Lonely Planet writers spend weeks on the road seeking the world’s most memorable and intriguing spots. But our jobs are not just about mai tais and beachfront sunsets. Think lost luggage. Flat tyres. Food poisoning. Weird dudes on buses. Been there. Done that. But our mishaps aren’t for naught; we make the mistakes so you don’t have to.
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In the list below, we share 26 road-tested travel tips. As Bilbo Baggins famously warned, ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door’; follow this A to Z of timeless travel advice to keep the chaos to a minimum.
A is for… Angle for a seat at the bar. If you can’t score a dinner reservation at a trendy restaurant, sit at the bar instead. The full menu is often available, and the food is just as tasty from a bar stool. Bartenders and barflies can also be great sources of local information.
B is for… Beware Rocky Mountain Oysters in the American West. Better known as fried bull testicles, these delicacies aren’t from the sea. The same goes for unknowns on the menu elsewhere in the world… if you don’t know what it is, ask – or prepare your stomach for a culinary adventure.
C is for… Check opening hours before your visit. Many restaurants and small museums in Europe and the USA are closed on Mondays. Don’t screw up your itinerary because you didn’t check!
D is for… Download Guides by Lonely Planet. This handy city guide app puts a wealth of essential information, expert advice and easy-to-use offline maps in the palm of your hand.
E is for… Expect things to go wrong. Even the best-planned trips will be thrown off course by traffic jams, bad weather, road closures and so on. Have a backup plan and remember: misadventures make the best stories.
F is for… Filter your water. If you’re planning a backcountry hike with sketchy water sources, pack a Sawyer mini water filter (sawyer.com). Cheap, light and small, the filter screws onto most water pouches and bottles. It also removes harmful bacteria and protozoa like E. coli and giardia. Unlike iodine tablets, the filter is immediately effective and does not affect the taste.
G is for… Go it alone for an afternoon. Travelling with your boo? Split up if your interests diverge or if you’re stressing each other out. You’ll appreciate the time alone and have different adventures to share over dinner.
H is for… Heal yourself. Pack a basic medical kit with antibacterial ointment, antihistamines (for hay fever and allergic reactions), aspirin, plasters, blister pads, ibuprofen, and sunscreen.
I is for… Insurance. Health-wise, make sure you have coverage for medical emergencies and treatment. Confirm that your destination is included in the coverage. Also consider coverage for lost or stolen luggage, and trip cancellation.
J is for… Join hotel rewards or loyal customer programs. You’ll earn points towards free stays. Perks may include free wi-fi or occasional room upgrades.
K is for… Keep a portable battery charger and cord in your daypack during day-long adventures. If you use your mobile phone as your primary camera, you’ll burn through battery power quickly. Some chargers double as small flashlights.
L is for… Layer your clothing. Unless you’re travelling to a very cold destination, don’t wear heavy coats and bulky sweaters. Both take up too much room in your luggage. Layer up as needed with lighter jackets and tops.
M is for… Message a friend before a solo adventure. Yes, escaping the world may be your goal, but let someone know your destination if you are exploring the wilds by yourself.
N is for… Negotiate the rate quoted by a hotel when making a reservation by phone or in person. You’ll often get a lower price just by asking if any discounts are available.
O is for… Open your mind on a ghost tour. If you’re in a quaint small town with a ghost tour – take it. It’s a fun way to learn about a community’s past and its quirkiest characters. Side benefits may include exercise, learning the layout of a city and a good scare.
P is for… Park your car off-site. Hotel parking fees in large cities can run as high as 20% of the cost of the room. Check overnight rates at parking garages near your hotel, which are often lower.
Q is for… Quit an over-packed schedule. Feeling stressed because you’re behind schedule on a busy day of sightseeing? Ditch the last stop and enjoy what’s in front of you.
R is for… Roll your clothes when packing them. Rolling shirts, skirts, jeans and other casual clothing frees up space in your luggage and prevents wrinkles.
S is for… Save money with an America the Beautiful Pass if you’re planning to visit several US national parks. Buy the $80 annual pass (or $10 senior pass) for admission to most federal parks and recreation sites.
T is for… Tie a bandana to the outside of your suitcase or backpack to distinguish it from lookalikes at baggage claim.
U is for… Understand local customs. Brush up on local etiquette before you leave. Clothing, photography, gestures – all can trip you up!
V is for… Verify passport and visa requirements before booking your trip. Some countries require that you travel at least six months ahead of your passport’s expiration date.
W is for… Write notes in a journal. Write down the details of your travel highlights… quirky people you met, favourite places you went. It’s amazing how much you’ll forget even a few days later.
X is for… Xerox your passport and travel insurance documents. Keep the photocopies in a separate bag from the originals. As an extra precaution, email scanned copies of these documents to yourself then store offline – you can print them anywhere.
Y is for… Yellow Fever certificate. This serious mosquito-borne disease occurs in Africa and South America. Nearly all affected countries require proof of vaccination before they allow travellers to enter, so seek medical advice before you go.
Z is for… Zip it into a clear plastic bag. Keep toiletries, power cords and undergarments in separate bags. Makes it easier to find things in a hurry.