My 30 Best Travel Tips After 9 Years Traveling The World

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Favorite Travel Tips to Save Money

Travel Tips Guide [Updated: December 2018]

It’s now been 9 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered to help you save money and have a great trip.

It all started many years ago when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

This whole experience has been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left to travel.

To celebrate my travelversary (travel anniversary) each year, I update this guide and collection of my best travel tips to save money and help inspire you to get out there and see the world.

Feel free to share your own favorite travel tips at the end!

1. Patience Is Important

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.

Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.

READ MORE: 15 Common Travel Scams

Travel Tip: Laugh at Yourself

3. Laugh At Yourself

You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.

Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the rest of the journey.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.

READ MORE: 35 Ways To Find Work While Traveling

Travel Tip: Meet Local People

5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.

Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use a shemagh, but sarongs also work great. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

I can’t tell you how many times a scarf has come in handy around the world.

Travel Tip: Observe Daily Life

7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.

Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When my laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.

Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software like Backblaze.

Travel Tip: Take Lots of Photos

9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

10. There’s Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done.

Perseverance pays off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen and try anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Failing isn’t the end of the world!

READ MORE: Useful Travel Photography Tips

Travel Tip: Smile & Say Hello

11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.

You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually, all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it allows you to travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste your hard-earned money on stuff you don’t need. In fact you can travel many places for $50 a day with no problems.

That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant or spend a wild night on the town.

Travel Tip: Keep an Open Mind

13. Keep An Open Mind

Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions, and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn from the people you meet during your travels.

14. Try Couchsurfing is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and its people, staying with a local is the way to go.

There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds of cheap travel accommodation options out there.

Travel Tip: Volunteer Occasionally

15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.

There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.

16. Pack Ear Plugs

This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.

If you’re looking for other gift ideas for travelers, make sure to check out my ultimate travel gift guide for those travelers in your life (or, just a treat for yourself!)

READ MORE: My Complete Travel Gear Guide

Travel Tip: Don't Be Afraid

17. Don’t Be Afraid

The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.

This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty of experienced female travelers who agree.

18. Get Lost On Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.

Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

READ MORE: 25 Important Travel Safety Tips

My Best Travel Tips

19. Eat Local Food

Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.

I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.

20. Say Yes Often

Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later.

Accept the kindness of strangers when you travel — you’ll have plenty of opportunities.

READ MORE: Best Gift Ideas For Travelers

My Best Travel Tips

21. Slow Down

Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.

I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.

22. Keep Good Notes

My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 7 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it. Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like.

If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy. These days I use an incredible note-taking app called Evernote, which I use as my 2nd brain. So useful for all kinds of applications — from planning trips to journaling about them later.

My Best Travel Tips

23. Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find.

The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

24. Don’t Plan Too Much

I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet. I thought I’d rocket through Nicaragua in a week or two, but ended up living there for 4 months.

My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.

READ MORE: My Favorite Travel Quotes

My Best Travel Tips

25. Pack Less Stuff

You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first backpack was 70 liters packed full, my current bag is only 38 liters.

As a full-time vagabond, everything I own fits on my back. If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.

26. Listen To Podcasts

Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 10-hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable).

Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, The Moth, Tim Ferriss Show, Radiolab, and Smart Passive Income.

My Best Travel Tips

27. Treat Your Body Well

Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. I’m guilty of not flossing my teeth.

Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthily, use sunscreen, and exercise often (check out this body weight routine, no gym required!). And, yes, flossing too I guess.

28. Stay In Touch

Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

My Best Travel Tips

29. Get Off The Beaten Path

I know it’s cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means, travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail.

Although please realize that just because an area is remote or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a life-changing experience.

30. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

No one ever thinks they’ll get sick, injured, or robbed while traveling. But it happens. I’ve sliced up my head on a volcano, contracted Dengue fever, and lost my laptop to thieves. With travel insurance you don’t have to worry about huge hospital bills or stolen gear when it eventually happens.

For all kinds of trips ranging from a weekend up to a few months long, I always recommend World Nomads Insurance.

Travel More

Bonus Tip: Travel More!

