Ultimate travel tips for every traveller
I was a straight A student at high school but I didn’t go to university at the end of senior. All I wanted to do was get a job and travel the world. Not much has changed except what I do for a living. These days instead of spending the day typing letters and ‘making hot beverages’ for my boss (a task that officially formed part of my position description in 1988), I write about travel. I’ve explored the world as a backpacker, bunked down in budget hotels, stayed in suites costing $10,000 a night, and everything in between. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about travelling. This Ultimate Travel Tips Guide includes loads of useful advice plus links to my most popular travel tips. I hope you find this guide useful during your next local or overseas adventure and your trip is hassle free.
Trip planning tips
I love the excitement that comes with planning a trip. Whether I’m heading overseas or organising a romantic getaway in my own hometown, the planning process still gives me a thrill. While it’s important not to overschedule a trip or spoil any possible spontaneity, planning your holiday is an important part of any travel experience. If you don’t do it well, or don’t give it the attention it deserves, you could end up paying too much, or doing something stupid like trying to visit the Vatican just after Easter like we did.
However, there are ways you can avoid mistakes like these and others as well, like booking a mid-life crisis holiday or visiting Europe in peak season. Doing some research and choosing the best country for your first overseas trip can build your confidence and set you up for many great adventures to come. Budgets are boring but necessary. So is getting your travel documents and visas in order with plenty of time to spare. Check in is not to time to find out you’re missing vital paperwork.
Things have changed a lot since I first started travelling in 1989. However, some things haven’t. Here are three invaluable travel tips I’ve been using since my very first trip:
– Don’t leave home without travel insurance;
– Carry a small stash of cash for emergencies; and
– Day tours are fun and banish the blues if you’re travelling solo.
And, last but not least, travel disasters might seem terrible at the time but they make for a really good story to tell your friends when you get home.
World’s best flying tips
It takes a long time to get pretty much anywhere from Australia which means I’ve spent a lot of times on planes flying Economy over the years. Perhaps surprisingly, you shouldn’t always book the cheapest flight. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t fly with a budget airline. Budget airlines can be great if you travel smart. I’ve picked up plenty of air travel tips over the years, especially when it comes to stopovers and transiting. I’m also pretty good at beating jetlag if I’m flying internationally.
I have learned how to sleep on a plane but one thing I can’t get used to is catching early morning flights. Trevor hates overnight flights so we compromise on the departure time. Price is usually the decider. One thing we’re both grateful for when we fly these days is our son is a teenager and no longer a tot. It’s much easier passing the time at an airport with kids when they’re older and the journey itself is much better too. Airports can be expensive places so it’s important to watch your spending while you’re there. Check what free or low cost facilities are available. Some airports like Changi in Singapore are so much fun you won’t want to leave. I love a bargain but it can be worth paying to get into an airline lounge if you’ve got a long time to wait during transit. You can also get into airline lounges for free if you’re smart.
Travel tips for getting around
Never leave getting to and from the airport to chance. If you’re on a budget, a flight that arrives during the day gives you more options for getting to your accommodation cheaply and easily. I’m also a fan of using public transport for getting around, wherever you’re travelling to in the world. It’s usually much cheaper than taxis or other transport options and you meet the locals. If you decide to hire a car while you’re away, make sure you don’t get taken for a ride or end up getting caught out with a lack of insurance like I nearly did.
Travel tips that save money
When I first started travelling, most of my trips were done on a pretty tight budget and not much has changed. However, I’ve never really minded having to come up with and stick to a travel budget. I’ve never thought of my travel budget as a restriction. For me it’s a way of using money wisely to get as much value as possible. And when I say ‘value’, I don’t necessarily mean cheap. I’ve learned you can spend $1,000 a night and feel like you’ve got amazing value for money like we did when we paid to extend our stay in a Club Room at the Rosewood Beijing.
Or you can spend $80 a night and feel completely ripped off. This has happened to me when I’ve booked a cheap hotel in the wrong destination. An $80 room in Thailand can be gorgeous. In London? Not so much. I still travel like a backpacker in many ways and you should too. The reason backpackers always look like they’re having such a good time is because they’re experts at finding the best deals and having fun. If you do feel like a splurge, it’s possible to find incredibly cheap hotel deals online once you know how plus super cheap five star hotel deals if your love of luxury is larger than your budget. You can still keep the fun factor high and not spend a fortune if you’re travelling with kids too. It’s surprising how easy it is to save upwards of $250 per day once you know how.
Safe travel tips
Whether you’re heading overseas for the first time or an experienced traveller, keeping yourself and your belongings safe is important. I’ve had some close calls when it comes to getting luggage stolen, usually when I’m feeling jetlagged. However, I’m good at staying safe and avoiding travel scams.
Tips for travelling with kids, family and friends
I don’t always travel with my family but we try to do as many trips together as we can. Even when I was working as a corporate trainer, my husband and son would often come to Sydney and share my hotel room. They would enjoy the fancy hotel and explore and we got to hang out when I finished work. Sometimes we would go out at night or pay to extend our stay over the weekend and have a mini-getaway. This was one of the ways we were able to afford a holiday during the school holidays. We came up with plenty of other inventive ways to do this over the years as well. We got pretty good at passing the time at an airport while we were waiting for flights without spending a lot too. Now our son is older we’ve also learned how to travel successfully with a teenager.
If you’re holidaying with adult children there are some things to consider (like who’s buying the next round of drinks, ha ha). We’ve also done some group getaways with friends and multigenerational trips. Of course, you can’t have a section on family travel tips without including tips for travelling with pets (the most important – and probably best behaved – members of the family on holiday).
Cruise travel tips
Too much cruising is never enough for me. I’ve spent more than 20 years cruising around Australia and exploring the Mediterranean and beyond with my family, with friends and as a solo traveller. We’ve done some really interesting cruises recently like exploring Papua New Guinea and a family Transatlantic cruise.
We’ve also been on a few mega-ships. We enjoy these large ships and all the fun they offer but you need to know how to manage the onboard experience, especially if you’re a senior. When it comes to cruising with kids, one size doesn’t fit all. Cruising with littlies can be very different to cruising with tweens, and teens are completely different again. We’ve been cruising with our son since he turned three and have learned plenty about cruise ship kids clubs and how to make them work for us. If you check out the dedicated Cruising section on The Travel Temple, you’ll find plenty of cruise reviews and other cruise related tips for your next cruise holiday.
My best ‘insider’ travel tips
Here are my five favourite travel tips which don’t fall under the headings above. There’s a story behind each of them. I hope you find them helpful, especially the last one. Should you stay at a hotel under renovation? We learned that the answer is “Yes. And definitely not.” Hopefully you won’t end up sharing your room with Bob the Builder like we did on Lord Howe Island. After winning a trip to stay at 13 luxury five star hotels as backpackers (and writing a book called ‘Absolutely Faking It’ about our experience), we have loads of luxury hotel tips for budget travellers. We came up with these when we discovered that staying at a five star hotel is harder than it looks when you’re trying to live the champagne life on a beer budget and not used to lavish five star surrounds.
Our first Airbnb stay was an eye opener as well. We often book Airbnbs and enjoy them. However, it is different to staying at a hotel so there’s a few things you need to know about Airbnb to make it work for you. And last but not least, here’s my favourite tip: why you should let travel change you. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want. But you almost always get what you need.
Disclosure: The writer has loads of useful travel tips but she’s also made plenty of embarrassing travel mistakes too. If you see her around, buy her a drink and ask her to tell you about some of them.