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15 Experts Share Their Best Travel Advice

11/14/2016 02:26 pm ET

Traveling the world may seem glamorous when viewing from social media or on tv, but the truth is travel has many challenges. Language barriers, flight delays, wrenches in plans and cultural differences can be enough to overwhelm even the most vetted travelers.

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15 of the world's top travel experts have come together to sound off on their best travel hacks, solo travel, and staying safe while abroad. Here's what they had to say:

What is your best piece of advice for new solo travelers?

1. Don't Plan Too Much
"Don't make too many plans. I think sometimes when it comes to travel we want
to make sure we squeeze in as much as we can so we feel fulfilled. My
experience has showed me that the less we plan, the more we can get off the
beaten path and meet people, and then that's when things turn out the best.

If you go looking to understand the people, you'll have a different experience every
time. It's the promise of surprise that makes travel what it is - so talk to people, talk
to everyone and don't make too many plans."
- Jack Maxwell (Host of Booze Traveler, Travel Channel)

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Jack Maxwell

2. Hang Out At Hostels
"If you want to meet other solo travelers hangout in the lobby of a popular hostel."
- Johnny Jet (Writer, JohnnyJet.com)

3. Join Group Tours
"Plan to go on at least one group tour. You'll meet other travelers (who can tell you where to go and what to avoid) as well as savvy locals in the form of tour guides. You can also meet people virtually -- at least at first -- by visiting forums like Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree and by using sites/apps like EatWith, Cookening, Eat With Me, and even dating apps."
- Brian Kelly (Writer & Airline Miles Expert, ThePointsGuy.com)

4. Take A Breather
"Scheduled days with nothing on the itinerary are important. If you're on a short vacation, you want to come home recharged. If you're on a longer trip, you need time to do your laundry, catch up on emails, sit in a hammock all day staring into space - whatever! If you try to fill every single moment with activities, tours and adventures you'll burn out fast. Don't feel guilty about taking a tiny vacation from your travels!"
- Alexandra Baackes (Travel Writer, AlexInWanderland.com)

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Alexandra Baackes

5. Slow Down.
"It can be tempting to try to see it all. With limited vacation time, we are always trying to squeeze everything in -- rushing through 20 cities in 20 days, or 100 countries on our round-the-world trip. In the end, all we have to show for it are photos, stress, and a whirlwind of experiences but no real knowledge of the places we went. (After you try to rush through Australia, you'll be burnt out and realize you saw everything but nothing at all. You'll wish you did it slower.)

Don't rush your trip. Make time to spend a relaxing day in the park or just sitting in a café people watching. Slow down. It gives you time to drink deep from a culture and take it all in."
- Matt Kepnes (Travel Blogger, NomadicMatt.com)

6. Get Off The Beaten Path
"As a first time solo traveler, it's easy to stick to the beaten path of tourists destinations and tour groups. If you do that, you aren't truly experiencing the culture or the destination.
Instead, wander down a few streets off the main strip and find where the locals live, eat, drink, and relax. Sit at the bar of a local restaurant or cafe and strike up a conversation with the bartender. Where do they hang out? Ask if they will show you around their neighborhoods.
Often times, other locals will chime in with their favorite place or hidden secret. If you are respectful enough and display sincere interest, you may even be invited to their home for dinner.
You certainly aren't going to get knee deep in a new culture on your tour group only meeting a bunch of other tourists."
- Valerie Wilson (Travel Journalist & Host, TrustedTravelGirl.com)

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Valerie Wilson

7. Prepare For Disasters
"As cliche as it sounds, you've gotta hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
So much of solo travel that's left out of the stunning Instagram shots, are the disastrous encounters, mishaps, and screw-ups that happen in between. I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I'm so confident in my solo travels, that I'm immune to disaster. Because disaster doesn't discriminate. Something will go horrifically wrong, and the sooner you can accept its inevitability, the easier it is to cope."
- Gloria Atanmo (Travel Blogger, TheBlogAbroad.com)

What is your best tip for staying safe while traveling?  

