You asked for this one – my top travel tips and travel hacks – ever!
When I tell people I’m a travel blogger the inevitable questions that follow (in this exact order) are:
- Where’s your favourite place
- What’s your top travel tip
- How do you make money?
So it’s time to answer the questions on this list and I’m taking the easiest one – what are my top travel tips.
If you’ve got a top travel tip, please do add it to the comments below – I love hearing other people’s hacks and tips!
#1. Be 2 hours early
I’m not talking about getting to the airport 2 hours early here (that’s kind of a given, right?) I’m talking about once you’re in your destination.
Depending on the time difference between your destination and home, this can be a really easy or a really difficult one to stick to. But if you manage to stick to it, it’ll make an enormous difference to your trip. Forget about what time it says on your watch, just make sure you’re 2 hours ahead of everyone else.
Most tourists will have breakfast at about 9am, leave the hotel at 10am, get to the main attractions for 11am, have lunch at 1pm, go for dinner at 8pm etc etc. This might be what feels natural but it’ll mean you’re constantly stuck in queues and surrounded by crowds.
But if you’re 2 hours ahead of everyone else you’ll pretty much have everything all to yourself.
Be the first at the breakfast buffet and you’ll have the freshest food and the best service. Be the first in line for the main attraction and you won’t need to wait for hours. You’ll see everything without crowds of tourists which is especially great if you like to take photos. You won’t need to wait to get a table at restaurants and you’ll be able to get the best table in the house.
The only time it won’t work is if you’re going clubbing – no one wants to be the first person in a nightclub!
I first discovered this tip when I went to New York and just couldn’t shake the jetlag. I was going to bed at 9pm and getting up at 6am. But do you know what, I loved it!
I could get up and see the sunrise and see the city as it woke up. I was ready to eat much earlier that the typical meal times so I went to cafes and restaurants when they were quiet.
When Elle and I recently visited Budapest we did it there too. We got up at 6am to take photos of the city when the light was at its best and there weren’t enormous crowds. We’d then go for a big breakfast and see some sights and by the time we’d had lunch we wouldn’t have done more than most tourists would do in a whole day. We could then spend the whole afternoon chilling out in a spa and relaxing without feeling the ‘tourist guilt’ (that feeling when you think you should be doing something all the time but you really just want to hang out and relax). It was really tough getting up so early but it was so worth it!
#2. Eat where the locals eat with Spotted By Locals
When it comes to eating out I use an app called Spotted By Locals. I don’t very often pay for apps like this but I think this one is worth it.
Spotted by Locals gives suggestions for things to do and places to eat and drink based on local recommendations. The restaurant and bar recommendations are the best as they recommend places you could never have found otherwise. They often include new openings and hidden gems that you don’t normally find as a tourist.
Sites like TripAdvisor can often recommend expensive and touristy restaurants and if somewhere is featured in a Lonely Planet it quickly becomes expensive and touristy with the increase in customers.
#3. Find flights through Skyscanner
I always find my flights using Skyscanner as it gives so many options all on one screen. I like the way you can search for flights over a whole month so you can find the cheapest days really easily. You can also include nearby airports – as it’s often cheaper to fly to an airport just outside of the city.
#4. You can never take too many photos
I know many people feel that travellers miss out on special moments because they’re busy taking photos but I really don’t agree. Obviously, if you’ve got your camera glued to your face for an entire trip then you may miss out!
There’s nothing better than looking back on photos a few years later and reliving all those precious memories. Photos help you remember each moment and I think that the more photos there are the better – just don’t forget to put the camera down and enjoy the moment too.
Personally, I really love taking photos so being able to enjoy a moment and photograph it at the same time is a double whammy of enjoyment.
Print out the best ones for gorgeous souvenirs to fill your home with.
#5. Wear what you’d wear at home
I think a lot of people stress about what to wear and what to pack for certain destinations but the truth is, you can normally wear exactly what you’d wear at home. I’m a real jeans-and-a-t-shirt kind of girl – this is what I wear at home so this is what I wear when I’m away.
Just because you’re travelling doesn’t mean you need to dress like a traveller. You don’t need to wear quick-drying pants or walking boots or clothes made from sweat wicking materials, just wear whatever you’re comfortable in and whatever you’d wear at home.
Even us Brits have some really hot temperatures and some really cold temperatures so most of us have clothing for every situation.
#6. Invest in quality travel equipment
By ‘travel equipment’ I mean anything from your suitcase to your 100ml toiletry bottles to your camera.
Even if you’re not a frequent traveller, it’s better to buy one suitcase that will last you 10 years then buy a new suitcase each year. It might be tough to hand over the cash but it will save you money in the long run.
#7. Don’t be afraid to take tours
Lots of people avoid tours while they’re travelling as they don’t want to get stuck with an enormous group following a giant umbrella. These tours are boring, slow, overpriced and usually feel like a school trip.
But not all tours are like this!
I nearly always take yours while I’m travelling as it’s a quick way to get to grips with a new destination, you learn a lot about it and discover some hidden gems.
Free walking tours are a great way to get your bearings in a new city and if you’re travelling solo they’re great to meet new people.
There are so many types of tours you can take from shopping tours to foodie tours when you get to sample a small dish from the city’s best restaurants. Tours can also be a cheap and an easy way to explore the area around a city as you won’t need to hire a car or worry about getting lost.
