- Travel and Places
Top Travel Tips
Talk to a local. In fact talk to several!This is by far and away the best way to make the most out of your trip and make lasting memories. There is so much more to a place than its attractions, it's really the people that make a place what it is. The only way to really know and understand a place is to get to know its inhabitants. This is much easier and less scary than many people make it out to be, and you'll find that most people are happy to talk to visitors (except maybe Parisians) and tell them about their city and country. Locals are the best way to find out the real buzz about a city-where the best bars/clubs/restaurants are, where the neat parts of the city are that aren't covered in the typical tourist guide, and just the general pulse of a city. This conversation starter can happen in many different ways, there is no set method, but what generally works for me is asking people at stores or bars what are the must see's, where the local parts of the city are, and even asking people on the street where I can find certain attractions (even if I know where they are) because it will often spark into them asking where you're from what you do etc etc. More often than not people are going to point you in a positive direction, and quite often they'll even throw out, "well hey I'm headed to this bar with some friends right now, feel like joining?" That is how all the best stories start, and it all started with striking up a meaningless conversation with a stranger.
Pace Yourself. Don't overwhelm yourself trying to see and do too much. In an attempt to make the most out of a limited trip people often try to cram so much into a day and by the end of it they can't remember what's what, and they end up depriving themselves of any real experience. You will not be able to do everything in one trip. You need to resolve yourself to this fact before you go. What you don't see you can always see again another time. Better to get a full experience with a few things than half an experience with many things. Try to enjoy a place's atmosphere and vibe rather than trying to see as many sites as possible; it's not a competition it's a vacation, the point is to enjoy yourself!
Find a balance between planned and unplanned travel. Know what you want to see and try to see as much as you can without living each minute by a strict itinerary. As already stated your trip is about fun and relaxation, and scheduling every aspect of your travels can lead to a very boring and uneventful experience. Some of the most interesting and memorable experiences are had by chance. This could range from stumbling onto a neat old cathedral or section of town that's not on your tourist guide, to ending up in some Austrian mansion playing beer pong with some purebred Austrians (which did in fact happen to me). So take some time out of your perfectly scheduled trip and just roam around and allow for that chance to happen.
Do something cultural. This seems obvious, but it's often overlooked and not given any real serious thought. Cultural activities involves more than just drinking an espresso and eating a baguette, but rather immersing yourself in some local cultural tradition; such as festivals, dances, or popular destination for locals. You can find these local traditions in tour guides, or better yet from taking talking to locals.
Detach yourself from your everyday life. Try and avoid email, facebook, news, phone, and normal sites you visited. If you can't refrain from getting out of your everyday routine then you might as well have stayed at home.
Get out of your comfort zone. It's always important to be comfortably with what you're doing, however, we don't really grow as people unless we crawl out of box and experience what's outside it. Do something that you never saw yourself doing. The great thing about vacation is no one back home will know what embarrassing things you did while away (unless of course you have that friend who enjoys taking blackmail pictures, and in that case you just do it right back).
Break the rules. Obviously take this with a grain of salt and don't do anything that will land you in a foreign prison, but don't be afraid to bend the rules a little bit. There are so many dumb laws and restrictions out there-mostly in touristy places, largely to keep the insanely stupid from harming themselves or others, but I find bending the rules a bit can open a lot of opportunity which can bring some spice and excitement to your trip.
Get to know a place before moving on. This is of course limited to trips with some more time and flexibility, but I really encourage travelers to get familiar with a place before moving on, otherwise you end up forgetting the places you've visited very quickly. The best way to spend your first day in a city is to simply walk and roam around getting familiar with the cities different areas, it's public transit system, local culture and demographic, etc. This will make you feel more at home and will allow you to better appropriate your time to places you would more enjoy, and getting around the city easier.
Try something new. This is always typical advice and generic, but it is still important and sometimes has to be actively sought. To have a great experience you need to feel you're away from home and in a different place, and it's tough to do this if you don't experience something completely new.
Set aside a day just for shopping. Unless you see something you absolutely must have when out touring around, save your shopping for a designated day, otherwise you will end up spending half your time in shops rather than seeing the sights.
Take everything into account when planning your trip; money, time, effort. All these things have a large bearing on how you tailor your trip. Expenses add up quick so always be aware of all the costs. Also, people often don't think about travel time, which can take a huge chunk out of your trip. If have to spend more than half a day traveling, I usually write that entire day off because there are almost always delays, as well as time walking to and from stations, going through airports etc, as well as the added burden of being tired from traveling.
Over Budget. Traveling absolutely always ends up being more than expected. You should always tuck away maybe 10% or 20% more than you initially budgeted for, just in case. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a foreign country with no cash and no way to get anywhere. I usually stick some hideaway cash either in my money pouch or in my sock in case something happens to my wallet or backpack.
Be Resourceful. There are so many ways to cut costs and do more with your money. Always shop around for better deals, ask friends and people who have visited places that your going for ideas on how to save money. You can save a lot of money on accommodation by staying with friends, couch surfing (best experience of my life), websites like AirBNB which are last minute room lets that are a fraction of the price of hotel rooms, hostels, and even sleeping in airports/railway stations/bus stations when you just have a few hour layover or you arrive too early to check in to your hotel. There are carpooling websites all over Europe and the United States which allow you to get from one place to the other super cheap. Standby flights is a very cheap way to get somewhere (even if it's not your exact destination you might be able to take a train or bus there for cheap than a direct flight). Also skyscanner.com is a great website that shows you all the major airlines over the entire year, so you can find the cheapest time to travel. You can save money on food by cooking in your hotel/hostel. Food is by the far the greatest expense of traveling, so if you can cut this then you'll find a lot more money to work with. The point is to be creative and resourceful so you're able to do more with your money and your travels
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Make good use of your time. Be realistic about what you will be able to do in a day, and try and be as efficient as possible so you are able to fit more in. Look at a map before you out everyday so you can see which attractions are close together so as not to waste time backtracking. Sleeping on trains is a great way to cut time wasted traveling, and it will also save you money on a hotel. Scheduling trips to arrive in the morning can also save you a day, because people that arrive in the afternoon or evening often feel like the day is already over and don't end up doing much with it. Be conscious of the limited duration of your trip.
Pack Light. As a general rule when packing: lay out everything you want to bring then put half of it away. You will find, especially when traveling long durations, that you will never use half of what you bring. You can reuse clothes, layer and rearrange wardrobes, and do laundry cheaply in any city you visit. You can also buy little things like toiletries upon arrival. The less you bring the lighter your load will be, the less you will have to deal with and worry about, and the more room you'll have to store souvenirs and random things you'll buy along the way.