To be honest, I rarely look for travel tips before starting a trip. But when I do, I always stumble upon travel tips (given by bloggers and travel experts) that are quite similar to mine.
You see, I always learned something from each of my trips. The lessons, whether bad or good, have helped me to improve the way I travel. On this post, I’d like to share with you 10 travel tips that I hope you’ll appreciate, too.
1. If possible, travel light
When I travel, I always try to keep my baggage weight to a minimum. So far I’ve never paid for excess baggage. I hope I won’t ever have to do that.
I’m the kind of person who travels light. I find it practical, quick and easy. Not only does light travelling help me save money on checked-in bags, it also allows me to travel faster. It’s easier for me to pack and unpack my backpack, too. And I don’t have to get in line at the airport to check in my backpack. That saves me a lot of time.
But there are times when I actually have to check in my backpack. It really depends on what activities I’ll be doing and where my next destination will be.
Some people carry a lot of stuff and they do that for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they’re going camping, surfing, caving, or moving to another country to start a new life.
I have a friend from the Netherlands who travels with his tent wherever he goes. Since he’s a hitchhiker, he doesn’t always know where he’s going to sleep today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. If it wasn’t for the tent, he’ll be able to travel light.
Another friend of mine told me that she couldn’t travel light because she had to carry her craftwork with her. She’s not the only one who had told me that. Since she didn’t have much money, she carried whatever that was important for her travels. She also cut and styled her own hair in order to save money on hair services at the salon. Of course, she had the products and tools to do that.
As for me, I always need to travel with my laptop. Some people can travel without a laptop, but not me. I make a living from writing. A laptop is a necessity for me. Instead of ditching my laptop, I replaced my old 14-inch laptop with a 10-inch Acer laptop. It only weighs 1 kg!
In the end, what you want to carry during your travels is entirely up to you. But if possible, travel light. Many people (including me) find it rewarding.
2. Pack your flip-flops
I used to have the habit of not taking a pair of flip-flops with me when I travel. I even walked on the beach with my shoes! But I threw that old habit out of the window not so long time ago. There’s a special place in my backpack for my flip-flops now.
Moving forward, I shall wear my flip-flops to the beach, so I no longer have to scoop up sand when I’m walking. I’ll also wear my flip-flops when there’s a downpour. There’s no way I’m going to get my shoes wet and stink for days.
Of course, I’m going to wear my flip-flops in hostels — because hostel bathrooms can get really nasty. For some people, flip-flops are a great tool for killing cockroaches.
3. Take a torchlight (or headlight) wherever you go
Okay, maybe you don’t have to carry a torchlight with you to the supermarket if you don’t think it’s necessary. Just make sure you have it ready in your travel backpack. You never know how useful it is until you really need it.
A torchlight is an important gadget, especially for travellers who are planning to explore a cave or the jungle. Even if you’re not going to do any of these activities, you may need it when the electricity suddenly goes out, or when you find yourself lost in an unfamiliar place.
Of course, your mobile phone can also be your torchlight. Just as long as it doesn’t run out of battery at the moment you really need it. Once, I had to use my friend’s mobile phone as a torch light (so the big lorries behind us could see us) because our motorcycle’s front light and brake light didn’t work.
I recommend you to carry a headlight, too. It’s small and can fit in your pockets. It comes in handy when you need to walk in the dark in your hostel room without having to turn on the light and wake everybody else up.
In Cambodia, some of the locals use their headlights when riding their motorbikes. If their motorbike lights no longer work, it’s not such a big deal for them. They use their headlights instead!
4. Download useful apps on your phone
My smartphone is like my compass. I use navigation apps when I travel and even when I’m not travelling. I usually use Google Maps and Maps.Me. Waze is pretty good, too.
Apart from navigation apps, I also have apps for chats, online banking and transportation. I like to stay connected with my friends and family through WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook messenger and Instagram.
When it comes to flight and hotel booking, I’m using Traveloka at the moment. Most of their flight and hotel prices are affordable. They always offer discounts, too. I’ve saved a lot on flights and hotels thanks to them.
One of the apps I frequently use is Money Lover. I use it to track my expenses. With Money Lover, you can monitor your expenses and even schedule outstanding bill payments. Trust me, you don’t want to be worrying about paying bills while you’re on a holiday.
If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, there are apps you can use to help you find vegan-friendly food and restaurants at the place you’re exploring. Check out Happy Cow, VeganXpress, Veganagogo and many more. When I was travelling around Malaysia with my American friend (who’s a vegetarian), we used Happy Cow very often. We’re satisfied with the app so far.
5. Always keep a pen in your pocket
Since I’m a writer, people expect me to always have a pen or a pencil with me. But you don’t have to be a writer to carry a pen with you wherever you go. Many people don’t realise how handy a pen can be.
I don’t know about you, but I always find myself looking for a pen when I’m filling in forms at the bank, airport, or even on the plane. Sure, I can borrow a pen from the person sitting next to me, but I may have to wait. What if my neighbour is lending his pen to 5 pen-less people that have already asked for it before I did?
Now you know that I don’t always have a pen with me. Sometimes I tend to forget it, or lose it. The reason why my pen is always missing is because other people tend to borrow it and then forget to give it back. I have more than one pen now; one kept in my clutch and two others in my backpack. I recommend pens with black or blue inks.
