We knew it was coming, and it’s not easy to face, but this is the latest episode of Sidekick’s Summer Travel Guide! Together, we’ve helped you identify your travel personality type, decide which apps to use, narrow down your packing list, and get the inside dish on credit card points. We even got an expert to answer all your urgent travel questions. But don’t be afraid! There is still a lot of summer left.
So for our grand finale, we’ve got some tips for making any trip the best ever, no matter what the world throws at you. And here to help we to help you are three travel experts – Nicole Hu, Eli Solidum and Dasha Kofman – armed with advice on how to get the most out of your destination, whether you’re on a budget, in a group or living the life of a digital nomad.
Make the most of your destination…
Recently, while backpacking through Latin America, Nicole Hu has traveled to Mexico, Peru and Colombia over the past 10 months, and all on a shoestring budget. To help you stretch your dollars while enjoying the best of everything during your stay, Hu shared these tips:
- Reduce accommodation and transportation costs. “The dollar can go quite far, depending on where you travel,” she said. “In Latin America, my daily cost of living was probably $30 to $40 on average.” On her last trip to Mexico, she stayed in hostels instead of hotels to save even more. She also took overnight buses from place to place as she backpacked through Latin America instead of flying.
- Ask locals for tips on good meals. Hu avoids tourist sites and hits small businesses in the area. This way, you’re supporting the local economy and you’ll be more likely to stick to your budget.
- Travel slowly. Hu plans far enough in advance that he never feels rushed into an expensive itinerary. “I had American friends who were going to Peru, but they only had nine days, so they were in such a rush. They were flying the next day for everything, which I completely understood, but [it was more expensive].” If you have wiggle room, give yourself more time. This will allow you to explore the culture in addition to saving money.
- Book excursions in person. “If you’re booking a big tour, always book in person, because then you’ll have more leeway to negotiate and you’ll always get a better price,” Hu said.
In general, the budget traveler should really only fix the flight there and the first two to three nights of accommodation, Hu says. After that, go with the flow and manage your expectations.
Hu visited places which she realized were highly overrated and overpriced. “So if you don’t have preconceived expectations [being in] paradise,” she said, “you are going to enjoy something so much more.
Eli Solidum, a group travel host and author of a popular blog The Party Traveler, has traveled to places like Mexico, Peru, Pakistan and South Africa for the past six years. Last June, Solidum organized a group backpacking trip to the remotest parts of Peru and shared their thoughts on navigating smoothly on a group trip. So after forcing everyone on your trip to take Sidekick’s travel personality quiz, you’ll also want to make sure you’re all on the same page about what you want to do while you’re on the road.
- Where to stay: If you are looking to meet like-minded travelers who are passionate about the world, Solidum highly recommends staying in hostels. Hostels are even better if you’re on a budget, as some allow guests to work in exchange for their stay.
- What to do: For Solidum, the ultimate group traveler’s itinerary is not usually found in travel guides, but by word of mouth. “When you arrive at your destination, plan your trip by talking to the locals. And talk to the receptionists at your hostel or someone at a bar, because often times you won’t get as much internet as someone local. And that goes just about anywhere… My friend has this great saying: “Don’t ask the locals where at to eat. ask them where they or they eat,” he said.
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- Stay safe: “There is a saying in Colombia: ‘No dar papaya’, which means ‘don’t ask’. A lot of people say you need to be more discreet when traveling… Don’t have all your valuables on crowded public transport and use your best judgment,” Solidum said.
Dasha Kofman, a remote-working traveler who has traveled Europe, South America and Mexico while working a 9-to-5, shared her tips for getting the most out of your PTO. If you’re not one of the lucky few who can work from (literally) anywhere, Kofman says you should “take advantage of the days off you have… I think there’s an idea false that you need to take off a week or two weeks, [but] there are so many places closer than you think. This includes adding a day or two to an existing corporate holiday weekend or choosing to travel to locations accessible by air in less than five hours.
- Where to stay: Since working while on the go, Kofman prefers to stay at an Airbnb to ensure she has good wi-fi and peace and quiet. His biggest tip for longer stays: negotiate the total price. “Usually I’ll message them and say, ‘I love your place, but it’s a little out of my price range. Is there any flexibility?’ Five out of 10 times people say no, but the other half [of the time] they say yes, so it’s worth it.
- What to do: “Something I’ve done in almost every place is a walking tour. The best company I’ve used is Sandemans, who do tours mainly in Europe. I have noticed that many countries in South America have embraced this concept and made it their… Walking tours really help you understand where everything is, and [help] you get a local’s perspective of the city. It’s a great place to ask questions and get recommendations.