Travel tips

Appreciate what you see more by learning a bit of photography

I didn’t give a crap about photography. But then a family friend generously offered to give Kim and me some photography lessons last summer. Kim was keen and I agreed out of obligation, knowing I had to get better to improve this blog. The lessons were super fun, I got really into it, and I later discovered an unexpected side effect: Photography made our subsequent travels more enjoyable! I used to see something and think, “Cool… Now what next?” Now, I spend more time enjoying those sights. I consciously appreciate their light, color, texture, and composition, actively seek even more attractive angles, and relish the moment. And now, after our travels, Kim and I can relive and remember those moments more fondly than ever thanks to having more and better photos.

Make your travels more memorable by avoiding the temptation to count countries

As I wrote about here, I’ve learned that trying to visit as many countries as possible is like trying to have as many sexual partners as possible. The first time you travel to a different country is special. The next times are too, to a lesser extent. But, by the time you’ve visited a handful of countries, you stop counting, start confusing them and calling them by the wrong names, and start sounding douchey when bragging about it to others. Instead of racking up countries like notches on a bedpost, pick the ones you visit carefully and spend quality time getting to know them intimately.

Avoid starting your trip on a bad note by confirming the following

  • Have you saved the map to your phone for offline use? Our Google Maps tips post shows you how, plus a few other of our favorite tricks.
  • Do you know the exchange rate? Your chances of getting ripped off by taxis, currency exchange offices, and more skyrocket if you have no idea what the fair exchange rate is.
  • How are you getting to your hotel/Airbnb? Some cities, like our hometown of Vancouver, don’t have Uber. Others, like Playa del Carmen, are full of taxi drivers and tourist misinformation people out to rip you off.
  • Do you need an onward flight? Many countries, such as Costa Rica, Colombia, and South Africa, demand proof in the form of a plane ticket that you plan to leave the country. (We’ll share a tip for how to deal with this below.)

Get the most out of your trip by milking the planning process

The time spent planning and anticipating an upcoming trip is a gift that keeps on giving, so take advantage of it for all it’s worth:

  • Take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends who’ve been where you’re going before and can share tips while reliving their own fond memories. (Win-Win!)
  • Watch documentaries and movies related to where you’re going. Before moving to Colombia, we watched Colombia: Wild Magic on Netflix. It amped us up to explore lesser-known parts of the country.
  • Read books—both fiction and non-fiction—about your destination to get your imagination running. Before moving to South Africa, I read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and The Covenant by James Michener. Both taught me tons about the country’s history, which I appreciated a lot when I got there.
  • Enjoy the anticipation you haven’t felt since you were a kid waiting for Christmas. Book as far in advance as you can to get the most out of these benefits. And make sure to book your next trip as soon as you get home from the previous one!

Finally, wear sunscreen.

For as the Baz Luhrmann song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” goes: If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable Than my own meandering experience. There you have it! My top travel tips! Follow them and you’ll be the best traveler you can be in no time flat! Leave a comment below and add anything you think I missed!

Avoid TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is fine when you need opening hours or an address, but when it comes to reviews I ignore it completely. People always leave a negative review when something bad happens but rarely leave a positive review when something good happens so the reviews tend to be skewed. On top of that, it’s very easy to create fake reviews and make a place seem better than it is. Many hotels and restaurants hire firms to artificially inflate their reviews on the platform. Additionally, TripAdvisor has been known to take down reviews that are overly negative as well as reviews on sexual assault. Use TripAdvisor with caution. Or better yet, don’t use it at all.

The earlier you book, the cheaper the flights

Most flight companies release their flight schedule a year ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. There seems to be a sweet spot when it comes to booking flights, and that tends to be around 4-6 month mark. That's not to say that you can’t bag some great last minute deals! However if like us you like to be a little prepared when booking long haul flights, then this is a good guideline to aim for. Sure, you may be able to save a little more closer to the time, but you could also end up being forced to pay a lot more!

Pack a flashlight.

It will let you see at night, you avoid stepping on stuff, and help you tell ghost stories. Who’s afraid of the dark?

Eat at expensive restaurants during lunch.

Most expensive restaurants offer lunch specials featuring the same food they would serve for dinner but half the price! That’s the best time to eat out when you travel.

Locals don’t eat out every night and neither should you.

Go grocery shopping. You can learn a lot about locals’ diets by seeing the type of food they buy. Plus, it will save you a lot of money. You won’t regret it. Cook your food, save money, surprise yourself!