Hiker Bible knows that planning a trip can be a stressful experience. Here are some tried and true travel tips from experienced global citizens to make your life a little easier.

These are in no particular order, but each could make a huge difference in budget, enjoyment, and ease. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will give you a good starting point when making a decision on where to go.

  • Make a list. Add to it. Subtract from it. But always have your list. It’s a good idea to keep a list on your smartphone so that you can jot down ideas as they come – as inspiration sometimes comes at inconvenient times. Making a list will ensure that you keep your eye on the prize. Make notes of changes in timelines, travelers, and your goals for the trip. If you have more than one place picked out (see below), these factors may influence where you decide to end up. If you want to print out a comprehensive travel checklist from Hiker Bible, click here.

  • Start early. Pick a place you’d like to go and start looking at least six months in advance. You may find there are deals that are too good to pass up, or you may find that waiting to see what kinds of flash sales are available is the way to go. Either way, the sooner you start putting your finger on the pulse of your trip, the more choices you’ll have as the time comes to pack your bags.

  • Pack early. Get everything you think you’ll need for the trip and lay it out. I like to put out my bag or suitcase in my room and start putting things in there. As you walk by it day after day, you’ll see things that can be taken out or added, saving you the nerve-wracking trip to the airport wondering what it was that you left behind.

  • Even better? Make a travel kit. I do this for camping and I started doing it for travel. I have a small set of essentials that I always take with me. If I only take my kit, I’ll be fine. However, it is the bare minimum – and it is really only meant to be the baseline that I use to tailor each trip to my desires and needs. So many items can do double-duty, there is always something you can cut from your bag or suitcase. We had a friend who went to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua with us who brought a large suitcase with heels, hair dryers, makeup kits, and the works. She used two pairs of clothing and never put on makeup. Lesson learned, but know that you can often get things you feel you need in country, rather than lugging things you don’t need around the whole time you’re there.

  • It’s a good idea to have money set aside for a ticket while you’re searching. Some airlines or websites offer time-sensitive deals that need you to act on them immediately. If you don’t have the funds, you’ll regret the missed opportunity and it may cloud your judgment in the future.

  • When you see a great deal, get it. Don’t wait for the better deal to come along. One in the hand is worth two in the bush – as the saying goes – and it’s certainly true for travel tickets. Some airlines will reimburse you for the difference if their tickets drop below your purchase price. Know the rules and regulations and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The answer is always no until you ask.

  • Keep an open mind. Have your plan A, B, and C. The more options you give yourself, the more likely you are to find a screaming deal on your dream vacation (or one of them). There will be many factors that dictate where you’ll want to go, but having a few places in mind will allow more flexibility. Airfare Watchdog and Hopper are two of the more popular apps out there that will actually keep track of dips or spikes in airline pricing.
    They’ll notify you when the price drops – and also tell you if there’s a chance it will go down further. When you see a price drop, go online and search multiple sites to see if there is a better option. You can also call the airline and book directly through them. Booking directly will often give you perks that third-party sites cannot offer.

  • Choose destinations that are not typical. Often, you can still go to the popular places, but if you look around them you may find that smaller towns or cities just outside of those areas are half the price. With the money saved, you can take a train or shuttle into the city whenever you’d like. And who knows? You may discover a hidden gem. Airlines and hotels know where travelers go, and prices reflect that. I’ll give you an example: We were planning a trip to visit family in Italy and looking at prices to fly into Rome. They were crazy expensive. We broadened our search and found prices for less than half the price flying into Frankfurt, Germany. With the money we saved on tickets, we were able to rent a car for the entire time we were there and make a nice European road trip out of it. If you’re willing to expand your horizons, opportunities for further adventure may present themselves.

  • Loyalty has its perks. Try to find the best deals possible, but also keep in mind that some sites will reward those who continue to use their services. Cashback, extended stays, free upgrades, and miles are just some of the rewards you can accrue if you use the same card, site, agent, or service whenever you travel. Don’t be afraid to ask for more. As long as you’re nice and courteous, people will often go out of their way to get you want you want.

