As a professional full-time travel blogger, I get a lot of inquiries from my readers looking for travel tips and advice. Most of them refer to me as a “travel goddess” or “the female Rick Steves” and they typically end with something like “why don’t you have a show on the Travel Channel yet?” And to all of that I say, yes.
But I didn’t always have the words “travel expert” on my resume in large, bold, italic, underlined letters. You may not realize this, but during our year-long honeymoon, Jeremy and I actually made a LOT of silly mistakes. How naive we were! How accident-prone and clumsy! Obviously that’s all in our past and definitely not just indicative of who we truly are at our very cores.
So now that we’ve grown into mature post-honeymooners, I wanted to write a tongue-in-cheek post featuring a few of our favorite travel tips. Er, sorry: our favorite TERRIBLE travel tips. Some of these are based on our own misguided decisions, and others are inspired from beloved friends, travel companions, and family members that we’ve had the misfortune of traveling with.
Let’s all put our tongues firmly in our cheeks – yes, there you go, push that wad of gum out of the way, that’s it – and get started. And remember, dear readers, please do not try any of these at home.
Psst: looking for legitimately useful travel tips? We’ve got those, too. Here’s a few posts you can check out that we swear are ACTUALLY helpful.
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft while Traveling
- How to Plan a Trip: Practical Travel Planning Tips
- How to Be a More Responsible Tourist
- The Best Credit Card for International Travel (& Why I’ll Never Travel Without It Again)
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Terrible Travel Packing Tips
1. Roll your clothes instead of folding them so you can pack 3x more than you actually need.
You’ll reduce wrinkles, feel incredibly productive, and most importantly, fit a LOT more useless stuff into your suitcase or backpack. When you roll your clothes, you can cram entire outfits that you definitely don’t need into a very small space.
If you can roll tight enough, you just might able to double your overall backpack weight AND the amount of clothes you definitely won’t wear during your trip! Go on … take that 5th pair of shoes.
2. Sneak clothes into your travel partner’s bag when they’re not looking.
Once you’ve stuffed every inch of your own suitcase or backpack, you might find yourself without a place to pack your hair straightener, makeup bag, favorite books, childhood teddy bear, Dirndl, and drone.
When your partner’s back is turned, tuck a bunch of your stuff underneath the stuff in THEIR suitcase. Hide it really good, so that they’re like “weird, I ran out of room and I haven’t even packed all of my clothes yet,” and then you can tsk tsk disapprovingly at them. This is especially satisfying if they made fun of YOU for over-packing. So hypocritical!
3. Bring travel-sized portable versions of your favorite home appliances.
When’s the last time your hotel room had a portable juicer? Exactly. Committing to a lifestyle of health and fitness isn’t easy when you travel, but don’t let it derail your progress.
Not currently on the health and fitness train? No worries! Pack this Easy Bake Oven – yep, like the one from your childhood – so you can make tiny travel-sized cookies and baked goods from the comfort of your hotel room!
For a full list of our favorite unnecessary travel products, click here.
Awful Tips for Planning Your Trip
4. Bring old, barely functioning flip phones on international trips instead of your fancy, functioning smart phones.
Everyone knows that people in other countries are THIRSTY for your 5-year old iPhone, so leave it at home just to be safe. You’ll get by just fine with that Nokia phone from the 90’s. Nobody will steal it, and you’ll never be tempted to take it out on the street to look for directions, use the internet, take a photo, or other ridiculous unnecessary things that just INVITE theft.
5. Before your trip, print out all of the directions you’ll need from Google Maps or Mapquest.
I actually inherited this travel tip from my mom, who is still Mapquest’s #1 best customer. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll know exactly how to get to your hotel thanks to the handy instructions you already printed for yourself – you’re SO organized! You’ll need to carry along a giant stack of papers every where you go, so make sure you have space in your bag for a 3-ring binder.
Another benefit of printing your directions is that when you inevitably get lost, you can easily retrace your steps. You’ll also share an authentic interaction with a local who you’ll need to ask for help. Trust me: never once will you miss your Smartphone!
6. Avoid any countries that don’t have an excellent relationship with the USA, or that has been involved in a war in the last 30 years.
It doesn’t matter if the conflict is over, the scenery is stunning, and the food is incredible – those places just aren’t SAFE. What might those people DO to an innocent US citizen like you?!
No, no, best to stick to destinations where you KNOW you’ll be welcome, like Canada, the UK, and Russia. And as of very recently, North Korea!
7. Base your travel plans on TV and movies.
Who hasn’t watched Eat, Pray Love or Under the Tuscan Sun and immediately purchased plane tickets?! I mean, we never would have fallen in love with Portland if it weren’t for Portlandia, which is an excellent and accurate guide to the city.