#8. Lots of short trips are better than 1-2 big trips
If you’re short on annual leave from work but still want to travel a lot, it’s way better to take lots of weekenders rather than the traditional ‘big holiday’. (Yep, we’re all about the weekenders here on The Travel Hack!)
We all love a big holiday but when you only have one per year, it’s a long old wait until the next one comes back around.
Fill your year with lots of short trips so you’ve always got something to look forward to and constant breaks from everyday stresses.
I found this study on the Daily Mail that proves that frequent weekend breaks are more relaxing than a big holiday.
If it says it in the Daily Mail then it must be true!
#9. Paying extra for little luxuries is so worth it
I’m all about affordable luxuries when I travel and for me that means splashing out in some areas and saving in others – such as budget flights but luxury hotels.
But there are some little luxuries that are so worth paying for.
Little luxuries will be different for everyone but for me it’s things like Meet and Greet when using airport parking (where they’re waiting with your car as soon as you come out of the airport), paying for airport lounges or paying a bit extra to have breakfast in bed.
#10. Don’t dismiss what’s on your doorstep
We all want to travel to faraway lands and exotic destinations but don’t dismiss what’s in your backyard. Once you start researching you’ll probably find there are hundreds of amazing options close to home.
You’ll save money on transport, save time, you’ll have just as much fun and it’s easier to book spontaneous trips when you’re not going far.
Sign up to deal sites like Groupon and TravelZoo for regular deals on local hotels. You can get some real bargains!
#11. Stick with the suits
Whether you’re at the airport, catching a train or having a coffee, stick with business travellers rather than holiday-makers. Business travellers know what they’re doing – they get through security quickly, they order quickly, they board a plane quickly and they’re generally pretty quiet.
Families and holiday makers are loud, indecisive, slow and often don’t know what to do or where to go.
This tip especially applies to airport security!
#12. Always travel with a tablet
Tablets are the best gadgets for travel and make life so much easier. You can use them for all your travel documents and booking confirmations but also for all your entertainment. Download books, films, box sets, games, magazines and use them for keeping up on social media and family at home.
A tablet will keep your hand luggage lighter too because you can get rid of so many things. I often just travel with my phone, debit card, passport and iPad in my hand luggage.
#13. Pack light
I’m always talking about the importance of packing light as it makes travelling so much simpler. You save money on checked luggage, save time at the airport as you don’t need to get there so early or wait for your baggage on the carousel, it’s easier to get around and you’re less likely to lose anything. You also realise you don’t need nearly as much stuff and you think! It took me a very long time to learn the art of packing light but once I nailed it I’ve never looked back.
Bonus tip: Make yourself a packing list to make sure you don’t overpack but also don’t forget anything.
#14. Remember there are more good people than bad people
While you’re travelling you’ll come across people from all walks of life with different backgrounds, cultures and religions. We’re all very different but we’re all human and we share the same essential values. We help people in distress (even if we don’t speak the same language), we look after children, we’re kind to old people and we’re respectful to everyone. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help as someone will help you. Don’t be afraid to smile and wave or chat to random people. There are bad people in the world but there are millions more good people than bad people.
#15. Keep a record
Whether it’s a thick journal, hundreds of photos, a quick line in a note pad or an Instagram feed filled with pictures and captions, keep a record of your travels. When you’re doing amazing things you think you’re going to remember it for a lifetime but it’s amazing how quickly you forget. You’ll thank yourself in 10 years time.
#16. Remember that travel is tiring
I have no idea why getting to the airport and sitting on a plane for 4 hours is exhausting but it is. Whether you’re sitting in a car, on a train, a bus, a plane or a boat, getting to your destination is tiring. Keep this in mind when you’re planning your trip and give yourself some downtime to relax when you arrive.
#17. Make a loose itinerary
When you’re on holiday you don’t want to stick to a schedule so I’m not talking about a minute-by-minute itinerary here. Make a rough itinerary of the main thing(s) you want to do each day to make sure you see all the highlights. There’s nothing worse than going home and feeling like you missed out and didn’t do everything you wanted to do.
#18. Don’t waste money on souvenirs
OK, this is possibly a controversial one but if you’re anything like me you’ll buy a tacky souvenir, it’ll sit on your desk/windowsill/mantelpiece for about a year and you’ll resent having to dust around it. It looked cute at that authentic market but once you got it home you realised it had a ‘made in China’ sticker on it (you were in Thailand) and it doesn’t match anything else in your house. It will then be demoted to a draw or cupboard where it will sit for a further year or two. It will then disappear for a few years and you’ll then find it 10 years later and immediately throw it in the bin. You could give the souvenir to someone as a gift but, let’s be honest, they’ll only go through the same process.
If you want to decorate your home with memories from your travels then take photos and frame them on your walls – they look much better than snow globes and Russian dolls.
#19. Trust your instincts
This applies to everything from feeling like you’re in the wrong queue at the airport to not feeling comfortable sitting next to that creepy guy on the train. Always trust your instincts. Sometimes your instincts are wrong but it’s not worth taking the chance – especially when it comes to ordering food from a menu where you can’t read a single word.
#20. Don’t pack more than 100ml of liquids in your hand luggage
Yes, you, I’m talking to the guy who has been stood in the airport security queue for 45 minutes while the tannoy bellows, “Please remove all liquids over 100ml from your luggage.” We’ve heard this announcement approximately 156 times now yet he still gets to the front of the queue and seems genuinely surprised he’s not allowed to sneak through his 200ml bottle of mouthwash!
Every single flipping time!