  • Get travel insurance. I have never had to use it, but the peace of mind it brings is second to none. You never know what can happen and it’s better to be prepared. Being flexible, spontaneous, and adventurous has its perks,
    but it can sometimes mean you’ll be in situations you hadn’t necessarily planned for. Things get lost, stolen, or
    misplaced – and sometimes people bump their heads or get sick. Having travel insurance will mean things can get replaced, you can go to the doctor, or you can access emergency funds.

  • Along with travel insurance – utilize your network. Involve family and friends in your journey. Invite them to follow along if you’re posting online. Keep them informed of where you’re going and who you’re with. Not only will they be engaged in your journey, too, but they will also be there if something goes wrong. I am really bad at this particular rule – as I like to focus on my own experiences and don’t often check in, but that’s not a good thing.
    If you know Mom is going to worry, give her a call. Sometimes a call home can act as a good pick-me-up while you’re away.

  • Remember that people often travel during the same times each year. If there is any chance to step away from your responsibilities and travel during non-peak months, do it. You’ll see a significant reduction in prices – from the airlines to the hotels, to tours and attractions. There is an added benefit of beating the crowds, as well. Just keep in mind that some places have rainy seasons, religious or national holidays, or other events that may influence your decisions.

  • Ask questions. Nowadays, if you have a question, there’s probably a Facebook group dedicated to it. Join in and ask around. Many times, members will be able to connect you to local guides that can make your journey even better. Sometimes you can get information that would otherwise only be reserved for friends and family. Use your groups and always be sure to thank people when you are talking about your trip. People will appreciate you if you make them feel appreciated.

  • Find your comfort zone and break out of it. Or, at least be more willing to bend if the situation calls for it. A four-star hotel in Paris, France is different than a four-star hotel in Amman, Jordan. Embrace the differences and don’t complain too much. Try to have perspective on where you are and what you’re doing. How many people in the world cannot afford to leave their home, let alone fly to another country? If the service is THAT bad, by all means, but critiques should be constructive, not destructive. We’re all entitled to a bad day, and proprietors are no different. A little grace and humility will go a long way to getting your way.

  • Be social. Be engaging. Be interested. The contacts you make abroad will be your free stays in the future. Open your home to travelers you’ve met and they will reciprocate. There is nothing better than being able to travel and stay with friends. Having said that, be mindful of space and try to integrate into the flow wherever you find yourself. Contribute a little to the place you’re staying and retain some autonomy. You and your hosts will thank you.

  • If you can, link up with others. Planning a travel destination should be easier with a few people involved. Plus, you can cut the costs of hotels and transportation while in-country. If you’re solo, consider buddying-up with someone you meet while you’re away. You may make a friend for life and have a great traveling companion. If they live in another country, you’ll have a place to stay when you go visit – and visa versa for them.

  • Be prepared. Watch videos, listen to others who have traveled to your destination, get on Facebook, look up if there is a restaurant or group in your town that may have come from whatever country you’re planning to go visit and introduce yourself. You may find that your experience will be enriched by the knowledge and contacts you collect.

  • Book package deals through online resources or directly through a travel agent – or try social travel. Often, incentives are given for booking a flight, hotel, and even a rental car all together. I’ve found that you can save an average of $200 (US) on your trip by booking a hotel for the stay, as well. Sometimes, booking the hotel is more cost efficient – and it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t travel while you’re away. I’ve book a hotel and then only spent a few days there, but at least I had a reserved room that I could go back to if needed. The money you save could be used for day trips or excursions that might not have otherwise been affordable if one chose to book their flight and accommodation separately.

  • Do you live near a border of another country? If so, perhaps it would be cheaper to fly from there? People living in the desert Southwest in the United States can take advantage of insanely cheap flights from Mexico’s border towns, rather than relying on the big airlines within the states. If you plan it out, you can fly for a fraction of what it would cost you otherwise. For instance, check out flights in Mexico from Viva Aerobus and AeroMexico.

  • If money is tight, look around you. Often there are great deals to be had in your own neck of the woods. Keep an open mind and think of ways you can enjoy where you live. If you like to camp out, even better. Find a couple of friends and make a road trip out of it with no particular destination. Travel down older highways that cut through often-missed small towns, eccentric villages, and off-the-beaten-path quirkiness. Who knows? It may end up being the trip of a lifetime.

  • Want a few more tips on what to take with you? Click here.

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