Things to do before you travel:
(keep in mind that I’m pretty budget-conscious)
- Airport. Don’t limit yourself to the closest airport to your destination location. If the prices are too high to that particular location, look at a map and find another airport within an hour or two away. Either take local mass transportation to your destination (train, subway, bus, etc.) or rent a car. Airport info for those who live far away from their airport.
- Park-Sleep-Fly is the coolest thing if you live far from the airport and need to stay near the airport the night before your flight. You can keep your vehicle at the hotel the entire time and use their airport shuttle to get you to/from your vehicle before and after your trip.
- Where to Stay. I don’t like to spend a lot of cash on a place where I’m only going to sleep. As long as it’s clean, comfortable and well-located – I’m in. I love VRBO and Airbnb. I also frequently find apartments in other countries and some domestically on Hotels.com. (Hotels.com gives you a “free” night after 10 nights which is the average amount of $ you’ve spent on a hotel.) You can often find deals on Travelocity and they have a good cancelation window.
- If you do stay in a traditional hotel, try to find one with a kitchenette so you can make breakfast there.
- Call ahead to the hotel (same day) and ask for early check-in so you can drop your bags. Hotels will usually store your bags for you, in a locked space, if your room is not yet available.
- Getting Around. I am all about using trains, buses, subways, taxis. I love trying to figure out how to get to the next place and get a lot of satisfaction when I get there! This oftentimes takes a good deal of research ahead of time (from home) before starting the trip. Many cities now have apps for their mass transportation.
- Rental Cars. Check around for deals on rental cars. I often find the best prices on Costco.com (although you have to be a member) or Travelocity (no $ to hold your reservation) or Trips.com. Make reservations (for free). Keep checking even as it gets closer to your travel date. Prices change often.
- Grocery Stores. Where are the locals? Shopping at the market, of course! You’ll find all the interesting local flavors as well as different names of foods, new brands and even new ways to store food! A learning, fun and quick way to immerse yourself into a new culture.
- Meals. Buy breakfast items and hearty snacks from your grocery store run. Oftentimes, I purchase eggs, bread, cheese, crackers, energy bars, nuts, etc. to make breakfast where I am staying. Lunch is snacks I’m carrying with me or something quick from a vendor. Dinner is in a local, recommended restaurant.
- Local Food. Research what food/dish the area is known for and seek that out. Whether it’s Philly Cheese Steaks from the street cart or barbecue in a local restaurant – spend your food budget on that delicacy. Otherwise, to save $ on food, see previous bullet.
- Tours. Many cities have free (or for a donation) walking tours from local citizens who have a passion for their area. These tours are rich in history, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask all your burning questions to a local.
- Your Haul. You will need something to carry around your stuff each day. Research the rates of pick-pocket crimes in the area where you’re traveling – if it’s moderate or high risk then carry a small, fanny pack to tuck under your shirt with your phone, identification, credit cards and money. Mine is the Go Belt (on Amazon) – it’s stretchy and shrinks down around what you put in it reducing bulk under your shirt. Who wants to look bigger than they are? I also carry a drawstring backpack (takes up no room in the suitcase) for my water bottle, snacks, tissues, Chapstick, mints, sunglasses and a rain poncho when I’m on the go. You’re covered if it rains, and you can carry on with your plans!
- Luggage. I find it super easy to use pull luggage that fits in the overhead compartment of airlines and often trains domestically and in other countries. If it doesn’t fit in the train hold it is acceptable to pull it in front of your legs for the journey. I have tried the backpack option, but when the clothing and whatnot is piled upon each other and you need to dig through it to find anything – it gets old. Travelpro makes sturdy, reliable and well-made luggage.
- Packing. Tightly roll your clothing and put a rubber band around each item. You will be amazed at what you can fit in there! Also, with the rubber band around each – you can easily shuffle clothing around without re-doing the roll. Here’s my Tiktok on that subject. 🙂 Oh, and always bring extra underwear. If you get stuck somewhere you can always re-wear your outerwear, but you can’t re-do the undies. They’re small enough to take extras – typically.
- Travel apps or websites will get you the best deals. Most of them have rewards programs. I really love Orbitz.com, Trips.com, and Travelocity as they are one-stop shops for flights, hotels, trains, rental cars, attractions and tours.
- Water Bottle. I do not enjoy spending $5+ inside security at the airport for a bottle of water. Most airports now have filtered water for just this purpose right near the water fountains (near the bathrooms). Once inside security, fill it up and then you can keep hydrated on the dehydrating plane. I like Contigo’s spill proof and stainless steel bottle as well as the packable Mountop collapsible water bottle (although it’s a little small). Here’s the Tiktok for that!
Special travel tips for international travel:
- Language. If you’re traveling to a country where they do not speak your language – learn some words and phrases to get you around. The app: Google Translate is excellent, but you may not have access to the internet out on the streets. I use the free Duo Lingo app and print out a paper to carry with me with common social phrases and questions.
- Money. Travel to a new country requires new currency. I order the new currency from my local bank a few weeks ahead of time, so that I don’t need to find an exchange place at the airport (high rates of exchange) or another bank or ATM at my destination. I also use a credit card that does not charge international fees such as the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. This saves a lot of money and this particular card gives you a percentage back.
- Passport. Make a copy of your passport (on a piece of paper as well as a photo in your phone) and carry the paper with you in a location separate from where you keep the actual passport. If there is a safe where you’re staying then lock up your passport in there. If not, then carry your passport with you. It is imperative that you do not lose your passport. You won’t be able to leave the country.
- Mobile Phone. Contact your mobile phone carrier before you leave your country and get on the international plan so that you can use data in another country. This is super handy for navigation (even and often, walking) and even a sense of security that you’re going the right way with taxis or Ubers or even mass transportation. Plus it’s ultra important in an emergency. You can also use your phone, just like you would at home, with public Wi-Fi in your hotel or any location that provides it. *I have AT&T and have the “international day pass” on my phone. If I use data, phone or text while I’m in another country then I get charged $10/day, but only if I use it. (If you only use Wi-Fi in your hotel, for example, then you will not be charged for the day pass.)
- Note that many other countries use the app “Whatsapp” to communicate instead of the texting app that comes with your phone.
- Trainline app. This app is the bomb for European rail travel. It’s accurate and easy to use. Plus you can pay for your transportation right on the app.