“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
Saturday November 29th 2014

My Top 10 Travel Tips

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Top Ten Travel TipsEver traveled to a foreign country and needed to figure out how to make calls back home to your friends and family? Did you get stuck with additional baggage fees at the airport? Want to know where to get a good bite to eat or how to stay safe when traveling?

Well this is the article for you! I have put together a collection of my Top Ten Travel tips and tricks collected over my years of travels. Whether traveling for Business or Vacation, these tips will help you get the most out of your travels.

10. Use Incentive Programs

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Commonly called “Loyalty Programs”, these setups offer frequent users some level of additional benefits over casual users. Whether airline, hotel or rental car incentive programs – you’ll usually benefit in some measure from these incentive programs. Although they are sometimes called “Loyalty Programs” – they really don’t create loyalty – just motivation to use the service. Remove the motivation, lose the sale. So long as you don’t go out of your way to participate (like spend more money) – there are varying levels of benefits (free flights, upgraded rooms, etc.) to be had.

9. Electrical Standards

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When traveling with laptops, music players, and cell phones; you’ll need some method of charging these items while you are out of town. In order to safely recharge your electronics, you’ll need the proper equipment. The first is an Adapter – which converts the US based two-three prong plug into the type of connection you’ll need locally. The second item you may need is a Transformer (converter) – which converts the local electrical current into the US version equivalent. Trying to connect your electronics without a converter could damage your equipment. A few companies provide all in one adapter/converters and can be found here.

8. Cheap International Calling

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If you need to call back to the US while overseas, the best way to do so is to use your PC and Skype/Yahoo/AOL/Live for free video/audio calling.  If a PC and/or broadband connection isn’t available, a phone card is a really inexpensive way to make calls (public phone booths still exist overseas).  If you really need a phone, rent a local mobile phone or SIM card.  Whatever you do – don’t use your US based phone to call back to the states.  Even if it you can get it work – you’ll likely to get charged an outrageous rate for the call.

7. Say No to Travel Trip Insurance

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Not to be confused with Travel (e.g. Medical) Insurance, if ever there was a scam – Trip Insurance is it.  This has to be the most useless garbage I’ve seen in a while – from an industry known for pushing garbage.  The reason this is garbage is a) you are somewhat already covered for buying services that aren’t actually rendered (just because that plane ticket is non-refundable, doesn’t mean you can use the amount you paid for a future trip); and b) the exclusions on this garbage are so long that you’ll likely never qualify anyway.  One trip insurance policy states they won’t refund any money if you get sick, miss a connection, lose your job – but they will refund the money if you die.  WTF – really???  Enough Said!

6. Luggage Tricks

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Probably the biggest benefit to airline incentive programs is most don’t charge you the luggage fees if you are a member – which could be as much as $100 roundtrip.  Even better, don’t check your bags – not only is it less expensive it doesn’t take as much time to get out of the airport.  Another tip, instead of folding your clothes in your suitcase, ‘roll’ them – it reduces creases and need for ironing and allows you to pack more in your carry-on.  If you absolutely have to check bags, first in usually means first off.  If you are one of the first folks to check into your flight, your bags will go on the bottom of the luggage cart out to the plane.  This means your bags will be last on the plane – therefore first off and on their way to baggage claim before everyone else’s.

5. Account for the Language Barrier

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While it’s certainly not necessary to speak fluently in the local language of your destination, learning a few phrases will help you immensely.  In my experience, cab drivers – no matter what country – are not bilingual and only speak their native language well – and that isn’t always the local language!!  Be sure to write/print the address to your hotel or where you are going – preferably in the local language when dealing with cab drivers.

4. Eat Where the Locals Do

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Traveling to a exotic location and want to eat an authentic dish?  Eat where the local eat.  To truly get the experience, eat wherever there’s a line of locals or the restaurant is at least crowded.  The more ‘locals’ in a restaurant – the better (and authentic) the food usually is.  How do you tell the difference between a local and a tourist?  Generally speaking, locals speak the language, are dressed appropriately (not wearing shorts in the cold evening) and transportation looks ‘used’.  Tourists are usually the opposite – plus – they often are carrying a map, camera/camcorder, souvenirs, etc.  If you look up and someone’s taking pictures of their food – you are likely in a tourist trap.

3. Put together an Itinerary

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“He who fails to plan, plans to fail” – is a fairly true cliché.  Unless this is a business trip, putting together an itinerary ensures you get the most out of your vacation.  Here are a few tips for putting together a bulletproof itinerary.

2. Getting Cash While Overseas

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Wait until you get to where you are going and use your ATM card to get cash in local currency.  There are several options for getting the best exchange rate, but no matter what – never use airport currency exchanges.  There are several strategies for getting as close to the wholesale exchange rate – whether using cash or your credit/debit card.

1. Stay Safe

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While scamming tourists is more prominent in some countries more so than others – you should always remain vigilant during your travels.  Don’t carry large wads of cash or use a money clip to ward off pick-pockets; be wary of anyone offering help – particularly if you didn’t initiate the request.  If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is.  Always carry around a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in the hotel safe.  Learn how to steer clear of Travel Scams.

Bonus Tip! Free Car Upgrade – I’ve performed this trick so many times it’s not even funny.  No matter how good/bad the economy, the most popular car on the rental car lot is the “cheapest” car!  This usually means these cars are the first to run out of stock.  I always reserve the cheapest car – especially if I know I’m going to arrive at the rental counter in the evening.  At least 70% of the time, when I get there – all of the cheap cars are gone – so they upgrade you to the higher class car – at no additional charge.  Obviously the destination and time of day play into this – but it almost always works for business travelers (those who arrive at a destination in the evening).

