There are a million and one things to consider when hitting the road, sea, or sky. While rock stars have an entourage, cabin crew have a crew, and businessmen have PAs and Amex blacks—travel writers are some of the very few frequent flyers who only really have themselves to rely on. That’s right, it’s our job to plan, visit, see and do a hell of a lot on a typically modest budget. Then there’s the jet-lag followed by the whole process making a 360 within days (if we’re lucky). This only means that travel writers and bloggers are more than a little travel savvy, after all, it’s our stories you’re reading and our guides you’re following.
While the handy tips are commonly themed around where to eat and what metro card to buy, writers rarely give insight into how it is they really travel. Want to explore the world just like an independent, curious, and damn-right awesome travel writer? Here are eight ways to mirror the experts.
1) Save time with an itinerary
Travel writers have to squeeze in ridiculous amounts of activity in a much shorter timeframe than the ordinary visitor. There isn’t time for long walks on the beach or lying in till noon—its go, go, go. Your trip doesn’t need to be as militant, but a little prep means less time desperately connecting to street WiFi to research a decent bar, and more time at a decent bar drinking a cool refreshing beer. Itineraries can be as detailed as you like, or act as a rough guideline containing important information that’s easy to access when you need it. If organization isn’t your forte then consider adopting this very valuable life skill at least for your travels.
2) Pack smarter than the average traveller
One thing we notice about many of my travel companions is how much crap they bring with them—much of which goes unused. Does carrying four pairs of shoes for a four day trip make any sense at all? Do we really need to lug two giant beach towels in our carry-on for a weekend in Boracay? Think smart and pack smart. Shoe wise, just bring a pair of flip flops and wear a pair of dark slip-ons which are comfortable enough for walking around in but also wouldn’t look out of place in a nice restaurant. Most hotels or Airbnbs either supply beach towels or have bathroom towels big enough to stop sand getting in your bits. Plan what you’ll wear each day and you’ll find that your suitcase is dramatically lighter.
3) Protect yourself
Even in super safe cities like Kyoto or Singapore, crime exists. Best to use anti-theft travel gear such as ones from Pacsafe. Their backpacks and laptop bags are full of amazing hidden security features that outsmart thieves and give me one less thing to worry about when you're zipping through airports. Also, always email copies of important documents, bookings and itineraries to yourself in the event of misplacing your phone. And finally always take out health insurance.
4) Get to know the locals
There is no better research than local recommendation. When you’re away with your girlfriend, best pal or colleague that doesn’t mean they’re the only people you can talk to—and if they are then you’re staying far too comfortably within your own comfort zone which is not what travelling is about. Learn about the new culture, strike up a conversation with another couple or ask your server for tips. The reason we visit foreign places is to live and breathe new surroundings, find things that the locals love and report on them for those looking to try an experience that’s off the beaten selfie-stick path and authentic to that community.
5) Kill jet-lag fast
When time is of the essence, you want to be in top form. That means looking after your body. Always avoid alcohol on flights; it dehydrates and leaves you feeling sluggish when you land. One secret to jet-lag elimination upon arrival is floatation therapy. It’s the practice of lying in a dark pod of warm Epsom salts and drifting off into a meditative state which not only re-centres your body but also trains it into going into a blissfully induced sleep.
6) Book accommodation independently
Skip the flight and hotel combo deals, no matter how cheap they are. Booking the hotel separately means you can work your way down a list of traveller rankings and get what you want at better value for your hard earned money. In most cases, location is everything. You’re out and about so much, that the facilities can be overlooked in return for a room close to public transportation or in the centre of town. For more remote stays and beach resorts, style and facilities claim a bigger stake in the decision making process since time spent on the premises is longer.
7) Put a cap on social media
It’s inevitable that you’ll be on social media while abroad, if it’s not on IG then it didn’t happen right? But when I’m travelling I like to limit my social media usage to 10 minutes a day. That’s just enough time to catch up with what’s going on in the world, and if need be, to post something. Wouldn’t you rather swap that hour on the hotel lobby WiFi with getting lost in a trendy neighbourhood or going for a run on the beach? In fact, there are an infinite amount of activities that are much more exciting than seeing what your colleague back home ate for lunch or somebody’s pet Chihuahua having a nap.
8) Tell your stories imaginatively
Travel writer or not, we all have a story to tell about our adventures abroad. Travelling like a travel writer means you scratch beyond the surface of the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, or Great Wall and have tales and images of the raw and real India, UK, or China. Your stories will fascinate and photos intrigue, so present them in a way that hasn’t been done over by the billions. Travel bloggers should try finding an angle from a niche that will spark discussion, and photo bloggers should try posting images of things that are often overlooked in travel photography. Finally, remember that less is more, so don’t give absolutely everything away. Leave your friends, colleagues and followers wanting more.