1. Always pack a towel
It’s the key to successful galactic hitchhiking and plain common sense. You never know when you will need it, whether it’s at the beach, on a picnic, or just to dry off. While many hostels offer towels, you never know and carrying a small towel won’t add that much weight to your bag.
2. Buy a small backpack/suitcase
By purchasing a small backpack (I like something around 35/40 liters), you will be forced you to pack light and avoid carrying too much stuff. Humans have a natural tendency to want to fill space so if you pack light but have lots of extra room in your bag, you’ll end up going “well, I guess I can take more” and then regret it.
3. Pack light
It’s OK to wear the same t-shirt a few days in a row. Take half the clothes you think you will need…you won’t need as much as you think. Write down a list of essentials, cut it in half, and then only pack that! Plus, since you bought a small backpack like I said, you won’t have much room for extra stuff anyways!
4. But take extra socks
You’ll lose a bunch to laundry gremlins, wear and tear, and hiking so packing extra will come in handy. I only take a few more than I need. Nothing beats a fresh pair of socks!
5. Take an extra bank card and credit card with you
Disasters happen. It’s always good to have a backup in case you get robbed or lose a card. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere new without access to your funds. I once had a card duplicated and a freeze put on it. I couldn’t use it for the rest of my trip. I was very happy I had an extra and not like my friend, who didn’t and was forced to borrow money from me all the time!
Here are some helpful articles on banking and travel hacking:
6. Make sure to use no-fee bank cards
Don’t give banks your hard-earned money. Keep that for yourself and spend it on your travels. Get a credit card and debit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee or an ATM fee. Over the course of a long trip, the few dollars they take every time will really add up!
7. Travel by yourself at least once
You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to become independent. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Traveling solo taught me how to fend for myself, talk to people, and handle unfamiliar situations with ease. It’s made me comfortable with myself, helped me learn about what I’m capable of, and allowed me to be super selfish and do whatever I want! It can take some getting used to if you’ve never done it before but do it at least once. Make yourself uncomfortable and surprise yourself. You’ll learn valuable life skills when you push yourself!
Here are some helpful articles on solo travel:
8. Don’t be afraid to use a map.
Looking like a tourist isn’t as bad as getting really lost and ending up in the wrong neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to use a map or ask for directions and look like a tourist. After all, you are one! I always use a map when I travel. It helps you get to where you need to go!
9. But don’t be afraid to get purposefully lost.
Wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it, get off the beaten path, and away from the tourists. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you find. I like to wander around and try to find my way without using Google Maps!
10. Always visit the local tourism office.
They know about everything going on in town. They can point you to free activities, special events happening during your stay, and everything in between. They even offer discounts on attractions and transportation. It is their job to help you experience the destination better. It’s amazing how many travelers skip this when they are visiting somewhere but, as a savvy traveler, you know to use this resource! This is probably one of the most underused travel tips in the world. Use the tourism board! Save money!
11. Don’t buy a money belt — they’re stupid.
Thieves know they exist and being seen with one basically shouts, “Look at me, I’m a tourist with money! Rip me off!” The more you can blend in and act like a local, the easier it will be to get deals and avoid touts. If you’re worried about pickpockets, keep a better eye on your stuff!
12. When you go out, take only what you need.
Limit the amount of cash and bank cards you carry with you, so if something does happen, you can easily recover. Never take more than one credit card or ATM card with you. My rule for cash is to limit what I carry to $50 USD.
13. Always carry a lock.
They come in handy, especially when you stay in dorms and need to lock your stuff up. Carry a small combination lock with you when you travel. Don’t use one with keys because, if you lose the keys, you’re screwed!
14. Make extra copies of your passport and important documents.
Don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself too. You never know when you might need to have some sort of documentation with you and might not want to carry your original. Additionally, if your passport gets stolen having a copy will come in handy for your police report.
15. Ask hostel staff for information — even when you aren’t staying there.
Hostel staff deal with budget travelers all day, every day. They know exactly where to go for cheap meals and attractions. They also tend to be locals so they know the city very well. Ask them for all sorts of information. Even if you aren’t staying in one, just pop in and ask for help. They’ll usually give it.
16. Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination
The locals will appreciate it and it will make your interactions easier. You don’t need to master the language but learning a few things like “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Thank you!”, “Where’s the bathroom?” will go a long way to endearing yourself with the locals. They’ll like you tried.