They you have it – my Top 10 Travel Tips. When you are ready to go, these are some of the best resources to purchase your tickets.

Let me know if you have other tips you’d like to add.

Happy Travels

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  • Suki F

    Good ones! I wish I knew about the one of local food when I started traveling.

  • http://mslistologist.com Annette | Bucket List Journey

    Thanks for the fab tips! They are going to really come in handy for my upcoming trip to Europe :)

  • Georgina

    Good
    stuff! Thanks for this update. 

  • Jay

    Thanks for reading Hodgo7,

    I’ve updated the text above to reflect “Trip” insurance (which in th US is complete garbage) versus Travel (aka emergency medical) insurance – which you certainly need.

    Thanks again!

  • Hodgo7

    Sorry Jay I just read your reply about “trip insurance”.

    Our Travel insurance here in Australia is comprehensive (well most policies) which covers you medically etc whilst you are overseas as well as “unforseen” circumstances before you go. It also covers flights, delays etc etc etc…goes on and on.

    :)

  • Hodgo7

    Hi Jay. Not a bad list but the insurance one is the biggest load of crap I’ve read in a long time. Might be different for American’s travelling abroad but I’ve lived O/S for 4 years and now work in the Travel Industry. This is ESSENTIAL when travelling overseas. I mean people insure their house, cars etc but won’t insure themselves ? I mean how much are you worth ? Not sure what insurance policies you have over there but they cover you for sickness (as long as its not pre-existing). I’ve had loads of clients who have paid for trips and a few weeks later broken legs etc and weren’t able to travel and were reimbursed for money that wasn’t refunded from airlines, hotels etc.

    I could tell you dozens of stories about clients having problems overseas and lucky enough had insurance.

  • http://mellifshitz.weebly.com/ Mel Lifshitz

    Though I travel a lot, I haven’t ventured backpacking travel yet.  May be in the future and it sounds so much fun.

  • http://www.mellifshitz.com/ Melly Lifshitz

    Nice list you have here, man.  Also don’t forget to secure copies of your documents.  You may need them it times of emergency or accidents like if you lost your documents or someone just robbed you.

  • Jay

    Black Backpacker,

    Can’t believe I missed responding to this post after I approved it – apologies. Thank you for taking the time to comment and nice site. To your comments:

    1) When I speak of Travel insurance – I really meant “trip” insurance. What you are calling Travel insurance we commonly refer to as Medical/Health care insurance – which of course you need. What I’m talking about is Trip insurance offered by airlines, Cruises and the like. these have nothing to do with Health but refunding the cost of your ‘tickets’. As i said, most of these are junk – but I will update the item to read Tip not ‘Travel’.

    2) Don’t take my point to mean I plan 8:15 Breakfast, 9:00am – Bathroom, etc. It’s not like that – but you should have an idea of what you want to do to ensure you get it all in.

    Thanks again.

  • globalnomad10

    Actually disagree on your points re: travel insurance and having an itinerary.

    Yes there are some unscrupulous insurers that will try to scam their way out of paying for every single claim, but if you stick to the tried and testing companies then you won’t have a problem.

    It’s VERY important to have travel insurance. Suppose you get in a bad accident while overseas and run up very expensive hospital bills while you’re being treated? A good insurer will take care of that. You don’t want to be stressing over how to fork out for the bills in addition to wondering how the doctors are going to stitch your legs back into place.

    It’s good to have an itinerary, yes. But also it is equally possible to go over the top and build a ‘tick list’ of things to do and places to see. So yes, you can come back from a week in Rome, Cape Town or Sydney and say you did all the sights, but if you were breathlessly darting from place to place to tick off each attraction, you weren’t really in the moment and the trip will end up being just one big blur of bus/train/taxi journeys, with a plane ride at the end so you can finally catch your breath.

    I prefer looser itineraries that give me the flexibility to stay in a place for longer if I really like it, and to cut short places that didn’t live up to my expectations. That way, you are truly immersed in your current surroundings and you are not hurried, looking to set off to the next sight as soon as you arrived at the current one.

    Black Backpacker
    http://theblackbackpacker.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/aviewtoathrill Renee King

    One of my goals is to try to pack even lighter. Back in the day, we (my daughter and I) traveled with one carry on each and two checked (large) pieces of luggage. We are now trying to learn how to travel with carry on luggage only. It’s a joy to disembark without ever having to see the luggage carousel at all. It allows us to begin our vacation that much sooner and we don’t have the burden of having to drag more weight behind us and it forces us to pack more wisely.

    I’m entertaining the idea of taking clothing that are pretty much on their last leg and leaving them behind so that it will free up more space for souvenirs, etc. on the journey back home. We are pretty casual people anyway, so it’s not too difficult to get by on jeans, tops and ONE pair of shoes. My rationale? I’m not traveling to win a beauty or fashion contest. I’m traveling to see what’s on the other side of the world, so I plan to lean on the side of practicality.

    Great list, Jay! I will be sure to visit more often and invite you to check out my site too: http://aviewtoathrill.net

  • gwen

    Nothing worse than coming home from a wonderful trip, unpacking and having to wash dirty laundry, so I make it a point to find a laundry mat when I travel. Got lucky in Florence and Rome they were less than a block away. Worked just fine.

  • rockubabe50

    Good..Cool…

    Good..Cool…

    Good..Cool…