1. Be Prepared
"Be prepared for everything, which includes: Know where you are going in advance. Share that itinerary and details with friends and family via email.
Have a plan B at all times. Carry some local currency on you. Register your trip with local embassies and consulates at STEP (https://step.state.gov/step/). And know where to go to find help."
- Brian Kelly (Writer & Airline Miles Expert, ThePointsGuy.com)

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Brian Kelly

2. Early to Rise
"Wake up early and go to bed early. Sure, you might want to spend the odd night out and about exploring after dark, but for the most part night time is more dangerous than during the day as visibility is more difficult, so I feel better maximising daylight hours by getting up early and seizing the day!"
- Brooke Saward (Travel & Lifestyle Blogger, WorldofWanderlust.com)

3. Exude Confidence
"Be sure to have confidence and use your intuition. If you're on your own for the first time, it's as daunting as it is exciting. When you go out exploring, adopt a secure and open posture- you'll look approachable to the right people and not an easy target for the wrong people. Don't feel confident? The old adage is right: fake it until you make it."
- Kiersten Rich (Travel & Lifestyle Blogger, TheBlondeAbroad.com)

4. Understand the Political Climate
"Try to understand what's going on in the place you're visiting - the political climate, the economic climate, that's it. Be smart and pay attention to what's going on around you. But embrace the adventure. If you want excitement, if you want to feel your heart beat - that's travel. We're enriched by the sum total of our experiences and to have an experience, you have to take a chance."
- Jack Maxwell (Host of Booze Traveler, Travel Channel)

5. Act Like A Confident Local
To stay safe you need to blend in, which means dressing the part. Obviously you aren't going to look like the people in every country you visit, but you should look like you might live there. If you walk around looking like a tourist in a t-shirt and shorts with your expensive camera around your neck, you will stick out like a sore thumb, even in the States. In certain countries women should cover up, not only to be respectful, but to fit in for safety reasons. I keep my camera in my Lo & Sons camera bag that looks like a purse, so no one knows I'm toting expensive equipment.
Taxi drivers will sometimes ask if it's your first time to a city if you are clearly a foreigner. I always tell taxi drivers that I visit often, even if I have never been to that city. I have heard stories of taxis driving people to unwanted destinations and demanding more money, so make sure the driver sees you snap a photo of their plate number and taxi ID as you enter. Always demand that they run the meter.
Most importantly, present yourself with confidence and it's more likely that no one will mess with you. 
- Valerie Wilson (Travel Journalist & Host, TrustedTravelGirl.com)

6. Don't Stand Out
"Do your best to avoid standing out. Avoid flashy clothing, leave the jewelry at home, and don't carry huge amounts of cash. Sometimes I don't withdraw any cash at all, since you can use credit cards for most overseas purchases now."
- Zach Honig (Editor-In-Chief, ThePointsGuy.com)

7. Safety in Numbers
"While walking in well-lit and busy areas can be fine, be careful walking at night. You never know what lurks around the corner.  There's safety in number so always try to walk with someone you've met or near a group of people.  Don't head down deserted streets on your own in the dark.  That's just a bad idea!"
- Matt Kepnes (Travel Blogger, NomadicMatt.com)

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Matt Kepnes

8. Don't Act Scared (Even If You Are)
"First the cliche "Listen to your gut." But that doesn't always work so if you find yourself in a less-than-desirable (okay, objectively dangerous) situation, be calm and authoritative. Don't act scared. Sure, "Easy for you to say..." but I'm a 5'3" woman who has hitchhiked around Africa, rode a motorbike around India and was tear-gassed in Turkey - if I can stand my ground, I promise, so can you. You might be surprised by how strong and brave you actually are."
- Lindsay McCormick (Travel Producer & Youtube Personality)

9. Take Extra Precautions
"Don't get too comfortable. Air B&B's, Uber, etc are all seemingly safe but there have been horror stories all over the world. If you're staying at an Air B&B - make sure to lock the extra lock at night, just to be safe. If you're taking an Uber back to your hotel in a new city - have them drop you off at the corner, not directly in front of where you're staying. "Better safe than sorry" might sound a bit harsh but truthfully when you're alone and traveling - you can never play it "too safe"."
- Jacklyn Shields (Photographer & Blogger, GetLostWithJackie.com)

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Jacklyn Shields

10. Keep Someone Else Updated
"Make sure you have someone who knows where you are all the time. Send them your itinerary and regularly keep them in the loop of your whereabouts. It may sound pedantic, but if anything did go majorly wrong, there would be someone out there who knew your whereabouts."
- Nicola Easterby (Photographer & Blogger, PolkadotPassport.com)

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Nicola Easterby

What is your best travel hack? (This can be anything from alternative
uses for everyday products, to packing tips or making free calls abroad.)

