Reader Recs: Best Travel Advice Ever

With a new season of travel just around the corner, we asked our Facebook fans to share the best travel advice they’ve ever received. Their responses ranged from practical tips to inspirational musings.

Here’s what they had to say:

To kick things off, Ben C. had wise words for those of us with wanderlust: “Travel with an open mind, light heart, and as insatiable curiosity.” 

Cheryl C. suggested travelers carry two debit cards, one that stays in the hotel, and one to carry with you. That way, she said, “if you mess up with one (lost, stolen, ATM eats it) you have a back up.”

Along the same lines, Maria F. recommended carrying the “name of your hotel and the address” in case you get lost–and to help get around any potential language barriers.

Sally W. testified to the importances of keeping a diary and taking “souvenirs of your home country to give out to locals.” Spreading a little goodwill is never a bad idea–no matter where you are.

Walk with confidence so “you look like you know what you are doing” was Melissa J.’s advice to avoid being pick-pocketed. Shawn W. also had some tips for avoiding theft, counseling travelers to avoid wearing flashy clothing and jewelry–and to always “be aware of your surroundings.”

Dina M. had the right idea when she suggested bringing “a good sense of humor” along with your luggage. You never know what will happen when you’re on the road–and it always helps to be able to shrug off the small stuff.

Many of our fans recommended brushing up on the local language before arriving in a destination. “When you show them you are willing to try with them, they are usually more than willing to try with you,” wrote David H. In terms of pre-trip preparations, Anne-Marie R. also advised learning about “the customs and culture of the country.”

Savis JS and Patricia P. are all about serendipity. Savis believes you should “put down the map and get wonderfully lost,” while Patricia put it this way: “Say yes to the adventure, and trust in the mystery of whatever happens.”

Tina G. encouraged travelers to carry an extra supply of their own medications. You “never know what will happen, and not all countries have the same medicines,” she wrote. Pamela M. also suggested carrying “large Ziploc bags” to help globetrotters keep organized–and safe–on the road. From storing dirty laundry to protecting valuables in a rainstorm, these simple (and highly packable) tools can prove incredibly useful.

Before embarking on her first solo adventure, Jessalyn J. said the following advice gave her the confidence to follow through: “Once you travel by yourself, you will fall in love and want to do it over and over again.”

Sander W. echoed Jessalyn’s sentiments, writing, “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” Speaking of going slowly, Rose J. encouraged travelers to put their tread to the test. “Walking exposes you to a whole lot more than a bus or taxi ride,” she said.

For all you foodies out there, Michelle K. offered some good advice: “Forget the hotel breakfast, go out on the street, and eat with the locals.” Similarly, Maddy B. suggested going to local markets to get to know a city: “This is where the life, culture, and maybe the best food are,” she wrote.

Carrie P. doled out a fun tip for remembering to pack important documents: “Touch your passport to your forehead before walking out the door.”

Kevin and Ruth suggested you “always look for a better deal. It’s out there, you just have to find it,” and Lindsay P. encourages everyone to “travel sooner rather than later in life.”

Last, but certainly not least, Jonathan S.’s words ring true: “Just go.”

Megan Heltzel is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @MeganHeltzel.

What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received? Tell us in the comments section for a chance to appear on the Intelligent Travel blog:


  1. Tin Vergara
    November 20, 2014, 11:55 pm

    This site’s motto is very simple yet managed to get stuck on my mind: Dream. Plan. Travel. Remember.
    Dream to travel. Plan your itinerary. Enjoy the travel experience. And be sure to have some memories to remember.

    Thanks for the tips here!

  2. John Williams
    September 25, 2014, 9:32 pm

    On international flights,always have your passport on your person.In the event of an emergency evacuation,it is the most useful document to be carrying.

  3. John Williams
    September 25, 2014, 4:56 pm

    When flying international ,have your passport on your event of emergency evacuation you will be grateful to have this document with you.experience speaking.

  4. Gordon Sinclair
    September 24, 2014, 12:11 am

    Ive learned to ask the vendor or person for permission to get more respect and a better picture.
    Download your pics each night in case your memory cards are stolen.
    don’t walk through the town sit and let it walk too you.
    Happy travels
    Its also good idea to leave a third debit card with a friend
    so they can express your card for emergency.
    Western union also a great way to receive money.

