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My Top 10 Travel Tips

Posted By Jay On December 29, 2009 @ 11:14 am In Tips and Tricks | 15 Comments

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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