Travel advice, solicited or otherwise, can range from the misguided (‘Don’t eat the street food!’) and well-meaning (‘Don’t go alone’) to the downright mystifying (‘Don’t go there’). Often based on unfortunate-yet-uncommon personal experiences, or worse – no experience at all, there’s a lot of naysaying nonsense out there.
So what do you do if you’re looking for reliable trip tips? Ultimately, you’ll pick it up as you go – but it helps to start with the basics. Most true travel wisdom falls into one of six categories, which we’ve summarised below – and you can find the full gamut of our expert advice in the brand new edition of Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips.
Pack like a pro
First, nail down the essentials. Does arriving at the airport only to realise your passport has expired sound like fun to you? Don’t be that guy. Get your documents in order, pre-book anything that will make your trip less stressful (eg parking, transfers, insurance) and store the details in a travel app, or print them out, old-school-style, if you are that way inclined.
When it comes to luggage, packing light is usually preferable. Use a checklist to help you pack. Items will differ depending on the type of trip you’re going on; do you need hostel-hopping essentials, or kit for hiking in the Himalayas? The contents of festival and family beach trip bags will likely look very different – apart from the abundance of wet wipes, of course.
Did you know that on average, the best time to book a flight is five weeks in advance of travel? This excludes peak holidays, where high demand means you’re better off booking as early as possible.
But before you start splashing the cash, consider your budget and be realistic. Choosing a good-value destination can make the world of difference, but flashy cities like New York, Singapore and even Monaco can be tackled on a shoestring, if you know where to look. And as Lonely Planet staffers know, a budget trip can bring big rewards.
Stay safe and healthy
Jet lag, motion sickness, mozzie bites and more – travel can have its health hurdles, particularly if you have kids. Do your research in advance; get the necessary inoculations, don’t cut corners on travel insurance (ie. read the small print) and eat right on the road to ensure you’re protected. You could centre a trip around wellness itself, choosing peaceful pursuits, testing out traditional saunas or joining a local race.
We all make mistakes while travelling. From regrettable packing errors and solo travel mishaps to road trip disasters, trust us, we’ve been there. Scams and thefts do happen, so stay vigilant, hold on to your valuables and be aware of pickpocket tactics, such as pretending to wipe bird poo off your shoulder while they swipe your wallet.
Do the right thing
There’s more to responsible travel than reusing your hotel towel. There are myriad ways to do some good for the places you visit and the world as a whole. For starters, choose a truly eco-friendly hotel and a responsible tour operator; consider alternatives to flying such as overnight buses, long-distance trains and car shares, where possible; ditch the plastic and pack environmentally-friendly kit; and give back to local communities by supporting social enterprises.
When it comes to connecting with locals, learning a few phrases in their language never goes amiss, while a genuine smile can get you a long way. Read up on cultural faux pas in your chosen destination and research their tipping etiquette – in some countries tipping is not expected and may even be considered inappropriate.
Enjoy every minute
Good weather is never guaranteed, but you can aim to travel during the ideal conditions for you. Remember: the best places to go in November are not necessarily the best places to go in April, so read up on weather patterns wherever you’re going and have a backup plan in case Mother Nature refuses to play ball.
If you’re travelling with kids, let them take the reins for a while. If you’re gearing up for a long-term adventure, keep your ‘Big Trip’ worries in check. Whatever it is – taking a digital detox, practising your smartphone photography or sketching your travel experiences – take the time to focus on the things you enjoy and let go of negative thoughts to make the most out of your travels.
Travel tips from our Facebook community
Take a picture of your luggage before checking it in. This makes it easier if it gets lost – Angela Mallon
Make a plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. – Paige Belford Authement
Learn even a little bit of the language the locals speak. – Robert Wilson
Don’t wait for ‘one day’. Go NOW! - Amy Griffey
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First published in October 2018.