Travel Like a Rock Star
Carl Landau | October 20, 2023
My wife Diana and I just came back from a 16-day trip to Portugal. We planned it ourselves and had an amazing time! Before we left, my wife scoured online for every blog and magazine article, looking specifically for travel tips for Portugal.
But I just wanted to share with you some travel tips for international trips that we learned on our own, just by doing it.
• Get Global Entry: It takes some paperwork and a few months or so to get approval, but for $100 you get 5 years of TSA pre-check status for ALL flights domestic and international. On our arrival back to San Francisco, going through Customs was a breeze! While the regular line was very long and slow, we just walked up to a kiosk for Global Entry that simply took a photo of our face. And in 2 minutes the Customs officer waved us on and we were out.
• Use whatsapp: If you need to communicate with someone internationally, whatsapp is widely used. WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption makes it more secure than texting and other messaging apps. It's a free way to send messages to people all over the world and we used the app to communicate with hosts at the various places we stayed before our arrival---like, "Where the heck do we park?"
• Yelp no help: Yelp reviews are not a big deal outside the US. We found very few reviews and many were from 4 years ago. Other countries use apps like TheFork from Apple and others.
• It's OK to hang: I'm not a fan of too many one-night stays when traveling to a new country. In the bigger cities, I'd rather stay 3 or 4 nights to get a better sense of the city. I'll take quality vs. quantity when it comes to sightseeing. And build in some down time. Yes, it can be a relaxing vacation too.
• Try booking.com: This was another app we used quite a bit. We didn't have every single night planned out and this app was easy to use and helped us find good deals quickly for places to stay.
• Lighten up: We traveled for 16 days and just used carry-on suitcases (international carry-on can be even smaller). Go with ALL wrinkle free, light clothes that can be easily layered. Oh, and washing clothes in the sink and hanging them on your balcony or patio works just fine.
• NO on Google Maps: Google Maps suck. For car travel, Waze is waaayyy better and more accurate! You can also Use the Apple Maps app on your phone for everything else, including finding public transportation.
• Check out Airbnb experiences: Airbnb is a great app to find all sorts of tours (boat ride/wine-tasting/walking, etc.) of any kind. You can pick the group size and price range you desire. They even have private dinner parties at locals' homes if that piques your interest.
Pro tips from our audience:
• Andy Robin, author of Tapas Life suggests going to the same place for a month at a time to really get into the local life.
• Adriane Berg, Chief Cheerleader of The Ageless Traveler says to look for free stopovers from airlines like Air Maroc and Turkish Airlines. Stay a few days and get a bonus vacation within a vacation. Also ask for airline and hotel upgrades, get separate, unbundled cost quotes on organized tours, sightsee on your own on cruises vs pricey excursions.
There are plenty of travel resources available out there. But no matter how prepared you are for your trip, you will probably make a couple mistakes. It's all okay, traveling in a learning process! And if you do it right, you'll feel like a rock star!