Whether it’s my first time traveling abroad or my 10,000th time, I always feel like I learn more each time I venture away. I am by no means an expert traveler, but in my (almost) 50 countries of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way that I wish I would’ve learned a lot sooner….so I’m here to share it with YOU!
1. Get a Buddy Pouch
It’s no secret that petty theft is the #1 thing that happens to travelers. BUT you can prevent ALL OF THIS with the Buddy Pouch. Originally designed for runners, the Buddy Pouch is PERFECT for fitting your passports and cash inside. It fits snugly inside your waistband and virtually goes unnoticed, unless you’re wearing a super tight shirt/pants.
Why do I love it?! One of my fellow travelistas had her passport stolen on the airplane when she left her seat to use the bathroom, not thinking someone would go to the trouble of digging through her bag while she was away. Ever since she told me this, I’ve been ADAMANT about wearing the Buddy Pouch on the plane. NO ONE is going to steal my shit and ruin my trip before or after. Just an FYI I don’t make any affiliate $ off of this recommendation, I just really love this pouch.
Many of my fellow travelers had their bags and backpacks stolen so easily by just leaving their bags at their feet at a restaurants/bar. If you’ve got the Buddy Pouch when this happens, your important documents and cash will still be secure.
2. Get On Local Time
The BEST advice someone every gave me when we starting jetting around the world was to get on your destination’s local time as soon as you take off. EVEN if it means you have to drink 3 cups of coffee and stay awake all night on the plane (or take a sleeping pill and pass out as soon as you board), you’ll be SOOOO happy when you’re trying to venture around and explore a new place and you’re fresh and ready to rock. I always change my watch to the local time in my desired destination as soon as we sit in our seats on the plane so I know exactly what time it is where I’m going.
3. Pack 1/2 Less of What You Originally Planned
Yep, you read that right…HALF! I know some of you are like OMG this is IMPOSSIBLE. But guess what, it is POSSIBLE and it’ll save you a whole lot of time, money, and pain lugging around more shit than you need.
I’ve always been a serial overpacker, until I chose to live out of one suitcase for 2 years. I quickly realized I NEVER needed 70% of the stuff I packed (besides extra underwear…always pack extra underwear). The only problem is if you’re venturing to both warm and cold climates. If this is your plan, obviously layer up for the plane ride to avoid packing it in your suitcase. Wear the heaviest shoes on the plane and tie your sneakers around your backpack. I’ll never forget wearing my Timberland snow boots and winter jacket on the plane in the middle of June in Portugal because I had NO where else to put them. Everyone thought I was crazy.
Do this: put everything you want to pack on your bed stacked by category (shirts, pants, dresses, etc.), then divide that all in HALF!
Something else I wish I would’ve realized a WHOLE lot sooner: ditch the checked bag and pack a carry on + backpack if you can. This way, when you land, you just zip off the plane and skip waiting at the long luggage carousel. Plus, you’re bag won’t ever get lost or left behind, because it’s with you in the cabin. WINNING!
4. Have a Landing Plan
Before you head to the airport, do you know what you’re going to do once you land? Is there someone picking you up from the airport, do they offer Uber in the country you’re going to, or are you taking public transport? If you don’t know me yet, I’m a SUPER planner, and I can totally understand (and admire) the free and easy travelers who just ‘wing it’ upon arrival, but this just isn’t me, especially when it comes to traveling in a new country. I like to arrange transport several weeks before our departure and then re-confirm with everyone a few days before we take off. This way, we aren’t stranded and start our trip on a bad note.
5. Pre-Download Maps
Guess what?! Google maps still works if you don’t close out the app, even without wifi or an internet connection of any kind. Amazing right? We traveled to over 40 countries together without a cell phone plan, meaning that I’d have to download everything prior to leaving my place on wifi, this includes Google Maps. We even drove all around Europe without any connected GPS (ballsy, right) because the little blue ball on my Google Maps kept us going.
When sight seeing, I like to load our home base and all the stops we’re making for the day on Google Maps and then keep it open while we’re roaming around. Works like a charm.
