In the broadest possible strokes, here are a few high-level travel tips that have significantly reduced costs/hassle associated with my travels.
- Skyscanner – pick the flexibility option and explore the possibilities.
- Discount Airlines – just get over to europe anywhere and figure it out from there with a discount airline.
- Insurance – obtain through credit card. Obtain primary insurance through the chase sapphire reserve card insurance.
- Parking Fees – Remember, the price to rent a car does not include parking fees. Like the cost to eat candy does not include the cost of a dentist visit. Factor in anticipated parking costs before renting the car.
- Beware of extra Resort fees, parking fees, and misc. fees in addition to the room rate.
- Ventilation, Light, and Pillows – Waking up to the sunrise through the window is much different that trying to sleep with a noisy fan in a room with no windows and stiff pillows. Ask questions about these topics before you check into the room.
- Priority Pass lounges or Amex Centurion lounges work well and can be obtained with a credit card even if you don’t have any airline status.
- Not all international airports have reliable wi-fi. Such as Cairo (as of 12/16) – which makes calling an uber rather impossible if one lands at the airport without any cell phone plan as well.
- Google, Facebook, Twitter and other western technology firms are banned in China – Neither is offline map software always the most reliable. Download apple maps before you arrive or find a way to get a private VPN.
- The 72 hour visa-free policy is in effect. However – remember this means you can stay enter/leave only 1 location in China on this visa. An airline may allow you to buy a ticket without consideration of this rule.
- Ensure 6 months at least until expiration dates. Multiple countries require passport not be close to expiration in order to travel.
- Don’t Lose it – If you do or you need a replacement, it’s going to complicate your trip. Likely means applying for a new one like you did the first time. The old one will get cancelled. Which means you need a birth certificate or other means of identification. A list of locations to go to can be found on the Dept. of State website.
- Ask people on the ground – discuss travel plans with people who have ‘been there, done that’ for advice is a sure fire way to find answers. Such as crossing the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua by TicaBus. Just ask a fellow traveler.
- ATM Fees – Cash is necessary in the local currency, often if traveling abroad, depending on the destination. Avoid ATM surcharge fees from your bank ($3+) and the ATM ($3+) for every transaction by obtaining the Charles Schwab debt card. You get an ATM fee rebate for all transactions with this card.
- Currency Exchange – Obtain currency whenever possible from ATMs – you obtain a better exchange rate and limited fees.
- Flexibility is key! Some days the rain might pour. Perhaps you’ll be feeling sick or just tired. Maybe you’ll enjoy a moment here or there and want to enjoy it again. Maybe you’ll meet a special someone. Whatever the case – be flexible with your itinerary.
- Base – Establishing a good base from which to explore a city is always the most efficient. For example – Cusco, Peru. Find a hostel/hotel by the central square. Then, go talk to a few tour operators which are everywhere and figure out what to do
- Day Tours – Free walking tours or half-day/full-day trips are often a great way to get orientated to a new culture. For example – Day tours of Wickow and the countryside around Dublin with a local historian as a tour guide presents a tremendous cultural experience.
- Hostel Tours – Even if you stay at a hotel, check out the hostel tours. For example – Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv has connections with multiple tour operators and can easily get you signed up for a dead sea or northern Israel tour.
- Check the time bicycle rentals open in Amsterdam before you rent. Also, don’t rent a 1 speed in San Francisco if you’re going to go all the way to Muir Woods to hug a Redwood. And, don’t assume that just because you can return a bike to the point-to-point stations that it will just work no problem (Tel-Aviv). Finally, remember those bicycle stations typically require you to return the bike every 15 minutes or be charged a fee. Like the $500 fee I nearly incurred in New York City for failing to do so for an entire day.
- Carry-On Only – If you want to avoid the possibility of the airline losing your bag or want to quickly change plans, don’t check in a bag under that plane.
- Phone – Identify your mission critical items like your phone. Then think about what happens if you lose it or something happens to it, like the battery dying. Figure out a solution, which means back up battery in this case and writing down a couple key things on physical paper somewhere. And backing up your phone to the cloud of course too (Don’t lose your photos like I did in Bali after my computer was stolen!)
- Wallet – If you lose your wallet or key or purse, what would you do? If you’re traveling with someone, establish a dual-control procedure whereby, for example your friend always has something of yours like a key. And photo-copy all items in your wallet and store that in the cloud – it makes it a lot easier to remember what you lost if you can just look at a picture. Make sure of course your passwords to that cloud are secure!