When it comes to traveling, the best motto is probably “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” It’s really easy to overwhelm yourself by packing too many things, or making too many plans. But I’ve found the best trips are the ones that are well-conceived but leave a little time for spontaneous fun. There are little things you can do to make the most out of your travel experience — whether you’re going to the next city over, or around the world. After the jump, 26 travel tips that’ll help you get the most out of your next vacation. 1. Flying somewhere? Check in online so you don’t have to wait in line at the airport. And while we’re on airport tips…
2. Wear slip-ons on your flight. They’re more comfortable and they’re easier to get on and off in the security line.
3. Put anything spillable inside a plastic bag–even if it’s closed–just in case it leaks. Liquids will always find a way of leaking onto your favorite shirt if you let them.
4. Call your bank before traveling abroad and find out what banks you can use without getting charged extra exchange fees.
5. And call your phone company and find out if they offer special rates for international data plans (having a map on your phone can definitely come in handy!) where you’re traveling.
6. If you’re going to rent a car while traveling abroad, make sure to check whether the cars in that country are all manual or automatic. There’s nothing worse than getting to the rental place and realizing that you don’t actually know how to drive stick.
7. Always pack a small bag to throw your dirty underwear into.
8. Keep a bag packed and ready with travel toiletries that you only use when traveling. That way, if you forget it, you’re not missing anything you’d need in your day to day life anyway.
9. Always check the info for a hotel online to see if they have free wifi or they make you pay for it. They always advertise that they have wifi, but check the fine print.
10. Write the names and addresses of hotels down on paper in case your phone isn’t working when you arrive somewhere and need to get in a cab.
11. Make sure you have a change of clothes in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost.
12. Keep your passport on your person at all times. It’s not fun to get that shit stolen.
13. Learn to love solid perfume because it travels really well.
14. Do some research and find out what local alternative weeklies run in the city you’re visiting. You can find out about great local events, shows and gallery exhibitions you might otherwise miss.
15. When in doubt, eat at busy restaurants. If the locals are going to bother going to it, it must be halfway okay.
16. Learn the local tipping culture. Tipping is sometimes more, sometimes less and in some places, totally verboten.
17. Keep separate compartments in your luggage for everything — toiletries, undewear, shirts, etc. That way, you’re less likely to leave something in the hotel room.
18. Many airports now have “Buy it and return it” book stores, where you can purchase a paperback, read it and then return it and get half the value on the book back. Consider this to help lighten your load.
19. Travel snacks, travel snacks, travel snacks! Always keep a granola bar or some dried fruit in your bag, in case of a surprise case of “the hangries.”
20. Don’t be a hooligan: learn the local drinking culture. For example, in Barcelona, you’re totally permitted to drink outside, but people generally don’t get totally crazy with it. Just because you can get shit wasted and climb all over historical statues doesn’t mean you should.
21. Get your museum schedule straight. It’s a total bummer when you block out a chunk of time to go to museums only to find out that the museums in your particular destination are all closed on Mondays. Similarly, many cities have weekly free or reduced fare hours, so find out when those are and if they fit into your travel schedule.
22. Do as the locals do, transportation wise. There’s nothing better than renting bikes in Amsterdam, and nothing easier than taking the immense, advanced subway in Tokyo.
23. They might not look super cool, but pack a pair of walkable shoes. You’re not going to care too much about looking pretty when your feet are bleeding from trying to traverse a city in wedges.
24. Sunscreen. Chances are, you’re going to be spending more time outside than you normally would. You can get mega-sunburned even if you’re not trying, so slather up before heading out the door.
25. Learn the exchange rate. I don’t know about you, but I have a bad tendency to treat foreign currency like it’s Monopoly money. It’s not. It’s real money, that costs you money! So learn the exchange rate so you can get a rough idea of what you’re spending. Remember: It really does all come out of your bank account! Really, really!
26. Take pictures, but also put your camera away. We live in a media saturated world, where people seem to think that if they don’t take a picture of it, they weren’t really there. But do you want to experience your whole trip from behind the lens of a camera? Leave it in your pocket sometimes. I promise, your brain will remember the experience just as well.