Beauty, Fashion, Travel, Fitness, Wellness and Lifestyle Blog | Emtalks

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Top Travel Tips And Hacks

Topshop Striped Open Back Dress

To travel is to live, that's how the saying goes right? If we were meant to be in one place for the rest of our lives, we'd have roots instead of feet, apparently. I think that's a pretty good way to look at life. We live in a huge world, an extraordinary world and we can learn SO much from travelling and the people we meet along the way. To travel doesn't mean you have to hop on a plane to Thailand and 'find yourself' for a year, it could mean a weekend trip, a week somewhere or even a month. Travel is what you make of it and remember, we all have different preferences when it comes to travel; you might like hostels, another person may prefer luxury hotels and yachts. To tell you the truth, I hadn't travelled outside of Europe until I was 18. This travel bug is a pretty new thing and I put it down to meeting people at University who'd spent their lives travelling as if it was normal to hop on a plane to Hong Kong one day and then Thailand the next. I'm fortunate enough to have flown abroad every year since I was about 2, to beautiful European destintions (don't knock Europe, it's an incredible place) but I'd never gone further afield until I hit 18. I'll never forget my first time outside of Europe though. We visited Jamaica and after that, I didn't stop. I quickly ticked off a large number of American states, lots of Asia, the majority of the Carribean islands and then, took the plunge and moved to Canada. Now? 5 years later, I've visited well over 20 countries, some multiple times. Today, in collaboration with Expedia I am going to give you my top tips when it comes to travelling, I've learnt so much on these trips, with 24 hour whirlwind trips, booking things the day before, pre-planned trips to the other side of the world, moving abroad and more so sit back with a cup of something nice and let's discuss my top travel tips and hacks I've picked up along the way, I'm hoping this will help you for any up and coming trips! 

Striped dress
Research - My first tip would be research, whether it's a small or huge trip, do your research to ensure you'll have the best time ever. Even little things like researching the culture. For example, in China, you can spit your bones out at the table (we didn't do this, but clients we were with did) it will just stop you getting into any awkward situations and also, enable you to be respectful to the new culture or place you're about to step into. When I was planning a huge USA roadtrip, it took me weeks of research to organise the route, our hotels and our transport but it was well worth it because it meant we could relax whilst we were out there. Similarly, when we did a month in Asia, it took a lot of organising when it comes to dates, timings, internal flights and hotels but with a little bit of research, it takes the pressure off the rest of your trip. It's important to research every single hotel, restaurant and travel company you're using too, see it as damage limitation and protect yourself. Look for places with good reviews. 

Save - The next bit and this is dependent on where you're going and what for, save your pennies! It's a tough one because you end up spending the majority of your money on the trip itself - the flight, the accommodation etc all add up, but we mustn't forget we need money when we are there too! Places like America and Canada are REALLY expensive. To be completely transparent, I saved £10,000 for my year in Canada, knowing it would equate to about $18,000 when I transferred it over there, I got SO lucky with the exchange rate and it meant I could have the time of my life and not have to worry about money. I'm not saying money is the be all and end all but it gave me so much freedom and my University actually recommended if we went to Canada or Australia, we should aim for £15,000-20,000 worth of savings to take with us. With somewhere like Asia, it's much cheaper and you don't need to take as much money. As I say, it's a really personal thing so do some research and make a plan when it comes to daily spends. We did around 5 weeks on the West Coast USA and we told ourselves we could spend around $100 per day for 2 people, for all of our meals. This might not sound like loads and it's hard because you don't want to eat a pizza slice and burger every single day but with tax and service charge, eating out at even the cheapest places in the USA adds up, plus alcohol is so expensive so we barely drank on our trip. So many people forget to save for essentials like food, so ensure you're protecting yourself. Also always have a special emergency fund ready incase you need to fly home or book a different hotel. Things can go wrong, be prepared incase they do, ultimately safety always comes first and money last so I always told myself: 'if I hate it or I'm scared, I'll just jump on a flight back home' it gave me comfort knowing I'd worked hard and saved allowing me to do that. Read my top easy money saving tips blog post.

