Each year I feel like I learn a million lessons while traveling, lessons that come often when plans go awry or when a trip feels a bit more like work than it should. Traveling is hard work, there is no doubt about that. It’s exhausting, sometimes unsettling, and while I totally whole-heartedly believe that the benefits outweigh the negatives, it’s still something that requires us to constantly update our travel lessons as we go. I’d consider myself a pretty seasoned traveler at this point and yet, each and every trip I go on, I feel like I learn a new lesson for future trips. Here’s my top 6 tips for how to travel better on your next trip and throughout the year ahead.
Invest in Good Luggage
One of the top tips you’ll hear from travelers over and over again is to invest in good luggage. Those cheap suitcases you pick up somewhere for $40 might work for a trip or two, but rest assured, over time and with repeated use you’ll notice the wear and tear very quick. I invested last year in the Tumi Tegra Lite carry-on and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. While an investment, the ease of traveling with this bag has made my trips that much easier and I know I’ll have it for years to come because it’s built so well.
Use Points and Miles to Cut Cost
It’s taken me a while to wrap my head fully around the options out there to use credit card and mileage points to pay for travel successfully but I’ve finally figured out how to use them best for my own travels. I’ve found that one ways flights, hotel stays and rental cars work the best for me in terms of leveraging my points for free travel. Everyone will use them differently for what works best for their style of travel and give yourself time to learn the ins and outs but following blogs like The Points Guy really help to speed that education along.
Another thing I’ve really put into action this past year with my travels was to reach out to places we were heading such as airlines, hotels or restaurants in destinations we were traveling to and asked to offer services in exchange for reviews and publicity. As bloggers, with large social media followings and the power to make or break a part of our trip as we write about it very publicly, companies are often very willing to work with you to ensure a good review of their service. I’ve reached out and worked with numerous airlines, hotels and restaurants in the past year and I can’t wait to work with even more in 2015. The trick to this is to have a system setup for the exchange before putting it into place on your site and know what you can offer them before reaching out. After that, all it takes is a nice email.
Learn a language
I can’t tell you how many times knowing another language (or even bits of one) helps while traveling, even to places that you might not expect it to be handy. Learning a language helps our brain pick up on things differently and while traveling, you’ll pick up words or phrases of random languages as you travel just by opening your mind to that idea. Take classes, learn on your own, or keep up with a friend who speaks the language you’re learning and you won’t be sorry for it.
Use Your Time Off (All of It)
I recently read that some 40 million vacation days were left over by Americans last year, unused. That to me is totally absurd. Those vacation days are there for a reason; we work ourselves so hard (myself included) that those days are meant to be our stress relievers, our days off to see the world, to lay at home in our pajamas and watch bad TV or to simply unwind. For me, I jump at the chance to see as much of the world as I can every year and using my vacation days helps me do that… so if you want to travel and say you don’t have the time, figure out how many vacation days you have and use EVERY SINGLE ONE!
Learn to Use your Camera
I’m guilty of this a lot because I have a photographer usually traveling with me (Nick) but it’s so important. Read the manual or read blogs with tips for your specific camera and learn to use the features on it. You’ll not only take better pictures but you’ll be quicker with it on the go and be able to capture some amazing memories.
I HAVE to invest in good luggage. I have gone far too long with the cheap stuff!
It makes such a difference!!! I highly recommend TUMI, I’ve had amazing use out of it!
Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki says
Good luggage is one of the best Christmas gifts I have gotten!
Such a great gift!!! And as to reaching out, I just pick a short list of places to work with on our trips and send them a nice email. Often times even if they aren’t willing to offer free stuff, they can give you media discounts which help tremendously!
KC Saling says
Good luggage is key! We love our Jeep hard-cases. They were actually pretty inexpensive – we grabbed them on sale at Wal-Mart of all places. But they’ve survived A LOT!
I really need to get better about keeping track of all my airline points and using them for flights and upgrades before they expire! I used to use Award Wallet to do that, but so many airlines are blocking them from tracking their points now and I haven’t found any alternatives. Will check out The Points Guy and his suggestions! Thx!
I see those Jeep hard cases a lot and really like the look of them! And as to the airline points, yea, it’s hard to keep track! I try to consolidate into one airline account as much as possible to build up faster and to use them easier or keeping a running list!