Traveling primarily to places you’ve seen on TV will help you know exactly what to expect – you won’t have any unrealistic expectations.
8. Memorize a few basic phrases in the local language, but be sure to pronounce them as poorly as possible.
This both demonstrates that you’re the type of considerate traveler who bothered to crack open a phrase book, and also significantly increases the likelihood that locals will take pity on you and speak English.
9. Double book all of your travel.
Going from one city to the next? You’ll want to make ABSOLUTELY SURE you’re covered, so book multiple options. You’ll have the flexibility of deciding whether you want to fly, take a bus, or train to your next destination, or just spend the whole day argueing with the refund agent on the phone instead.
Bonus Tip: Don’t tell your spouse what you booked – the surprise will add excitement to your marriage!
10. Skip buying travel insurance.
Travel insurance is such a RACKET! When has anyone ever needed to go to a doctor overseas, or cancel their trip for a family emergency, or had a flight delayed for over 8 hours?! Nobody, that’s who. World Nomads is probably making out like BANDITS. Save your money and spend it on something REALLY useful, like a tie-dye t-shirt with your name on it and some bandaids. Not sure if travel insurance is worth it? We’ve got a detailed guide to travel insurance that will help you decide.
11. Schedule out every waking minute of your trip in advance.
You don’t want to waste a single second of your exciting adventure sitting around Googling “things to do in Paris,” do you?! NO! That’s for inexperienced travelers and flakes, which you are NOT.
You’ve got a schedule to keep, and absolutely nothing will deter you from following it TO THE LETTER! As a bonus, your minute-by-minute itineraries will also come in handy later as an outline for a blog post, guide book, or thesis.
Bad Advice for Avoiding Theft When You Travel
12. Use a tripod to take pictures of yourself.
Everyone knows that selfie sticks are an irritating, idiotic Millennial habit, like eating avocado toast and taking out student loans. No wonder none of us can afford to buy houses. Also, you left your Smartphone safely at home, so you’ll need to bring an actual camera anyway.
To deter the thieves lurking around every corner, tie a steel cable (like this one) around your tripod and lock it to your own leg or arm, so that the thief is mildly inconvenienced and/or subject to your screams of outrage as they attempt to run off with your PERSONAL BELONGINGS.
13. If you rent a car, ask to be upgraded to the biggest, flashiest car available.
Sure, you might be a moving target for thieves and corrupt policemen, and you won’t be able to fit into any parking spots. And at some point, you may find yourself with a broken taillight stuck in a medieval castle in France … or something.
But this is your VACATION, so treat yo’self! Oooh, Cheryl from work is gonna be sooooooo jealous.
14. Keep your valuables in a fanny pack.
Passports, credit cards, your flip phone, photos of your cat, and your class ring should all go in a fanny pack tied firmly around your waist. Any thieves looking to take advantage of you will have to engage in hand-to-hand combat in order to get to your stuff.
Plus, chances are that the fanny pack alone will be enough of a theft deterrent. Nobody wants to steal from someone wearing a fanny pack. Especially this one. *shudder*
15. Have the full value of your student loans printed on all of your clothes to deter thieves.
This is a clever tactic that not many people think of, but it’s HIGHLY effective. Once a would-be thief realizes that you’re walking around with $126,485 of debt from a for-profit art school hanging over your head, they’ll feel so sorry for you that they just might give YOU money.
If you can’t afford custom printed clothing or this t-shirt, just tearfully recite the number by heart to any muggers or thieves. Shouting it at their back as they run away may not get them to turn around, but they’ll probably feel REALLY guilty.
The Worst Money-Saving Travel Tips1
16. Stop by a grocery store for sandwich supplies instead of eating out.
It’s always fun to see what quirky foods international grocery stores have – marmite?! What the heck is that?! – but don’t buy any of them. Instead, pick up white bread, jelly, and whatever looks like it might be peanut butter, or maybe some packages of bologna and American cheese. You’ll save a TON of money and won’t need to go out of your comfort zone to try any weird local foods!
17. Haggle with everyone about absolutely everything.
Haggling is common literally everywhere in the world except for the USA, and it’s perfectly acceptable to negotiate pricing with every taxi driver, waiter, shop owner, and hotel concierge that you meet.
Be aggressive and don’t take no for an answer! You KNOW they’re making a killing off of gullible tourists by charging them inflated prices to account for the fact that tourists have a stronger and more stable currency and can afford a higher cost of living.
It doesn’t matter if you’re comfortable paying the price they quoted in the first place because it’s still incredibly cheap compared to what you’re used to – it’s the principal of the thing! Why pay $20, which you can absolutely afford and might buy their family food for a whole month, when you can pay $2 and feel like you WON!?
