Travel tips

Top Travel Tips for any traveller

Rome - How to make the most of a short stay

I have been travelling to local and international destinations since my childhood, first with my family and more recently, as a solo traveller.

It was on my trip to Italy when the lift didn’t work and I was obliged to carry my bag down a few flights of stairs, that I realised that I should make a list of my top travel tips for any traveller, if only to keep it as a reminder for myself of what not to do.

It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, single or travelling with companions or family, these twenty something top travel tips will help you plan and execute your vacation with minimal fuss and inconvenience.

TRIP PLANNING

  • Research the destination in advance and determine whether you wish to travel in the peak season when prices are high, or in low season when there are fewer tourists and prices are lower. Adjust your travel budget accordingly.
  • Check that your travel documents are valid and if necessary contact the relevant embassy in your country of residence to determine whether you require a visa for entry. Ensure that you apply for the visa early enough so that there are no delays in travel due to visa processing delays and holidays in the either your country of residence or the destination country.
  • Check with your doctor whether vaccinations are recommended for the region that you are travelling to. Most vaccinations are recommended for four to six weeks before the date of travel to enable a build up of immunity  or because more than one immunisation is required.
  • Make copies of all your travel documents and keep these in a different location to your passport when travelling.
  • Familiarise yourself with the cultural etiquette of the country that you are visiting. This includes learning a few words of the native language or the correct manner of greeting; dressing appropriately and respectfully in public or when visiting places of worship; or relevant cultural norms when dealing with locals, including tipping etiquette or acceptable table manners. The more you know about the customs and culture of the local population the less likelihood of extreme culture shock and unrealistic expectations.

 ACCOMMODATION

  • Book flights and accommodation well in advance if you want to save a few pennies. If you are doing a trip on short notice, you may be able to find last minute deals online, but those are rare nowadays.
  • Before choosing a hotel I usually check the TripAdvisor hotel rankings then find the best one for price and location on booking.com or the hotel’s own website, if I belong to their loyalty programme.
  • Always lookout for seasonal or flash sales on your favorite hotel loyalty sites for good deals. My favorites are Hilton Honors and Intercontinental. Members of their loyalty programs get even better rates than those available to the general public.
  • Sometimes it is a toss up between location and price and bad service is always a turn off.
  • I tend to use booking.com for all other bookings and find that there are often good discounts or secret deals available to registered users.

TRANSPORTATION

  • For the past ten years I have travelled exclusively on airlines based in the Gulf as their economy class fares were significantly cheaper and with more inclusions, than most international airlines. To find the cheapest domestic and international flights try using Skyscanner or GoogleFlights.
  • If you have any difficulty with mobility or climbing stairs, be sure to request Wheelchair assistance when booking your flights and check whether there are elevators or stairs to access the hotel and guest rooms.
  • Search online for the best ways to travel within the destination country and if possible buy flight, train and bus tickets in advance. Also check whether the destination city offers an official travel pass that may be used on buses and trains. Check and ensure that you buy the official city travel pass and not one with a similar name offered by tour companies, as those cost more and often include additional services that you may never use.
  • If you are doing a self-drive holiday, check online for cheap car rentals and offers for early bird bookings. These may be offered as an add on when you book your flights. Check the conditions of booking and whether there are charges for changes or cancellation of the entire booking.
  • Always wake up earlier than you need to on the day of travel, and get going early in case you get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport or train station, or have to carry your luggage down a few flights of stairs leaving your apartment or hotel.
  • Leave enough time between connections to take into account flight, train or bus delays. Booking them too close together, means that you may end up missing one or more connection if there is a delay on your route.
Milan

Business class in Italian High Speed train

PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP

  • Pack light, very light. Whether you are trekking across the mountain villages of Nepal or the urban jungle of Milan, lugging suitcases or heavy backpacks around is hard, especially if you are using public transport to get around. You also need to keep space for those mementoes you are sure to pick up along the way. Personally I never travel with more than a carry on bag, and an empty extra one for gifts or products that I want to bring back with me.
  • Ensure that you have at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes. There is nothing worse than wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose when you are walking around a foreign city, as both can cause painful blisters.
  • Always pack a small umbrella even during summer, especially in the northern hemisphere where the weather changes in the blink of an eye and it can rain at any time.
  • Even if you are planning to enjoy the local food and beverages, always pack emergency rations like a packet of crackers, a can of tuna, instant soup or instant noodles. You may run out of cash and at least you will have something to eat while you wait for funds to become available.
Venice

