5 Travel Secrets You Won’t Learn in Guidebooks

The travel industry has changed considerably in the past five years. It’s now possible for most vacationers to book their own transportation and lodging online in a matter of minutes without the help of licensed agents.

But some things remain the same, like the low cost of backpacking through Europe, getting major discounts on hotels and airfare by paying months in advance, and the risk of losing belongings to theft.

For better or worse, official guidebooks don’t reveal all there is to know about local or international travel. Few authors mention the absolute necessity of having a credit card or the availability of volunteer opportunities that cost little or nothing.

Here are five little-known facts that can save you money, time, and hassles when you journey far from home.

Europe is Still a Bargain for Hikers & Bicyclists

Europe enthusiasts will be happy to discover that renting a bicycle or packing hiking equipment is a relatively inexpensive way to see the continent. It’s wise to develop a detailed itinerary, go with several other people, and be ready to stay in a hotel for at least a few nights in case inclement weather interrupts your outdoor hiking or biking plans.

Having a Credit Card is a Must

Trying to move about the globe these days without a plastic credit card is nearly impossible. For college students who have a thin or non-existent financial history, it’s important to get a card before heading to the airport, train station, or cruise ship port.

In fact, college is the ideal time to apply for a first card because so many young adults are already adept at managing their personal finances. The crucial point is to select the right card when you get ready to apply.

Look at the big picture, which includes interest rates, annual fees, late charges, and rewards programs.

Early Payment Can Cut Expenses in Half

Using a credit card or savings to pay for airfare and lodging in advance can help you snag major discounts. Whether for overseas or domestic trips, expect to get low rates on rooms and plane tickets by locking in low prices as early as 90 days before departure.

Beyond that budgeting can help manage debt so that as you pay for your trip in bits and pieces you are not also accumulating a massive repayment total.

Volunteer Trips Can Change Your Life

Work with a church or non-profit agency to uncover volunteer opportunities overseas, in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Costa Rica, and elsewhere.

Numerous faith-based organizations conduct group volunteer projects and cover the cost of travel for people who are willing to give a week or more to public service chores, like building homes, digging wells, and cleaning coastlines.

Devices & Jewelry Are Top Targets for Thieves

Be aware that all digital devices are popular among pickpockets in tourist cities and ports. Jewelry has always been a favorite among the criminal class, but smartphones, laptops, tablet computers, and IT peripherals are gunning for the top spot-on thieves’ wish lists.

What can you do to outsmart pickpockets and protect your goods? Travel light. Don’t take costly jewelry with you. Limit devices to a phone and possibly a laptop. But lock the latter in a hotel security safe before departing for a day’s activities.