Could your next vacation go wrong, just like the Griswold family’s in the 1983 movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation?
Though humorous and obviously fictional, the movie does highlight a few realistic points on how a vacation could go wrong, like running out of cash.
Had Clark Griswold, the protagonist in the movie, gotten travel tips and advice from the Trippy community, his family vacation could have ended differently.
At Trippy, the most asked questions are about travel tips. One such question, “What is your best travel tip?” prompted almost 50 answers from all over the world.
Here are 20 of the best travel tips:
1. Take half the clothes and twice the money
Once you finished packing your suitcase open it up and remove half the clothes. Next, open your wallet and double the amount of cash in there!
Scott’s answer is similar to one of the most quoted travel tips by experts and travel bloggers, originally coined in a 1987 New York Times column:
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller.
2. Bring cash and a debit card with no international fees
These days, ATMs are widely available around the world. You can easily use your debit card to get cash on demand. I like Schwab Bank’s debit card because of its unlimited ATM fee rebates for all cash withdrawals, meaning there are no fee to get cash from anywhere in the world where Schwab Bank’s Visa debit card is accepted. I’ve used my debit card in China, Iceland, most countries in South America and even Mongolia.
Note: Personal checks will not work overseas and in most cases are not accepted in the United States.
3. Have at least two credit cards with you
Bring two credit cards when traveling, just in case one doesn’t work. Most small businesses outside the United States do not take American Express cards. Even in London, the boutique hotel I stayed in did not accept American Express.
Remember to notify your credit card companies with your travel dates and destinations before departing. A failure to report may cause your credit card company to suspect fraud, and result in your card being denied or suspended.
4. Travel insurance
If you have ever booked a flight online, you probably have been notified by a statement about travel insurance and the risk of not being covered. Like it or not, you have to accept or reject the insurance before you proceed to complete your flight booking.
When do you buy travel insurance? Where should you get yours? These are questions you can ask your travel agent, or find the answers by reading an article on How to Buy Travel Insurance.
I travel with insurance when traveling outside the United States, but not when within the US. I buy travel insurance mainly for the emergency evacuation coverage.
5. Wake up early
In Machu Picchu, we had a grand time being some of the first few entering the park. No tourists were in blocking the views when we photographed the Lost City. That was not the case when visiting Borobudur, Indonesia. Instead of arriving before 5 am, just before sunrise, we arrived at 6:30 am after the sun had risen and the crowds of tourists arrived.
So wake up early to avoid crowds and catch the sunrise before everyone else.
6. Start at least one of your tours early
Waking up early also means you start your day early. Trippy member Zel Lederman from Jerusalem said:
Start at least one of your tour days early – sunrise, dawn and walk the city you are visiting and watch it wake up. As a Jerusalem based private tour guide I offer an early morning tour that I must admit not many take up as the hotel breakfasts are good and people feel like sleeping in on their holidays!!
That’s why I wrote in my first sentence :” start ..at least one of your days “.
I can only say that to visit the Old City of Jerusalem in the early morning is like visiting a Tripadvisor 1st ranked restaurant and tasting its great delicacies as a VIP. No tourists, beautiful light, quiet moments at all the religious sites, good coffee, time to reflect…
I could not agree more.
7. Walk as much as you can
Phil Duncan from Seattle wrote:
Walk as much as you can. You will see more and come across a lot more hidden gems.
Phil is right! Recently my family and I stumbled upon El Maiz Restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador, an Ecuadorian restaurant just a few meters away from Tres Estrellas Restaurant, the one we originally intended on dining in. The food in El Maiz was superior and affordable. We wouldn’t have found El Maiz if we had not walked further after being dropped off by the cab driver.
8. Plan ahead, but leave enough room for changes
Trippy member Dror Avni wrote:
Common to all is to plan ahead but leave enough room for changes due local unplanned changes either from your side (good surprises like unknown events) or circumstances like weather and local events.
9. Leave room for spontaneity
Trippy member Maria O’Dwyer from Dublin Ireland wrote:
Travel with an open mind. Research a little bit beforehand but leave room in your schedule for spontaneity.
An example of this could be taking another tour if the tour company offers a second tour discount.
10. Photocopy your passport, tickets, and insurance
Photocopy passport, tickets & insurance docs x 3 (travelling as a couple) Put a set in each suitcase, leave a set behind with your “emergency contact”.
Keep one copy in your luggage, one in your personal bag and one with loved ones at home.
