These are the tips and tricks we have learned along the way that save us money and time when we travel, as well as make our trips more enjoyable. In general, we try to travel places during the shoulder/low season, we stay in Airbnbs (when we don’t have our camper with us), we try to find the little corner eateries where the locals go, and we always rent our own car to be able to explore.
International Travel Tips:
- Buy airline tickets during a great sale/deal, then plan the rest. We receive email alerts for great airfare deals through Scott’s Cheap Flights. While we have a general idea of places we want to visit and trips we want to take, we let the deals guide us. Japan has been on our bucket list for some time, so when this amazing deal came up (non-stop from SFO to Tokyo for $569 each), we couldn’t pass it up. Now we are headed to Japan in March! We cannot say enough good things about Scott’s deals, so I will just give one last example: this past January, we booked a spontaneous trip to Italy to celebrate Chris’ birthday, for $400 each!
- Pack everything you need into a carry on bag and a backpack. And don’t check your bag, EVER. Here’s why: (a) there’s a chance they will lose it. Trust me, it happened to me when I was naive, twice. (b) You really don’t need that much stuff. We use the Rick Steve’s logic when packing light. If we are going for a longer trip (over 1 week), we buy our shampoo/conditioner/soap/lotion/etc at a local grocery store (trust me, almost every country has these things). Doing this, will save you the headache of trying to fit all the 3 ounce bottles into that little plastic bag they allow. And if we are going to a cold place, we wear our heavy coats and boots on the flight so they don’t take up space in our bag.
- Get Global Entry (for US citizens). Here’s why: It cost $100 for 5 years and not only do we get TSA pre-check every time, but when we return from an international trip, we fly through customs (most we have waited is 10 minutes). After a ten hour flight, the last thing you want is to wait in line for an hour to go through customs, especially if you have a connecting flight in another terminal! [And if you only have a carry on bag like we suggest, it makes this process even faster since you don’t have to wait for your bag to then go through customs and then re-check it.]
- Travel during the shoulder/low season. Here’s why: there are less tourists (no further explanation needed). Places are less crowded, locals are happier and friendlier, and things are cheaper. Sure, some restaurants and attractions have reduced hours (or are closed), but the eateries where the locals go are always open.
- If you are a runner, go for a run in the city you are visiting. During our last trip to Paris, I went for a couple early morning runs along the Seine – what could be better?! It still makes me smile when I think about it.
- If you need to use the restroom/toilet/WC (whatever you want to call it), and you don’t want to pay for it, a good bet is a hotel. They are so used to people coming in and out, most won’t even notice. We even used this tip in Cuba, and they were cleaner restrooms than paid public toilets.
- Buy a SIM card when you land in another country for access to data and calling. For most countries, a SIM card is a cheaper option than an international plan from the US.
- Download offline google maps before you leave for your trip. I know there are other apps out there, but we use google maps. We like that you can save locations and they are available on the offline maps.
Resources we use:
- Scott’s Cheap Flights – best resource for finding amazing flight deals
- Lonely Planet website and guidebooks (I currently have on my bedsite table: USA’s National Parks and Northern California)
- Rick Steve’s Guidebooks (for Europe)
- Sunset magazine – I subscribe to Sunset and love their articles about places to check out in the West. Even if I am not planning to travel to places they suggest, if it peaks my interest, I will pin it on Google Maps under a list I created called ‘Sunset recommendations.’ Plus they are a local magazine, based in Oakland.
- recreation.gov – where to book national/state park campsites
- freecampsites.net – this is a great site for finding free places to camp for the night
- iOverlander.com (and the app) – another great resource for finding free places to camp for the night
Keep checking back. We will continue to add more tips as we learn them 🙂
We would love to hear your travel tips! Add them to the comments below: