The last ten years of travel have opened my eyes to so many things. From how to apply for a visa to how to survive as a woman alone in a foreign country, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve these days.
I talk a lot about how to travel as a solo female, but there are some things that are just universal. Whether you are traveling as a couple, on a girlfriend getaway, or a family trip, there are some things that it’s better to know before you go.
Here are my top 20 things that every traveler should know!
1. Check for Visas
As an American, I am guilty of getting too comfortable sometimes and just assuming that I can fly anywhere, anytime. That is not always true! Places like China, Russia, and Cuba require you to have a visa before you arrive.
From time-consuming visa processing to simple things like making sure that you have cash on hand in the right currency, it is crucial to start the planning process by looking into requirements.
2. Get Travel Insurance and Check on Vaccines
Travel insurance has been my savior on many occasions! Ensure that you are covered for anything that might come up and check on vaccination requirements.
Specifically, be sure to look at the vaccine requirements from the destination that you’re traveling from, not just where you live.
One time, I was flying from Peru to Costa Rica. I had checked the requirements from the US to Costa Rica…but I wasn’t traveling from the US to Costa Rica! I was actually traveling from the US to Peru to Costa Rica. Entering Costa Rica from Peru meant that I needed a yellow fever vaccination.
I hadn’t planned for that and wasn’t allowed to board the plane.
3. An Adapter Isn’t a Converter
There is a big and important difference between an adapter and a converter. An adapter only allows you to plug in your electronics. Basically, it just changes the shape of your plug.
A converter, on the other hand, changes the voltage.
That means that the outlet will only give as much power as your device can handle. Knowing this difference is especially important if you have appliances like hair tools from the US. While most of the world’s plugs give 220v, the ones in the United States only do 110v. So, while your hair straightener is designed to only take in 110v, it’s suddenly getting double the voltage abroad.
And that is the short story of how I’ve destroyed so, so many appliances abroad.
Before you go, check the fine print on anything that plugs in. Many devices, like phones, are dual voltage so they can support 110-240v. Some are single voltage, however, so can only take 110v. If you don’t see it written right on there, check the website. Too much power will destroy it.
4. Don’t Overpack
Keep it simple! It’s exhausting and frustrating to be lugging around an unbearably heavy suitcase or backpack. That is doubly true when you’re struggling up a colossal flight of stairs with stuff you don’t really need.
Unless you are on an arctic expedition, chances are good that you can grab whatever you need when you get there.
5. Pack Your Valuables in Your Carry-On
Mastering the art of carry-on packing is the most important thing you can do. Pack your valuables (ie. camera equipment, laptop) in your carry-on. I’ve had my luggage lost too many times to ever put anything irreplaceable in there.
Read my extensive packing guides for anywhere you might go to help you streamline the process of packing for any kind of trip.
6. Travel Burnout is a Real Thing
Whether you are traveling for a month or a year, travel burnout is a very real thing.
Always keep in mind that it’s totally okay to slow down. In fact, there is nothing more important than allowing yourself to savor the moment. Forget about cramming in as many things as possible. Keep it simple and fun and listen to what your body is telling you.
7. Be an Advocate for Yourself
If you are traveling in a group, it is essential to be an advocate for yourself. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, speak up. It’s fine to bow out gracefully. In fact, you might find that it allows everyone to feel a bit more free to go at their own pace as well.
8. Travelers’ Diarrhea is Also a Real Thing
Travelers’ tummy is all too real…I’ve been there.
As an avid fan of street food and someone who loves to get far off the beaten path, I have seen more than my fair share of bathrooms around the world. That’s why I am now a major advocate of Travelan, an easy and all-natural preventative fix to that inevitable travelers’ diarrhea.
9. Solo Female Travel Isn’t “Safe”
It’s crucial to understand the difference between safety and comfort.
I’ve talked to you before about why solo female travel isn’t safe and, if you only read one post about traveling alone as a woman, let it be this one. As a solo female travel blogger, I try to encourage frank discussion about the truth about traveling alone as a woman.
10. Traveling is Not for Everyone
Anything that ignites a reaction in you can ignite an equal but opposite reaction in someone else. While you can encourage others to travel with you, don’t make them feel bad about not going on trips. Of course, if they’re into travel, encourage them.