  5. A. Voges
    South Africa
    August 28, 2014, 4:49 am

    Travel light,a heavy suitcase accompanied by small case going up stairs in a hotel with no lift or escalators is no joke. Rather have one case and backpack. Wear jacket with zipped inside pockets for valuables or money belt underneath your clothing. If a lady wear a small bag as necklace.
    Walk, walk but wear sturdy shoes with non slippery soles. Be weary of street food. Use shared shuttles from airports, cheaper and reliable. Be on time, unfamiliar accents over loudspeakers can be confusing at airports. Good luck and enjoy, enjoy. I love it and travel on my own at 68 years.

  6. clare
    August 15, 2014, 12:34 am

    take pictures but identify them so 40 years later you know the who why what and where…..

  7. Marilyn Pearson
    New Zealand
    June 30, 2014, 6:05 am

    Love the comments. Totally agree with Teabags and a torch, Got caught in a black out in a cave hotel in Turkey. Not fun.
    Pack everything you need then remove half of what you think you need.
    When best laid plans go astray that’s when the fun begins.
    Take a 100 photos and then take a 100 more

  8. Magnumopus
    June 30, 2014, 12:54 am

    Never change lenses in a hurry, I lost my wide angle one this “thanks” to that.

  9. Aaron Cress
    Salisbury NC
    May 29, 2014, 1:19 am

    After reading several article on here it is refreshing to know when it come down to things this is what really matters :) Thank you for your wonderful advice.

  10. Ester van Heerden
    South Africa
    May 15, 2014, 5:05 am

    Always carry a photocopy in your luggage of all the cards you have in your handbag. Including your passport. When your bag gets stolen your know exactly what was in it. You would also have all the emergency numbers of everybody that needs to be called. And then a packing tip: I always take a smallish plastic container with me, and then use it for packing small breakable stuff. A sock also makes a wonderful cover for a small statue or so. And throw away the umbrella. Better to invest in a light waterproof jacket with a hood that can be pulled tight around your face. And for the travellers with glasses: take a case with you on the plane – when you settle down to sleep and take off your glasses you would have somewhere to put them!

  11. Rohit Inani
    March 27, 2014, 5:51 am

    Switch from Lonely Planet to National Geography.

  12. sree prasad
    bangalore, india
    March 25, 2014, 3:30 am

    …whaterver is seen and liked, capture it in memory, in notes/letters, and in camera….don’t clutter your luggage and house with knicknacks….. travel light and enyoy the same…

  13. Andrea Trucios
    Los Angeles, California
    March 25, 2014, 12:48 am

    I found all of the advice to be a wonderful reminder of what travelers should do, and enlightening for those who are about to go on their first trip. The top three things that I found to be most memorable are to be open to whatever happens, to walk when possible, and to eat locally. When traveling I’ve found its best to being open to adapting your plans to what you discover locally. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to discover all the best secrets a new place has to offer without getting to know the culture and the people of the place you are traveling to. The best part of course when traveling anyways is to discover new cultures that allow you to view the world from a different perspective. And as Ian Faulds mentioned earlier “get lost in the moment and location”!

  14. Judith Rippee
    Mears, Michigan, United States
    March 18, 2014, 8:24 pm

    I wrote the date, place or event on a slip of paper and photographed it before I took pictures. With 200 photos
    of a trip to Greece it really helped clarify things when I
    got home.

  15. Ann
    March 13, 2014, 1:11 pm

    I always pack my own pillow (last thing to go in the suitcase), a portable night light (like a tiny candle with a battery) so I don’t have to switch on the main light when I wake in the dark – good to leave one in the bathroom too – and plenty of ordinary tea bags. I’m old and grey and have done a lot of travelling so this wouldn’t perhaps suit backpackers but older travellers may appreciate these things.

  16. Thomas Loucks
    March 7, 2014, 12:06 pm

    I take a business card from the hotel front desk, which will often have the address written in the local alphabet, in case I want to return and need a cab ride but cannot communicate with the driver

  17. Michael Kaye
    Tortuguero, Limon, Costa Rica
    March 3, 2014, 6:34 pm

    Bring binoculars. One of the great benefits of travel is that it shows you new worlds. Binoculars show you new worlds within new worlds. Binoculars are not only a must have for nature travel. They are almost as valuable for other kinds of travel as well. Binoculars are not of much use inside the Louvre, but they are great for seeing the details of the molding above the cornice on the exterior of the Louvre. The same binoculars that work for bird watching work for people watching.

  18. Mina Carson
    United States
    March 2, 2014, 2:37 am

    Many people say NOT to photograph, but to EXPERIENCE the place and culture. I say, if photography is the way you experience life, by slowing down and noticing all the details (as it is for me), for heaven’s sake do NOT be intimidated by the notion that you are not having as genuine and spontaneous an experience as the nonphotographer. Phooey on that.

