We are no travel experts, but we are happy to share the tips and tricks we did learn from our time on the road. For actual reviews of places we stayed or services we used see our Reviews page and to see one of our original planning to do lists checkout the never ending To Do List and Packing List.
Travel Guides & Apps
Banking, ATMs, and Credit Cards
Vaccines, Travel, & Health Insurance
Visas and Travel Documents
Airfare Search Engines & Perks
Hotel, Hostels, & Places to Stay
Our Personal Opinions
- Travel Guides & Apps
- WikiTravel – Travel books are heavy to carry and expensive, but Wiki Travel is just the opposite. Free Wikipedia like information for travel destinations all around the world all saved to your phone or laptop.
- Mobile Apps – We didn’t utilize this until late in our trip but if you just do a search in your devices app store for the country your traveling to you will likely find many free and paid apps.
- Pocket & Screen Capture – Pocket is a free app for Apple and Android that allows you to save webpage content to read later, very useful when you don’t have internet! Screen Capture is the same thing but for your computer, a free plug-in to Chrome browser that allows you to save the whole page to read later (like Snag-It but free).
- Google Maps Offline – This is really an Android Only feature for now, but taking your smartphone or tablet with you around the world really makes sense especially with GPS. You don’t need a cellphone signal or WiFi to know where you are, but unless you have an offline map saved you will only get a blue dot on a grey screen. Google Offline Maps is free, you just need the latest version to use it (how to here).
- Phone Home – I am sure you already know about Skype and other cheap phone plans, but if you want to make free phone calls straight from your iPhone, Android, or Laptop and you are a US or Canada resident make sure you get a Google Voice account then pair it with the TalkaTone app. Now with just having WiFi access you can call any US or Canada number for free from anywhere in the world or any other numbers for a competitive rate. Note TalkaTone does want your Google username and password, because we are paranoid and don’t like sharing we setup a specific Google account specific for this.
- Banking, ATMs, and Credit Cards
- Banks & ATM’s – Most likely with your current bank ATM card when you use it at another banks ATM it charges you a usage fee now imagine that for international ATM’s. Plus you want to make sure that the exchange rate is based on a recognized daily updated exchange rate like those published in the New York Times. We found the best solution for us was the Charles Schwab Online Checking account and debit car.
- Credit Cards – Again our Credit Cards nickle and dime us when it came to using them outside of the States. There are a few options for this but ultimately we went with the Capital One Venture One rewards card. No annual fees and more importantly no foreign transaction fees.
- Verified by Visa – a curse to travelers from the United States as it is used by businesses around the world for online purchases like airfare. Verified by Visa is simply a pin number to your Credit Card but also your card is enrolled in the Verified by Visa program. We researched and researched but have found no USA based Visa Card or MasterCard Secure Code available in the sates; there used to be but not anymore. A work around solution that did come in handy was having an American Express card with us as well.
- Vaccines, Travel, & Health Insurance
- For a list of Vaccines needed by country see this blog post.
- Just like the recent Time Magazine Bitter Pill article the state of healthcare and insurance in the States is unreal. So expecting your insurance program will help you around the world is highly unlikely. We took a multi coverage approach to this:
- Continuous Coverage: Since the 2014 Healthcare Reform plan hadn’t gone into affect yet we took a high deduticable individual coverage plan with Humana One. Most important when searching for Insurance is to make sure it is a state approved insurance provider; example for Texas. This way a future provider can’t claim you had a gap in your plan because you went with a non-approved cut rate health insurance provider. Hopefully after 2014 we won’t have to worry about this again. Ours costs $178 a month for the both of us.
- Travel Insurance: We looked into travel insurance with World Nomads for the whole trip but decided not to go with it. The reason being is because after researching most countries we would go to would either be cheap enough for us to afford healthcare out of pocket or it would be provided for free because their country rocks :). We did however receive a free 90 day travel insurance policy with one of our credit cards.
- Extreme Sports Insurance: For hiking to Mount Everest we did decide to take out an extra insurance policy. Since it was well out of the 90 day range of the credit card and we had heard a lot of people had to use the $1-5K Emergency Rescue Helicopter we thought this would be money well spent. We found our policy through World Nomads but if you are a USA resident and want to save some money that policy was actually underwritten by Travel Guard (not sure if it’s specific to Texas or not).
- Visas and Travel Documents
- US Department of State – A must for researching places you plan to visit to know if they are safe and their visa entry requirements
- Proof of Forward Travel – If you plan to travel to a country on a one-way ticket some airlines and customs may require that you show proof that you will in fact leave their country. These requirements are typically fulfilled by showing confirmation of exit travel and possibly proof of bank funds (ATM receipts. Since we never had any intentions of staying in a country we may have stretched the truth a few times by providing a faux proof of forward travel confirmation.
