28 of my best travel tips

I love collecting as many little travel tips as I can to make my experiences abroad just that little bit better. Here's my collection.
Best travel tips - Pat Kay Blog

I love collecting travel tips.

I’m always on the search for the little things that improve my travel experience. While each little travel tip here might not seem like a big deal, when put together, they usually amount to a much better experience overseas for me.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite travel tips I use every time I’m abroad. Hopefully you find them useful too!

  • 1) Avoid the crowds - wake up early

    On the list of travel tips, this is my number 1.

    As someone who prefers sightseeing over just about anything else (although food and experiences are still very important to me), there’s almost nothing worse for me than arriving at a destination filled with tourists ruining the ambience.

    Beat the crowds and arrive at sunrise. There won’t be anyone to contest your views with, plus you’ll get the most gentle, best shooting light you can get to make your pictures pop.

    Whenever I can, I try to optimise for sunrises and I even schedule in a little nap a few hours after when I return to my accommodation. This offsets the lack of sleep having to wake up so early pretty well!

  • 2) Slow down

    Slow travel is the best travel, in my opinion.

    Although I’m just as guilty as the next person for trying to squeeze absolutely everything in a short time frame, often times travelling for longer than 1 or 2 weeks in such a frantic fashion causes me to not only get extremely fatigued (especially with all the sunrises), but also causes me to gloss over the little, delightful things that make all the difference to your overall experience.

    Slow down, take notice of your surroundings and enjoy the country.

  • 3) Make time for getting lost

    I can’t tell you how many of my favourite experiences and images were of places and things that I never actually planned for.

    I have so many fond memories of wandering the road less travelled, going down strange pathways, finding secret locations, complete strangers taking me on wonderful adventures.

    Make time for getting lost. Make time for discovery. Sure, the touristy, more popular spots are nice, and you should visit them. But plan to be unplanned and just walk. Who knows what wonderful things you’ll find.

  • 4) Remember to look after yourself

    Although travel is a great time to enjoy yourself and just let go, if you’re travelling for a long time or travelling for a job, remember to look after yourself and your health.

    Remember to exercise and not overindulge in delicious food too much. Do physical activities like hiking or climbing often. Not only do you get to work out your body, but you get to make new memories too.

  • 5) Go with the flow

    Whenever I travel, I tend to have a couple of certain locations I want to visit, but aside from that, the rest of the day is completely freeform.

    Somewhat related to making time to deliberately wander, one of my favourite travel tips is simply to just go with the flow. Keep an open mind and follow the journey wherever it leads you. Surprise adventures are best found through this method of discovery, and discovery is key to the art of travel.

  • 6) Always carry emergency money

    Some real tactical travel advice here. You never know when you need cash or credit. I always make sure to keep at least $100 in cash and $1000 in a credit card on me at all times.

    Even if you need to spend it on a saviour taxi after an alcohol-fuelled night, you’ll be glad you have it when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and there’s no ATM in sight.

  • 7) Have important documents in multiple places

    These "just in case" travel tips are super important!

    Keep copies of your important documents in multiple places (where they won’t easily be lost), just in case.

    I have all my documents like passport, drivers licence, international drivers licence, visas etc all backed up on my phone, plus an additional printed copy of them in my backpack, just incase.

    Not only is it great to have these things as insurance, but it’s also great for when you get into scenarios where accommodation or rentals demand the “original” versions of your most important documents - they don’t actually require them, so leave them a photocopy instead. Never trust anyone with your passport.

  • 8) Write down your accommodation address

    Especially if you’re travelling in a country that doesn’t speak your native language, this will save you.

    It’s saved me a few times where Google maps doesn’t work or I ran out of internet and needed to get back to the hotel. Just show a cab driver the address and you’re saved.

  • 9) Pack your suitcase, then half it

    Honestly, 99% of people pack too many things.

    A great idea I once heard from a friend is to pack your suitcase normally, then take everything out and half it.

    Most people can wear a top at least 2 times. Only bring clothes that perform double duties. Only bring clothes that you can make multiple outfits from. Buy electronics and travel devices like multi-port USB chargers so that you only need to bring one charger rather than 4. Bring a pair of shoes that can double as both hiking shoes and exercise shoes.