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 7 years, it’s that many people back home love to tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work.

Who will feed their pets?

When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared.

Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.

You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions and become a homeless vagabond like I did. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door.

The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets.

It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there.

Explore some of it now, rather than later.

How Do I Travel The World?

If you want to know how to travel the world, I’ve put together a huge page full of useful world travel resources that should point you in the right direction.

Start A Travel Blog: This blog is how I earn money to keep traveling.
Book A Flight: Learn how I find the cheapest airline flights
Rent A Car: is a great site for comparing car prices
Find A Hotel: My tips for booking affordable accommodation
Protect Your Stuff: can insure your trip & gear

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My 30 best travel tips to help you have an amazing trip!
My 30 best travel tips to help you have an amazing trip!

What are some of your favorite travel tips? Did I miss anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. I love your photos you have on this post. Looks like some really amazing places you have visited in your 9 years of travel. How do you afford to travel for so long? Do you miss your home town and friends?

  2. Loved this article answers a lot for me:) just wanted to ask how much money you had on you when you started you’re journey as I’m just finishing paying off some debt and will start a savings account to start my adventure. My goal is to have enough by the end of my years leese just looking for an idea of what’s safest amount to have before hand?

    1. Hey Hannah! I left with about $7000 in the bank, plus monthly side income from an online ebook business I was running. In general, I typically recommend having about $1500 USD per month of budget-travel. Obviously, this number will be different for everyone, but that’s a good average.

      In Central America, I was living on about $800 a month. Other countries are more expensive, it depends on your style of travel, etc. Hope that helps a bit! I also recommend reading this post:

  3. This is the best tips I have ever read. Thanks Matthew! I love traveling and this would really help me in my next travel. Yes take a lot of photos is the best because it will be a souvenir of my every travel. Take care.

  4. Hi, great post!
    Is there any website where you can meet up travelers and make plans. I don’t know if that’s a bad idea lol but I have a friend I travel with but he can’t make it all the time and even thought I have travel alone, i do prefer traveling with someone else for help with picture, life talk, and just being a little safer tbh even though I do agree with you that most places are safer than media makes them up to be. Any suggestions?

  5. Thanks Matthew, I’m a 65 Year old new Zealander and been travelling south America last 6 months aiming for world! I got sick in hospital Bolivia and just had accident falling down steps in Quito Ecuador Hostel, but been enjoying myself nevertheless! Insurance far too expensive someone my age, so have to risk travelling without it. I’m traveling on my fortnightly pension! Thanks for tips.

  6. I totally agree with “Back everything up”
    I’ve learned it the hard way. First, my memory card got corrupted. Then, my hard drive was broken. Now, I try to upload pictures in the internet so I’ll know that I can access them anytime.

  7. What can I say that hasn’t already been said. Travel is a life changing experience which draws people together and educates. Even if you don’t have plans to sell everything and travel continuously, the best tip I could give is to travel to a different country at least once in your life. See how other people live their lives. Witness the day to day things like going to the market, or how something simple like lunch is done in Spain, France or Italy. Having this perspective is a good thing and helps understand the world a little bit better.

  8. May I add some things?

    1. I like to book hotels close to a mall and/or subway stations (for transportation / cheap food / references in town);
    2. I study for all free attractions and traveler opinions. (NY Brooklyn Botanical Garden is free on Fridays);
    3. I buy local cellphone chips for Internet. It helps me with GPS location and public transportation orientations;
    4. I get myself involved with the culture (food, history, places) before the trip. Travelling is an on-site review. Surfing on YouTube, sites, FaceBook groups and specially blogs are the best ways to get the best hints. Some places are very hiddent to most tourists;
    5. I just plan two attractions max per day. If I feel I can do more during the day, I go for more. Leave sometime for this flexibility.
    6. I consider buying city discount cards (NY Pass, Rome Pass, Houston Pass). Some cards worth, others don´t.
    7. I consider renting a car if it represents an advantage (Cape Town).
    8. If I travel on summer, I take sunscreen, cap and even a small umbrella.

