My Top trip tips... Twitter is the key to finding deals!
Updated: Apr 30
These are general tips and tricks I use planning my trips, and while on them as well.
I have a page setup for links to some products that I recommend above.
Before The Trip:
Finding deals - My number way to find deals on flights, hotels, credit cards, and a ton more is Twitter. You can follow all the best travel bloggers who regularly find and post deals and tips on everything and anything. Create a twitter account and then follow the people you find interesting and valuable. Then, create a list, where you can add travel and/or deal bloggers you like. I have about 45 in my list. I try and check this list at least twice a day to quickly catch up on the latest deals and travel info. Any tweets that I want to save or look at later, I will “like” and be able to always view them in my profile at any time. Copy my list if you like and then add/subtract to make it your own.
You should also subscribe to the email lists of your favorite bloggers. I get too many emails to check this fast enough. But, these bloggers put all kinds of great stuff into daily or weekly emails that can be extremely helpful. I find my Twitter list to cover everything in the best format, but maybe you will see an email first.
FLIGHTS - Always use google flights https://www.google.com/flights/ to research and find flights. Learn how to use all the features including the explore map and calendar for best prices. The lowest prices always show up first in green. Be sure to use the options on the top for one-way flights, non-stop flights, search by airline, etc. Always start with this ever-improving site first. No other site will give you as much valuable information as this one. If you have a dream of going to, let's say, Italy, you can search and easily find the cheapest flight over the period of the next year. If you just want to travel anywhere for the cheapest price, use the explore map function to see prices for the entire world as you move around the map. Click on a price to see the dates and flight info.
HOTELS - Use google again to research and price hotels...this is fairly new for Google. https://www.google.com/travel/hotels . This platform has many excellent features, filters, and integrates google maps (with real customer reviews). You may also find special member prices if you have a Google One cloud storage account($2.99/month).
Also, use tripadvisor.com for prices, reviews, and rankings of hotels. I like to search hotels by ranking. Sometimes you may find you can stay at a top hotel for a great price. It is usually best to book with the hotel directly rather than a third-party site like Expedia, Hotels.com, etc, but the exception is when you are looking at non-chain hotels or very small boutique hotels (Always also check the hotels website).
You should be a member of every major hotel chain rewards program and major airline carriers. The hotels tend to have special pricing, bonuses and benefits more than the airlines, but definitely join any program for any hotel (or airline) that you book with to collect points or miles for your trip.
CAR RENTALS - Use Autoslash.com for the best rates and options for car rentals.
If you do book with them, they continue to look for cheaper rates and will email you when they find them. Playing with dates and pickup locations can sometimes save a lot of money. Be sure to join the rewards program for your rental as well. This can result in better pricing!
Use awardwallet.com to input all of your travel rewards program info and you will be able to see all your travel in one place. Download the app as well. It is all free.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Use google maps (Both the app and website) to save places you want to go/tourist attractions as well as marking your hotel. Check to see how you can get to your hotel and what is around it (What is the neighborhood like?/How far from the airport?). I usually write down the public transit directions on paper in case I don't have phone data/internet after landing in another country. If you land very early or late in the day, it may be more difficult, so plan accordingly. You can usually get a local sim card for your existing phone at the airport, but you should research this for each country you visit, as they vary.
Download offline maps for your travel destination before your trip, so you can still use the maps even if you have no service. Remember that in many cities, google maps will show you public transportation options, but not necessarily all of them. https://developers.google.com/maps/coverage . Google Maps can literally be a lifesaver with all of its features.
Currency exchange Every country is different. Search for tips on the situation in the area you are going…….where to exchange/how to avoid getting ripped off/where the best rates are/if credit cards are widely accepted, etc. Generally speaking airport exchanges are the worst rates, but not always, and you still may want to exchange a small amount at the airport to get you started. ATM’s are often a good way to get local currency as well, but again, do your homework!
Airport & city transit – I almost always use public transit, if possible. Many taxis in foreign countries are known to rip-off English speakers/Tourists. Use google maps to see how you can get from the airport to your hotel but keep in mind that their may be other options not included on google maps. I discovered this in Istanbul where the Hava-Ist bus was not included in the google maps options even though it is public transportation.
