Most travel experience is gained by trial and error and every trip I take is a chance to learn something new. If you take enough trips, pretty soon you have a whole slew of lessons learned. Of course, some lessons have to be learned a few times before they stick. But once they do, they become tried-and-true travel tips. Below are five random travel tips R and I can recommend based on our own trial and error during various trips.
Choose the front seat of the bus
We all know the cool place to sit is the back of the bus. Or at least it was in high school. When it comes to travel, it is all about the front. If you can snag a coveted front seat (and believe me, others will be vying for it), you will find yourself with several key advantages. The first is the view. Those large front bus windows are hard to beat. And if you want to look out the side, you still can. The front of the bus is also a good place to sit if you struggle with motion sickness.
Another advantage to sitting in the front seat of a bus is that you get to climb off the bus first. Waiting for people to grab their stuff and shuffle off is annoying. Especially if you need to use the facilities!
But my favorite reason to sit in the front of the bus is the opportunity to hear (or overhear) interesting stories and conversations from the bus driver and/or guide. Assuming you can understand them, bus drivers and guides say the funniest stuff. You can also learn a ton about the trip, the schedule, the surrounding area, etc. Some of my favorite memories from a trip can be attributed to sitting in the front of the bus.
Bring your Apple TV or Roku
R and I are not big partiers and when the sun goes down, you can usually find us tucked in tight for the night. That is fine in the summertime in the Faroe Islands (where it never gets truly dark). But when the sun goes down at 6 p.m. or earlier, that is a lot of time to hang out at the casa. R found a simple solution to spending quality time in an Airbnb: pack our Apple TV.
You will want to do a little research before you throw your Apple TV or Roku in your suitcase. Although they are small, they are still added baggage if you do not need or cannot use them. Some Airbnbs do not have TVs. And some already have an Apple TV you can use. Do a little research before you go to see if this tip applies. If it does, you can have easy access to entertainment during a cold, dark evening (Germany at Christmastime, I am looking at you).
Always have a snack or two on hand
Always, always pack a snack. Seriously. There have been so many times we have found ourselves in a situation where we are hungry (and probably tired) and we do not have access to food.
Some countries shut down on Sunday (Germany). Others are closed up tight by 6 p.m. (Australia). You may find yourself far away from even a gas station (Azores). Or you may find yourself waiting on transportation without a vending machine in sight (Indonesia). In any of these cases, all of which we have experienced, you will be happy to find that smashed granola bar in the bottom of your bag. You don’t need to go crazy and stock up for an apocalypse. But a few provisions are generally a good idea.
Carry a pen and paper
Your smartphone may be the most important thing you pack. (A recent conversation between R and me revealed that we would rather lose/have stolen our passport rather than our smartphone.) But do not underestimate the mighty pen and paper. Yes, it is easy to capture information with your phone. But what if a local is trying to provide directions or give you the name of their favorite restaurant and you just cannot quite understand them? Do you want to hand your phone over to them? Or would you rather bust out a little notebook and pen and have them write it down?
When we were traveling through eastern Europe, R’s notebook and pen were invaluable. Transportation was a bit of a challenge to book. Most of the time it could not be booked online so we had to go to the bus/train station and purchase in person. There were rarely kiosks, so we usually interacted with someone at a ticket window who may or may not speak English. Before we approached the window, R would write down the number of tickets we needed, the destination we needed to go, and the date and time we wanted to travel. It worked every time.
Use the toilet whenever one is available
This is probably R’s number one travel tip, and it’s a good one. If there is a toilet available, use it. Even if you do not think you need to go, do it anyway. You never know when the next opportunity to use a toilet will come. There are few things I dislike more when I am traveling than needing to pee and being unable to find a toilet. It is just so distracting and panic-inducing. If I use an available toilet whenever possible, I find myself in that situation a lot less.
There are a lot of travel tips out there. Some are useful, whereas others are not. I hope you find the five random travel tips discussed above useful. They are useful for us and make our trips a little easier and more enjoyable.