I’ve been on the road on and off for over 7 years. This is a compilation post of all my best travel resources and advice. Keep scrolling for nearly 5,000 words of travel tips!
My Best Travel Resources
It’s time to plan a trip, amazing news! I’ve put together all my best travel advice from 6 years of on and off long term travel. Don’t make the same mistakes I have, take these travel resources into consideration when planning your next trip.
I’ve done a variety of traveling, from bare bones budget, $15 a day travel, to much more luxurious trips. I’ve taken trains, buses, boats, flights and hitchhiked along the way, staying anywhere from strangers couches to fancy hotels to camping.
I’ve put together all my best tips here, to hopefully get you motivated to start traveling. And remember, if I can do it, so can you!
How To: Save Money For Travel
No travel resources page would be complete without talking about money! Saving money for anything is tricky. It’s all about making travel (or whatever you are saving for) a major priority in your life. It’s going to take some hard work and serious discipline, but if it is something you really want, it will be worth it. I find the best way to save for travel is to set small, attainable weekly or monthly savings goals.
If your trip is $3,000 trip is 6 months away, you’ll need to save $500 a month, or $125 a week. Take a look at your current spending and see where you can make adjustments. Write down EVERYTHING you spend in one week. The following week, try and make adjustments and the different should go immediately into your travel fund.
The easiest place to cut back on spending (for most people!) is on food, coffee and alcohol. Cut your costs in half by cooking yourself, making coffee at home and maybe only hitting one (instead of everyday) happy hour a week. Figure out where you can make adjustments, and remember why you started.
Reassess your goal after the first month, did you reach your target? If not, try going back and seeing where else you can make adjustments. Taxi’s? Expensive nights out? Too much shopping? If you hit your goal, congratulations! It feels so good to hit your goal, because as you’ve done it once, you can do it again! Best case scenario? You beat your goal. Up it. Again, you’ve done it once, you can do it again this month.
Other than cutting back spending, other ways to save extra cash:
Get a second job: In the months leading up to your trip, why not pick up a second part time job? Choose something that won’t take away from your current career. Even $8 an hour a few days a week will add up, and that money should go straight into your travel fund.
Sell your stuff: Most people tend to hold onto things they no longer need. Before your trip, sell off any electronics, clothing or household items you are no longer using. Not only will you make a little extra cash, you’ll feel better with less clutter.
Get a roommate: Renting out extra space, or perhaps moving in with other people is a great way to save money. Don’t want the commitment of a roommate? Try AirBnB or offer a short sublet.
Get rid of nonessentials: Are you still paying for cable? What about that expensive cell phone bill? Many companies will allow you to stall your service, or remove data from your plan. In Canada, this could easily save you $100 a month.
Travel Hacking 101
Travel hacking, simply put, is a way to manipulate credit card point systems to work in your favour. And it is definitely in your favour to get free flights, hotels and other perks! This can be done in a variety of way, including taking advantage of a sign up bonus, transferring points at optimal times and signing up for a variety of cards to best work for your travel needs.
I personally collect two different types of travel points, credit card points and airline miles.
Credit Card Points
I collect credit card points from three different Canadian credit cards. I primarily use RBC, but also utilize TD Bank and CIBC, occasionally. My first ever credit card was with RBC, and at 18 I was pre approved for their Infinite Travel Card. This card came with a 20,000 welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in 3 months.
A few months after receiving my card (and spending the minimum welcome amount), I received an email from RBC announcing their new partnership with American Airlines. They were offering 3x the points if you transfer your RBC Reward points. My 20,000 quickly turned into 60,000 and I was so impressed that now almost all my points go to American Airlines. 60,000 points (at the time) was enough for two round trip flights for South America or Europe.
I still collect points with RBC and their American Airlines partnership, and earn even more every time I fly American. Every few months (when I am based in Canada) I will cancel my RBC Infinite card and downgrade to a more basic card. After a 60 day period, I reapply for the travel card and am entitled to receive the welcome bonus again (after spending the minimum in 3 months). I have not experienced any credit related issues, and as long as you are pay off the balance of the card, they bank has had no issues with this in the past.
I also collect points with CIBC and TD, but do not often use these cards. I find the value to be better with the RBC/AA partnership, as there are many AA flights from Toronto (with a US stopover) to Europe, Latin America and Asia. The CIBC and TD cards offer more of a ‘cash back’ on travel. I use these cards every so often in order to maintain points, and again, when I am back home I will often cancel and reapply to receive the welcome points.
Disclaimer: Long term, this could cause issues with credit, as every time you apply for a card the bank needs to run a credit report. I have not had any issues, but I wouldn’t recommend applying for more that 6 cards a year.
Airline Miles are not as quickly gathered, but if you are flying often (especially with the same airline!) it is worth it to collect points. Most airlines offer a free loyalty program, that allows you to collect points through them.
I recommend being a member of one or two different loyalty programs offered by major Star Alliance, One World and SkyTeam. This way, if you are flying Delta you can collect Air Canada miles and tons of other alliance partnerships. Take advantage of these partnerships, and you’ll be earning miles for flights you’re be taking anyways.
As I write this, I am on an Alaska Airlines flight to Honolulu, collecting American Airlines miles. At the time of booking, I entered my AA Advantage number, and I am collecting miles without thinking about it.
Travel insurance is a must for anyone heading overseas. You never know what could happen on the road, and I’ll never travel without it. Not all travel insurance policies are the same though, so be sure to do a little research on what kind of coverage you actually need.
The major types of travel insurance include; travel medical, trip interruption, evacuation, accident and full package travel insurance. There are many options, and choosing the correct on it extremely important.
Figure out what level of coverage you actually need, if you are traveling overland with no real important belongings, you may not need baggage protection. Additionally, if you are planning on bungee jumping or partaking in other high risk sports, be sure your policy covers your level of adventure. Are you traveling with camera equipment, a laptop or other electronics? You may want to purchase separate coverage for these items.
There are many companies that offer travel insurance, and often times some credit cards will include it for you, but note that this is usually only valid for shorter trips. If you are going to be driving overseas, call your car insurance provider at home to see what kind of coverage you need when you’re away.
One of the most popular travel insurance company out there is World Nomads, and I have used them with no complaints, although I have not yet had to file a claim. If you are purchasing with World Nomads, be sure to check which local (country specific) insurance agency they use, and check out their reviews. At the time of writing, World Nomads (in Canada) uses Travel Guard, form AIG, with whom I feel comfortable using.
How To: Find Cheap Flights
Flights can often be the most expensive part of your trip. There are many ways to score bargains for flights, but the one main principle to keep in mind when booking? Flexibility. If you have a few days of wiggle rooms on either end of your trip, you’ll be able to fly on the cheapest days.
Being flexible when flying also comes into play when choosing airlines, departure/arrival times and even airports.
Being loyal to one specific airline (or partnership) definitely has it’s perks, but if the price is right? I’ll fly (almost) any airline. I try and fly One World alliance airlines as much as possible, because I can then collect AA Advantage points, but am not so loyal that I won’t pass up a good deal or schedule.
When looking for cheap flights also be aware of departure and arrival times. The cheapest flights often arrive and depart at awkward times of the night or have overnight connections. Be sure to see how much your taxi or airport hotel will be, because perhaps spending an extra money on a better timed flight will end up saving you cash in the end.
It’s also a great idea to check out other regional airports and see if it is cheaper to fly to Oakland versus San Francisco, or Newark instead of JFK. Many flight search engines will do this for you, by selecting “include nearby airports” you will get broader results and hopefully be able to find the best deal.
My Favourite Search Engines For Finding Flight Deals:
Monthly (and yearly!) search options let you find out the cheapest day to travel to your destination. Try switching to the country you are in version of the site for the best deals. Also great to search regional areas, for example, search for flights from Toronto to England, and get results from London to Manchester to Birmingham.
Great to search for regional airports. Type in your departure airport and your dates and zoom out to find the best deal for any destination. Be sure to check which currency you are searching in.
Does not offer a broad search, but I find it very helpful if I am looking at multi destination trips. Expedia is also great for looking at packages, and often has great hotel deals.
Other Great Ways To Find Flight Deals?
- Look for flight deals! There are many regional sites that offer frequent mailing lists with the best flight and vacation deals. You can also check out Flight Centre (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc) for weekly deals, or Travel Pirates.
- Collect credit card points and airline miles! Check out Travel Hacking above for more details.
How To: Save Money On Accommodation
Accommodation options while traveling can range from hotels to home stays and hostels to “glamping”. There are a variety of ways to get cheap (and even free!) accommodation, or at least get the most for your hard earned dollar.
Free or Cheap Accommodation
A free place to stay anywhere in the world is possible, but it can come at a different cost — your comfort! If you’re not afraid of a little hard work, or perhaps a lack of personal space, you can definitely find free accommodation. Free accommodation all over the world exists on CouchSurfing, GlobalFreeloaders and of course, friends and families couches/floors/backyards etc.
I’ve had good and bad experiences CouchSurfing, my best tip? Read ALL of your potential hosts references. Unfortunately, some members on the site have recently begun to see it as more of a dating site, and this has really spoiled the strong community that was present years ago. I would still CouchSurf but am a more cautious and would be more inclined to do it if I had a friend with me.
Your other option is volunteering! I have volunteered with WorkAway in the past, and another good option is WWOOF-ing. Both connect you to a farm, family or business, that offers you accommodation and meals in exchange for a set number of work per week. Beware of volunteer programs that are not legitimate, perhaps are charging a lot or seem to be run as more of a vacation.
If you’re on a budget, in most places you will get the best deals staying in hostel dorms. Hostels are great because not only will you meet people, but you’ll also have a kitchen to save on eating out all the time. When looking for a hostel, I try and choose one with great reviews, across a few different sites. You can often get the best deal booking through the hostel directly, instead of HostelWorld or similar. I often use these larger sites to check for availability, then head over to the hostels own website and book there.
Another option is budget hotels or bed and breakfasts. These can be great options if you’re traveling as a couple or a group, as you can often get a private room with a bathroom for the same price as a dorm. Many smaller hotels also offer discounts for longer stays, so if you are planning on staying more than 5 days definitely inquire.
For accommodation these days, I primarily use Booking.com, as I like the mix of hotels and hostels and I find the prices to be consistently the best.
AirBnB is also a great option for reasonable accommodation. Again, it is a good idea to read through reviews to be sure you know what you are getting into. Be aware that AirBnB does charge a 3% currency conversion rate, even if you are browsing on that countries version of the site. It is automatically added if you are paying with a foreign card.
Looking for a little bit of luxury? It doesn’t always have to come at an insane price. The easiest way to save on hotels is joining a hotel rewards program. This allows you to collect points, and many large chains also have partnerships with airlines, allowing you to use points/miles interchangeably.
Another option is to book you hotel as a package deal with your flights. If booking a one way flight to your destination, companies like Expedia allow you to add on a hotel stay.
If you are booking a luxury hotel or resort, be sure to check if the property is going to add a ‘resort fee’. This can be a sneaky $20-50 per day that you might only see when you pay your bill at the end of the week. Many hotels offer rebates on resort fees if you are staying X number of days, or if you book on promotion.
Any time you are booking a hotel (be it through Expedia, Booking, Trivago etc) be sure to check the price on the hotels website. Often they will offer better deals for booking directly!
For whatever type of accommodation you are booking, be sure to take advantage of members programs, such as CAA (AAA in the US) and credit card member programs. Visa Infinite offers members special rates to hotels around the world and many other credit cards will offer upgrade as well!
How To: Save Money On Activites
Activities, tours and attractions can definitely add up when you are traveling. It’s a good idea to research how much things cost before you head to a new destination. Not only will this give you a good idea of how much you will be spending, but you will often usually find out about package deals or discounts for booking ahead of time. I wouldn’t recommend booking a local tour ahead of time (unless it is prone to sell out!) as you can usually find the best deals when you arrive.
A few thing’s that could be beneficial to book online? Museum passes, city site seeing passes, concert tickets and things to that nature. Purchasing online will often garner discounts. In many major cities you can also buy a pass that will include a few major attractions, if you are planning on including these activities on your trip, it can be worth it to purchase it!
Another way to save money on activities is to book last minute. This can be a little risky, because you risk it being sold out, but if you are traveling with plenty of time or are flexible, you can often score great deals. I met many people in Peru who booked hiking treks the day before and found deals for $150 instead of $400. The same goes for some regional flights, but if it is a must activity for you, it may be worth booking in advance.
Other ways to save? Take part in free (or cheap!) activities. Many cities offer free walking tours, pub crawls, yoga classes and museums or galleries. Take a look online to find out if the attraction you’d like to visit is cheaper midweek and take advantage of this.
Another great way to save is to use a student card. In many places with a student card you’ll receive a major discount on entry to museums, national parks and other attractions. Many student cards to not expire, so definitely hold onto those.
How To: Meet People Traveling
One of the best parts about traveling is meeting people from all over the world. It’s so easy to connect with others on the road because generally, everyone is in a better mood than they would be at home!
In my opinion, the best (and easiest) way to meet people while traveling is to stay in hostels. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had spent all day out alone, running errands and working on my laptop. I returned to the hostel and within 20 minutes of sitting down in the dining area, I was surrounded by 6 people from all over the world. When traveling you’re able to form such quick friendships because you already have something in common – you’re visiting. It’s a great feeling, and I have met so many close friends this way.
Hostels often offer communal activities that encourage you to meet others, and many have attached bars. Even if you are not staying at that hostel, you can always check out the bar and meet other travellers that way.
Another great way to meet people is through websites like CouchSurfing! Even if you do not feel comfortable staying at a strangers home, you can certainly feel comfortable having a cup of coffee or joining a group of travellers (or locals!) at events. Most major cities have meet ups once a month, and members of the community will also organize events.
CouchSurfing is also a great way to get some local advice, I’ve sent messages to locals asking for advice on everything from hiking trips to where to find a good hair salon.
How To: Manage Money On The Road
Managing money while traveling can be difficult, what if you lose your cards or the bank blocks your transaction? How do you avoid paying for foreign transaction fees? My best piece of advice is to have multiple debit and credit cards, and using the card with the best rates available to you.
The reason I advocate having two different cards is simple: you are covered if you lose a card, or it gets blocked by the bank. Banking with two separate institutes is important as well because this way if your card is stolen, or skimmed, you can easily transfer money from that bank to another to ensure you can still access your cash.
Be sure to choose cards that will offer you the best rate for banking overseas. This includes ATM fees for debit cards, and hopefully avoiding foreign transaction fees on credit cards. For a Canadian debit card, in my opinion the TD All-Inclusive checking account and card is the best option because you will not be charged a foreign ATM fee, while most banks will charge $5. For a credit card, I use the RBC Visa Infinite Avion, because it typically has an alright exchange rate and does not charge a transaction fee.
Another important factor to managing money on the road is being prepared. Before you arrive, you should know the approximate exchange rate and try to have a little bit of cash. This small amount will hold you over until you get to an ATM, or your hotel. Knowing the exchange rate is important so you do not take out 1,000 pesos, thinking it is 1,000 dollars. Do a little bit of research and it will help make your first day in the country easier.
Try not to exchange money at the airport, and instead use a bank machine associated with a well known, reputable bank. Try to avoid using unknown ATMs, as they will often have the highest charges.
How To: Go Home Without The Post Vacation Blues
The vacation is over! You’re headed home for work, school, family events or maybe, you’ve just run out of money. It’s easy to go home and get hit with the post vacation blues. When traveling, you often feel as if you’ve changed so much, expecting to arrive home with a new sense of adventure, lust of things in your home city and instead you find that nothing has changed. At all.
You’re friends are as great as ever, but when asked whats new? Not much. Work is the same and all of a sudden, all those good vacation vibes seem to be stuck at the airport. It can be tricky to come home to the same life you left behind, but it is important to see the good things in that. The comfort, the normality and quite often, the routine.
I’m not an expert on returning home (hence my life perpetual travel), but I do always try and look for the small things I love. Access to my favourite foods, a gym membership(!!!) and the ease of always knowing where I’m going and not ever needing a map.
Try and take comfort in knowing that there is always more adventure out there. You’ll appreciate travel to a new degree after some time at home.
Remember, you can always travel again. Begin this post again if you need some inspiration…