Having lived a travel-centric lifestyle for the last handful of years, I’ve learned a few tips along the way. My list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a list to get you thinking. There are so many secrets in the face of travel, they are endless. Here are a handful we have collected:
1. AirBnb Hosts
People who open up their homes, apartments, flats, lofts… are marvelous ambassadors of their cities. Utilize them. Generally, they have great recommendations for “Cheap Eats”, best transportation or best sites. And, say “YES” to extended invitations: a BBQ with a family in Kill Devil Hills (Kitty Hawk), happy hour on a patio in Boise, a personal tour by a Nebraska native, and my all time favorite, “YES” to bellying-up to the pot belly stove in the Big Blue Bus in New Orleans.
2. Insider Secrets
Here is a very cool secret: many companies extend travel benefits to fill weird niches. Let me explain. We have recently encountered two completely different companies offering amazing perks to their customers. One is AAA. I only learned recently – while reading fine print on the policy, instead of the cereal box – did you know, that if you have car trouble 100 miles from home, AAA will reimburse you for (some of) your food, lodging, rental car and other expenses? For our Premier plan – they would reimburse us up to $1,500.00!! Man, we could have easily use this benefit every year…if only we had known!
The other company was Turkish Airlines. Get this perk: if you are flying through Istanbul, have a layover of 6 hours or more, they will host a tourist excursion through Istanbul, including transfers, transportation, a meal or meals (a turkey dinner?),
and get you back to the airport in time to meet with your connecting flight. Isn’t that cool?!
Credit Card companies are another source of insider secrets. An example is American Express. I don’t own their card, however, their reputation for travel benefits are amazing – even replacing lost or stolen merchandise, as long as it was purchased using your American Express card.
3. SIM Cards
I LOVE my SIM cards. Oh, I love ’em. Originally believing there would be some sort of learning curve, or that I might lose my contacts, or all other sorts of frets, I’m here to tell you that purchasing a SIM card in another country is the LEAST expensive, most practical, and useful tool you have in your travel repertoire. My most recent purchase was in Spain – for 25€ (about $28US), I have 8GB of data, 800 local or international calling minutes, and a month to use it in Spain, Greece, France and Turkey (and several other countries, if needed.) The key to this travel secret is that you must own your phone. In other words, if you are making payments, this option is not available to you – your phone would be considered “locked.”
Also, I learned the hard way, for your electronic travel gadgets, make them easy to identify. Simply add a decal, cover, or monogram. Sure, if someone wants to steal it, that’s another story. But, if you want to make it easy to identify in a pool of other iPhones… Decals, baby.
4. Free Walking Tours
“Nothing is free,” you say.
And, you’d be correct.
Though the Free Walking Tours are a bit of a gimmick, you tip based on your experience at the end, I have found them to be an excellent way to orient myself in a new city, while gaining some historical insight. Guides will always make recommendations, but cross reference them by checking other resources.
You don’t want to dine at Uncle Antonio’s, because his nephew is a tour guide. In addition, walking tours allow you to network with other travelers, and build on their experiences. Sort of like the Hop-on-Hop-off buses, I’ve made fun of.
It will be uncomfortable though. Especially if it’s in a foreign language. I know so many people who would rather not ask. This holds especially true when it comes to directions. Just ask, already!
Seriously, asking permission to take a photo, asking if you can explore their rooftop terrace, asking for a sample, or even asking to be left alone! It’s all legit, and it’s a secret to your travel happiness.
My pointers on asking are: 1) Use the persons name if you can; 2) Introduce yourself, or give a greeting, before asking; 3) practice; 4) be prepared for “NO” and 5) always say thank you.
Recently, I’ve had a couple airline experiences where our flight was delayed. It seems flight attendants are more likely to offer a complimentary beverage in this situation. They don’t announce it, so you should be prepared to pay for the drink, but I think chances are good, you’ll be comped the drink. Just ask!
You Tell Me
Do you have any travel secret you’d be willing to share?