Piazza San Marco in the late summer rain

HEALTH AND WELFARE

  • Check whether any travel insurance is required for your visa application or entry to the destination country, and apply early to avoid disappointment or delays in travel. I have used World Nomads for travel insurance in the past. Alternatively, check whether your medical insurance plan covers foreign travel and obtain a certificate before travel (PS: this may also be required for visa applications to certain countries).
  • If you are purchasing flight tickets online, check whether your bank offers free or reduced cost travel insurance for the duration of the travel.
  • If you suffer from any chronic diseases that require medication, ensure that the medication is not prohibited in the destination country, and keep a copy of the prescription with you at all times. This will come in handy at customs checks as well as if you require emergency medication during the trip.

MONEY

  • Always ensure that you have access to more cash in the local currency than you think you need. Prior to leaving on the trip, contact your bank to ensure that your travel plans are recorded and that you will be able to use your ATM or credit cards in a foreign country. Some banks may automatically block foreign transactions or those done at certain financial institutions abroad.
  • Ensure that you are able to access funds while abroad, in the event that you run out of cash and are unable to use your ATM debit or credit cards. This may require a friend or relative remitting funds via a service like Western Union or Moneygram.
  • If you want to do any VAT refunds for big ticket items ensure that you familiarize yourself with the applicable rules and regulations BEFORE your journey begins. More often than not there are forms to be filled in and submitted by the vendor from whom you bought the items, and should be done on the day of purchase.
Florence

Leather outside Mercato Centrale

ACTIVITIES AND SIGHTSEEING

  • I always book at least one guided food tour in a city as it gives me a snapshot of the life and culture of the people through their food. It also allows me to meet like minded people and make friends with complete strangers. I have booked food tours through Culinary Backstreets in Istanbul and Eating Europe Food Tours in the UK and Italy. If you want to save money, there are also free walking tours in many cities, that may or may not require prior booking and a tip at the conclusion of the tour.
  • Take it easy, it’s a vacation not a marathon and unless you have a prebooked tour or museum visit you have no one’s timetable to keep, except your own. Try to enjoy exploring the city, observing the locals in their daily lives and most importantly, smile and be flexible.
  • With this in mind, take time to discover places on your own, take photos and make copious notes to which you can refer to later, if necessary. Be sure to pick up a city map at the airport or train station or ask for one at your hotel.
  • Avoid lines and crowds at museums, places of worship and ancient sites and monuments by buying entrance tickets from their official websites. It is usually cheaper than buying on the day, and you can select your preferred date and time in advance.
  • Be respectful when visiting places of worship and prepare in advance to abide by the dress code and cover shoulders / arms and legs. At mosques women will be required to cover their hair and wear clothing that covers arms and legs. A pair of lightweight trousers and a shawl / pashmina / sarong should suffice.
  • If the water is unsafe to drink ensure that you buy drinking water from a reputable shop or supplier and take a bottle with you when you go out for the day. If there are public drinking water fountains for the public, use this to fill your water bottles while you are out during the day.
Florence

A city map is required when everything looks the same

Do you have any travel tips that you would like to share?

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60 Comments

  • Reply
    Anisa
    December 2, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    So many great tips here. I know I really need to be better about packing light. It is just so hard for me.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      December 4, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      The one time that I packed more than a carry on wheelie bag, I really regretted it and have made sure to travel light with wash and wear clothing if I’m going to be away for longer than 4 days.

  • Reply
    Perri
    December 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Wow! There’s so much useful information here. Thanks for sharing all amazing tips 😊

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 2, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Great post, I always book Travel insurance, as soon as I book my flights and accomodation, that way if anything goes wrong I am covered. I also always make sure I pack a pair of flip flops, Very light easy to carry shoes, for when I want to head down to the beach, a pool.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      December 4, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      The flip flops are a great idea for beach lovers. I usually travel with only two pairs of shoes, one that I wear and one a bit fancy for dinner or special events.

  • Reply
    Vivienne
    November 25, 2017 at 5:03 am

    I’ve saved this article so I can reread it before my next trip 😀 Thanks!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 25, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      You are most welcome Vivienne. I hope it is as handy for you as it is for me.

