Just because something is classic advice doesn’t mean it’s good advice.
Travel trends can change overnight, and yet the advice dispensed across the globetrotting community doesn’t always keep up with the times. Some claims still hold merit or have morphed and been reframed to advise today’s traveler. But other well-intentioned wisdoms and share-worthy hacks have been passed along and lauded by everyone from guidebooks to that-friend-just-back-from-abroad. Own your trip, and think twice before you subscribe to these classic travel tips.
Quash Travel Anxiety by Pre-Planning Your Whole Trip
Travel anxiety is more common than you think—and this urge to follow a rigidly pre-designed itinerary has kept travel agents in business for decades. But according to research in the journal Tourism Analysis, this temptation could be costing you money, opportunities, and even manifest additional anxieties en route. Approaching a new destination with a flexible mindset and itinerary allows you to source better deals on-the-ground and follow unexpected recommendations you encounter along the way. This flexibility can also help mitigate stress that can arise, like weather conditions that clash with your pre-planned route. Strive to strike balance ahead of your trip: plan just enough to make sure you’re comfortable and excited—like your choice accommodation on arrival or that trek or tour you’re dying to take—without holding yourself to an itinerary so tight there’s no room for exploration.
Skip the Touristy Sites
Tourism is going through an identity crisis. Traveler friends report back how their visit to “tourist traps” like the Mona Lisa or Angkor Wat was overcrowded and underwhelming, validated by web-driven discussion glorifying today’s modern “off-the-beaten-path” traveler. But such landmarks are iconic for a reason; they are a crucial component to a destination’s identity and how its history and culture has been forged over time. It’s all about your approach. Site-seeing for Instagram’s sake is likely to lead to disappointment, but learning about and understanding why a landmark is so iconic today can frame the culture and presence of a place in a way that readies travelers to explore a destination more deeply. So do your homework—or take an on-site tour—you’re no less of a traveler if your destination is deemed “touristy,” and embracing the popular sites can add value and direction to more undiscovered encounters in an unfamiliar place.
Don’t Eat Street Food
It only takes one horror story about food poisoning abroad to activate suspicion about foreign cuisine. Add in another unfamiliar element, street-side dining, and the perceived safety of restaurant fare grows tempting. But this anxiety is unfounded, and travelers risk missing a genuine way to experience a country’s culture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, households across regions like Africa and Asia spend as much as half of their food budget at street stalls. This fare is often not only far cheaper, but more authentic, and often prepared in cleanlier conditions that its closed-door-kitchen counterparts. Around the world, street stalls have even nabbed Michelin stars and other culinary awards. Take local recommendations, or if you notice locals are queuing up, get in line! That’s a nod to the food’s quality, and the high turnover of ingredients means fresher cuisine.
Roll Your Clothes to Maximize Suitcase Space
Flight attendants first shared this trade secret to maximize suitcase space on-the-go, and the rolling technique has surged in popularity both at home and in travel thanks to organization experts like Marie Kondo. But there’s an inherent disconnect here any Kondo disciple can recognize: rolling your clothes, among other popular packing hacks, can definitely allow you to pack more—but should you? Kondo herself has jumped into the travel space and urges a different ethos when it comes to packing efficiently. Pack wisely, but not with the intention of using every last kilogram allotted for your checked bag. Kondo suggests leaving as much as 50 percent of your suitcase empty—both allowing for souvenirs but also to reduce anxiety, mitigating precious travel time wasted searching for items and constantly un-and-re-packing.
Haggle to Save Money on Your Trip
The art of haggling has its place in many cultures, and every major travel blog has its own how-to-haggle guicommon de to help you navigate markets like a local. After all, “tourist pricing” is very around the world, where vendors don’t advertise prices or suggest higher rates for foreigners. This isn’t inherently discriminatory—it’s often done with the expectation that there will be a bit of friendly banter with the buyer. Successful haggling is all about your approach—and your expectations. First, understand where bargaining is appropriate. Haggling is expected at a Turkish flea market, but you may not net the same friendly negotiation over a taxi fare as you would with a Thai tuk-tuk driver. And don’t expect your haggling prowess to substantially reduce your budget. It’s about fun engagement with local vendors and having respect for a playfully fluid marketplace, saving a few dollars here and there, but not devaluing what local items or experiences are worth.
