When I was out backpacking, I realized that my travel experiences (whether they turn out to be good or bad) were depending a lot on my travel preparations. The more prepared I was, the less worries I had. The challenge was: I was never the kind of traveler who plans everything out, from A to Z.
Even so, I have always tried my best to follow some of these 10 essential travel tips to ensure that I’ll have a better journey. P.S. You can use most of these tips whenever, wherever — even at the last minute!
1. Walk in a pair of multi-purpose flip flops
Take your pair of flip-flops with you when you travel because you’ll need it almost whenever and wherever you go.
You can use it for going to the bathrooms or when taking a shower. During the monsoon season, your flip-flops will get wet more often, but they also dry easily and won’t stink as bad as a pair of wet shoes. When it’s time to hit the beach, you can also walk comfortably in them as flip-flops won’t be scooping up sand. For many, a flip-flop is also a great tool to exterminate bugs. Yikes!
2. Use plastic bags (wisely)
When I bought a small Targus backpack early this year, I was very happy to know that it was a waterproof bag. Unfortunately, it wasn’t 100% waterproof as some of my belongings got wet while I was doing rapid shooting with my friends.
Ever since then, I’ve always kept plastic bags of all sizes in my bag. I use them to keep trash whenever I’m unable to find a trash can around (gotta be kind to the environment!) I also use them when I need to protect my things from water or the rain.
Note: Be smart with your plastic usage! Although it takes less energy to produce plastic bags than paper bags, it’s important for us to properly reuse, recycle, or dispose our plastic bags.
3. Wear a scarf
A scarf or a bandanna will come in handy when traveling. My blue scarf has served me well in many ways: It has protected me from the sun, covered me when I visited religious sites or conservative places, kept me warm during cold weather, kept my hair out of my face (especially during my road trip), and protected my eyes from sand and dust. I also used it as a blanket and as a cover for my books which acted as my head pillow.
In fact, it has become my hand-carry bag! If you don’t want to pack your scarf/ bandanna in your bag, you can simply wear it, or have it tied to your bag.
4. Download and install useful travel apps
I may not be the most tech-savvy traveler on the road, but I’m glad to have a smartphone and a few useful travel apps. Of course, one can travel even without a smartphone or travel apps, too. The journey is not any easier, but the challenges are part of the adventure, right?
For me, my smartphone is metaphorically my compass. I usually use flight and hotel booking, navigation, and chatting apps to make my journey smoother. Plus, these apps help me save time and money.
5. Get your flashlights ready at all times
It doesn’t matter where you go, whether you’re planning to explore a cave or the jungle tomorrow – a flashlight might just be what you’ll need, someday. You’ll never know when the electricity will go out, or when you’re lost in an unfamiliar place just when the sun goes down.
Luckily, most mobile phones today have a flashlight feature that is as good as a conventional flashlight. I recommend you to also carry a headlamp (caving light).
6. Travel light
No one likes to travel with a big, bulky bag. While traveling with a backpack means that you’re going out of your comfort zone, there’s also no need for you to torture your back. Just because you’re traveling with just a backpack, that doesn’t mean that you need to fill it up until it’s totally full. Travel light instead.
It teaches you many valuable lessons, too. You’ll learn that you don’t need too many things to be happy and it even helps you plan your trip better. Plus, you won’t have any problem with excess baggage.
Depending on how much stuff you have, you might not even have to put anything in the cargo when you fly. For the most of it, no back pain!
7. Pack your raincoat / poncho
A raincoat, otherwise a poncho, is very useful for travel. Regardless of what weather or climate you choose to travel into, either one of these travel items will keep you and your things dry.
Alternatively, they can be used as a sitting mattress, or an addition to your warm/winter jacket! During rainy season, a raincoat or poncho is more handy than an umbrella as they’re easier to bring along and can be used in all kinds of creative ways.
8. Carry a pen
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve really needed a pen because a flight attendant has just given you a piece of immigration paper to fill out before you can have your passport stamped at the airport? I’m sure we’ve all been there and done that.
Yes, you can politely ask your neighbor if you can borrow his/her pen, but the wait can be time-consuming, especially when you neighbor happens to travel with another 5 pen-less people!
Which color of pen should you carry? A blue or a black pen is highly recommended. What else can a pen do for you? In case you’re lost in a place where language barrier exists, you can draw a map (or anything you need to describe along the way) and show it to the locals!
9. Learn a new language
Before you travel, or even while you travel, you can pick a new language, preferably the language used in the country you’re visiting. It’ll make your journey better because you can reduce language barriers, communicate with the locals, prevent yourself from getting scammed, and feel more confident when walking in a “whole different world.”
In many cases, travelers who put effort into learning a local language tend to get better treatment from the local community. And hey, don’t assume that everyone in the world speaks English!
10. Don’t carry too much money with you
If you don’t intend to make any big purchases at the time, avoid carrying big notes especially when traveling in crowded places. You might think that dangerous places are the quiet and less-traveled ones. But crowded places have their dangers too.
Also, make sure you already have local currency ready on hand when you arrive. There may be times when your cards might not work on some ATM machines. Speaking from my own experience, it can be super frustrating.
So, which ones of these travel tips will you follow or are already following?