If someone isn’t interested in travel, leave them be.
Not everyone wants to hear your travel stories and that’s totally okay. You aren’t interested in every single hobby in the world, and nobody has to be into yours.
11. Care for the Environment Wherever You Are
If you love our planet, treat it well! I shared a lot of tips in my ultimate eco-travel guide, and reducing my carbon footprint is something I am incredibly passionate about. From using reef-safe sunscreen to flying less, we should all do our best to play our parts.
Remember that being the perfect environmentalist is impossible. It’s all about just trying our best to reduce our impact.
12. Sometimes Splurging is Worth It, Sometimes It’s Not
In places like New York City, keep it cheap (which is indeed possible with a few insider tricks). The city is already expensive enough so you won’t get the same luxe experience as you would in other places. In such a big city, you’ll have a much better time at a hostel in the heart of the city than in a luxe hotel an hour away.
Generally speaking, around the world, I’d encourage you to splurge in places where your money will go further. And, of course, splurge on things you love!
13. Wake Up Early
This is the best way to make the most out of every single day. You can get those epic early morning shots when the lighting is just right and there are fewer tourists.
I find that the days always feel longer (in a good way!) when I start my day early. I can experience every part of the day in a new place, without stretching myself thin.
14. A Few Foreign Words Can Go a Long Way
Try to make a point to learn a few words in the local language.
Just knowing how to say hello, please, and thank you will go a long way. I try to keep the habit of learning these basics on the flight there. It only takes a few minutes and it’s easy to remember because it’ll be reinforced during most exchanges.
Locals appreciate the effort and it’s just a good way to show respect. On top of these basic words, I’d also encourage you to learn a bit about the local customs. Little things like knowing you shouldn’t tip in Japan will prevent embarrassing faux pas.
15. Bring an Extra ATM Card + Cash
Travel doesn’t always go as planned. Even if you’re careful, things do sometimes get stolen or lost. It’s invaluable to have an extra ATM card so you can get a bit of cash.
It’s also good to always have a bit of local currency on hand too so you are prepared when you stumble across places that only accept cash.
16. Have Copies of Your Itinerary
Phones are another thing that can get lost, stolen, or broken. Be sure to always have an extra (tangible) copy of your itinerary as well as the address of your hotel.
Write down the address and other essential pieces of info and tuck in your wallet (if you’re traveling with someone else, make sure everyone has a separate copy of everything) so that if you do lose your phone, you aren’t literally lost in the world.
17. Always Pack a Water Bottle + Swimsuit
These are my two key items! Collapsible water bottles have come in handy for me all over the world. They allow me to just grab a drink at the many water foundation you’ll find in airports and cities across the planet, without wasting a bottle.
Of course, it’s always key to be ready to hit the beach too. Even if you’re going to Iceland in the winter, you might be tempted to take a dip in the local hot springs or hit the sauna. A swimsuit doesn’t take much space and it’ll ensure you never miss out.
18. Take Care of Yourself and Your Health
Listen to your body and treat it well. Fundamentals, like eating healthy and drinking enough water, are crucial. One of the questions I get asked the most is how to stay healthy while traveling.
That’s why I wrote an ultimate guide to a healthy daily routine when every day is different.
19. Bring Tampons
If you’re a diehard tampon user, I’d highly recommend bringing your own. Many places around the globe have different types of tampons or none at all.
If you’re female and traveling, be sure to read my essential tips for traveling with Aunt Flo. It’ll save you from some messy situations!
20. Extra Camera Battery + Check Memory Cards
Your travel snapshots are irreplaceable. Be sure to always make sure that your camera is ready to go. If you have an impromptu adventure (aren’t those are always the best kind?), you’ll be so grateful that your camera can keep up with you.
Be sure to back up your pics too! Like everything you bring with you, it’s best to prepare for the possibility of your camera getting lost, broken, or stolen.
One of the top questions I receive has always been how to afford travel. The truth is that finding the best travel rewards credit card will go a very long way is making travel more affordable. You can earn travel points for everyday purchases as well as booking flights. Make every cent you earn add up for.