Welcome to “How To Travel Like You Also Run A Travel Blog Called The Liminal Life.”
That title is obviously a work in progress. I had the realization that I often write about my specific trips, but I never really did a post on my across the board travel advice. So below, you’ll find 10 of my favorite tips, tricks, and general advice for traveling the globe. I hope at least a couple of them can help make your travels a little more stress free and fun. If you have a great travel tip you wanna share, drop a comment at the end!
1 | For my fellow Americans - get pre-check and download the mobile passport app.
If you travel even twice a year domestically, TSA pre-check is well worth the $85. Applying is pretty straight forward and then you make a quick appointment so they can make sure you’re a real person. Then for 5 years, you can take advantage of those awesome pre-check lines when leaving from an American airport. I show up to JFK an hour before my flight these days since security often takes 5 minutes or less. There’s a shorter a line, no removing your shoes or laptop, and everyone generally travels often so they’re movin’ along quick.
For expediting your customs experience when coming back from another country, you can look into Global Entry (basically pre-check for customs) but I’ve found that the mobile passport line is sometimes even faster. When I was coming back from Paris, I downloaded the mobile passport app, filled out my info, snapped a quick selfie, and then I got to go through an entirely separate line that was much shorter than Global Entry. Plus it’s free! Get on this before everyone discovers it :)
2 | Always charge your credit card in local currency.
You’ll notice when you’re in a store in another country, they may ask if you want to charge the purchase in USD or their currency. Always always always pick the local currency. The exchange rate that the card terminal will give you will almost always be worse than what your bank will give you, so you may end up paying more if you convert to USD. Also, always double check with your credit card companies about their foreign transaction fees - plenty of cards don’t charge to use your card abroad, but many do.
3 | Don’t bother checking a bag, if you can get away with it.
This may seem like a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how many hours of my life I’ve spent waiting for my bags when I checked them. My sister didn’t get her bag in Croatia until 4 days into the trip, my mom didn’t get hers in Dublin until 5 days into the trip, and I had friends in Seville who never got theirs back. Get good at packing a little lighter and smarter - it may pay off in the end. Plus walking off the plane and getting to leave the airport immediately is just such a nice feeling.
4 | Roll ya clothes.
This is one of those tips that sounded kinda dumb when I first heard about it, but it really has helped. If you’re trying to pack lighter and tighter, try rolling up your clothes into little tubes instead of folding them. They’ll end up taking up a lot less space and you can Jenga your carry on suitcase full of everything you need. On the same note, if you’re packing extra shoes (because you know, #looks), stuff all your socks inside your shoes so they keep their shape and don’t take up any extra rooms.
5 | T-Mobile gives you basic data worldwide.
The fact that I can use data internationally as part of my T-Mobile plan is… mind blowing to me. I spent my semester abroad in Spain lost and confused 90% of the time because I had to stop at coffee shops to use their wifi to figure out where the hell I was. Now, if I’m trying to get somewhere specific, I have data almost everywhere. I know people romanticize “getting lost” in new places - but maybe just put your phone in airplane mode in those moments :)
6 | Google is great - get Google Maps and try the Google Translate Camera.
Speaking of being lost, Google Maps has been amazing abroad. It’s usually more accurate than the Apple Maps app, especially in Asia, and the transit routing feature makes getting around on local transit a breeze. While you’re at it, download the Google Translate app and give it a whirl - it’s a camera where you can point it at text in one language and see it translated in your native language. It’s not always 100% accurate, but it’ll give you a much better idea than no idea!
7 | Screenshot eveeerything.
Even though T-Mobile is amazing, it’s not perfect. I’ve been many places where cell service was basically non-existent, and in those moments, having screenshots of your important documents, reservations, whatever is so helpful. I always screenshot tour reservations, hotel bookings, flight info, or even pictures of the front of the restaurant we’re trying to get to. It’s saved me a lot of confusion and hassle in the long run.
8 | Invest in a good external battery.
Trust me - if you’re like me and depend on your phone for a lot (see the last 2 tips), then you’ll want backup. Everyone has a cheap battery pack they got for free at some festival, but you should shoot for one in the 20,000mAh+ (idk some power measure) range. Mine is that size and it lasts forever, is pretty compact and portable, and has saved my butt on multiple occasions. It’s 2019, just accept that technology is helpful.
9 | You can’t beat jetlag… but coffee and wine will help.
Everyone will tell you their tips and tricks to beating jetlag, but the truth is there is no real “beating it.” If you’re going from NY to Hong Kong, there’s a 12 hour time difference - your days are nights and your nights are days and your body will freak out. But it’ll be okay. Make sure to plan for being jetlagged (ie maybe don’t book a tour the day you land). I found that forcing myself awake at a semi-normal hour, drinking coffee throughout the day to keep you up, and then drinking some wine/beer/whatever alcohol you want at night puts you right to sleep helps me. Is it great health advice? No, but I’m not a doctor so go crazy.
10 | Keep it positive!
I think a lot of people don’t travel because they’re afraid of going into worlds unknown. And by all means, it can be scary to not know the language, the culture, or the surroundings you’re submerging yourself into. But I’ve notice that everywhere I’ve been, as long as you come at it with a super positive, friendly, and respectful attitude, it will almost always be enjoyable. You often won’t be able to pass as a local, so just be the best tourist you can be - don’t be loud and obnoxious, try and learn a few things about the culture and keep them in mind, and remember that you’re as different to local people than they are from you. If you go into these experiences with an open mind and your kindness hat on, it’s sure to be amazing.
Got a travel tip you wanna share? Leave a comment below!