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14 Pro Travel Tips & Truths (Learned from Experience)

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

Because you definitely don't know it all when you start traveling (or ever, really!)

boats in clear blue water in thailand with giant rock
Incredible Thailand

You can plan, plan, plan all you want when prepping for a big trip. You can read the books and the blogs and talk to others- and those are amazing resources. But some things you can only discover once you’ve been thrown into the fire. To give you a head start on your journey, here are a few pro travel tips and truths I’ve learned along the way!

#1: McDonald’s and Starbucks can be your best friends

Despite moral, taste, or economical disputes you have with these giant chains, they are a sight for sore eyes when traveling. You can count on them for free, usually fast, Wifi, as well as clean bathrooms. I’ve definitely resorted to a baby wipe shower in a McDonald’s bathroom before. They’re typically large enough to have multiple stalls, and no one will notice when you exit the bathroom in a different outfit than when you entered. Sometimes, you can even slip in a side door and use the bathroom for free without being noticed! Another bonus about McDonald’s: ICE CREAM. Sometimes you just need it, no matter where in the world you are. And concerning Starbucks: when you can’t take another NesCafe, or are dying for a proper filter coffee, or want more than 6 oz of coffee for 3 Euro, you’ve got a friend in Starbucks.

McDonalds India
McDonald’s in India

McDonalds sign Paris
A bit fancier in Paris

#2: A scarf can be your most versatile travel accessory.

Use it for the cold, to cover shoulders/low cut shirts where they are not deemed acceptable, as a cover up, eye mask, pillow, etc. They help disguise a bulging belly after days of eating mostly bread and/or noodles, and make you appear more put together than you really feel.

Scarf vendor Kathmandu Nepal
Buy a scarf from the local market, and you get a practical souvenir

#3: Washing your hair daily is overrated; make up is usually not worth the effort.

Washing your hair will probably entail very cold water, minimal water pressure, and possibly even just a cup of water as your rinse. I’ve read before that washing your hair less often is beneficial, and actually slows down oil production, and traveling is a good time to accept that theory. As far as makeup goes, many backpacker destinations are in tropical climates and your makeup will melt off in what I like to call “permasweat.” Good lighting and mirrors are also hard to come by in hostels. These reasons are why sunglasses were invented- no makeup required.

#4: Clothing becomes magically clean again once it’s been folded in your bag for a few days

Barring any major sweat or stain that occurred while wearing it, clothing that was worn a few days ago seems cleaner, and acceptable to wear again, after a few days of sitting unused. Even more so if you Febreezed it first.

#6: If you find a clean bathroom, use it.

Always- even if you don’t think you need to go. Clean bathrooms, especially toilets that flush, or have toilet paper, can be very hard to come by. Never squander this opportunity! This might be the most important travel tip of them all!

World Toilet Day sign
Celebrate, because a reliable toilet is a beautiful thing

#7: If you find a chance to do laundry, take it.

Good laundry facilities (OMG especially a dryer!) are hard to come by, so if you’ve found them, use them. If you are washing everything by hand, do it daily or it adds up. Weird but useful tip: wash your clothing while you are in the shower. Lather up your clothes as you lather up your hair… in the end this is much less messy and time consuming than washing in the sink later.

#8: Alone time is essential.

You need time to decompress and think to yourself, or nap, or just not talk. If you have a travel buddy, try to at least spend an afternoon apart every now and then. This keeps you from wanting to kill each other, and time spent doing different things makes for something new to chat about over dinner. Trust me, your travel buddy won’t hate if you suggest this- they’re probably tired of being around you 24/7 too.

#9: Sometimes the best meal is made of bits & pieces of food found at the quick mart or grocery store.

A sit-down meal does not have to happen all of the time. Sometimes you just want a banana, a cheese stick, and a cookie from 7/11 for dinner. Or nothing but a hunk of brie on some delicious bread. Just do it- there are no rules.

#10: Coke tastes better when traveling.

I’m not sure why, but it always seems true. I never drink Coke at home, but find it to be extremely refreshing when abroad. Perhaps it’s because one can easily grow tired of drinking nothing but lukewarm water day in and day out.

coca cola stand bali
All the Coke you could ever want: Ubud, Bali

#11: Some days you will eat a ton, other days you will eat very little. It evens out.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon many times; one day you eat like a glutton, and other days you seem to have very little need for food. I often seem to not have much of an appetite on travel days (especially on long bus rides). Don’t force yourself into eating because it’s time for lunch- just go with how you feel that day.

#12: Supplement free hostel breakfasts with fresh fruit from the markets

One can only eat so much cereal and white bread toast. Just make sure you wash or peel the fruit first, of course. A jar of peanut butter is also a wise purchase to make. More tips to save money on food while traveling here.

#13: ALWAYS leave for the airport or bus/train station *MUCH* earlier than you think is necessary.

Because most of the world does not run on precision- there will always be traffic, road blocks, and of course: lines, upon lines, upon lines. These hassles will be multiplied when you’re running late, guaranteed.

traffic in bangladesh
The everyday road situation in Bangladesh. And India. And Nepal…

#14: Spend money for safety.

This travel tip is seriously important. Take the more expensive bus line that has a good reputation, don’t book accommodation in shady parts of town to save a few bucks, and buy a travel insurance policy before you go.  Paying up for safety is one of the smartest things you can do when traveling- it may seem like an extra expense upfront, but if something went wrong you’d really be kicking yourself later for being so cheap. Check out my previous post on travel safety for more tips.

Your turn- have any of your own pro travel tips to share?

Can you relate, or have you found any others that should be on the list? Let me know in the comments!

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