1. Charge your phone using the USB port on the side of a hotel TV.
Power adapters are kind of a pain. But many of the flat-screen TVs you’ll find in hotel rooms have USB ports on the side, which can come in handy for charging. You do have to keep the TV on, so it’s probably not great for an overnight charge.
2. But still, bring a power adapter.
Get a universal travel adapter that lets you toggle for use in different regions. (And buy it in advance. They’re always marked up in the airport.)
3. Take a screenshot of walking directions while you have a Wi-Fi connection.
And get where you’re going without wasting precious (and expensive) data.
4. Buy a Wallpaper City Guide.
Most guidebooks list dozens and dozens of museums and restaurants and other places to visit, many of which are tourist traps and most of which you won’t have time to make it to anyway. The Wallpaper guides are carefully edited down to a small set of selections you’ll actually like. Also: They’re small to carry and will look pretty on your bookshelf when you get home.
5. Better yet, download the app version.
Only $2.99, and the app will update with new tips when editors make changes to the guide.
6. This website is also really awesome.
Plain and simple: The places Unlike recommends are cool. I’ve used the app and website in a bunch of different cities, and can pretty much say that if they told me to jump off a bridge, I would consider it. There would probably be a hidden whiskey bar at the bottom or something.
So far, they have guides for Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Ibiza, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Vienna, and Warsaw.
7. If you’re traveling to multiple cities, book on the region’s budget airlines.
Kayak and SkyScanner are great search engines to compare rates.
8. But! If you have a big bag, or multiple bags, beware.
It’s wonderful that you can find a flight from Dublin to Copenhagen for less than 50 bucks. It is less wonderful when you get to the airport and realize you’re going to be charged hundreds of dollars for the pleasure of checking your luggage. On RyanAir, checking a 20 kilo bag (about 44 lbs., which is not even that heavy) at the airport can cost up to €140 ($185) during “high season.” Checking a second piece of luggage can cost even more. And any excess past that costs €20 per kilo.
9. You can, thankfully, avoid some of these extra fees by paying for them online in advance.
The baggage fees go down to the slightly more reasonable (though still kind of outrageous!) €20–50 range if you pay online in advance.
Moral of the story: Travel with a carry-on.
10. Figure out what the tipping customs are in the country you’re visiting.
11. Get an international data plan — they aren’t that expensive.
If you use roaming data without a prepaid plan, you will return to a huge bill. Most carriers let you buy 100 MB or so of data for use on your trip, which is enough to check your email a few times a day and maybe post an Instagram or two.
AT&T charges $30 for 120 MB (a good bet for a trip that’s less than 10 days) or $60 for 300 MB (ideal for longer trips), which you can use over the period of a month.
Verizon’s structure is slightly different — they let you pay $25 for every 100 MB.
12. Keep track of how much data you’re using.
The 100 MB or so is enough data for light usage, but it’s not a ton. On an iPhone, you can track how much data you’re using by going to Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage. Just before you leave, hit “Reset Statistics” so you can start tracking your usage. Android has a few apps for the purpose.
13. But make sure to cancel the plan when you’re back home.
When you add the international data plan, it gets tacked on as a recurring monthly feature to your phone bill. So unless you’re traveling overseas the next month, get it removed from your bill when you’re back home to avoid getting charged that $25 or $30 every month.
14. Estimate how much local currency you’ll need, and take out that amount from an ATM upon arrival.
You’ll probably have to pay some fee for getting local currency — it sucks, I know. Many banks will charge around $5 per withdrawal (and they’ll possibly also charge you 1–3% of the amount you take out). But try to avoid racking up those $5 withdrawal charges by cutting down on the number of trips to the ATM.
By the way, getting local currency at an ATM usually carries a lower transaction fee than exchanging your cash at an airport or hotel.
15. Also: Check with your bank before you leave.
Bank of America, for example, is part of the “Global ATM Alliance,” which allows you to avoid those $5 withdrawal fees at ATMs from participating overseas banks, including Barclays, BNP Paribas, and Deutsche Bank.
And in general, it’s a good idea to tell your bank and credit card company that you’ll be traveling overseas so that they don’t get suspicious and freeze your cards.
16. Finally, if you’re a student, or generally young, don’t keep it to yourself.
In the U.S., you’re pretty much resigned to paying full fare once your student ID expires, but internationally, discounts are more widely available to anyone under 25 or 26. Sometimes special rates apply only to citizens of the country you’re in, but it is always worth asking. Hot tip: Passes on Eurail (the train system that goes all over Europe) are 35% off for anyone under 25.
If you’re a student in any capacity, you should know by now to always, always invoke the student discount. It won’t last forever!