How I Travel – This is what works best for me.
TRAVEL LIGHT!!!! I can’t emphasize this enough. The more you have the harder it is to travel. Unless you are going on a year trip or sweat profusely you should be able to pack all you need in just a carry on suit case, and your personal item (I use a backpack). It’s alright to wear the same clothes over again…no one will judge. Plu,s you can do laundry in most places. My packing checklist.
Credit Card/Cash – I have saved a lot with non-foreign transaction fee credit cards. When I first started I saw that for every expense I had, a foreign transaction fee accompanied it, usually around 3%. This is when I realized how amazing credit cards without foreign transaction fees were. Currently I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve when traveling. Not only did I avoid these annoying added cost, I received points for every dollar spent for future travel.
If you prefer to use cash or just need a little bit for souvenirs, taxis, or whatever it may be, I highly recommend getting a
debit card with no ATM fees. We use Charles Schwab, as there is no fee or minimum balance necessary for having a checking account with them, and it has no foreign transaction fees as well. At the end of the month I am reimbursed for all ATM fees that were charged. When I first started traveling I was easily paying at least $5 in ATM fees, so I was playing the guessing game on how much money I would need for the rest of the trip. I wish I knew this much earlier, as I paid many fees to my bank for withdrawing money on a trip.
Hotels – As for hotels, they are mostly nice and convenient if you stick with the well reviewed ones. I have had some really shitty hotel stays, trying to save some money when I was younger. Hotels are nice because they usually have most of the conveniences and amenities you need, but I don’t really need to go into it all. You should always use TripAdvisor to look at reviews, I do think some establishments pay for some of their reviews, so you have to be careful and siphon through the reviews to the best of your abilities, especially the more recent ones. In terms of chains I have always been a fan of Starwood establishments as they have a large international foot print and they are owned by Marriott, effectively making them the largest hotel chain in the world. I’ve only had good experiences with them, but I only stayed at them for business travel, which no longer applies to me. Unless you are a huge credit card churner or a huge traveler who needs to be a top tier member of a chain to get upgrades, free internet, late check out and such, I really do feel sticking to Priceline, Hotels.com, or Expedia is the best option, as there are many other non major chain hotels that are just as nice, much cheaper, and are more personable. With Hotels.com, after 10 stays you get 1 free (avg. price value of your 10 stays). Essentially, this is 10% off, which isn’t too bad at all.
Airbnb – I’ve used airbnb a few times, and for the most part they weren’t too bad, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a great experience with it. It is nice to have a kitchen when you want to save money and prepare your own food, especially in expensive countries like Iceland. You have to be pretty self sufficient, as there isn’t a concierge/front desk to help guide you through the city or provide taxis and such, and you lose most of these amenities. Prices have really crept up since I first started using it, and sometimes it can be comparable to hotels. What bothers me about Airbnbs are the cleaning fees they charge and the laundry list of things you have to do before you leave (strip the bed, take out the trash, etc.). In the Almafi Coast, there were 5 different types of trash bins. It was a pain to sort out everything! Why am I paying a cleaning fee if I still have to do all this??? Maybe I am just unlucky or should review more Airbnbs before I choose one. I only stay at Airbnbs if the price difference is significant.
Hostels – I know hostels pretty well, as I’ve stayed at quite a few. I am not opposed to staying at hostels still as some are very nice and really inexpensive. For people on a tight budget, you can stay in a shared room for as low as $10, and most hostels have a kitchen so you can save even more money by cooking your own food. I rely a lot on reviews from Hostelworld, and choose the ones with a lot of reviews and high ratings. I have even stayed at a hostel with an indoor pool! Even if you are older, you don’t need to stray away from hostels, I’ve seen all ages there. Most hostels provide ensuite rooms, which have private bathrooms if you want more privacy. This is usually much cheaper than a hotel. Hostels are nice for solo travelers or small groups as you can easily meet others. Many of them coordinate daily and nightly events that gather other travelers together. Hostels usually offer free walking tours to difference sites. It’s a great way to explore the city without having to spend a fortune on private tours. I’ve met amazing people to explore the city with and go out at night to bars and clubs. I’ve built some great relationships and we still keep in contact with to this day.
Couchsurfing – I haven’t stayed with anyone using Couchsurfing, but have used it extensively to meet others while traveling. Its been quite life changing for me, meeting locals and seeing their country through their eyes. It helped me work on my social skills, and really put me out of my comfort zone. It has given me a far better experience than if I had not used it. I have met hundreds of people through Couchsurfing and only I’ve only had great experiences. If you do not feel comfortable meeting someone one on one, try looking at the events section for weekly couch surfing meetings. A lot of the major cities will have this. It is a great way to meet fellow travelers.
Transportation – It really depends how long you will be traveling. Obviously taxis/uber/lyft are usually the fastest and most convenient way to get around, but they can be very costly. If you do a little research before you travel, you can see if the city you are visiting has good public transportation. I am a fan of subways/trains, as they are usually inexpensive and gets me from point A to point B. It may take a little longer than car, but if you factor in traffic, it can sometimes be even quicker and more convenient. It all depends on your budget and how much time you think you can save. Getting from the city center is usually very expensive by taxi/uber/lyft. Most major airports have some sort of public transportation to get to the city for a fraction of the cost of a taxi, so I almost always use this option. Again, research this beforehand, wikitravel is very helpful with this.
Research – Wikitravel has been my go to site for all my travels. It’s extremely informative, and pretty much covers everything you need to prepare for most cities in the world. It gives nice details about the cities, how to get in/get around, what to do and see, what to buy, where to eat, sleep, and how to stay safe. It’s plain and simple.
Like most people, I use yelp and TripAdvisor for reviews on attractions, restaurants, tours, and whatever else I can find. I also love to look through other bloggers sites for their own personal experience in each city, as they sometimes get really in depth, and provide information that even wikitravel doesn’t provide. Expat blogger sites help too, as they give you a very in depth view of the city from a locals POV.