When you’ve been traveling full-time for almost two years and part-time ever since your first international trip at age 17, you pick up a tip or two.
Whether you’re traveling by air or by car, here are some of my top tips for digital nomads and long-term travelers. Read on… I guarantee you’ll learn something!
To work online and live more effectively while traveling:
- Travel with a power extension cord. It’s so simple, but I’ve found most Airbnbs and hotels ALL across North America do not have enough plugs for the super-connected, multi-gadget owner.
- If you’re at a loss and need good WiFi, look for a coworking space to rent for a day. Many of them are dog-friendly if you’re with a pup!
- If the WiFi is weak where you are (and sometimes it will be), get a mobile hotspot as a backup.
- When you travel internationally, some websites and functionality will be blocked in certain countries. Invest in a VPN to mask your IP address.
- A multi-country power adapter; so you can plug in your devices in Europe, the UK, Asia, Australia, and beyond all from one.
- Given the choice, choose an unlocked cell phone — meaning the device is not restricted to one carrier — so you can purchase SIM cards and data as you travel to other countries (which is going to be a lot cheaper than the ‘international plan’!).
- On that note, if possible, purchase your phone through the store vs. through your carrier so you are not on contract and locked in to a service agreement for two years (I purchase all my iPhones from the Apple store instead of AT&T for greater flexibility).
- I ask bartenders/servers not to open my beer or hard seltzer, and to bring it to me sealed. I also never leave a mixed drink unattended.
- If traveling by car, take bear spray. It’s like mace; it works on bears AND aggressive men. (Not allowed in carry on luggage during air travel).
- Turn on and share your location (through your cell phone) with some trusted individuals. On Apple, it’s the Find my Friends app; my location is always being shared with my family.
- Most mobile devices (and the Apple Watch!) have a 911 shortcut. Fun fact, did you know, if you call “911” from a GSM cellular phone when you’re in another country, the satellites are typically smart enough to route to whichever the 911 equivalent is there? But just in case, know the emergency number wherever you are traveling.
- Limit night driving and driving in unpopulated or un-touristy areas.
- Don’t walk, run, or hike with earbuds or headphones in so you’re able to hear what’s going out around you.
- Always download the offline map to your device, just in case you lose cell service. I have hundreds of maps downloaded for months of travel.
- Bring backup portable charging devices for your cell phone when out hiking or away from electricity sources.
- For road-trippers, a dash cam for recording the road — I own this one for recording my drive in Mexico — which can be used as evidence in case of accidents. You can also turn it into a time lapse to show friends how far you’ve come!
Traveling on a budget and saving money:
- Don’t pay an ATM fee of $5 or more every time you need cash. Get an ATM fee-free debit card, and set up electronic transfers between your regular checking account and your ATM debit account whenever your cash fund is getting low.
- In a foreign country with foreign currency, decline the currency conversion. Your home bank will give you a better rate than the one the ATM offers.
- Don’t pay a 1.5-3% foreign transaction fee on purchases outside the U.S. Get a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Card that includes free travel insurance, accrues points, and has no foreign transaction fees.
- Speaking of the Chase Sapphire Card, it comes with a free DoorDash DashPass membership, saving you on food delivery fees.
- When ordering food delivery, order an adult meal and add on a kids’ meal. Kids’ meals are usually discounted, simpler, but still good. Sometimes, I also add my own toppings; instead of swallowing the $2 to $7 upcharge for protein, I buy staples like canned salmon or frozen edamame at Costco and add protein at home to noodles or salad.
- When dining out, seek out restaurants with happy hour (or reverse happy hour) to save on appetizers and drinks. And take your leftovers to-go for tomorrow!
- In tight spaces like hotel rooms, traveling with (and grocery shopping for) a crockpot or air fryer can be a great help.
- If you’re looking for something a little more elaborate and a little less costly than dining out, consider a meal delivery membership. I’ve had meal delivery/cook-at-home kits delivered to my Airbnb rentals in the states— gourmet, home cooked meals (with all the required spices and ingredients!) tend to average $10 a portion.
- Sometimes, restaurants will offer a discount on your first bill when you sign up for their email list. I have an email address I use just for promotions so my inbox doesn’t clog up. The $5 to $10 off coupons are definitely worth it.
