My best travel tips for an awesome trip

New friends met in Tokyo
New friends met in Tokyo

Every time my friends begin planning a trip, I am asked the same questions. Do you have any tips? Where should I stay? What should I eat. I always try to help them out with tips that I have learned through years of experience.

Here are a few of my best travel tips that I always remember.

Avoid hotel restaurants

No hotel on earth can compare with the quality of sushi at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market
No hotel on earth can compare with the quality of sushi at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market

I’m not saying that hotel restaurants are bad or anything, but more often than not you will find that they are overpriced for the value of food offered. Get out into the city and explore instead of staying in your hotel.

When I look back at my best restaurant experiences while traveling, the first ones that come to mind are those that I randomly found, like something was telling me to pick that place.

I can remember this one time in Ollantaytambo, Peru where I randomly walked into a small local restaurant that had the most amazing trout ceviche. Another time in Prague, I stumbled into a bar that served an amazing pasta. Can I remember a time eating in a hotel? Nope. One of the best parts about traveling is eating the food that ordinary citizens eat while immersing yourself in their culture.

If you are nervous about random restaurants, do a little research online and pick a place based on reviews using sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Eat like the locals

Tapas and drinks at a market in Madrid? Sign me up
Tapas and drinks at a market in Madrid? Sign me up

This is similar to the above post about hotel food. When you are traveling, try to eat the local food.

Do you really want to visit Tokyo and eat a hamburger everyday?

Another thing that is very important to realize is that the local food in your home country is different in the actual country. What I mean for example is that Thai food in California is completely different than Thai food in Thailand. Be adventurous and get out of your comfort zone. You will be surprised.

With that said, you don’t have to eat Thai food everyday while you are in Thailand. Everytime I travel to Asia, I try to eat Mexican food one time. I have no idea why, but I just find it interesting. It may end up being horrible, but this is what makes traveling great.

Use public transportation

Public transportation in Thailand
Public transportation in Thailand

Renting a vehicle in a foreign country is just asking for trouble. Trying to find parking in a large foreign city is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Many travelers are surprised when they find out how efficient, safe, and cheap public transportation is in other countries. In some cities, millions of people rely on public transportation daily.

Don’t be afraid to get lost and explore a new city. Most public transportation features maps and signs in English so if you do get lost, you can find your way back to your destination or hotel.

On the other hand, renting a car and exploring the countryside is a great experience but that is a whole different topic.

Cheap hotel doesn’t equal bad hotel

Scored this hotel for $40 in Seoul
Scored this hotel for $40 in Seoul

If you do your research, you can find amazing hotels for hostel prices. Just because you find a cheap hotel does not necessarily mean that the hotel is horrible. With that said, spending $500 a night does not necessarily mean you will get 5 star service.

One of my favorite things to do is to use TripAdvisor to find the nicest hotel that meets my needs for the cheapest price. You will be amazed at the quality of some of these places.

I remember one time in Siem Reap, Cambodia where I paid $12 for a hotel per night. This hotel included a clean private room with balcony, bathroom, and air conditioner, taxi transportation to and from the airport, breakfast each morning, and a small pool. Can’t beat that.

Visiting multiple cities on one trip? Book an open-jaw ticket

Booking open jaw tickets will save you time and money
Booking open jaw tickets will save you time and money

You might be asking yourself, what is an open-jaw ticket? An open-jaw ticket is where a traveler will arrive in one city and depart from another city. Purchasing an open-jaw ticket will save you time and money.

For example, those who fly into Europe usually have multiple cities on their itinerary. A traveler may fly into London for a few days, then take the train to Paris for a few days and then fly home from Paris.

If you booked a round trip ticket to London, you would need to either fly or take the train back to London which costs you time and money.

Learn a few words of the local language

Learning a few words while traveling goes a long way
Learning a few words while traveling goes a long way

If you are in a foreign country, try to learn a few words of the local language.

When you make a purchase at a restaurant or convenience store, say thank you in their language. You probably will get a big smile in return. People appreciate the effort even if you screw up the words, which you probably will.

A few words you should learn are thank you, hello, and goodbye. I also make sure I know what the word for beer is. It has helped me in many situations.

Travel as light as possible

This small carry on bag goes almost everywhere with me
This small carry on bag goes almost everywhere with me

When I talk to first time travelers after their vacation, I ask them what their biggest mistake was. Almost all of them wish they had packed lighter.

Those who travel a lot know that a smaller suitcase, less luggage, or lighter luggage is the way to go.

You may not have any problems checking your luggage in for your flight, but once you pick it up from the baggage claim, things change. Using public transportation such as trains, subways, buses, or even taxis are made exponentially more difficult for every extra pound you carry in your suitcase or each extra piece of luggage you may have.

Another reason to pack lightly is to avoid airline baggage fees that are becoming more and more common.

Leave the fancy face wash and ten pairs of shoes at home.

Slow down

Slow down and relax
Slow down and relax

I have been to Rome three times, yet I truly do not feel like I have been there. I moved too fast and wish I had slowed down and realized what was around me.

Many people try to pack as much stuff as they can into one itinerary. I have done it multiple times, and I even still do. But one of the best parts about traveling is slowing down.

Next time I go to Rome, I will of course see some of major sites, but this time I will limit my daily plans. I will enjoy the food a little longer. I will open my eyes and see what’s around me instead of rushing off to the next sight. I will sit on the Spanish Steps at night and drink a glass of wine.

It may be counter intuitive, but when you slow down, you see more.

Leave your large cameras at home

Trust me, pocket cameras are much better for traveling.

I’ve taken my large SLR camera with me on multiple trips, and multiple times I never even used it. It’s just too big, takes up too much room in my luggage, and I have no interest in carrying it around the city all day.

Leave the big camera at home unless you are a professional photographer.

Don’t believe all the horror stories you read or hear

Common sense goes a long way.  Don't believe everywhere is dangerous.
Common sense goes a long way. Don’t believe everywhere is dangerous.

When people have a great experience in a county, they may tell a few of their friends. When people have a bad experience, they will tell everybody they know, including years later, and on forums such as TripAdivsor.

When I traveled to Thailand, I heard that the people were mean, many places were dangerous, I would get ripped off, and that it would rain and flood because it was the wet season. You know what? None of that happened.

Use common sense instead of believing everything you read online or whatever your friends say.

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

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