  • Reply
    Roxanne Weijer
    November 24, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Ooh I love this! It’s super handy, awesome tips. Definitely a must read for newbie travellers, but actually great for experience travellers also.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 25, 2017 at 12:25 am

      Thanks Roxanne. I still use it before every trip 🙂

  • Reply
    Unta
    November 24, 2017 at 2:36 am

    You must be very organised person, very useful tips. 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 24, 2017 at 2:55 am

      Haha I mostly travel solo so when something goes wrong I need to be prepared wherever I am 🙂

  • Reply
    Zoe
    November 24, 2017 at 12:20 am

    Great tips & interesting read!

  • Reply
    Eva
    November 23, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Great tips, I like how you have included a wide array of situations, as well as a wide array of travellers that could be in any of these situations. It must not have been a very simple task to do, as it’s easy to describe what is normal “travel routine” to us, but keeping in mind the needs of other people and the occurrences that can happen in other places is not a simple task. Great job with this!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 24, 2017 at 2:13 am

      Thank you for your kinds words. Over the years I have found myself in many of the situations I mentioned, and with experience comes hopefully, wisdom. I finally decided to make a list for myself, as much as for others, so that they would also be in a position to assess all the potential hurdles while planning a trip.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    November 23, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I love the recommendation to do a food tour – I haven’t tried it yet, but can see where it would be a great way to try the local cuisine and, as a solo traveler especially, meet other folks. I’ll definitely try it next time!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 24, 2017 at 2:10 am

      I usually book a food tour before anything else for a trip. I have found that the good ones are as much about the food as they are about sharing the food culture, history and I have learned more about the people and the places I’ve visited on the food tours than I would have on a general sightseeing one. With every dish there is a back story, and the backstory usually has some cultural element or history.

  • Reply
    Laura
    November 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Excellent travel tips here – crucial for any traveller!

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    November 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    This is a great list of things to be prepared for any upcoming trips. Very well thought out. I especially like the tip about planning ahead to avoid possible problems. When it comes to the moment of travel I always like to give myself enough time for getting to the airport or train station in case something goes wrong. On my last flight I was stuck in so much traffic and then I realized I forgot my passport at home. I, of course, had to turn around or else I wouldn’t be going anywhere. In the end, I made it to the airport in plenty of time. Haha.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      Haha I always carry my passport with me so that hasn’t happened recently. I try to prepared for pretty much anything and after a while it becomes second nature.

  • Reply
    Meaghan
    November 9, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Such an informative post! Love how you broke it down by category. Just a great reference piece for the occasional travel to the experienced frequent traveller. The umbrella is a great tip! I don’t know how many I’ve bought on vacation after forgetting mine at home!!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I got caught in showers in Via Condotti in Rome, on the one day when I forgot the umbrella in my apartment. At least I had an excuse to get out of the rain and have afternoon tea at the tea room next to the Spanish steps 🙂

  • Reply
    Florence Dawn
    November 9, 2017 at 12:48 am

    This is very informative! I usually come to a place unprepared. Will bookmark this for my next travel. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:56 am

      You are most welcome! I hope they are useful for your next trip.

  • Reply
    C-Ludik
    November 9, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Loved reading your post. It includes really useful and informative tips ! I fully agree with you: planning ahead is key ! I’m also doing a lot of research to know what’s available in terms of outdoor activities, historical or artistic activities 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:55 am

      I start planning my editorial calendar and trips at least 6-12 months in advance so that I can take advantage of lower airfares and accommodation rates. Depending on the local transportation available I usually start buying train tickets online as soon as they are open for booking to ensure I get the lowest cost ticket for my class preference. Same with museums etc.

  • Reply
    Lyne
    November 8, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Those are really great & detailled tips, you pretty much have everything covered to plan a perfect trip with this and avoid any potential issue !

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:24 am

      Many of these were learned the hard way over the years and only once did I make the same mistake twice. Now I have a list to ensure I never overlook anything.

  • Reply
    candy
    November 8, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Traveler’s insurance is a big one for me. I used to never purchase it, but recently I have been smarter about my travel and started buying it 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:22 am

      I make sure to travel with only my most essential items and nothing that cannot be easily replaced. For me the most important thing is having medical insurance when I travel because that can eat a big chunk of a travel budget.

  • Reply
    Omnivagant
    November 8, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    These are some amazing tips, I loved how you had some in every category! So much great information I had never thought about. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:19 am

      You are most welcome. I hope they come in handy on your next trip.

