Monday, April 28, 2014

Top Secrets of Travel Writers

by fejisa loren  |  in super cheap flights at  7:29 PM

Being paid to travel the world and write about it may sound like a dream job -- and those of us who've ever found ourselves pecking away on our laptops at an oceanfront hotel in Greece certainly aren't complaining! But it's not always as glamorous as it sounds. Travel writers encounter the same nuisances that every other traveler does -- like language barriers, airline fees, lost passports and the eternal struggle to have the best possible trip at an affordable price.

That's why we asked 35 writers and bloggers to share their hard-earned travel wisdom from their lives on the road. Ranging from the practical to the profound, the travel secrets they reveal offer insights and ideas for every type of traveler.

"Be curious -- and humble." -- Laura Bly, USA Today

"It sounds morbid, but one of the most interesting (and usually free) ways to learn about a city is to explore its cemeteries. These spaces are often beautiful and can offer insights into the history, architecture, art and religious beliefs of a city. Major cemeteries are usually full of elaborate monuments, interesting folklore and even celebrities (their headstones at least). Despite being such treasure troves, cemeteries are rarely crowded and make a nice escape from the urban jungle." -- Stephanie Yoder, Twenty-Something Travel

"Trying to get into a sold-out hotel? Find out when cancellation penalties set in for the date you want to arrive, then call the property on the morning of that day. You can scoop up rooms made available by people who've just canceled." -- Wendy Perrin, Perrin Post

  "I put almost every dollar I spend on my American Express Gold card that gets me Membership Reward points -- even my mortgage company takes it for monthly house payments! When you use the points at American Express Travel (online), they're good on any airline, hotel or car rental. Because almost all of my spending goes on that card, I have enough points to travel (nearly) free all year long. I have another airline credit card (Visa) for those few places that don't take American Express." -- Trisha Miller, Travel Writers Exchange

  "It's harder to receive than to give. We're naturally suspicious of local people's motives when offered friendship or shelter. Be open-minded." -- Graham Styles, Brainrotting

  "You should always carry a copy of your passport when you travel, but more important is keeping that copy safe. In the event your bags are lost or stolen, what are you going to do if your passport is in the bag? Keep a copy of your passport in the sole of your shoe. Most tennis shoes have removable inserts -- tuck the copy of your passport under the insert and go about your merry way. You won't lose your shoes if you're wearing them, and if you're robbed in a foreign city, the mugger won't go after your tennis shoes -- so you'll still have a copy of your passport." -- Melanie Nayer,

  "Always pack zip-lock bags. They are ideal for packing things tighter, separating wet from dry and managing small items like batteries. I always pack a few bags in a variety of sizes before every trip." -- JoAnna Haugen, Kaleidoscopic Wandering

  "Connect with locals living in your destination via Facebook, Twitter or blogs, and make a point to meet them for coffee or even couch surf with some of them. You'll find yourself getting deeper under the skin of the country, and understanding a bit more about local culture and lifestyle than you usually would." -- Nellie Huang, Wild Junket

"Question charges like resort fees or valet parking at hotels. Often they will be removed from your bill if you question them at check-out." -- Kathy A. McDonald, Eastside Eye

"You'll always get more in-depth information in the guidebook with the narrowest scope. If you're going to Rome, the Rome book will be better than the Italy book, and that will be better than the Europe book. Guidebooks are not necessarily updated every year, so choose the one with the most recent publication date and know that the book was written at least six to nine months prior to publication (i.e., things may have changed). Also, three guidebooks are better than one -- consider bringing only one or two travel guides and photocopying pages out of the rest, which you can toss when you move on to the next destination or head home." -- Erica Silverstein, Cruise Critic

"Don't assume your way is the only way." -- Melanie Mize Renzulli, Italofile

 "Saving money on a rental car has to be the most mundane and least thrilling secret I could offer, but there's nothing dull about saving a dozen to a few hundred dollars every time you travel -- money that can be put toward something a whole lot more exciting. A few years ago I learned that rental car rates behave unlike almost any other sale in the travel biz -- almost like a transaction at the Beijing silk market. Whatever price you are quoted at first, you can work the system such that you pay a mere fraction of the quoted price -- as described in the You Call the Shots section here." -- Ed Hewitt, Traveler's Ed

"Before you start your trip, take a photo of your luggage. Put yourself into the pic, standing next to the bag. (This will give a good idea of the bag's size.) Keep the shot in your camera, and also print out a copy. When your bag goes missing, hand over the copy (or show the in-cam shot) to the baggage folks at the airport. This can really help with finding your luggage. I did this on a recent trip to Kiev and the baggage folks there thought this was a dandy idea." -- Susan Farlow, FarWriter

"Take an extra, minimalist outfit in your carry-on. Luggage, inevitably, will get lost at some point!" -- MS, mollyRsavs

"The best tip I've found is to go slow and immerse deeply. You'd be amazed how cheap it is to travel when you go slow. We have been traveling luxuriously, green and slow, for almost four years nonstop on just $23 a day per person! You can negotiate to get better deals too with longer stays. We saw 29 countries on one airfare." -- SoulTravelers3,

"Clubbing and pubbing solo: There are many things you can do to make going to a club by yourself a great time. Don't carry your wallet in an obvious place and don't carry a purse. Arrive early, sit at the bar and be friendly with the bartender (they're your safety card). Don't drink too much. Be proactive. Take pictures. Get into the scene. Chat with who you want, not who wants to chat with you." -- Janice Waugh, Solo Traveler

"Divide each person's belongings amongst all luggage. This is especially important for traveling with a baby, but good for everyone too. That way no one is SOL if one bag is lost." -- Corinne McDermott, Have Baby Will Travel


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