    1. Of course! Thanks for sharing your tips Eduardo. I totally agree on buying local sim cards when you travel for a week or more. Plus only doing 2 planned activities a day, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

  9. Amazing and a very helpful post! One of a few articles about traveling tips that wasn’t just stating obvious facts like ‘go to the places that aren’t touristy’ but with a full explanation which actually persuades the reader to do all these tips. Very well written, I’ll definitely use these tips for my upcoming trips.

  10. Planning your pee schedule ahead of time!

    I have a funny story that your peeing story reminded me of as the same happened to me. Even though I was begging the driver to stop I wasn’t successful so… I guess my bladder made some Universe magic happen as 2 minutes later the bus broke down in the middle of a bridge in the highway so I ended up peeing behind the bus, facing the cars, my partner covering me with a jacket. I’m a woman so… it was pretty funny and yes, people quite laughed at me but whatever… I was about to burst so who cares jajajajaja

    One MAJOR thing I learned when traveling –even more as a woman—is to plan my peeing schedule Jajajaja In Italy, for example, there are almost no public toilets, so I have to make a choice whether to drink and good luck with finding a toilet on time, or get dehydrated JA!

  11. I love tip #18! It gives more meaning to traveling. You get to encounter new things, more adventures and meet new and odd people.

    1. I too love adventures and one way of experiencing that is getting lost but of course, you have to be very careful also at the same time.

  12. All of these tips are essential. I’ve learned a couple myself lately. Earplugs are truly number one, and not necessarily during travelling (I actually always have a pair with me, just in case I’m going to sleep out of home). Smiling at strangers and saying hello does work indeed. Also, an occasional splurge makes sense. However, I’m still tough at this. And saying YES to some seemingly insecure offers certainly pays off. My two latest cases were horse safari and swimming in a freezing cold mountain waterfall—as you said these have become some of my coolest stories so far.
    If I could expand your list, I’d probably add solo travelling, as I’m sure a traveller is much more open to new people and adventures while travelling alone. However, I do realize it’s not so relevant for married couples who on the contrary seek for opportunities to go together somewhere.

  13. What a great post! I agree with all of that points and it nice to read about it in one list. Now I will try to focus on some of points more :)

  14. I loved how most of your tips included advices for the state of mind instead of physical stuff. So inspiring things sorted here.
    I haven’t got the chance to travel much yet but I just love to discover new places and people! Hope to be on the road again soon

    1. Right? I think some of the best tips for traveling is more about your state of mind. Otherwise people miss out on the real purpose of travel (in my opinion), expanding your knowledge of the world and life experience.

  15. Great tips. I always pack ziplock style large freezer bags for easy and quick laundry. It’s big enough for a t-shirt, shorts, socks and underwear etc. Only takes a few minutes, you can do it anywhere (no sink plug needed) and it cuts down on the number of clothes you need to pack.

  16. Wow! What an amazing post with so many valuable tips, and enriching photo’s. I’m glad you made obtaining travel insurance the last main tip on your list. This is definitely important because of the unfortunate things that has happened to you and others. Once again, what an amazing post. You have everything here. :)

  17. Don’t try and see everything at one go. Plan your itinerary because you need to choose among the larger towns and the smaller, more quaint ones. As said before, you can’t see it all in one go.

    If your a student take your student Id. ( College, school ID ) with you. Because if you are a student carrying your id. Some places will give you discounts if you are able to show a valid student id.

    Avoid the crowds and queues. Ask the locals people for all the times when the crowds are less and plan accordingly.

    And many more travel tips to follow.

  18. Yes, there’s always a way and laugh at yourself. We have been biking around the world for almost a year now. I couldn’t agree more on life is too short to feel angry or annoyed all the time. Great tips!

  19. I’m just 17 and I dream of traveling the whole world.I thought of being an air hostess after doing my graduation. Is this a good career to persuade if I love traveling??

  20. Thanks for sharing these tips! I haven’t been traveling nearly as long as you (7 months vs 7 years) but a lot of what you said really resonates. I love how you have interspersed the very practical (always pack ear plugs!) with the inspirational (volunteer as you go). I’m hoping to do some volunteering myself in my next spot – Phuket. :)