definitely say that it’s worthwhile being spontaneous – obviously you need some sort of plan but if you stick to a rigid structure, you may miss out on some great experiences. The point about having a day off and just people-watching is also very true – I love doing that!
I completely agree with #12 – get out there and walk! You see so much more when you walk.
A really great post! Loved how you were encouraging people to explore more and not holiday according to guidebooks and “what you should do”. It really should be about experiencing and you’ve captured that well. I especially liked 5 and 6.
Waking up early in the morning is certainly a tactic to see things as natural as they are, see more things and see the unique cultural things others in tour packages see less. I totally agree and think it’s one of the main ways to experience the best of each destination.
Great tips, and some lovely photos. I agree, make sure you have the budget for the splurge items, like that once in a life time balloon ride, or whatever. If you don’t do those things, you’ll regret it!
Tip 7 is so true. If you always to travel on a really tight budget, you miss out on some extra special experiences that need not necessarily break the bank. Similarly, if you always go for the high end luxury option, you miss many of the things the locals do, and don’t see the real side to a destination. Mixing it up is definitely the way to go!
Great list with so many helpful reminders!
Great tips. I’d have to agree with them all, although I would also have to admit that travelling light, is very hard. If not impossible!
Great advice. I especially think #15 is key, and goes hand-in-hand with #25. And these are important whether one is on vacation or on a work trip (maybe even more so on the latter).
10-15 are key. Waking up early especially on a Sunday morning is the best as almost everyone else is asleep or are already at church. So you see the “purity” of the city. Also, if you make an effort to speak the local tongue, the locals will smile, respect you more and then speak to you in English :-).
I have some friends who hate taking public transit, but you should as this is how you see the real people… Plus walking.
I’d also add, “Sit and Watch The Locals.” or just people in general, you’ll learn so much.
I love your additional tip Kerwin which is actually one of my favorite things to do observe and watch the locals to really absorb daily life and at the same time look for fantastic photo opportunities.