  19. Shivji Joshi
    Jodhpur , Rajasthan , India
    March 1, 2014, 11:54 am

    A travelled a lot within my country and enjoyed meeting so many people of different language,different customs , different religions , different geographical-climatic conditions.Most of them are camera friendly and very hospitable.My experience- Be friendly and smiling with people and respect their environ ment and way of life whatever it may be.

  20. Nicola Hilditch-Short
    February 28, 2014, 10:22 am

    My best advice is to just go for a walk, in any and all directions, interact, look down side streets, watch what the locals do, where they eat, go in those strange places and become part of the city.

  21. William Fitton
    Long Island NY
    February 28, 2014, 3:58 am

    A word of caution about getting ” wonderfully lost”. It depends on the country and the culture!!!

  22. Jianhua Qiu
    February 27, 2014, 10:36 pm

    I have traveled over 60 countries and my suggestion is to have an open mind, a good pair of shoes and a quality camera.

  23. Caroline Laanstra
    BC, Canada
    February 27, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Never say I’ll travel tomorrow…travel as soon as you can! Do not wait till the kids grow up and move out. Coming from experience with kids still at home and in school, travelling has been the best classroom experience!

  24. Robert Hayles
    Wellington New Zealand
    February 27, 2014, 3:25 pm

    If you go to an all inclusive resort and they make you wear an identity bracelet turn it over if you go into town so the shopkeepers cant see which resort you are staying at, they can use the information to promise delivery from a relative who works there or to pretend to know you as they work there.

  25. Anita Hendrieka
    February 27, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Great collection of travel tips here!
    Anita Hendrieka

  26. juan carlos
    February 27, 2014, 12:08 pm

    Definitely my advice is Don’t lose your passport. it was a horrendous experience for me in a foreign country because I couldn’t prove my identity after a trein crash and go to an Argentine embassy was a large peripetia…

  27. Janalou
    Cremona, Canada
    February 27, 2014, 10:17 am

    The best advice I ever got was to check very carefully the stamp that Immigration puts in your passport. Have travelled a lot but recently I “almost” had a problem because I did not do so.

  28. francine Brewin
    February 27, 2014, 9:46 am

    As a child, getting the NG magazine every month was a real treat. The front cover page photography was so spectacular and told a story by itself. It was an invitation to learn more. I never stop to be amazed by the photography as it is a window to our wonderful planet. Kudos to all those very dedicated photographers who go through all kinds of obstacles and weather to bring us all those beautiful pictures.

  29. Coco Cobb
    February 26, 2014, 12:29 pm

    You can make reservations for the museums in Europe. Much less waiting in line. Rick Steves has the phone numbers.

  30. Charunila Malatpure
    February 26, 2014, 6:49 am

    Off-season travel is the most brilliant way to experience the place, locals and culture.

    Totally agree and relate with Jessalyn J’s advice on solo travelling. Its utter bliss.

  31. Ian Faulds
    Kirkland, Washington, USA
    February 25, 2014, 9:32 pm

    Really great advice in general. I’d add one other tip, not everything needs to be photographed. While it is great to document what you did to better remember when you return home it is also important to experience the place firsthand. Don’t get get lost taking pictures, get lost in the moment and location.

    Ian Faulds

  32. Brianne
    Raleigh, NC
    February 25, 2014, 7:57 pm

    I can echo Cheryl’s comment about two cards, however I strongly recommend credit cards over debit cards for traveling. They are much safer against fraud if they are stolen (and subsequently if your account is wiped out while you’re traveling, it can take weeks to get it back during a time when you need it most). Plus, if you I run into any emergencies abroad and need access to money, I’d rather have the credit card.

  33. Allison Voisin
    February 25, 2014, 7:15 pm

    This advice for travelling has really brought out that light at the end of the tunnel travel bug itch that I ALWAYS get right around March when school is almost out and winter seems to be dragging on at a snail pace. I can’t get enough of these blogs, they always make me feel like I am slowly preparing myself for the next adventure of a lifetime. But no matter how much I read or how much I plan my next trip in some secluded far off country, I can’t help but agree with the last advice of this post that says “just go.” While it is important to know a lot of these travel tips, sometimes you just have to learn the hard way. You’ll never learn if you never go, so just do it and figure it out along the way. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

  34. Lisa Kellenberger
    Vail, Colorado
    February 25, 2014, 5:14 pm

    These are great travel tips. I especially like “traveling with two debit cards.” It takes the stress away of misplacing a card and lets you do the important things, like soak it all in!