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Helpful Tips, Tricks and Advice: How To Avoid Stupid Travel Mistakes & Other Good Info

Helpful Travel Tips & Articles

I receive a lot of good tips from my readers and I’ve done a lot of dumb stuff during my travels. Learn from our mistakes. This is sort of a “catch-all” for good advice that really doesn’t fit anywhere else. This list will be constantly updated as I receive more helpful advice. Feel free to post your favorite tips in the comment box.

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Check Correct Airport/Train Station: Many cities have multiple train stations and airports. It is very common for people to go to the wrong station so be sure to double check.

Get On The Correct Train: It is easy to get on the wrong train. I’ve done it a few times.

Get Off At The Right Stop: Making sure I got off at the right train stop always seemed to give me the most difficulty. The nicer trains have an electronic sign that informs you which stop you’re currently at. But other trains don’t have anything so you have to look out the window to see the physical sign posted at the train stop. This gets more confusing when the city has more than one station. If I wasn’t sure I would wait to see what other people were doing. If it looked like everyone was getting off the train I assumed that I should get off too. You can always ask people around you.

Validate Your Ticket: Many trains/trams/subways require you to validate your ticket after you buy it. Many times you have to do this in the station. You can get fined a lot if you don’t validate your ticket. Some places are tricky too… In the Budapest subway station the validation machines are located before the ticket window so you have to backtrack to validate your ticket. Many tourists never validate their tickets and are hit with a big fine.

Double check your flight/train times: In the hustle and bustle of travel it is easy to overlook crucial details like flight/train times. Many people have showed up a day early or a day late because they didn’t look close enough.

Walking Tours: Take a walking tour. Do it. Seriously. Hell, take a few of them (there are often multiple “themes”). This is the best way to discover a city. I like walking tours much more than bus tours because you see more cool stuff this way. Make it a point to do a tour on the first day so you can get a feel for the city. There are multiple free tours (the guides work on tips) and plenty of other cheap high-quality tours. I recommend checking TripAdvisor to find the best tours for wherever you’re visiting.

Look Before Crossing Street: Pay attention when you’re traveling in the UK. The traffic comes from the opposite direction so people have the tendency to step in front of cars/bikes. In London they’ve written “look right” on the crosswalks but tourists get hit by cars/buses every year.

Bathrooms in McDonald’s: Bathrooms are often hard to find in Europe. Many places charge you to use them. I’ve had good luck finding free restrooms at McDonald’s. Although some might require you to buy something and some might still charge. You can always try hotels. Just walk in and act like you’re staying there — there is usually a restroom on the ground floor.

Toilet Paper and Baby Wipes: Toilet paper is always nice to have and baby wipes are nice for freshening up.

Zippered Pillow Cases: Stick your wallet (or other flat valuables) in your pillowcase and zip it up. Instant safety.

Gold Bond Medicated Powder: Many travelers rave about Gold Bond Talcum Powder. It has many uses and they sell it in small travel size bottles.

Bring Your Favorite OTC Medicine: I’ve heard from a lot of travelers that cold/flu/allergy medicine in Europe is weak.

Travel Utensils: Having a travel spoon and fork really makes eating food from the grocery store about 1000% easier.

Fake Wallet: A fake wallet can help get you out of a sticky situation. Just fill it with some fake/expired credit cards and maybe a dollar or two. If someone ever demands you wallet throw your fake one at their feet and run.

Keep Your Wallet In Your Front Pocket: Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket (unless it is your fake wallet) because there is a good chance you’ll get pick-pocketed. I like to carry mine in my front pocket.

Wrap A Rubber Band Around Your Wallet: Wrapping a thick rubber band around your wallet makes it a lot harder to get out of your pocket.

Know The Address To Where You’re Staying (For The Passport Officials): Many passport officials will ask you where you’re staying and they’ll want an address. If you don’t know it, they’ll take you aside and make you contact the hostel/wherever you’re staying. The UK passport control officers are sticklers about it. They usually won’t let you into the country until you come up with some information. Also, don’t joke around with these guys.

Museum Burnout: Europe has so many great museums and a lot travelers try to visit a ton. I actually recommend limiting the amount of museums you visit because you will get burnt out. Don’t visit more than one a day. After a while everything looks the same and you start rushing through. I suggest only going to ones that are really interesting to you and saving the others for another trip.

Stores Close Early: Most Americans are used to 24/7 grocery stores and are surprised when European stores close early. Don’t be surprised when stuff is closed on Sundays (sometimes Monday as well).

James Feess
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