Don't Be Too Tight - Again, this is just a little personal tip but I would say, whilst it's important to budget for your trips, don't be too harsh on yourself. At the end of our USA trip we ended up paying extra for a nicer hotel and when we were in Hong Kong, we blew most of our budget in one week, we don't miss that money now because we worked harder to earn it back. I do believe travel is something that makes you richer so I don't mind spending a little extra here and there on things important to me (eg, good excursions, comfort, trying out famous/must visit restaurants, staying at wonderful hotels). 
colourful houses in Tenby
Pre-Book - I would always say to pre-book, whenever you can. I've never once turned up somewhere without at least the first hotel on my trip booked, this is more from an anxious point of view haha. With my move to Canada, I'd already organised my accommodation as it was a whole year abroad so I lived in one apartment for a year and travelled to different countries most weekends. In Asia, we'd booked the first few hotels and then booked a few more out there, same with America once we got our bearings. I did panic a bit with Asia though as so many places were fully reserved when we were wandering around trying to find somewhere, anywhere to stay for the night. We'd been to Halong Bay and needed somewhere to stay in Hanoi when we got back and for some reason, we just couldn't find anywhere! We managed in the end but I'd always rather know my plan, but I do acknowledge that plans change. If you've got a good wifi connection, you can always use Expedia when you're out and about and book your hotels the night before, I regularly rely on them for my hotel bookings. I am SO excited to hear about their new tool, the Add-On Advantage, perfect for travel lovers. This smart little tool can save travellers up to 41% off the cost of their hotel (more money for sampling the local cuisines!!!). The Add-On Advantage gives travellers access to discounts from hundreds of thousands of hotels after booking a flight, car or package on the site. It offers travellers a new way to bundle and save which is SO handy when you're saving your money too. The discounts remain on offer until the start of the trip, meaning you have the flexibility to take the time to tailor your holiday, whilst still receiving the great savings that you would if you’d have purchased the items together as a package deal. So maybe you're like me and you know where you want to fly to and on what dates but you're not so sure on which exact hotel or area to stay in. When I went to Dallas recently, I knew my flight dates for months in advance but it took me forever to figure out where to stay, I ended up losing money because I booked them separately. I wish this existed then! Expedia has long encouraged travellers to bundle their flight and hotel in a package for maximum savings due to the great discounts offered (I am guilty of never doing this), however, there are people that prefer to book their flight first and then their hotel at a later date, potentially missing out on savings by not bundling them together! It's really really easy to do so bear this in mind for your next trip, simply book a flight, car, or package to any destination on Expedia, hotel savings are instantly ‘unlocked’ and remain on offer until the trip commences. The hotel stay needs to occur within the travel dates of the flight, car or package purchase, but does not need to be in the same destination as the flight, car or package. I really hope this is helpful as I was so excited when I heard about it. I am all for saving money! 

Get Organised - Little 20 year me, a Yorkshire girl, stepped on a plane and headed to a new country at the other side of the world, with a teddy bear firmly packed under one arm and tears crying down my face until I hit my destination. Organisation helped me so much! I actually booked my flight the day before as I was so anxious/petrified/in denial about leaving my family. I did however, pre-book my apartment, organise my wifi and pack everything you can imagine into two suitcases and the most over-sized carry on you've ever seen (they didn't query it at the airport, I think they felt sorry for me). I left England as one girl and returned a year later a better person, that's for sure. It challenged me, I met new people, I saw the world and it's definitely the best, biggest leap I've ever done. I don't think I'd be who I am today if I didn't do that trip. The most challenging organisation part was dealing with Visas as it is such a long process so get this done as soon as you can to limit the stress and pressure on yourself.  Other ways you can get organised, even for small trips, is to get yourself a travel wallet and keep all your documents nicely in there, print off your itinerary to keep yourself on track and grab your sim card before you fly too so you know you're connected when you're there. I always buy a sim card on a different network but it gives me unlimited data abroad for around £30 and I just pop it into my phone and it lasts me a month! This saved me SO much money on my America trip (my phone company charges £5 per day to use data in the USA) and meant I could work on the go too. Little things like this will save you so much money.

Ask The Locals - Once you're on the trip, ask the locals for reccomendations! I'd visited Barcelona so many times and had bad eating experiences, I fell into the tourist traps. It's only when I asked the locals, I found the best, hidden gems. Ask taxi drivers, sales assistants, anyone truly local and find out where the locals eat. I asked sales assistants in New York and they gave me so many local recommendations of where's best to eat in NYC. You'll always find me sampling a few local restaurants on my trips as food is such a big part of my life (food IS LIFE) and I find asking taxi drivers, hotel staff, or even locals via Instagram, means you're gonna eat at the best places. As a rule of thumb too, I never eat anywhere now without cross-checking on Yelp and TripAdvisor as in Santorini I got scammed and ended up wasting so much money at the worst restaurant just because the view was pretty, when we left, we checked TripAdvisor and everyone said the same. Whilst it's worth taking these websites with a pinch of salt, if there are loads of really bad reviews, it's best to keep your hard earned money and use it elsewhere. When booking hotels too, make sure you're reading the reviews on Expedia, these are so helpful when it comes to making your decision. 

Have Fun But Be Cautious - There are so many scams around so do a little bit of research so you know what to look out for. When I first went to Paris, I fell for the scam where someone tied a bracelet to me and made me pay for it. I know the taxi drivers in Vietnam tried to scam us too so now I always ask hotel staff how much I should be paying for certain journeys. You can check forums online too and make yourself aware of scams in certain areas. I know in Asia we were told to check the seal was on every drinks bottle too. There are precautions you can take, I'm sure you will be fine but it's always better to be cautious! 

Try Something New - On your trip, try something new! Whether it's a new cuisine or a hike you've always wanted to do. Challenge yourself! I always say the best way to see somewhere too is to get around on foot, keep walking, wandering and getting lost down winding streets (but stay safe!) 

So there we have it, some of my top travel tips and hacks. I really hope this helps you for any upcoming travels you have and be sure to check out Expedia's Add-On Advantage too! 

*This blog post is sponsored by Expedia but as always is 100% my honest opinion. 

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Lots of love, Em x

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