Travel tips for first-time Travelers?

Hey folks. I recently just wrapped up an 8-month stretch of travel that took me through the Southern Hemisphere.

I’m always on the look-out for a new website or a savvier way to travel. What are your tips, your hacks, your overall experiences?

Let’s discuss.


Make sure your electronics are always charged.

Take pictures, even the ones you don’t think will come out well. One of my favorite pictures is one that I took on a moving train from London to Bath of a classic English farm - it came out crystal clear and is now hanging on one of walls in our house.

Always bring a pen and a small notebook to write in, whether it’s taking notes, writing about your impressions or even a few lists/reminders. Years later, when you read it, you will experience all sorts of nostalgia.

Never pass up a chance to use a clean restroom.

Don’t make too concrete minute-by-minute itineraries. Half the fun is discovering something off the beaten path. Buy a ticket somewhere and just wander around.

Make sure the area is safe - if you don’t pay attention to what’s around you and what others say, don’t be surprised if you end up losing your money, or worse, your passport.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. My husband had to be in Japan before he tried sushi - he figured that a whole nation of people eating raw fish were still around so it must not be too bad. It’s now one of his favorite foods.

Bring a water bottle.

I have a lot more but these are for starters. :slight_smile:


Brilliant tips and I agree wholeheartedly with all of them… :grinning:


So I am a bit bleary eyed after spending most of the night working on my dissertation , hence why I read your post wrong , I thought it said “Travel trips for time travelers” haha


If that were the case… ref Stephen Hawking time travelers party


Read up about the culture you are going to be immersed in , have a rudimentary knowledge of its history (Ancient or recent, national or local it doesnt matter, its all intellectual grist to the mill of truly acquainting yourself with a place and its people) , geography , environment and flora and fauna. These are good talking points with locals should they arise in a conversation and are demonstrative that you are interested , engaged and value their history and culture and getting to know it.

Have a rudimentary knowledge of the political system / politics of the country, but unless you know the people you are talking to well then refrain from making any political comments and if conversations turn to politics try to stay non-partisan. It might seem a little too cautious in some ways but when politics arises it can turn a friendly conversation sour in an instant.

Learn the language , or at least some of the language, as you will find travel in general more rewarding in every sense, from communicating with locals who will appreciate your efforts , getting to grips with social mores , exploring the culture and making new discoveries, and of course navigating and negotiating things like public transport/ directions and cultural differences. Alternatively, at least have some knowledge of a language with similar linguistic roots to the one spoken in the country of travel. I speak Spanish fluently , this is very useful thing because although I cant speak Portuguese well ( I really should do by now though) and dont speak any Italian , French , or Romanian whatsoever I can still understand large or significant parts of what is being said as these are languages with common linguistic roots.

Be situationally aware of your surroundings , dont be paranoid , but be in synch with your intuitions , be mindful , register anomalies from the baseline in the environment in terms of situations and people around you and respond accordingly. For example if you feel you are being followed dont even wait to test that hypothesis , just get to the nearest well lit public area but one with less movement of people like a mall or a shop and stay put there , call police or attention of them , or talk to other pedestrians / employees. Intuition is a more ancient and often wiser cognitive process than the workings of our logical mind , trust it.


Ziplocs and one of those flat rubber things that can plug a sink. I learned about those from experienced travelers decades ago. Ziplocs are a great way to organize things and make customs a breeze. And plugs for sinks are nearly always non-existent in cheaper places when you want to wash something out or soak something.


When flying, wear a jacket with pockets or have a small backpack. As you’re waiting in line, throw all your metal things into your jacket or backpack so you can just run it through the metal detector when you show up. Much easier than throwing all your change into a bin and wasting time pulling belts off.

Most phones/laptops/etc. can handle differing voltages with the right adapters. But for all other stuff, a small power converter is affordable enough and will come in handy.

This is particular to my experience as a touring musician. Always bring a small toolkit, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. An amp will blow or a pedal will malfunction and you’ll wish you had a screwdriver. Also, make sure you’ve got gaff or duct tape.

Don’t assume you’ll have cell phone usage. Check in with your provider before you go. You’ll usually have to sign up for some temporary usage in another country. Get the unlimited data, as you’ll probably need the navigation to get around.

Before you leave, familiarize yourself with public transportation and the steps you’ll need to take to get to your major spots.

Also touring musician advice: Keep a paper copy with you of all the places you’ll need to be (venues, hotels) with relevant addresses and phone numbers. If your phone dies, you’ll want the addresses written down. If not, you’ll be like my drummer who we lost in Berlin and found in Munich (true story).

Bathrooms - Be prepared for anything.


I bring both an iPad with ebooks and a few actual print books for waiting on layovers, lines and if you can’t sleep on flights. If you’re tsundoku, like me, you probably have a big pile of unread books and this will help whittle it down. You can also leave the print books as gifts for your host/new friends/the library in the hotel lobby or give them to the airport USO, which will gratefully accept them for military that are travelling through if you want to pare down on your luggage weight/nightstand pile.

graphic courtesy of Twitter user @ellafsanders


Take lots of pics, but…

Take lots of pictures (to get that ONE amazing shot) - but don’t forget to document!

