After spending quite a lot of time on the road (or often in the air as it is), you develop some small tricks and habbits or find some tools that can help to make travelling just a bit more relaxing or easier. Since you don’t have to circle the whole world to make use of them, I thought I might as well share them here. It’s a bit of a random collection but anyway:
- I was often asked how I found my hostels. The easiest is for sure a booking site such as Hostelbookers or Hostelworld. I also used them in the beginning but stopped pretty quickly. Simple reason: They say they don’t have any booking fees. That might be true, but they charge you a 5-10 per cent deposit – which is non-refundable if you cancel your stay! So, instead I did the following: Check on one of those sites which hostels are there in the city. Don’t just check for your particular date, but way ahead in the future. You want to see all, not only those that are shown as available. Next you can select those that might fit your location needs. Equipped with the names of those hostels, go over to TripAdvisor. I always prefer to spent five bucks more than the cheapest offer if a get a good hostel for that! And that totally worked for me. I did not have a single bad hostel on my whole trip 🙂 Quite on the opposite, I had some super great hostels such as in Toronto, Seattle or Sydney! Last step after you found your hostel based on the reviews on TripAdvisor: Go to the website of the hostel itself and make the booking there! They might still want a deposit but in most cases that is refundable if you change your plans and cancel your stay. Furthermore, some hostels I stayed in even offered specials if you booked directly with them, e.g. free breakfast or WIFI.
- Anyone who flies more than once or twice a year probably knows this anyway: You want to have an aisle seat! Why? And why not a window seat? First of all I found that your chances of a spare seat next to yours is much higher with an aisle seat – because not many people really want to have a middle seat. Second, you don’t have to wake anyone or perform some artistic climbing to go for the toilet or just stretch your legs. And last but not least, to be quite frank, from 10000 meters the world looks quite alike anywhere – if you can even see the ground that is.
I only found a very few exceptions from that rule: If you are a really good sleeper on a plane and never need to get up, you might as well take the seat in the very middle. Or if you are going on a very short – and therefore mostly not very high altitude – flight where you know the scenery could be worth it. My inter-islands flights on Hawaii are good example of that. There of course a window seat goes a long way – if you don’t fly there every other week anyway 🙂
- To realize the previous point and to ensure you don’t end up with a crappy seat for whatever reason: Use SeatGuru! When you do your online check-in, just check there with your flight number and change your seat if necessary. This, and a bit of an eye on the already allocated seats can easily bring you a bit of extra space:
- If you don’t happen to fly Ryanair or any other of those non-service carriers: Use the call-button freely! There’s no point in only waiting for the drink services and getting dehydrated. You probably paid a lot even for an economy ticket. So go ahead and order drinks – or fruits, food, ear plugs, sleeping masks or what else your airline might offer – as often as you please!
- When booking your flights, think a second about when the flight leaves. Yes, the flight at 7 AM might be 30 bucks cheaper than the one three or four hours later. But 7 AM departure means you got to be at the airport around 5:30 AM. Since mostly your hostel will be rather in walking distance to the city center than the airport, be prepared to leave about 4:30. Getting public transit at that time? Good luck! So 30 – or even 100 – bucks to enjoy your last evening in town and heading out to your next destination relaxed? Easily worth it!
- You may have your own opinion about Uber or similar taxi-like services. But fact is: Where they are available, they are way cheaper then a normal taxi! And ordering via an app and selecting your location saves you the hassle to explain on the phone in which back alley exactly you want to be picked up. Furthermore you get a good estimation of your fare – even before you order a drive! And with basically all of those services, if it’s Uber, Lyft, Grabcar or what else might be in fashion in a particular city, you mostly always get the first ride free when you sign up 🙂
- Another thing that is not free of criticism – at least in Germany: Facebook. But there is no way to deny that it is the medium of choice for backpackers in terms of communicating and staying in touch with fellow travelers. I only met a handful of people which were not on there – and if it is just to write private messages. You don’t need to post your life away if you don’t want to.
- When it comes to navigating through public transit in cities around the world, Google Maps goes a long way these days. Instead of finding a new app for every local transit provider, Google has integrated line infos and timetables for many cities – and let’s face it: In many countries there is no such thing as a frequent public transit outside of any larger settlement…
- Don’t spend money on getting cash or paying with your credit card! I can only speak for Germany but I’m pretty sure there are similar offers in other countries as well by now. I traveled with two different credit cards (which you should do anyway, just for redundancy): One is a DKB Visa card which allows me to draw cash from any ATM around the world for free. Yes, free! Even if you have to pay a fee at the ATM, you can get a refund for that from the bank. The second card is a Master Card which has no foreign currency fee. On most credit cards you have to pay 1-2 per cent surcharge whenever you do not pay in your own currency such as Euro. That may seems like a small amount. But I can assure you, it saved me a lot of money over the course of my trip! And way should you pay the fee if there are ways around it?
- How did I find out what to to at a particular location? I met quite a few people carrying travel guides – yeah, actual books… That might be ok if you only travel in one country or region. But believe me, you don’t want to carry a couple of Lonley Planets around the world 😉 Yes, I could just have bought them when I arrived somewhere but for two main reasons I didn’t: I was really happy with my Kindle as my book-replacement and had no plans to make an exception for a half-kilo guide book. Second, I had some guides as PDFs on my laptop. So I whenever I wanted to, I actually could look up stuff. But to be honest, I the end I barely looked in there. Most of the time it’s just easier (and better in my opinion) to simply ask around in the hostels. So many times I was recommended places I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have found in any Lonley Planet 🙂 Another free source for a quick overview of the main sights by the way is Wikivoyage. Just like Wikipedia for discovery the world. At least for most of the bigger cities or well-travelled regions there are really good entries to be found.
If you got any more questions, go ahead in the comments!