- International Drivers License – OVERRATED, we bought ours through AAA and drove cars and scooters in over 5 countries and not once were we asked for a International Drivers License; your results may vary as we have read places like Indonesia may ask for them.
- Passport Photos – They are expensive to get done at home, so here is a tip. Go pay for it just once but before giving it away for a Visa or International Drivers License scan it to your computer. From this one picture you can create a 4×6 picture that you can print for pennies and then cut it up to make your own passport photos; example here.
- Airfare Search Engines & Perks
- SkyScanner – Don’t know the dates or where you want to go next? We used it all the time
- Adioso – Same as SkyScanner but has a cool trick where it will mix and match airfare destination to get you to your final destination for the cheapest
- Kayak – An obvious one for those of us in the states, but our international friends hadn’t heard of it
- Priority Pass – access to airfare travel lounges around the world. We received this as a gift before leaving but loved it so much we would show up to the airports as early as possible (especially considering we travel on a budget and the lounges are 5 stars). If you can find a family member who receives their benefits through their credit cards they can sometimes add you as a sub-account.
- RTW Airline Tickets – we found that USA based airlines RTW tickets were ridiculous in price ($10-$15k) for what we wanted to do, but we did meet many travelers from the UK who found RTW deals from $2-3k; we were very jealous and wondered in hindsight perhaps we should of flew to London first to start our RTW trip (via Iceland Air of course for the free trip to Iceland).
- Hotel, Hostels, & Places to Stay
- Booking or Agoda – Great for South America, South Africa, India, and South Asia; they seem to both have the same back-end running them
- TripAdvisor – Really useful through Central and South America to see what hostels are good and which to avoid.
- Hostels – There are several hostel booking sights but to be honest we always found them more expensive to go through, still useful for their reviews. Hostelz does search many of them at once.
- Airbnb – great for expensive cities or places you plan to stay for longer periods of time; results will vary
- Our Personal Opinions
- I wish I brought a pair of bluejeans
- I love that my pack is a carry on size, it really saves money with discount airlines. We load up EmSue’s bag with all the weight and then we only have to pay for one checked bag.
- There are several times we needed or wanted to access item over the internet that are only available in the States. At first to accomplish this we used the free trail VPN service of VyperVPN, but once that was up we switched to TunnelBear VPN
- During the trip we took over 15,000 pictures and videos that totaled over 65gb+. I had brought a backup hard-drive to ensure we didn’t lose anything, but early in the trip the computers primary hard-drive crapped out (ironic since I purposely bought a SSD HDD for the computer, but the power supply in it died). So now my backup hard-drive became the primary one in the computer. Insert plan B, now I needed to find a way to backup pictures to somewhere on the Cloud (really just means web or internet). Here are the two cheapest professional grade options I found at the time and we used both. If you are not technical and want something simple than checkout Microsoft SkyDrive, the first 7gb are free and after that it’s less than $5 a month up to 100gb (we only used the free option as a temporary holding space). If you are technical or just like learning new things than the cheaper more technical option, and what we used for backups, was Amazon Glacier, for 100GB it’s a $1 a month. To upload files to it we used a free program called Fast Glacier, but you can also write your own API to access it if you like. Understand Glacier is just a cloud backup storage and not a file sharing or quick access cloud storage like Skydrive, Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive.
- Emily Sue:
- Don’t waste money buying travel books before you leave, instead just visit your local Library; you may be surprised
- I wish I had packed a small travel umbrella. There have been numerous times when we have been in rainy cities and more than just a rain jacket would have been nice!
- One of the best things I highly recommend is getting a rain cover for your backpack. Not only does it keep your bag in good shape when being handled at the airports, bus stations, and train stations, but it also prevents thieves from being able to sneak into pockets on the side of your bag.
- Although we didn’t utilize it until later in the trip, it was great to have a portable speaker to use with your device (iPhone, etc) for listening to music. Nothing beats a happy hour watching the sunset on a beach in Thailand, than one when you are listening to some Dave Matthews Band using your little portable speaker.
- Clothes wise I wish I had brought more shorts…perhaps a pair of khaki or jeans shorts, as well as a sarong. I had read many other female travelers recommending a sarong, but never got around to getting one for the trip. It would have also been nice to have a decent pair of flats (a bit dressier than my Toms/Flip Flops). As for Jeans like Dustin mentioned, I was lucky enough to get my favorite pair from home when friends we met up with brought them to me!
- I probably did not need to bring all of my makeup I would typically use at home. I honestly only put on full makeup maybe 1/10 of the trip, mostly I just used lipstick/lip gloss. By the way wearing no makeup has been AWESOME!
Have additional travel tips that will benefit others? Please leave them in the comments below.