  • Reply
    Jacki
    November 8, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    This is a great round up of tips! I like how you covered all different aspects. I just had a friend ask for advice on their first international trip and your article reminded me of a couple more things to tell him! I so agree with packing light! It is so crucial.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:19 am

      In the whirlwind between planning the trip and starting the journey it is so easy to overlook things that later become a routine. It is especially true for travelers setting out on their first trip. I find it easier to keep track of everything as I go along.

  • Reply
    Mayi Mac
    November 8, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Spot on! If only every traveler would read this before they embark on their journey, some will void the embarrassment at the airport! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      November 9, 2017 at 12:13 am

      You are most welcome. I actually make a point of reading the post a few weeks before I travel to make sure I haven’t overlooked anything.

  • Reply
    Terrigal Accommodation
    August 17, 2017 at 5:03 am

    this is awesome great info! actually i read the highlights here! it was awesome!! thanks for sharing!! nice thread!

  • Reply
    Via Bella
    August 8, 2017 at 2:16 am

    I honestly would not have thought of some of these things. I obviously haven’t travelled abroad a lot. I wish to someday.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 11, 2017 at 11:15 pm

      Travelling abroad allows me to test the my own limits… of endurance, pain, how long I can go without eating meat. It has also taught me to appreciate my sustenance as well as the hospitality of strangers.

  • Reply
    Dreammerin
    August 7, 2017 at 2:10 am

    That post is very impressive! Great message. Love all pictures. Thanks for sharing with us that valuable information.

  • Reply
    AnnMarie John
    August 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

    These are awesome tips for people who are planning to travel. It’s not just for those who travel often, but also for those who are going to travel for the first time. Research is very important.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      I find that it’s better to be prepared for every eventuality especially when travelling solo.

  • Reply
    Rhian Westbury
    August 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Great tips, and I can agree with so many of them. I always use Skyscanner and Booking.com for help with my trip planning and I’m always so well organized when it comes to location and transport x

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 3, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      I liked to arrange as much as possible before I travel so that I don’t have to worry about it when I’m in country.

  • Reply
    Ania Travels
    August 3, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    These are some great tips for any traveler, totally agree. I think it’s the most important to make sure you have travel insurance though, you never know what might happen on your travels and it really is nice to have.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 3, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      Indeed, one should never travel without insurance because anything can happen abroad. I covered the eventualities I have encountered under Health and Welfare 🙂

  • Reply
    Rosalie
    April 29, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I love how this list is so in depth, I am definitely going to follow these my first time travelling! Thank you for sharing this 🙂

    http://www.thelushstyles.com

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      April 30, 2017 at 10:52 am

      You are most welcome! I hope they are useful when you are planning your trip.

  • Reply
    Cameron - Diary of a Southern Millennial
    March 31, 2017 at 2:37 am

    As someone who has also traveled frequently, both locally and internationally, these tips are spot on! Planning ahead is key and doing your research will help you so much when you’re looking for cool stuff to see and do. I also shy away from exclusively doing touristy things, and tours and such really helps you experience the destination as a local, not just a tourist!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 31, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      I have found that even though I may not actually have time to do all the things I plan to do on a trip, its always good to know exactly what is available in terms of artistic, historical or adventurous outdoor type activities so that you can be flexible.

  • Reply
    Shannon Mahony
    March 30, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Amazing tips, thank you for this! My boyfriend and I just booked the trip of my dreams, Santorini Greece. Seems like you travel a lot- have you been there?

    Many of these tips are things I never thought of like checking about the drinking water and buying your entry tickets online to save time on lines. Will def keep this in mind!!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 31, 2017 at 1:26 am

      Santorini has been on my bucket list since I was a teenager. I hope to read all about your adventures! Buying the entry tickets online is the biggest time and money saver 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristen Kavan
    March 30, 2017 at 12:05 am

    these are such great tips! They totally make me want to book a trip now! Thanks for this!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 30, 2017 at 12:42 am

      You are most welcome. I hope they are helpful when you go on your trip.

  • Reply
    val hansen
    March 29, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Great tips here…I don’t research much , but need to in the future..I love traveling so much!

    Valerie

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 29, 2017 at 11:20 pm

      Thanks Val. I like to be prepared for every eventuality and have found over the years that the key to getting the most out of short stays in any place is effective planning and adequate research.

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