I recently returned from a 16 day trip to Germany. While traveling is fun, it does have some pitfalls. Here are some hacks that help me maximize my travel experience. I also included some lessons learned.
Booking a flight
I love Google Flights as it shows me the best days to travel and suggests alternate airports for even better rates. I recently ended up with a round-trip Chicago to Berlin on Lufthansa (one of the best airlines!) for $520. Probably the cheapest I have ever flown overseas.
Find some fun to do
If you are looking for some quick fun check out Tripadvisor or Viator. I always cruise Tripadvisor for the best things to do and located my surf camp in Hawaii on the site. I found and booked my trip to the Grand Canyon and my Shark Dive with Viator. And all those were amazing adventures.
Airbnb is hands-down the best way to stay somewhere. You get access to a local person (the host) and you usually can stay somewhere cheaper than a hotel, with more amenities like access to a kitchen, a living room, maybe even a garden or a patio. Its possible to find very unique living arrangements, like a treehouse, a TinyHouse, a lake house, etc.
If I stay in a city with great public transportation or bad parking I will usually Uber/Lyft in combo with the public transit. Uber and Lyft work really well, in some countries they may not be allowed at all (e.g. Germany). So check the country you are going to on what alternatives you have. If you book with Airbnb, that is a great question to ask your host! What I like with Uber, is that I usually know the price in advance. If I want to be more independent I will rent a car. To save some money on longer-term car rentals, try an off-airport car rental location, it may save you a couple hundred dollars.
In Europe try the Euro Rail multi-country passes if you are planning to travel to multiple countries. Book in advance if possible, as they only have a limited number of seats available. Otherwise, you may be better off flying. Spontaneous booking could cost you quite a bit of money. I took the ICE from Berlin to Stuttgart and it cost me $250, while others got deals months earlier for $59.
While paying with credit card is ok in western Europe in most place (Mastercard preferred) its advised to have some cash on hand. Get some from your bank before traveling. Make sure to notify your bank and credit card company, so they don’t lock your card while you are on the road with a fraud alert.
Have plenty of coins especially in Germany in case you need to use a restroom. Stores usually don’t have public restrooms.
Make sure you check with your cell provider and get an international plan before you leave. While it usually is cheaper if you need to make a call, the data limits are very low and very easy to exceed. Or sometimes easier is to take an old phone with you, where you can add a SIM card. Otherwise, it can get pretty expensive if you forget to turn off data and voice roaming. I ended up with a $200 bill a few years ago.
The internet seems to be harder to get by. Coffee shops, airports, bigger train stations and high-speed trains have internet but data usage is often limited. Hotels and Airbnb should have a better internet connection, but make sure to check.
Things I like to take
I love to take my Aeropress, some essential oils, a good travel charger, and my GoPro.
Things I do on travel days
I often order gluten-free airplane meals if available, or take things like hardboiled eggs, cut-up fruit, jerky, nuts. I make a big effort to drink plenty of water and stay away from sugar and caffeine to minimize the jet lag and it helps me feel great during and after traveling. If you are traveling frequently, maybe check into the TSA pre-approval process, where you can skip the lines at the airport and don’t have to unpack your carry-on luggage.
This year I got an immune booster shot (vita c and b-complex) to avoid getting sick and it helped tremendously with the jet lag to be non-existent. In the past, I would usually fight the jet lag it for 5 to 7 days after returning and get sick on top of it. So for sure a win-win!