18. If you’re traveling long term with a romantic partner, book hostel dorms for your entire trip.
You’ll save money and REALLY amp up the sexual tension, which you won’t be able to address for the duration of your trip. When you eventually make it back home, you’ll appreciate one another so much more! Plus, it will be a great anecdote for parties: “we spent our first year of marriage sleeping separately in dorm rooms with 8 other people!” Ha ha ha, so quirky!
That said: if you do splurge on a private room, definitely spring for the ensuite. Sure, it’s an extra $50 a night and nobody will come to clean it for the duration of your stay, but you’ll be saving 10 whole steps to the shared bathroom down the hall. Plus, you’ll never have to interact with anyone!
19. Shop for souvenirs at the airport.
This is the best place to get authentic, fairly-priced crafts made by local artists. Plus, everything will have the name of the place you visited on it, so you can proudly start conversations about your trip with everyone back at home. Especially Cheryl, who flashes around her Turks & Caicos keychain like it’s a 50 carat wedding ring.
Bad Ideas to Try During Your Trip
20. Tackle some really difficult hikes during your trip that you would never do at home.
Everyone knows that people who travel a lot are in terrific shape. Spending a few weeks or days or hours traveling will quickly transform your body into the 6-packed ab warrior that you’ve always wanted to be, and suddenly a 3-day self-guided hike through the Andes will be absolutely no problem at all. #YOLO!
21. Plan to wake up several hours before sunrise and do yoga every day.
Travel you is going to be your BEST SELF EVER! Once you smell that fresh ocean air, you’ll forget how comfortable your bed is and how you’ve never once been able to wake up before 10am unless you’re being paid for it. You’ll also suddenly develop an incredible amount of flexibility and inner peace. Ahhh, travel.
22. Expect everywhere you go to be exactly the same as it is at home.
Whether it’s shaking hands with someone you’ve just met or throwing your toilet paper into the toilet even though there are signs everywhere that explicitly tell you not to, just live your life as if you’re at home and not in a completely different country.
One thing that really helps is to stick to visiting chains that you recognize from home. My dad, for example, is an expert at ordering exactly the same drink at Starbucks no matter what state or country he’s in (4 shots of espresso and hot water in a grande cup, with a cup of ice on the side and 3 packets of Splenda. This is, sadly, not an exaggeration. That is his actual drink order. Now you all know why I’m so extra).
23. To experience local flavors and foods, just visit your favorite fast food restaurants.
Did you know that you can get green tea Blizzards in Thailand? Or that McDonald’s in India serves a spicy paneer wrap? That’s right: you can experience exciting, authentic local food all in the comfort of a familiar place! Who needs street food!? Trying the Dry Pork & Seaweed Doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts in China is fun, exciting, and will make a great story for later. Cheryl is NEVER going to believe this.
There is one glaring exception, though. Thorough, scientific research has been done, and at least 2 travel experts agree: Taco Bell tastes exactly the same everywhere in the world. Look, do we really need to tell you why we know this to be a fact? It just is. Trust us.
Appalling Advice for After Your Trip
24. Edit the sh*t out of all of your photos before putting them on Instagram.
Who cares that you had a great time and really enjoyed yourself if you didn’t look like a celebrity the entire time? What matters isn’t what you did, it’s what other people think of what you did. So don’t put ANYTHING on social media until you’ve edited out every stretch mark, made yourself look more “tan,” tamed your flyaway hair, and whitened your teeth using the magic of Lightroom or Photoshop.
Then, write really vague photo descriptions that make it sound like you were bored the whole time, like “another day another flight #alwaystraveling.”
25. Assume your position as the foremost travel expert on anywhere that you visited, even if you were only there for a few days.
It doesn’t matter that you only visited Paris for 48 hours and didn’t venture away from what Google said were the “top 10 most visited attractions in Paris,” you are now THE resident Paris expert. Anyone you know who might be considering visiting Paris should come to YOU for advice. If you see that someone is in Paris or visited Paris on Facebook and they didn’t consult with you first, you are right to be offended.
Similarly, if you have a blog, you are fully entitled to create a post titled something like “Paris Ultimate Guide.” No, it doesn’t need to be long, or comprehensive, or informative. What do you think this is, Lonely Planet? 500 words and 35 photos of you in front of the Eiffel Tower will do just fine.
Go on, admit it … you’re guilty of one of these. Or maybe you’re like us and guilty of the vast majority of them.
Which ones made you laugh, which ones made you question your life choices, and which ones made you think “oh my GOD, that is definitely someone I know?” Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Do you think we’re like, kinda funny, sort of? Here are some more posts you might like!
- 25 Things We Never Asked for from Traveling the World for a Year
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Traveling While Fat
- What Not to Pack for Long Term Travel: 10 Things We Wish We Did & Didn’t Pack
- 28 Totally Unnecessary Travel Gifts (That You’ll Low-Key Want)
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