Like driving a car or playing the piano, travelling well is a skill you learn with practice.
On your first trip, you can guarantee you will do things wrong. I made a ton of mistakes when I planned my first trip abroad. Don’t worry too much about it, no one gets it right the first time. Your stupid mistakes will make for funny stories down the line and they will also be great learning opportunities.
Over time, you’ll get lots of practice and you’ll become better at traveling the world. I’ve realised that after traveling for most of the last 8 years or so, I’ve developed some good travel habits that have really helped my trips go more smoothly.
Helpful Travel Habits
1. Check Your Accommodation and Your Possessions Before You Leave
When you are checking out of your hostel, hotel and AirBnB and you are packing your bags, it’s important to always be in the habit of checking the room itself as well as making sure you have your most important items. Forgetting something in a hotel room can be a disaster that ranges from mildly expensive and annoying to seriously problematic – especially if you forget something valuable like your phone or your passport.
The habit looks like this:
- Pack everything and place your bags in one spot in the room.
- Do a sweep of the room and check in closets, drawers, under the bed, in the bed sheets, etc.
- Check to make sure that you have your most important items, such as passports, wallet, phone, laptop, etc.
In Sri Lanka we checked out of a guest house in Yala National Park and got all the way to the bus station before realising that Lee had left his mobile phone. I ran back and found it under the pillow in the bed. If he had done a check of his most important items, we would have realised it was missing before leaving.
While in Riga I made the silly mistake of putting some electronics into a drawer at our AirBnB to get them out of the way. Then, while packing in a hurry I completely forgot about them. While on our way to the airport we noticed that our luggage was slightly too light, which was when the horrible realisation dawned on me.
Luckily our AirBnB host was able to arrange to meet us before our flight and bring the items, but if I had done a thorough check of the room before leaving it wouldn’t have happened.
There have been so many times that I have forgotten items in hostels and hotels. Adaptors left still plugged in at the wall. Lee’s stainless steel razor left in the bathroom, clothes left tangled up in the sheets.
In order to cease this attrition of our belongings caused by my own forgetfulness, I started a habit of searching the room as well as checking that we had the most important things. You can’t remember everything you have with you, so a room search ensures that you haven’t left stuff that you wouldn’t notice missing immediately.
2. Know What Something Should Cost
This is a travel habit that has saved us from being ripped off so many times.
Whenever we are shopping around for something that doesn’t have a set price, such as hiring a taxi driver or purchasing something from a local market, we do some research online first to find out a rough idea of what it should cost.
That way, if they try to quote a price that is nowhere near the usual, accepted price we will know right away. A lot of taxi drivers and vendors who try to rip off tourists rely on the fact that the tourist won’t have an idea of what things should cost.
So, a taxi driver in Bangkok quotes you 250 baht for a ride from Koh San Road to MBK shopping center. You think that sounds reasonable. After all, it’s only $7.60 USD – an equivalent taxi ride in any major city in the US would cost more.
However, a taxi ride for that distance should cost around 70-80 baht, depending on traffic. That’s only $2.40 USD. When you get an idea of what things really do cost in your destination, you can make sure that you are paying the real price and not the tourist price.
Here’s another example of the different in price that can occur when you don’t know what things should cost. My cousin traveled to Mexico with his girlfriend. On his second night there, he sent me a message that said:
“Tacos on the first night cost $35 CAD. Tacos on the second night cost $6 CAD.”
Street food tacos in Mexico really should cost about $6 CAD for a decent meal for two – not $35! As soon as you figure out the real local price for things, your travel budget will go much further.
How do you find out what things should cost? There are many ways to research a travel destination before you get there, such as:
- Numbeo is a very cool website that allows you to compare the cost of living between two countries, including prices for a typical meal in a restaurant, groceries, rent, etc.
- BudgetYourTrip.com has a lot of great resources for figuring out travel costs. The destination specific guides will give you an average cost you can expect for local transportation, water, alcohol, food and accommodation.