This bus was less than $4, saving me a ton of money! Check for Uber/Lyft/Grab and if they provide good service….I have used Uber many times in other countries where I did not trust regular taxis and I used Grab(similar to Uber) in Thailand for both car taxis and moped taxis(dangerous, but I loved it)! You don’t want to have to hand cash to a taxi driver in many countries!
ON THE TRIP
Safety - My solo travels started out in some of the safest countries on earth....Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Austria, Germany. These countries are really safe. Before you go, read up on possible tourist scams, and other crimes that tend to focus on visitors. If you look like a tourist all the time, you increase your chances of being targeted in any country. You may be surprised at the many scams that criminals use, so its best to know them before you go. In Thailand there is a jet ski scam. In Japan, females can be groped on crowded trains. In Thailand you have tuk tuk(taxi) scams. But if you arm yourself with the knowledge, you can probably avoid it all.
Make sure to get a sim card or local phone....learn the police/emergency number.
Stick to main roads/populated areas.
Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket/avoid using a purse/Do not carry all your money on you/Try to not look like a tourist.
Use the safe in your room to keep valuables and your passport. But, keep in mind that you may need your passport when exchanging currency.
Consider food/bike/walking tours - early in your trip to get you more comfortable with the city. I love a bike or food tour on the first or second day to allow me to either see or taste the city (or both), and you can ask the tour guide all of your questions. Free walking tours (usually historical) have also become a thing, and they can be amazing…. just make sure you tip them in cash. This is a great way to meet people as well.
Consider bike sharing or scooter sharing -
Many cities have cheap scooters and/or bikes that you can easily rent by the minute from kiosks. Look them up before you go and research how to sign up and where the locations are. These can be a lot of fun and/or get you to where you want to go very quickly. Sometimes these rentals are meant for locals and can be difficult to find English instructions. Many now have apps that make it much easier. On my recent trip to Turkey, I was able to use the scooters, but could not figure out how to use the bikes. In Germany, I was able to use ride share bikes and park right outside the hotel daily.
Do some planning on things you want to do - Tripadvisor is one place to start and keep in mind that some things must be booked days in advance or in some cases over a week. I have moved more towards last minute planning on everything and sometimes this can be very bad, as you can miss out on activities/tours that are really popular. On my trip to South Korea, I really wanted to visit the demilitarized zone (very cool and popular tour), but they were all sold out for several weeks. I like to just google "things to do" and see what comes up. Then I make a list of the things I'm interested in, and then save the locations on Google Maps.
Be very aware of the time differences and jetlag - I get hit extremely hard by jetlag and it takes me a long time to fully recover. Mostly, I've found that I get tired very early, which makes night activities difficult, but then I’m up at 6am and can get a lot done in the morning, which can be very beneficial. Use that time wisely to beat the crowds, but at the same time fight the urge to go to sleep to too early…. try and stretch it a little later each night. My last trip, I was asleep by 8:30pm the first night and gradually moved that later each night. If you go to sleep at 4pm (because your body is dead tired), you better set an alarm to keep it a nap. Otherwise, you will be up at midnight and have trouble the next day. The human body cannot be fooled!
WHAT TO TAKE - Pack light! I have only brought my carry-on and my backpack on all trips including two trips over 30 days long for the past 10 years. You can always do laundry on your trip, or it can be fun to buy clothing.
You can also use the Scrubba laundry bag I bought on Amazon to wash things yourself.
I have done this a few times without a problem. I have also done paid laundry in Poland, Hong Kong, and Turkey without incident. If you need to purchase something, shop around, ask a local. I once found a decent puffy jacket for $20 after getting a tip from a local in Germany. Tourist areas often have higher prices, so it may pay to go to a different neighborhood. Department stores can sometimes have great deals too.
Medicine Cabinet – I have gotten extremely sick in Singapore and Japan. In Singapore, I was so sick, I went to the hospital. I now carry Goody's headache powder, Mucinex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Melatonin, and something for a runny nose and sore throat (Click link below and yes it works)
Twitter users to follow for your list: @solo_travelr, @dansdeals, @secretflying, @boardingarea, @godsavethepoint, @thepointsguy, @frequentmiler, @onemileatatime, @pointchaser, @secretflying, @theflightdeal, @airfarespot, @ffbonuses, @traveloffpath