10 Travel Tips You Should Know Before You Go

Know before you go. A few tips to help you plan your best trip yet. With the internet and a little research you can plan a better trip than a travel agent could for you. Agents and tours have their place, especially if you are going to a destination that doesn't speak any English or may be dangerous. However, there are many places where you can do your own planning, save money, and have an itinerary custom made for your preferences.

If you prefer to watch a video about these 10 travel tips click here. Don't forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel while viewing to get access to new videos.

Travel Tip #1

If traveling abroad make sure you have the necessary documents and immunizations

This is so important. Did you know that some destinations require your passport be valid for at least 6 months after your return? What about a Visa and immunizations? Are there any travel alerts or warnings to be aware of? Don't show up for your flight without the correct documents or your trip will end before it's begun. Begin early as these items can take months to acquire or require a large rush fee from you to expedite. Click here to research requirements for your next trip abroad.

Did you know that some destinations require your passport be valid for at least 6 months after your return?

I pulled this information directly from Homeland Security. Starting January 22, 2018, travelers who do not have a license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension (a complete list of non-compliant states/ territories can be found here) will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification. If the traveler cannot provide an acceptable form of identification, they will not be permitted through the security checkpoint.

Starting October 1, 2020, every traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel.

Hopefully, states comply but I would not chance my trip on it. We live in a state that is currently non-compliant and have passports for everyone in our family so we are prepared if they don't comply.

Starting January 22, 2018, travelers who do not have a license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification.

Update: As of December 2017, all states are either under review or have been granted an extension. Click the link above to view details about your specific state.

Travel Tip #2

Expect something to go wrong

This sounds negative but if you have realistic expectations you will adjust quicker and not be so frustrated. Every trip we take something goes differently than planned. It’s life. Weather can affect activities and flights, phones can not work like you thought making it difficult to find your party, luggage can be delayed, you can get lost or head the wrong direction on a bus or train, etc. Some people let these things ruin their vacation. Realize everyone will be tired and give extra grace and patience when things don’t go as expected. On our last trip my Uber app wouldn't work properly so we ended up taking the bus everywhere. At first I was frustrated, but it was fun teaching my 12 year old how to read bus lines, and we ended up saving a lot of money.

Realize everyone will be tired and give extra grace and patience when things don’t go as expected.

Travel Tip #3

Research weather and special events during your travel times

There may be an event you don't want to miss or you may prefer to avoid high tourist times and certain activities. My sister and her husband ended up wheeling their luggage through the LGBT Festival on cobblestone streets in Belgium. Memorable, but not what they expected and not the easiest to maneuver with large suitcases. Educate yourself on local happenings.

Travel Tip #4

Try to find at least one out of the way place that interests you 

In Venice we went on a hunt for L’aqua Alta bookstore, in Amsterdam we searched for the colorful brick street art, in San Francisco we found our way to the wave organ and seward mini slides.  Some were just as expected, and others were no longer there or no longer working, but the adventure of finding the sights is always memorable.

The adventure of finding the out of the way sights is always memorable.

Also, every tour guide will tell you to walk a block or two away from the main tourist streets if you would like a more affordable and authentic dining experience. We all know the cost of prime real estate, so it makes sense that they would have to charge more than a similar restaurant a few streets over.

Travel Tip #5

Take a moment to stop by the airport information desk or hotel concierge

They usually provide you with maps and insider information you otherwise would miss. In Denver, the man at the desk in Union Station saved us travel time to and from the U.S. Mint by letting us know it was already booked full for the day. He suggested we visit the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve and collect a bag of money for our girls instead. In Amsterdam, we purchased our tickets for the Anne Frank House and Museum and saved 2 hours of time waiting in the queue to get inside.

Travel Tip #6

Know your travel personality

If you’re not sure, you can read more about it here. This is so important to know before making plans. This can also vary depending on who you’re traveling with. Take all parties into consideration so everyone can have an amazing time!

We like to stop a lot for coffee, snacks, wine, etc. and prefer outdoor activities to indoor ones when possible

Travel Tip #7

Money and Phones

Be sure to call the number for all credit cards and debit cards to let them know where and when you will be traveling so they don't freeze your accounts. If traveling abroad familiarize yourself with the exchange rate and your options for obtaining local currency. Many times you can just use your atm card abroad and save the fees charged at your local bank or currency exchange desk in the airport.  Also, most European countries require the chip on your credit or debit card. We are late adapters here in the states. 

Research your phone options for international coverage and whether you prefer to spend more for the simplicity of using your current carrier or prefer to be adventurous and buy a SIM card upon arrival. If you travel internationally often, I highly recommend switching to Google Fi. Rather than paying a flat rate of $40/month and having to call in advance, international calls are always included and charged only for the time spent on the call. And, they are cheaper than Verizon and AT&T!

Many times you can just use your debit card at the atm abroad and save the fees charged at your local bank or currency exchange desk in the airport.

Travel Tip #8

When you arrive, get the business card or write down the address and phone number of the place you are staying

Keep this information with you during your stay in case you get lost. It's also quick and easy to hand to your taxi or uber driver. Even though you can probably look this information up on your phone, it's good to have a hard copy in case your phone dies or you can't access your data. If traveling with kids make sure they have this information as well.

Travel Tip #9

If traveling abroad try to learn a few simple phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting

They appreciate the effort and it’s fun to try. Sometimes we are better at this than others. In Amsterdam, we asked our daughter say thank you in Dutch which is dankjewel. When the waiter returned she looked directly at him and blurted out Donkey! We all had a good laugh. In France merci' sometimes came out sounding more like mercy. In Italy, I thought I made a reservation for 8pm and they thought I asked for a reservation for 8 people. It’s all part of the adventure!

Travel Tip #10

Watch some videos on YouTube about your travel destination

Some of my favorites are Rick Steves and Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations hosted by Andrew Zimmern. Rick Steves does a great job giving history and travel tips for each location. If you enjoy trying local foods Delicious Destinations is a great one to watch and take notes. Andrew tells you the name of each restaurant he visits. My daughter and I did this for our trip to San Francisco and had a blast finding the locations and trying the recommended foods. Some other vloggers on Youtube you may enjoy are:

Radiant Wanderings - yours truly

Samuel and Audrey - couple traveling the world

Gone with the Wynns - camper and sailboat travel

Hey Nadine - solo female travel

Vagabrothers - Alex and Marko

Kylie Flavell - Solo Female filmmaker, editor, producer, & journalist traveling the world.

Bonus Travel Tip

If taking public transportation don't buy black luggage 

It’s hard to spot and the airlines hate finding lost black bags.  I’ve even heard them page customers that took someone’s black bag because they thought it was their own. Do yourself a favor and choose a color that’s easy to spot and not super common. If you already have black luggage add something to make it stand out as yours. I personally like these tags.

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