- Another great resource is talking to other travelers, preferably ones who have been there longer than you. Ask them what you should expect to pay for certain items and they will let you know whether or not you are getting the right price.
3. Be Constantly Aware Of Your Valuables in Public
Lee has a habit of casually tapping his pocket to confirm that his phone and wallet are still in place on either side. It’s so subtle that you wouldn’t even notice, it just looks like his hands are by his side. He does it many times per day, especially after any moment where he has to push through a crowd or when anything unusual happens.
Thanks to this habit, he was able to realise that he had been pickpocketed in Nicaragua only seconds after it had happened. He turned around to see the thief right away and thanks to a helpful bus driver he managed to get his wallet back without any violence or danger – you can read the story of how he did it here.
If he hadn’t been in the habit of checking his pockets so frequently, he might not have noticed his wallet missing until after he had gotten off the bus and there would have been no way he could have gotten it back.
Important Tips to Avoid Getting Pickpocketed:
- Be in the habit of looking around at the people in your vicinity whenever you are in a crowded place.
- Keep your wallet in an inside pocket or your front pocket – never in your back pocket as you will be much less aware of it there.
- If you have a purse, make sure that you have the straps over both shoulders and keep it hugged close to your body.
- Pickpockets often try to create a distraction, so that they can grab your wallet when you aren’t paying attention. Be extra wary when something unusual happens, such as a fight breaking out or someone shouting loudly.
4. Get to the Airport Ridiculously Early
We are in the habit of arriving at the airport an extra hour or two earlier than is recommended. This means that there is pretty much no chance that we will miss our flight, so we don’t have to feel any stress or pressure.
Even if going through security takes ages, even if there is a long line, no matter what happens – we will still make it on time. Once we have cleared all of the checks and are sitting airside, we can simply relax near our gate and not have to rush.
So, what do we do with those extra hours in the airport? As digital nomads, we usually use it as an opportunity to get work done. Airports often have workstations or little cafes with WiFi where you can squeeze in a very productive hour before your flight departs. Or, we have lunch or dinner at the airport before our flight.
5. Carry a Pashmina or Sarong
It’s not just a simple rectangle of pretty fabric – it’s the most versatile item of clothing I have ever owned!
Need to cover up to visit a mosque? Wrap it around your head.
Heading to the beach? Make it a swimsuit cover up or wrap it around your waist.
Feeling cold on an overnight bus? Use it as a blanket.
In a cold climate? Wear it as a scarf.
Don’t like the feel of the sheets on your hostel bed? Use the sarong instead.
Want more privacy in the bottom bunk? Use the sarong to create a curtain.
I bought this gorgeous sarong at a market in Cambodia and I wore it so much that it eventually completely fell apart. I’m so sad that it is gone!
6. Do Some Form of Exercise
When you are traveling, especially if you are going to be on the road for an extended period of time, it’s important to have a habit of participating in some form of exercise on a regular basis.
The health benefits of regular exercise are well documented. When you get sweaty and active often, you’ll reduce your risk of scary diseases, have more energy, sleep better and find it easier to manage your weight. Also, I find that regular exercise helps my mood significantly and eases depression and anxiety.
Plus, when you arrive at the train station late and you have to go sprinting down the platform with your backpack on to jump into the train just as the doors are closing, you’ll be glad that you are in good shape!
Also, a strong body also means a stronger immune system – so you will be better able to fend off the many new and exotic illnesses that you will be exposed to while on the road.
It’s not always easy to develop an exercise routine when you are on the road. Your environment is always changing, so it can be challenging to figure out how to get your daily workout in. The key is to be flexible and adapt to the environment around you.
If you are staying in a mountain region, go for a hike through the hilly terrain. If you are near the beach, go for a swim. Try a new sport like stand up paddle-boarding, kayaking or surfing. You can even do a complete full body workout in your hotel room without any need for weights or equipment – here’s a 20 minute routine to follow along with.
What habits make your travels better?
Do you have certain habits that you practice while on the road that make your trip easier, safer, healthier or more enjoyable? Share them with us in the comments!