11. Join forums for your destination to get best tips
Nardine also wrote:
Research, research, research. Join forums for your destination to get the best tips from locals, expats and people who travel their often.
12. Ask locals for recommendations of their favorite restaurants or pubs
Trippy member, Tracy Carter from California advised:
Walk everywhere possible. Stop locals to ask about their favorite restaurant or pub. My go to, at least in the US, is to stop a firemen or policeman to ask for their favorite spot. I can’t count the number of debates we have started within fire departments about the best place to get a burger or nachos. And, the side info on the area is unbeatable.
It works, I’d asked taxi drivers, retailers and fellow travelers about their favorite restaurants in their city.
13. Travel with a large scarf or sarong
For the ladies, always travel with a sarong/wrap. You can use it as a towel, blanket, something to sit on, cover up with when going to a holy place, a head wrap, an eye mask…
Scarves are also handy when you need to sleep when flying or traveling in a long distance bus or train. A large scarf is one travel essential I always pack in my personal item.
14. Don’t rush, enjoy the journey
My best travel tip is Don’t Rush. The journey is part of your travel experience – your travel story – and if you hurry to your destination without stopping to smell the flowers along the way, you will miss out on a lot of that story.
Mogs Mogol from the Philippines had the same idea:
Don’t stress yourself over a tight schedule and you’ll appreciate your surroundings more.
15. Always check your hotel bill
Do you double-check your hotel or restaurant bill? According to Trippy member Kelly R:
Always check your hotel bill. I once got charged for a European charger because my daughter opened the box on the desk to see what it was. Apparently a sensor went off & I had to explain to the front desk that we did not use it & I’m not from Europe so I didn’t even need a European adapter. They then took the $14.00 charge off the bill. Also if you’re from Europe I would bring your own adapter so you’re equipped when you travel.
Mistakes do happen, so remember to check your bills and receipts.
16. Respect different cultures
Trippy member Peter Dorfman from Bloomington, Indiana said:
Keep reminding yourself that YOU are the foreigner – they’re the locals. Their country, their “normal.”
Author, James Michener, famously stated, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
Respecting other people’s customs in what we wear is important. When it’s hot and humid, I avoid wearing short skirts and shorts in countries that are conservative with their attire.
17. Eating like locals doesn’t mean eating everything and everywhere
Eric Rubin, a Trippy member, and a travel agent said:
In the third world, if a restaurant’s ambiance is pleasing then the food is probably not that good and normally more expensive. Fluorescent lighting, plastic chairs and locals normally means quality food.
Restaurants are great, but street food there is one of the best and I never had any problem with stomach). Loved to get a soup and customize it to my taste talking to the vendor and locals. It is amazing how much you might find out about the area if you just talk to a local. Go for Asian cuisine, European is meh.
Note: Practice caution when eating street food and in restaurants. Use your intuition and eat at places that are clean and crowded. Always drink bottled water, don’t eat salads or cut fruits when in doubt.
18. Don’t buy meaningless things
Jennifer Franco, a Trippy member suggested:
Pack light. Give yourself plenty of time to do all the activities you want to do so you don’t rush. Don’t buy meaningless things/gifts that will just take space in your luggage.
In several countries I’ve visited, I have bought traditional dresses, many of which have ended up in thrift stores. Have you made similar purchases when traveling?
19. Be flexible
You’ll be happier when you are flexible. I totally agree with Trippy member Leslie Cimino:
Expect to be delayed, late, or lost…then if all turns out perfectly you are overjoyed. Traveling rarely goes “as planned”, but most times the deviations become the story!
20. Choose your accommodation according to your needs and budget
Having a good night’s sleep is essential, even when you are traveling. A lack of sleep will make you grouchy and less satisfied. A good bed, a safe place, and an accommodation that suits your travel style will definitely make your vacation a whole lot nicer.
Most importantly, stay in a safe and clean place.
I always make sure our accommodations include a kitchenette of some kind. Being able to boil some noodles, slap together a sandwich or just scramble an egg can provide just what you need, avoiding the often difficult decision of “what to eat, and where to get it” you are forced into with most hotel rooms. We use one of many sites that offer houses/apartments for short-term rentals. It has made a world of difference in our travel happiness.
Bonus tip: Safety first
- Check travel alerts and warnings issued by US Department of State before traveling.
- My family and I usually don’t venture out in the evenings on our own, unless with an official tour guide or locals.
- Read 7 things to do before taking an international trip.
While National Lampoon’s Vacation is fictional, yours isn’t. Have a safe trip and travel well.
Article by Claudia Looi