In case you get lost in a foreign place, you can use your pen or pencil to communicate with the locals. Draw a map, or anything you think can help you get directions or the information you need. PS A paper may come in handy, too. Or you can simply draw on your hands if you don’t mind.
6. Pack your raincoat (or poncho)
I take my umbrella with me whenever I travel. But that doesn’t mean I’ll leave my raincoat or poncho behind.
Regardless of what climate I travel into, I must have my raincoat with me. Sometimes I carry my poncho with me, too. A poncho is usually very cheap, and it’s lightweight, making it a good (or maybe better) alternative to an umbrella. And since it doesn’t weigh much, there’s always enough space for it in my backpack. Raincoat or poncho are my must-have travel items.
Besides keeping me dry on rainy days, your raincoat and poncho can also be used as your sitting mattresses. You can also use your poncho to wrap your shoes. Turn it inside out so that the dirt from your shoes will not mess it up.
If you’re travelling in a cold climate country, a raincoat makes a great addition to your warm jacket.
7. Make good use of plastics
I did rapid shootings at Taman Negara sometime in 2016. Everyone was advised to keep their belongings in plastic bags because we were all going to get really wet. Some of the boat passengers hugged their bags tightly underneath their ponchos. As for me, I did nothing. I had a waterproof backpack. Why bother? Well, that was what I thought.
Apparently, the bottom part of my Targus backpack wasn’t waterproof at all. Not only was I wet, so were my things. I was disappointed with my backpack. But it was my mistake for not knowing my backpack well enough.
Since then I always keep at least one plastic bag in my backpack. Apart from keeping my things protected from water, it also serves as a rubbish bag.
Don’t litter, especially when you’re in someone else’s country. Throw your rubbish into a plastic bag and discard it later. Keep the plastic. Reuse it. If it’s dirty, wash it with water. Throw it away only when it’s torn.
I like to use ziploc bags. They’re more long-lasting compared to plastic shopping bags. They come in different sizes. Choose the sizes that serve you best.
8. Don’t forget your scarf (and sarong!)
Scarves are so handy especially when you’re out travelling. I had a blue scarf that served me in many ways: It protected me from the sun, kept me warm in a cold weather, covered me when I visited holy places, kept the wind from blowing my hair, and made sure that sand and dust didn’t get into my eyes.
Sometimes I used it as a pillow. I simply wrapped it around my book… and voila, a head pillow! If you have a big scarf, you can use it as a blanket, or a hugging pillow. In summer, some women decorate their sandals using their scarves. That’s creative. But I’m not sure if it’s comfortable, though.
I currently have three scarves: a thin, transparent black scarf for the warm weather, and two knitted scarves for the cold weather. One of my warm scarves is an infinity scarf. I love it. Longer infinity scarves can also act as tank tops and dresses.
Sarong is another travel item I find useful. In my culture, people usually relate the sarong to the bathroom or old people’s homewear. I’ve never worn a sarong to the bathroom, though. But my grandma does. Sarongs are also used by new moms. They wrap them around their shoulders to carry their baby. Muslim men also wear sarongs to the mosque.
Today, you’ll see many people transform their scarves into sarongs. That’s because sarongs are so practical and versatile. You can use your sarong as a beachwear, a curtain for your hostel bunk, a towel, blanket, beach mat, apron, table cloth, or perhaps a hammock.
9. Learn a new language
I always learn the language of the country I’m visiting before I get there. It doesn’t matter how much I know about the language. Learning some of the basics is suffice.
The reason why it’s good for you to learn the language of the country you’re visiting is because it can help reduce language barriers. The locals will also be happy to know that you put some efforts into learning their language, hence treat you even better. Furthermore, you can reduce the chances of you getting scammed.
If you’re not in an English-speaking country, please don’t ever ask the locals why they don’t speak English. That’s quite offensive — because you can’t expect everyone to speak English!
10. Always compare flight tickets on multiple websites
I get it. Skyscanner helps travellers look for cheap flights tickets. Based on my own experience, Skyscanner always shows me the cheapest flights, except this particular time when I wanted to travel to Australia.
Last year, I found what I thought was the cheapest flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney via Skyscanner. But when I visited the airline’s website, I realised that the price was slightly cheaper than the one shown on Skyscanner. I was surprised. Could there be a glitch? Since then I always browse for flight tickets using multiple websites.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to talk bad about Skyscanner. In fact, I’m actually a big fan of Skyscanner. I always use their service to find flights. I still do. It’s just that I’m more careful now when trying to purchase my flight tickets. I can’t just rely on Skyscanner to show me the cheapest ticket.
When I talked about it with my friends, they didn’t believe me. They still think Skyscanner has the cheapest tickets (that was I thought, too!), because if scanning the cheapest tickets is what Skyscanner does, how can there be anything cheaper elsewhere, right? Well, if you go to Skyscanner’s About page, you’ll notice that there’s nothing on that page that says Skyscanner shows the cheapest flights.
The good news is: Skyscanner has some pretty cool features to help travellers search for the best times to travel.
Moving forward, every time I find the cheapest ticket, or the ticket I want, I will make sure I visit the airline’s website, as well as other websites to compare their prices. Doing research on ticket pricing can be daunting, but it may help you find the best deals.
Just to be clear about this: Skyscanner is not a flight booking page. But it’s definitely a great research tool for flights and hotels.
If you have other travel tips you’d like to share out, feel free to leave your comments below. Like this? Stay tuned for Part 2. Happy travels!