People are not born savvy travelers. It’s something that is learned with on-the-plane experience. In the beginning, you make lots of mistakes. (Oh, boy did I and I still do!) A savvy traveler is a process born of missed flights, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny errors. Then, one day, it becomes seamless. You become Wonder Woman or Super Man through the airports and integrate yourself into new cultures like a pilot in cockpit.

So I put together a list of 25 travel tips to help you become a savvy traveler and to help you avoid some of my mistakes:

Travel Tips

Smile & Say Hello. I am quick to say hola or bonjour when traveling to Spanish or French-speaking countries. 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.

Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination. The locals will appreciate it and it will make your interactions easier.

Read a history book! You can’t understand a place’s present if you don’t know anything about its past. Read up on the destinations you are visiting.

Make copies of your passport and important documents. Don’t forget to e-mail a copy to yourself and/or family members so you’ll almost always have access to them, one way or another.

Look both ways when you cross the street. Especially in countries whose traffic flow is different than you’re used to. Oh boy did I have a hard time in London and New Zealand? I was fortunate to have signs.

London England
Buy a small backpack/suitcase. It will force you to pack light and avoid carrying too much stuff. The stories I can tell. I remember traveling through Cairo and my friends overpacked. They were struggling. I just had my one small luggage. Yep, I didn’t help them. I warned them to pack light.

Take an extra bank card and credit card with you. Disasters happen. It’s always good to have a backup in case you get robbed or lose a card. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere new without access to your funds.

Make sure to use no-fee bank cards. Don’t give banks your hard-earned money. Keep that for yourself and spend it on your travels. I learned this the hard way. The first time I started traveling which was in Rome, I used my debit card. I paid so much in fees that I thought I was going to name my first child “Credit Union”.

Travel by yourself at least once. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to become independent. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Traveling solo taught me how to fend for myself, talk to people, and handle unfamiliar situations with ease.

Dunedin, New Zealand
Don’t be afraid to use a map. Looking like a tourist isn’t as bad as getting really lost and ending up in the wrong neighborhood.

On international flights, book window seats so you can rest your head on the bulkhead. Also, book seats close to the front so you can beat everyone to the passport control line.

Don’t be ashamed to walk into a Starbucks. Sometimes familiarity is comforting.

Airport in Amsterdam
But do be ashamed if you go into McDonald’s. Seriously! It is gross and unhealthy for you. Also, the place your are visiting has some great food. Look for it and go outside your comfort zone.

Try new food. Don’t ask what it is. Just put it in your mouth and see if you like it. If you put your guard up, you might miss out on some unusual and delicious local cuisine.

Carry a basic first-aid kit. Accidents happen, so be prepared. I take with me bandaids, antibacterial cream, aspirins, allergy medications and ointments for cuts and scrapes.

Take free walking tours. Besides being free, these tours will give you a good orientation and background of the city you are in.

Get good shoes. You walk a lot when you travel. Don’t beat up your feet. Love them as much as they love you, and they’ll take you to amazing places.

Get travel insurance. Don’t be foolish. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be out thousands of dollars in bills. Travel insurance is the most important thing you get that you never want to use.

Relax and Be Patient. Things will work out in the end. No need to rush. You’ll get to where you are going in due time. Travel is about the journey, not the destination.

Be respectful. Locals are willing to help you out, but there’s probably a language barrier, so keep your cool when something doesn’t go your way. Also, dress appropriately. When I was in Dubai, I wore maxi dresses and had a shawl to cover up my head and shoulders. It wasn’t required but it was respectful.

Always have an extra USB charger. Batteries die. Your good mood shouldn’t. I have two. They don’t make cell phones like they used to.

Take photos of and with people. Lots of photos. Years from now, you’ll want to look back on those nights you can’t remember and the people who made them memorable. However, make sure to get their permission before taking a picture.

Quito Ecuador

Jacmel Haiti
Cape Town South Africa

Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone. Challenge yourself to try things. Be comfortable while being uncomfortable. 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.

There are so many more travel tips. Hopefully, you enjoyed my top 25 and if like I can put together your next trip. Hit me up, your adventure awaits.

Be safe and remember to “To Travel is to Live”.