Only Drink Bottled Water
According to the World Health Organization, contaminated drinking water is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers. In many cases, your immune system just isn’t familiar with some foreign pathogens, or outdated infrastructure makes it difficult for countries to deliver potable water. Yet the prescribed remedy—only drink bottled water—is a stigma the travel community and developing nations alike are trying to combat. From Bali to Mexico, plastic is public enemy number one, and local municipalities together with nonprofits are working to deliver better access to filtered drinking water wherever possible. Bring your own reusable bottle while traveling and take advantage of filtered refill stations at the airport, your hotel, and restaurants, saving yourself money while limiting your environmental impact. For even more peace of mine, there are tons of reliable mini water filters and purification tablets that you can easily stash in your carry-on.
Plan Your Trip for the 'Best' Time of Year
An area’s “peak season” generally aligns with when travelers can expect the best weather. But basing your trip on chasing sunny skies can balloon expectations and lead to destination disappointment–not to mention artificially higher costs and a congested tourist trail. Sometimes high season travel is practical. A beachy resort holiday or scuba diving trip might not match up well with monsoon season. But traveling during “off-season” can enrich your journey in unexpected ways. With fewer tourists around, the local population stands out in a more authentic way. Everything from flights to accommodation comes cheaper, and you can expect to spend much less time queuing up to hit local restaurants and popular sites. Low season travel welcomes greater travel flexibility as well. It’s easier to change your itinerary at a moment’s notice or reroute entirely given greater availability of in-country transportation.
A survey from Intel Security found that 49% of millennials want to leave their smartphone at home when traveling–but most of them couldn’t manage it. This idea of digital detoxing comes with an essence of virtue. Yet having your phone handy on holiday shouldn’t come laden with an air of shame. According to mental health experts, connectivity can enhance your trip and help reduce travel anxieties, it’s just all about setting your boundaries. Turn off alerts from your work e-mail and delete social media apps to reduce the urge to live your holiday based on “likes.” Instead, research what local apps and resources are available to benefit tourists. In many major destinations, there are apps designed to detail how many people are currently at a popular attraction, so you can schedule a visit around less congested times (and sometimes even nab a discount). Others help solo travelers meet up with fellow tourists, source real-time reviews on local cuisine, or navigate a city through ride-sharing.
Hostels Are Only for Young Backpackers
Hostels were originally developed and marketed to young, shoestring-budget travelers across Europe, according to the organization Hostelling International. But this antiquated view has transformed within the travel industry over the last few decades, and hostels today prize interconnectivity among their traveling guests regardless of age or income. Layout and design focus on a shared sense of community, while extending options from dorm beds to include private rooms, ensuring traveler comfort while providing access to this social-centric vibe. Some hostels, dubbed poshtels, even offer resort-like amenities for those after a little more luxury added to that old-school spirit that brings hostel-goers together.
There’s Safety in Numbers
Solo travel is a trend that’s skyrocketed over the last decade—last year Hostelworld reported almost twice as many solo traveler bookings since 2016. Yet a simple Google search reveals that many travelers still get anxiety over the prospect of journeys alone, and younger travelers struggle to convince their parents that they’ll be safe for their solo trip abroad. The same rules apply for groups and solo travelers to enjoy a safe trip—and thanks to a rise in volume and how-to coverage, experts argue that solo travelers are actually more vigilant than those in groups. Regardless of your travel arrangement, use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t take any risks you wouldn’t take at home.
Say 'Yes' to Everything
Travel is innately about going outside of your comfort zone—and that can come with significant pressure to perform. Call it “fear of missing out,” or the toxicity of today’s “yes man” work ethic spilling over into leisure. If some “must-do” activity just doesn’t spark your interest, don’t feel guilty in scrapping an afternoon of site-seeing to lounge at your hotel pool. There are plenty of ways to explore without compromising your interests–or seriously burning yourself out. After all, you don’t want to return to work feeling like you need a holiday to recover from your holiday. Don’t be afraid to say no, and maximize your time with activities that craft an adventure uniquely your own.