The Great Gaches love traveling. LOVE IT. And when I say love, I mean the kind of love that haves us stock piling away all of our savings so we can retire early and get to traveling full-time sooner. I suppose it’s how people look at their children; yes, they can be unpredictable, smelly, and at times, the worst, but you love them through all of it because you know at the end of the day, it’s all worth it for the beautiful memories.
Before we moved overseas, Daniel and I really made an effort to travel as much as we could within our financial constraints (Texas public school teachers aren’t exactly in the 1%), and from those travels we learned something new every trip. Now that we are overseas and leave the country almost every other month, Daniel and I have our traveling routine down to a science. So, as parents love to share child-rearing advice, I now share with you my sanity-saving traveling tips that have kept us from ending up like the film EuroTrip.
Booking flights & hotels early: I feel like this is an obvious one, but you would be surprised how many people I know wait until the last minute to book flights and lodging in hopes to get that crazy deal only to be stuck with an insanely expensive plane ticket and hotel. Booking early for the Gaches has always been our smartest first move because it gives us time to get the best seats on a plane, request a particular room or floor in a hotel and be likely to get it, and also give time for our family and friends to join us if they like. We usually start researching our flights about 7-8 months out, and then depending on where we are heading to, purchase them anywhere between 3-6 months before. Flights back home to the States get bought especially early because they fill up so fast with all the expats heading home in June. For trips in and around Southeast Asia, we usually book around 3-4 months before. Hotels come soon thereafter.
Stalk Trip Advisor: I can honestly say that 80% of our amazing travel experiences has been because either myself or Daniel took the time to do some research on Trip Advisor before checking a place or restaurant out. I know there are those travelers that are all about not planning, going with the flow, and traveling like a local, but I am not one of those people. When I travel, I am a tourist and I want the best experience every. single. time. Trip Advisor also ties in with your Facebook friends, and will have their recommendations from them pop up when you are searching a location, which is evil and genius. Besides spending time reading Trip Advisor reviews, I also write them every time I travel. In my opinion, it only makes sense to return the favor and send good travel karma vibes back out to the interwebs. You can read all of my reviews here.
Swear by Google Maps and Google Translate: These are my most-used apps on any vacation, period. Google Maps I use for mostly public transportation and walking routes, but there have been several times I’ve used to make sure cabbies aren’t taking me on a scenic to get more money from the trip. And obviously, traveling in Asia requires knowing a bit of the language, which I have none of. Knowing how to say something in a country’s language will make things move faster by leaps and bounds, and Google Translate has it down to a science now. Plus, it is a great way to connect with locals; every local I have used Google Translate with has been so pleased by the cleverness of the app, the exchange always happens with a smile on both of our faces.
Get data roaming or rent a cell phone: Oh man, did I really used to fight this one, especially when I lived in America. I cannot begin to tell you how having data service in a foreign country has completely revolutionized the way I travel. Before getting data roaming, I would obsess over where I could find wifi in order to get an idea of where I was or how to get to my next location, which can stress any traveler (and their spouse out). I would even go as far to download like 10 Google Maps of various routes for our next traveling day so I knew where to go. Now, I just pre-pay for data (it’s super easy in Singapore) and use my phone like I always would. I know cell phone rentals are popular in some countries too, so check it out. It will change your trip for the better.
Use public transportation: Don’t be afraid, people! Now with Google Maps, using public transportation has really never been easier. It is always the cheapest option (besides walking), and it’s such great people watching. I could spend hours on public transportation wondering about the passengers’ lives. It also really helps you get orientated quickly because you see everywhere you are going and also other ways to get there for the next trip. Each country has apps for their metro and buses, which I always make a point to download ahead of time and play with so I know which is the best way to get around. If you absolutely MUST have a car, there is a fantastic website called RelayRides that is like the AirBNB of car rentals. You search up cars in the area you are planning to visit, and can rent a car from a local for a far cheaper price than from the usual rental companies. They also have an airport rental option which is such a time saver.
Don’t be ashamed, check out a guide book: I know a lot of people have a problem with this one, but I love guide books. They have great information about all aspects of the city or country you are visiting, from history to demographics to translations. I even go further and will watch shows like Rick Steves’ Europe or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations because it’s great to have a visual to get excited about where you are going. Both are available on Hulu or to check out from your public library, so stop by the DVD section the next time you need to check out a travel book and see what’s there.
I hope you find these tips as helpful as I have! Everyone has their own way of traveling that suits them, and these tips have helped shape mine. Until next time, keep on traveling!