    There’s so many little packing travel tips that can hep you cut down the amount of things you bring, and with less things to bring, you have less things to worry about (not to mention a lighter suitcase).

  • 10) Use space saver bags

    If there’s two things I absolutely must have when packing my things, it’s packing cubes and space saver bags.

    Packing cubes are exactly what they sound like - pouches you can put things in to keep everything organised.

    But even better are the space saver bags where you can roll them up and the air inside them expels and shrinks your clothes down to half the size. Not only will your things be organised, but if you get the right space saver bags (these ones), you don’t even need a vacuum. How good!

  • 11) Always pack a towel

    This is kind of obvious, but sometimes you might be staying at a place with no towel.

    The towel you bring doesn’t have to be a big one. Just something big enough to dry you incase you need it.

    As a little travel hack, I always bring a shemagh with me that doubles as a towel and/or scarf.

  • 12) Always carry a lock

    Another kind of obvious one, but you never know when you need it. Especially if you’re staying in low budget accommodation like share-room hostels and such, you’d better be safe than sorry. Lock your things up.

    Also, make sure you get yourself a combination lock rather than a key one - you’ll be real stuck if you lose the key!

  • 13) Bring a small first aid kit

    It doesn't have to be anything major. It doesn’t even need to be a “kit” per se. Just make sure to bring some small bandages, some tape, bandaids, alcohol wipes, etc.

    Throw them in your bag and forget about them. Better to be safe than sorry!

  • 14) Use solid toiletries

    A weird one, but one of my favourite travel tips.

    With all the restrictions around carrying liquids on flights, and the constant uncertainty of whether your accommodation will carry soap or shampoo, consider using a soap bar and solid shampoo.

    They last for ages and they take up far less space than bottles. Get them in a tin to keep them dry from the rest of your other things.

  • Best travel tips - Pat Kay
  • 15) Use a travel sim

    When it comes to travel tips, this is a huge one for me.

    Due to the nature of what I do, I need to (and want to) be connected all the time. However the pain of carrying around multiple SIM cards for each country or buying new ones when I arrive is annoying.

    The solution is to get yourself a global travel SIM. These SIM cards work in most countries and provide mobile internet no matter where you are.

    I use Knowroaming. This SIM allows me to connect to most 4G services in most countries, while providing me unlimited data for just $3.99USD/day. This is more than enough to tide me over until I can find a more stable solution if I’m intending to stay anywhere for longer than a month.

  • 16) Basic phrases will save you

    Before I go to any country, I always look up basic phrases like:

    • Hello
    • Goodbye
    • Thank you
    • How much
    • Where is
    • Do you speak English?
    • Counting

    And although in most countries you can get away with just miming and finger pointing, basic phrases (especially the gratitude ones) go a really long way.

    If you’re heading to Japan, check out my Japanese basic phrases cheatsheet.

  • 17) Learn where free Wi-Fi lives

    Usually in Starbucks, cafes, hotels and hostels, airports and sometimes even trains and train stations.

    Much of my life is online, and although I don’t mind the occasional disconnect, most of the time I prefer to be connected. In most cities there will always be places with free Wi-Fi. Remember them! They might come in handy.

  • 18) Use a VPN

    One of the more privacy-focused travel tips that perhaps not everyone will care about... but when you’re on Wi-Fi, use a VPN.

    A VPN protects your connected devices by masking who you are on the internet. As local Wi-Fi may be vulnerable to hacks, it’s always worth being secure, just in case.

    I use NordVPN. They’re cheap and have many servers all around the world so the speed loss isn’t too bad.

  • 19) Use a travel pouch on the plane

    This is one of my favourite travel tips for better airplane travel.

    On every flight, I fill up my Peak Design tech pouch with all the essentials that I’d need on my flight, so that I never have to get up and bother the person next to me.

    In my pouch, I keep my: RX100VI for taking photos out the window, Kindle, USB cables, headphones, earphones, ear plugs, sleeping mask, passport, notepad, pen, alcohol wipes and face spray (don’t judge it until you’ve tried it).