I always get wrapped up in my environment, or an event, or people, and 6 months later… well I am Googling where I have been because I don’t remember the details! :slight_smile:

I used to try to keep a journal of where I was visiting. I would fail miserably! Now I always include a road sign, historical marker, or even a scribbled note on a piece of paper between shooting sequences. In that way, the info is right there on the camera :slight_smile:


This is really basic, but make sure you have your shoes sorted. They should be broken in and you should be confident you’ll be able to do all of your planned activities in them … and maybe some activities you haven’t planned. I like a pair I won’t be too ashamed to try to go into a nice-ish restaurant with, but most importantly I need to know I’ll be OK on my feet all day, I can run for a bus, train, or plane if I need to, and that the soles won’t be useless if I decide to, say, climb around on wet rocks.

My favorite travel accessory is a thin sports jacket with interior and exterior pockets and a hood that won’t blow off or obstruct my vision. It works year-round either solo or as a layer, and means I can often avoid carrying a bag — although I usually have a collapsible backpack folded up in a pocket in case I acquire a larger item or need to carry extra water (you always need something waterproof that zips shut for stashing your paper tickets, passport, electronics, etc., if necessary).

On my first trips, I brought a carry-on sized piece of luggage. Nowadays I carry only a backpack that will fit under the plane-seat no matter how long the trip, and I am frankly still overpacking. But there are some items I may not use yet never regret bringing, just in case: a hat with a chin-strap and a generous brim, a nice beanie for cold or bad hair days, sunglasses, lip balm, sticky notes and a couple pens, some pain medicine, something for seasickness, and an antacid.

You don’t need to plan too much in advance, but there are some big tourist attractions you won’t be able to fully experience unless you’ve secured tickets sometimes months in advance — so you do need to find out what those are to make sure you don’t end up heartbroken from wasted time, money and emotional energy, especially if you’re not sure you’ll go back. Related: some activities such as caving, helicopter tours, or even climbing a tower may be restricted by weather conditions, which may shift quickly. This means that if you have your heart set on any such activity, you will want to allow some room around it in your schedule in case you need to allow time for the conditions to be in your favor.

Finally, having a battery case on my phone has meant I usually get to charge my phone when I’m ready to, overnight if possible, and that I’m the reliable person in a group when we need to look up something or make a call after we’ve been trekking around for awhile.

On that note, don’t forget to download any music you’ll want on your trip, especially if you will be renting a car for any long, remote drives. On my first trip to Europe I needed to stay in a line overnight, and I realized I had only a single song actually downloaded on my phone, which I proceeded to listen to over and over again for hours while trying to keep myself awake. Fortunately my neighbors in line were good company.


Oh, we tsundoku…


I see your pile and I raise you… the built-in custom bookshelf in our great room.

Granted, maybe my unread pile is only half of that. My husband’s share of that shelf is one column plus two of the shelves, poor guy. Not to mention his were only one book deep and mine were two, at the very least, not counting books piled up in narrow openings above other books. However, I still have more books in 2.5 of the 7-foot cabinets in our garage, a whole bookshelf in the living room, plus an actual pile of books in a 3-shelf nightstand, aside from piles here and there anywhere in the house.

Something tells me I’m going to have to do some ruthless book culling in the very near future. There’s no way I can read everything, even if that was all I did all day, everyday.


I believe what I’m experiencing is… jealousy…


:open_mouth: wow… I would love to spend some time seeing what is on those shelves , thats incredible ! how long did it take to assemble ?


I’d be embarrassed to have you see how eclectic the books are. The bookshelves have everything from children’s, YA, fiction, mystery, art, romance, reference, nonfiction, political, legal books and how-to’s. I have a couple of shelves with autographed books that I’ve collected over the years. One of those autographed books is AO and my husband has his own copy which he ended up giving to me since Ella drew the necropants as part of her autograph just for fun this one time and it icked him out, hahaha! So technically I have two autographed AO books. I also have a fun fact about AO books in general but that’s another story.

The bookshelf was put in place a couple of years ago. It took the craftsmen about a couple of hours. Another craftsman had measured the space about six months before it got assembled. It was made by a local hardwood artisan company from cherry wood. They did dovetail, mitre and dowel joints to connect the wood.

(Sorry your thread got hijacked, Lonely_Pioneer - we’ll meander back, I promise. :blush:)


A fun fact about AO books, you say?

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Pack light.

Pack snacks for the plane. This allows you to free up some space in you bag for souvenirs and trash (in case you’re spending time in places without trash cans).

Bring a portable charger, just in case.

Have a starting point and an ending point for each day, then just see what you see on the way from one point to the next.

Try the snacks everywhere you go! If you eat candy, get that!

If you don’t speak more than a few words of the local language, download an app like Say Hi or Google Translate so you can communicate. Have “I am sorry, I don’t speak ____.” saved in the local language so that you can pull it up. You’ll get laughs, but people are more helpful if you apologize and don’t expect them to speak English.

Learn a few words of the local language (especially “thank you,” “hi,” “bye,” and “excuse me.”).

Talk to the people and find out what the local scams are, so you can avoid them.


Well, maybe not a fact as much as fun trivia. I work in a bookstore and we had an “I recommend” contest a few weeks before Christmas among booksellers from a list of books we had to select from. Well, I chose the AO book and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain(+), since they encompass two of my interests, food and travel. After the first two weeks, I kept winning week after week until the contest was over and got enough gift cards to buy gifts so let’s just say my husband owns a nice Google Home because I persuaded a good number of people to buy the books I recommended, especially AO. :laughing: