How to be a smart traveler

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I was at a friend’s house this week exchanging travel stories. The one that made me laugh the hardest was the tale of a single mom with three young daughters from a small Minnesota town. While on vacation in Orlando she decided to take a last-minute detour to Key West on Halloween. As any local knows Halloween in Key West is a night of naked, middle-aged debauchery. Doing a little research prior to this adventure would have saved her girls an early sexual education class.

How to Travel Smarter

• Research

• Credit & Debit Cards

• Technology

• Scams

• Lodging

• When to Eat

• Start Early

Do Research

Caye Caulker, Belize

Travel Smartz is as easy as an internet search. You can find out a little about any topic in a matter of minutes. Last year I made a big travel blunder, my friends in Sydney kept telling me to visit during their summer (our winter) for the best weather, but I’m a big outdoor enthusiast. If I had done more research I would have known winter is better for visiting Uluru and the Kimberly. When it’s not 40 C and the rainy season. I was so busy researching places to visit I forgot to check when the best time to see them was.

Easy Search Topics:

• Best time to visit…

• Top places to see in…

• Is there public transportation…

• Cultural differences

Credit & Debit Cards

 

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Some cards charge international transaction fees, which are a percentage of your purchase. So be careful which card you are using when on a trip. Especially for large purchases like resorts, rental cars, or excursion packages. The increase of identity theft has credit card companies on the vigil for possible fraudulent charges. Make sure you call your credit card company and let them know your travel plan and dates before you leave or they may block you or deny charges. Out of the ordinary charges are always flagged. For some reason the way rental car company’s process their orders I often get alerts about fraudulent charges after I’ve picked up a car. For this reason It’s a good idea to travel with two charge cards. If one card gets put on hold by your credit card company you want to have a backup so you’re not stranded far from home without funds. 
When traveling it’s also a good idea to clean out your wallet. Take out all personal information (I know some people carry passwords on them). Just carry the minimum number of credit, debit, and identification needed. Just think if your wallet gets stolen what don’t you want people to have access to?

Technology

 

Keep it simple
Keep it simple

 

In this technology driven world it’s easy to pack a lot of expensive gadgets for a trip, but it’s also easy to get those things stolen. We live in an era where a lot of technology is redundant. Do you really need to pack a laptop, or tablet? Are you a professional photographer? Many cameras on smartphones are fantastic and they come GPS and wi-fi enabled.

In this age of social media many people are more concerned with others seeing their exploits than actually enjoying the moments themselves. I post travel photos on Instagram, but I travel for myself not for others. I started the site because I was getting so many request from people who wanted to see my work. From personal experience I discovered when you tote around a lot of expensive gear you spend the trip worrying something will happen to it or killing your back carrying it around. Simple, minimalist traveling is so much less stress. And if you forget to pack something it’s a good excuse to buy a souvenir.

Scams

All travelers can and will fall victim to scams. It happens even to the most experienced of travelers. Anytime your someplace new and out of your element it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Most of the time we are blissfully unawares.
If it seems like an amazing deal, then, yes it’s a scam! Nothing is ever free. Everyone out there is trying to make a living however they can.

• Porters will offer to carry a bag for you then ask for a tip or charge a fee.

• Condo companies that offer incentives for viewing a time share can be quite persuasive and time-consuming.

• If it’s not yours don’t use. Resort beach chairs and other amenities are for guests. If you use them and aren’t staying there you could incur a huge fee.

• Alcohol. Free drinks, cheap drinks, no prices on the drinks. Some places offer free drinks that turn out to be mostly ice served with super expensive food. Other places offer cheap food but don’t put prices on their twenty dollar cocktails. Always ask for prices before you order. better yet, if you can ask patrons coming out of establishments and ask them about their experience.

If your worried do things thru your hotel or ask a respectable local for advice. Travel agencies are a big help, but will pressure you to into buying things right away. Resist the urge and shop around before deciding.

Where to Stay

 

Australian’s love their vintage

 

I have nothing against staying in hostels, but as a single, often solitary traveler my family sleeps better at night knowing I’m safe. Being raised by conservative Midwest parents I’m not a frequent party goer. Drunken crowd makes me nervous. So traveling safely on a budget can be hard. Fortunately, sites like Trip Advisor have tons of cheap, clean, and safe local hotels and B&B for a reasonable price. For example, if you do trip advisor search for Maui you will see hotels listed for 400 a night, but you can rent a condo or B&B that have nice rooms and private bathrooms for 100 a night, which is a huge savings.

When to Eat

 

Chicken Foot Soup
Chicken Foot Soup

 

Food tips to help you cut corners and avoid dysentery.

Some cultures eat their big meal at midday. I’m certainly a huge fan of the café culture. Dinner menus can be incredibly expensive. I try to eat a big lunch, then pick up something small for dinner. Many fine dinning establishments have affordable lunch menus.
Eat local, try new foods, but use common sense. Not all street vendors were created equal. Look for well established, clean, vendors who are frequented by locals. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious. I try to avoid salads when in doubt and instead opt for stir fry or vegetable soups when I feel like being healthy.

Get An Early Start

 

 Big Falls, Belize
Big Falls, Belize

 

Frequently vacation is associated with an opportunity to relax and catch up on much needed rest. If I can, I like to take advantage of time changes. Being up early is the key to successful rural travel. Buses often start before the sun rises. An early start will also help you beat crowds and long lines, which is a life saver for those with social anxiety.

 

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