- Always check your credit card websites/portals for coupons or cashback deals. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on purchases.
- Why pay for an Audible subscription when you can download audiobooks from the library for free? “Check out” books through the Overdrive app; it links to your home library. Search books and find a library here.
- On that note, many library memberships (including mine) allow you to download 5 songs per month — if you want to forego Spotify’s recurring fees!
- Do the math carefully when considering a rental like Airbnb vs. a hotel. Review my guide here.
- When you travel full-time, expenditures can vary wildly from city to city, state to state, and country to country. Keep track of your spending with the free budget tracking tool, Mint.
Style, fashion, and packing:
- This one’s for the backpackers…. sample size beauty products! I like Sephora, Target, and Birchbox. And while we’re on the subject… child-size brushes and makeup applicators can save a lot of space in your cosmetic bags.
- No room in luggage for a curler and blow-dryer? Create electricity-free curls with flexible foam curling rods: simply wrap sections of hair around the flexible rod, and twist the ends into a knot.
- Instead of bringing your entire bathroom with you, shop for non-speciality products when you arrive to your destination — shampoo, conditioner, and body wash is available nearly all around the world. This saves room in your bag for Trader Joe’s face oil and other hard-to-find faves (is it only me?).
- Since when have you EVER seen enough hangers at a hotel or Airbnb? I bring my own velvet lay-flat hangers for easy retrieve-and-hang when unpacking my suitcase.
- I also bring over-the-door hooks for hanging up jackets and sweatshirts.
- A rubber sink-stopper for quick DIY hand wash laundry in your hotel room sink.
While traveling with a dog:
- Collapsible dish for water when out and about: hook it via carabiner on your backpack or handbag.
- Hands-free leash: This durable leash clasps around your waist and allows you to have your hands-free when walking or running with your dog.
- Waste bags! I never leave home without them. Don’t be that pet owner!
- An umbrella can double as a shade-maker for your pup to sleep under during a sunny day at the park or beach.
- Consider a pet wellness plan like Banfield. Through Penny’s monthly membership, we can go to any Banfield in the U.S. for vaccinations, teeth cleaning, and flea and tick, and they keep track of all her vaccination history.
Meeting people and making friends while traveling:
- I make it known to my community (friends, family, followers) that I’m open to connect as I move around to new destinations (which I talk about publicly on my blog and Instagram channel). Everybody knows somebody somewhere, it seems! Some of my best and newest friends started as friends of friends, who committed only to showing a nomadic girl around or having a meal but we ended up clicking.
- Walking tours: a great place to meet other travelers in a new city, not to mention a great way to get acclimated to your destination… and a lot of times they’re free (but leave a tip!). Check out my favorite free walking tour aggregator.
- Dating apps. I’m single, so no surprise, I’m on the dating apps. Although I don’t date in every city due to limited time, competing priorities, or conversations that start late, I’ve still met a lot of great guys as I’ve been traveling.
- Facebook groups. A place for like-minded people to connect, get advice, and contribute answers to others’ questions? That’s Facebook groups! I’m in a variety of groups — on subjects such as women travelers, national parks, and financial independence — and I often solicit advice about the journey I’m on. Those online conversations sometimes lead to I-R-L outings!
- Go do the things you like to do, and along the way, you’ll be acquainted with people that like the same thing: like an art class, karaoke, live music, or salsa dancing! (Need help finding an event? Check Facebook Events or the city guide!)
- Just…. introduce yourself! “Where are you from?” is a pretty standard opening line of mine, especially if I’m in a place among fellow travelers. Travel is always easy to talk about! I’ve made a number of friends on buses, at restaurants, and in line at the museum.
The perfect travel itinerary:
- Research! There’s a wealth of information out there. For travel books, I like Lonely Planet (through the eBook library, of course) because I’m detail-oriented; I also consult blogs and I search within travel-related Facebook groups for first-hand information.
- Perhaps the quickest research mechanism is searching “Things to Do” on Google Maps… you get photos, phone numbers, reviews, and hours of operation immediately at your fingertips, oftentimes ranked in order of popularity!
- But don’t plan every minute… leave some room for spontaneity. Talk to locals and other travelers when you get to a place and go with how you feel rather than locking yourself into a rigid itinerary.
Thoughts or additional recommendations for my readers? Leave a comment!