    Absolutely everything I need on the plane. Then when I’m picking up my luggage, I just throw it into my carry-on bag and I’m done. Super convenient.

  • Best travel tips - Pat Kay
  • 20) Earplugs are a godsend

    …because being able to sleep just about anywhere is a great trump card to keep in your back pocket. Throw on an eye mask and some earplugs and that’s the travel tip for being able to sleep on demand.

    Maintaining good sleep is crucial to making the most out of your travels. There’s nothing better to kill mood than a sleep-deprived, irritable traveller.

    Also, people snore, so earplugs are almost a must when sleeping in hostels and shared accommodation.

  • 21) Take lots of photos

    Kind of an obvious travel tip to suggest, but I don’t mean the epic landscapes or super hot touristy spots. I mean just your normal, regular images of the things you find interesting.

    Think of it as keeping a “visual diary”. You’re documenting the things you see so that you can remember them later when you get home.

    Storage is dirt cheap, but moments are ephemeral. There’s an unlimited amount of images you can take, so snap away and keep those memories!

  • 22) Backup multiple times

    Having your holiday images or video in one place is asking for it to be deleted.

    Hard drives fail. Things get stolen. Stuff goes missing.

    The stuff is just stuff - it can be replaced. But the memories, the ephemeral moments that will never happen again; those things can’t be replaced.

    Make sure to have your captures in at least two seperate locations at all times. You’ll be glad you did.

  • 23) Book your flights early

    If you’re really looking to travel on a budget plan early and book your flights early! Especially if you know you’re going in a high-season.

    Flights are always cheapest the earlier you book. Sure, sometimes you might get a teeny tiny deal if you book just before you’re due to leave and the plane isn’t full, but is it really worth risking your entire trip on saving less than you could have if you just planned early?

    Aim for a minimum of 6 months out and you’ll get all the best prices.

    I use Skyscanner for finding the best flight deals.

  • 24) Travel in the shoulder seasons for cheaper travel

    For those thrifty travellers out there who want frugal travel tips, know that every country has its high seasons and low seasons.

    Especially if you’re visiting a country for the first time, consider getting a taste of it by travelling during the low season. It’s going to be cheaper to book flights, cheaper for accommodation, and there will be less tourists around.

  • 25) Scout locations first

    Save yourself some time by spending a few hours planning the rough areas of where you’re looking to go.

    This way you can plan an optimised route towards seeing and doing the things that you absolutely must see and do, and not waste any time in between.

    Of course, plan time for exploration and getting lost too, but plan out the big chunks of your trip in advance.

    If you’re headed to Tokyo any time soon, check out my Photography Guide to Tokyo to get a head start on your travel planning there.

  • 26) Travel insurance, please.

    A super duper zuper important travel tip!

    Please please please don’t forget your travel insurance. It’s always worth it.

    Travel insurance is cheap now a days but the cover gets better and better all the time. It’s worth the peace of mind that if you get yourself injured or lose your baggage etc, that you’ll be covered and won’t be out of pocket. You just don’t know what will happen.

  • 27) Go grocery shopping

    No matter where you are, going out to eat is expensive.

    You probably don’t get takeaway or go out to eat every day, right? Especially not for every meal of the day. While it’s fine to indulge yourself every now and then, remember to look after yourself in both your health and in your finances!

    Plus, the first time grocery shopping in any country is an experience in and of itself. It’s actually something I look forward to because of how awkward I feel when I do it and how much there is to learn! It’s fun.

  • 28) Time is money

    While you most certainly want to look after your wallet and manage your finances well while you’re on the road, sometimes spending a little more to get somewhere faster will end up saving you money.

    • For example, getting from Tokyo to Osaka will cost you:
    • $150USD and 3 hours via Shinkansen (bullet train)
    • $90USD and 5 hours (inc local train and travel time) via Plane
    • $30USD and 9 hours via overnight Bus.

    What’s right for you?

  • What's your favourite travel tip?

    Let me know in the comments below and we can add them to the list here!

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