Amy Lynne Hayes says
Good luggage is so key!! Mine is incredibly light, making it easy to lug up to all those European hotel rooms with no elevator lol. And learning to use my camera… and actually taking it out to take pictures in the first place! I’m often too caught up in the moment, or visiting a place I’ve been plenty of times, and I don’t stop to take any photos. Need to work on this! 🙂
Totally… luggage makes all the difference! And yes, a light bag to lug around is so important! And I hear you on the camera… I’m lucky that Nick is always taking pictures because I don’t do it as much!
Macy Gutermuth says
I just got new luggage for Christmas and I love it. I am so excited to use it! Learning to use my camera is number one on my list.
Such a great Christmas gift!
I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but each time I pull my suitcase from the luggage carousel with a zipper pull missing (which seems to be every time I travel) I get so annoyed. Why do they have to be so rough?! I got pretty good luggage a few years ago, but they look so much older than they are, so I definitely second your first point. I think my three suitcases have one complete set of zipper pulls between them. I also bought a one way ticket yesterday using miles. I didn’t think the miles were going to work out, and I’m ecstatic that my trip is affordable now.
I know, they are so rough! That is primarily one of the reasons I try to always carry on and I cringe when I have to check luggage because of how they treat the bags! And good for you using miles for a one way ticket!!!! 🙂
Kati Rose says
The luggage thing is HUGE. For years I just went from crappy cheap suitcase to the next. This year I finally invested in a proper one. Not only did I feel empowered, but I’ve been through multiple trips and it hardly looks used. Before, suitcases would be falling apart. It’s so less stressful not having to worry about your luggage breaking or finding a replacement.
Totally… it makes such a difference. Plus you’re so right, it’s so empowering to be able to have good luggage that works and fits in bins and such and makes the whole trip so much easier!!!
Alissa Loxton says
I fully agree with the luggage! I mean I had a great backpack I bought early 2014 from Kathmandu but I realised pretty early on that it was just too big for what I’m doing for the next few months. 70L plus an 18L daypack is a bit much to carry around humid Southeast Asia! SO I’ve just downgraded to a 55L, much better 😉
21 year old backpacker currently an expat in New Zealand
Yes! It’s so important to have the luggage that fits your needs for a trip too!
Sara Rose says
This year I really want to learn another language! I can’t decide between Spanish (which I took 5 years of and still know nothing) or French!
Such a good goal! I was learning French for a while and got so busy with other things I stopped…. but would really like to start again!
Jamie G @ SnapGinger says
Can you elaborate a bit more, or even write a post about your comment “The trick to this is to have a system setup for the exchange before putting it into place on your site and know what you can offer them before reaching out.” I think there are a lot of readers who would find this really useful!!!! 🙂
That’s a great idea! I have been thinking of doing a week coming up with posts about blogging and travel blogging in particular so I’ll include that as a topic!!!
Jamie G @ SnapGinger says
That is awesome!! I don’t take enough trips to be a travel blogger myself, but I do venture into that realm with my “A Weekend in” posts and my “What to do in NJ” series, so any tips would be really helpful, you’re such a pro!!
Yes! Actually just started working on a series about a bunch of different blogging topics in a couple weeks!
Miles of Happiness says
And travel more… :))
Katie S says
These are such great pointers. Especially investing in good luggage and using points and miles to travel cheaper. More than half our trips last year, either our airfare or our lodging was taken care of with one of these two methods (or both). Great tips; sharing on twitter and pinning to my travel tips board.
Same for us… it’s amazing how much miles and points can cut from your travel expenses!!!
Chelsea R says
I can’t be friends with people who have don’t use their vacation days… I consider those people toxic to my life 😉 hahah
Hahah love that! It really is such an important thing to get a break!!!
Alanna @ Alanna and Co says
These are great tips! I actually just had the Intercon reach out to me for my San Francisco trip and I was so shocked and excited. If you travel a ton, a credit card with travel points can make miracles happen!
Isn’t it fab when you get stuff for your hard work!?!? When I started working with brands and getting free hotel nights or discounts on airfare, I was totally blown away and so excited!
Reginia Cordell says
These are excellent tips. I am definitely going to make an effort to reach out a lot more. I am starting with 1 copy a month, then by the 2nd quarter 2 and so forth.