6. Google Translate Will Be Your Saving Grace
I can’t even imagine what it was like to travel back in the day with a Spanish/English dictionary and without Google Translate. I sound like such a millennial, right?! BUT, it’s totally true. Download the language mostly spoken in your destination prior to your departure and you’ll be good to go whenever you need to ask where the closest bathroom or bar is. Can you say wine in 30 languages? Google Translate can 😉
Something pretty amazing about Google Translate is that it has a camera feature, where you can hold your camera over text and it will literally translate it for you right there on the spot. This came in handy SO much with food labels in grocery stores and restaurants, because I don’t eat meat and Josh is the pickiest eater on the planet. It’s the greatest invention ever given to a traveler since the airplane was invented.
7. Avoid the Scammers
I think we obviously all want to do this when we land in a new country, but after hours of traveling and landing in a different time zone, sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap at the airport. For this reason, I like to arrange transport prior to the trip. OR Maybe you fall for the ‘it’s real’ jewelry scam like I did in Vietnam, where I spent one months rent on jade jewelry for everyone I knew, only to find out they were made of Chrysoprase, Jade’s imitator. Dumb Dumb Dumb.
Always be mindful when someone comes to talk to you or offer you something, even if it’s just help with directions or something simple. Sadly, they’re willing to help, but then quickly ask for money after. This obviously isn’t always the case because there are millions of kind people in the world, but just listen to your gut. You’ll know if someone is legit or not. Don’t forget that famous phrase, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,”…unless it’s a Balinese sunset or an Italian ice cream.
8. Be Smart
Maybe I’m going to sound a little Mom-ish with this one and it’s obviously a no-brainer, but when traveling abroad, be smart. Don’t get drunk and walk down back alleys at 3am in a foreign city. Don’t leave your backpack laying around unattended for anyone to run off with. Don’t wear shiny jewelry that literally puts a stamp on your forehead that says “I have money, rob me.” Don’t meet a random person and go back to their place at 4am. Sure, the chances of you being ok in all of these situations are high, but there’s always a chance you might not be, and why would you EVER risk that?!
9. Be Courteous of Other Country’s Customs and Cultures
The hardest part about traveling that I have is keeping my mouth shut when other people are being rude or disrespectful, especially to locals’ customs and culture. Sadly, I think when some people travel, they feel entitled that the people of their destination country should speak their language or have the same customs, or that they should bow down to them and give them whatever they want. This literally makes my blood boil.
First and foremost, what we all need to realize is we are GUESTS in their country/city, and in their culture. We need to be respectful and mindful…that maybe something that seems ok for us to do, really isn’t ok for them. Maybe you’re not familiar with the country’s traditions, so read up on them! Download some articles for your flight so you can be a mindful, respectful traveler. You’ll not only learn more about another culture, but you’ll also learn more about yourself.
10. DO NOT Support Animal Tourism
Insert blood boiler number 2. Thankfully, the awareness is spreading about animal tourism. I can NEVER fault someone for not being educated about it, because I was one of those people. On my first trip to Thailand 10+ years ago, I rode an elephant, because I thought it was ok and the fun thing to do. Now that I’m more educated in the horrors that those elephants experience to ensure that tourists have a good time while riding them, I will NEVER support the animal tourism industry like that EVER AGAIN.
Sadly, we’re often too caught up in getting the perfect picture on Instagram with a tiger, that we’re not even thinking of the tiger and what they’re going through so we can get 500 likes. We all need to continue spreading the word about animal tourism and put a stop to that industry once and for all. This isn’t just for elephants or tigers, this goes for camels, photos with sting rays, turtles, etc. If it’s a living, breathing animal, it should be respected, ALWAYS.
11. Leave a Place Better Than you Found It
If you haven’t been living in another galaxy the past few years, I’m sure you’re well aware of the growing plastic problem that we currently have worldwide. How many times have you been to a beach literally littered in trash? Our eyes were opened to this when we ventured to Bali for the first time and dived in a sea of plastic. We quickly realized that there was a problem, a real real problem, that we ALL need to take responsibility for. When you go to the beach or you’re out walking on the street, pick up after yourself and grab some extra trash you see along the way. Avoid single use plastics. Recycle the plastic you absolutely have to use. We only have one planet, and we need to take care of it.
This isn’t just about picking up after your trash on the beach, either. What if you left your hotel room, Airbnb or hostel looking nice on checkout, because it’s the kind thing to do. I always like to think that maybe the owner has a bad impression of my home country, and because of my kind act of picking up after myself, they now have a different view. Maybe you’ll make someone’s day when they come in the room to clean it for you and it’s not trashed. Spread love and kindness, beautiful people.