1. Lightweight long sleeves are magic in hot climates.
When you think hot weather you’re probably thinking T-shirts and shorts, but a little trick I learned from the locals in the Florida Keys is that long sleeve shirts are the way to go. For one, they protect your arms in the sun. No one wants a farmers tan, and sunburn can quickly put a damper on your trip. More importantly, long sleeves keep you cooler. A lightweight fabric helps to wick moisture from your skin and in hot and humid places that makes a huge difference for your comfort. After going long sleeves it’ tough to go back. Plus you can always roll up the sleeves. Go ahead and take a look around on your next trip to the tropics and notice how many locals wear long sleeves.
2. Bring Kimchi when traveling abroad.
This sounds crazy and it kind of is. If you don’t know what kimchi is, it’s a fermented cabbage dish from Korea. More importantly it’s loaded with probiotics, and it doesn’t spoil easily (since it’s fermented). The worst way to ruin a trip is to catch a stomach bug that keeps you wrapped around a porcelain goddess for a week. I’m speaking from experience here. Probiotics are an effective and natural way to fight off the sort of bacteria that can leave you doubled over after that questionable street food meal. It’s not a guarantee, but it can help to minimize your chances of being affected and can significantly reduce recovery time. A fork or two of Kimchi a day helps keep the nasty bacteria away. Don’t like Kimchi or don’t want to lug a jar of it around? Substitute other fermented foods like probiotic yogurts or other fermented foods. They’re easy enough to find even in the most remote places. Nearly every culture has discovered the wonder of fermented foods.
3. Bring an umbrella even when it’s not going to rain.
I learned this one in Laos. Everyone here carries an umbrella. When it rains, it keeps you dry. When it’s sunny, it provides shade. Don’t worry about having anything fancy and the more compact the easier to carry. In SE Asia, everyone uses umbrellas. Everyone.
4. Don’t bother buying soaps and lotions.
If you’re planning to hostel hop on your next trip don’t bother buying soap, sun lotion, toothpaste, etc. Travelers constantly leave these behind at hostels when they’re getting ready to fly. Just snag them off someone who doesn’t want them anymore. This is a great technique as Sun Lotion in many countries is insanely expensive.
5. Get your vaccinations abroad.
This was a huge money saver. Vaccinations in my home country, the US of A, were going to run me $2-5000 for my trip to SE Asia. The cost of getting the same vaccinations in Thailand? I might have spent $100 for everything. Don’t worry. The vaccinations are the same quality as the ones in modern countries (they all come from the red cross), and the hospitals are plenty equipped to provide your vaccinations in a clean and safe manner. As I understand it, the reason vaccinations are cheaper here has to do with the volume they purchase, and the fact that there is less inflated cost from government and private businesses.
6. When it’s hot, you sweat. A lot!
Obviously, but what you forget is that’s not just water you’re sweating out. You sweat out precious salts and minerals too. These need to be replenished just as much as the water. Re-hydration packets are available at most convenience stores and all pharmacies when traveling. It’s a good habit to carry and use these regularly. There are other ways to replenish yourself, but the important thing is you account for lost salts and minerals when you sweat. It’s the reason you still feel light headed and crampy even when guzzling water all day.
7. Packing Light.
This one you’ve heard before. Everyone talks about how a light pack makes your trip so pleasant. It’s true, but how light is light? I have another post on this but let me give you a little taste. I travel with only 3 changes of clothes. One set is for wet activities (shirt, boxers, shorts, flops), one set is for dry activities (shirt, boxers, shorts, socks, sneakers), and the 3rd set is for everything else (Light jacket, jeans). My entire wardrobe fits in a small toiletries bag.
8. Get a tourist sim card when travelling abroad.
It’s easier than you think and most companies will let you unlock your phone now. With T-mobile, it was one button in an app. Boom. Done. Unlocked phones let you use other companies sim cards in your phone. Data plans in most countries are cheap. Thailand was $20 for a month of data. Laos was $1.25 for the sim card and $1.25 per week for data. Vietnam was $12 for 6GB for a year. That’s a lot better than my $70+ a month plan with T-mobile back home. Coverage is pretty damn good in these countries. It’s better than in the USA. It’s extremely helpful when trying to find that awesome secret coffee shop in town, or the secret waterfall. My data plan has saved me so much pain and frustration when travelling abroad. People will tell you they like traveling without the connection but most of those people are too cheap or lazy to buy a sim card. Their loss.
9. Don’t make plans, but have a small list.
Every new place I go, I do a little research and make a list of restaurants, sites, and things I want to check out. Keep off a schedule to keep your trip relaxing. Leave room for spontaneous adventures (the best kind), but have a list of places to go so you don’t end up spending your whole day in your hotel. I have another article on the best way to do this.
10. Don’t journal
Almost everyone I meet while travelling tries to start a journal but almost never follows through with it. It’s like your fitness goals. You have good intentions but execution is often lacking. Personally I don’t Journal, but I do occasionally write random thoughts and bits in a note app on my phone. Unless you are already writing regularly don’t beat yourself up on the journaling thing. If you feel like writing something down great do it, but don’t create stress in your trip with the idea of having to write every day.
11. Manners are universal, but languages are not.
Manners go a long way in any culture but not everyone speaks your language. When ever travelling abroad learn and always use the native words for hello and thank you. Even if you botch the pronunciations, the effort is the most important part. Don’t mumble these words either. Say them loud and clear. Seems trivial but so many people are guilty of not obeying this simple rule when travelling. Your quality of life is so much better when following this basic rule.
12. A cold beer or two or three can save you a lot of trouble.
Want an easier time getting through security? Having trouble with a local? The gift of a cold drink solves SO many problems in many countries. I haven’t done it too often myself, but when I have, or when a friend has, the results are nothing short of magical. I’ve seen fines dropped, scams disarmed, and heated fights all settled with a cold one. Best yet, you can buy a cold beer in many countries for $1-2.
13. Get a Charles Schwab card.
I’m not sponsored in any way by Charles Schwab, this is just a really good money saving tip. Back home you can find free ATM’s, but abroad avoiding ATM fees is impossible. Charles Schwab reimburses all, I repeat all ATM fees. With a typical ATM fee of $5-7, this really adds up. On longer trips you could easily save hundreds in ATM fees.
14. Don’t pre-pay for things when travelling.
Easier in low seasons, but most countries don’t understand the concept of refunds and asking for one is often considered very offensive. Your best bet is to do pay on arrival. Pictures and ads for hotels can be very deceiving. Even if it costs a little extra don’t put money down until you have seen what you are getting with your own eyes.