1. Take Full Advantage of Your Layover
"One of my favorite travel hacks is getting creative with flight routes, and ultimately getting free, extended stopovers. I research multi-leg flights to see where I can go without having to pay extra- so for example, a roundtrip flight from L.A. to Cancun might have a one hour layover in Miami as part of the trip. Try searching for a multi leg flight, flying from L.A. into Miami, then a few days later flying from Miami to Cancun, then instead of returning directly to L.A., you can try adding a leg from Cancun to Mexico City, then Mexico City to L.A. This strategy works all over the world and often you won't have to pay a difference in fares because those stops are considered layovers. I've been able to book month-long trips with multiple destinations using this method!"
- Kiersten Rich, (Travel Blogger, TheBlondeAbroad.com)

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Kiersten Rich

2. Get A Better Seat
"Always ask for a better seat at check in (like an aisle row or a row of seats to yourself). The aisle rows are usually reserved for check-in, so its your best chance to get a better set without paying for it!"
- Brooke Saward (Travel & Lifestyle Blogger, WorldofWanderlust.com)

3. Be A Savvy Packer
"As I've been living out of a suitcase for just over 3 years now, I tend to have a large majority of my travel photos with me in them -- and one of the biggest feedback I get is how I seemingly have so many clothes. As minuscule as this may seem on the grander scheme of things, for my female readers, this is huge, so one of my biggest travel hacks in regards to travel fashion, is to pack clothes that can double as multiple things. My skirts can be turned into shirts with jeans. My cardigans can be looped into scarves. I can wear blouses over my dress tops, and most importantly, I pack lots of solid colors, so that I can disguise them as new material when dressed up with different accessories or jewelry."
- Gloria Atanmo (Travel Blogger, TheBlogAbroad.com)

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Gloria Atanmo

4. Build Your Airline Miles
"If you're not taking advantage of frequent flyer miles or credit cards points, start now! The world of travel hacking can be intimidating to beginners, but don't let that stop you. Personally, I build miles by flying primarily within one airline alliance, and signing up for credit cards with large sign-up point bonuses. There are so many free resources online to help you get started, and you'll thank yourself when you board that first free flight!"
- Alexandra Baackes (Travel Writer, AlexInWanderland.com)

5. Discover New Viewpoints
"If you're into photos or video, go postcard shopping. 
Not necessarily to buy one (you're mom would love that though), but to see where local photographers are taking interesting pictures. You can discover places you wouldn't normally see on a map, and also find great ideas for new angles of popular places."
- Mike Corey (Youtuber, KickTheGrind.tv)

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Mike Corey

6. Know How To Send Yourself Money
"Before going abroad, make sure you have a method in place to send money overseas. You don't want to get stranded in Tasmania without access to your bank accounts and no way to send or receive cash (trust me on that one). I use TransferWise to send and receive payments all over the world for just 1%."
- Jeremy Scott Foster (Travel Writer, TravelFreak.com)

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Jeremy Scott Foster

7. Use This Map Hack
"If like me, you are someone who tends to get lost easily, get the app Maps.Me and download the offline map of the place you are in. Unlike google maps, with Maps.Me even when you don't have internet you can still get directions to a place!"
- Nicola Easterby (Photographer & Blogger, PolkadotPassport.com)

8. Put Your Extra Bags to Use
"As a habitual over-packer I'm always looking for pack-hacks. I recently started carrying my electronics chargers in a Kate Spade clutch, my makeup (secured in ziplocks) in a Lo&Sons Pearl Crossbody bag and my accessories (hats, scarves, jewelry, etc) in a Marc Jacobs crossbody bag - why? Because I love options! I condone the woman who can travel for six weeks with one purse option but I'm ever-so-unfortunately not her. Using my purses as their own sort of "packing cube" has changed the way I pack, and gives me all the options when I'm abroad."
- Jacklyn Shields (Photographer & Blogger, GetLostWithJackie.com)

9. Duct Tape
"Always have duct tape. I wrap mine around the end of a Sharpie pen to save space at keep it easily accessible in my luggage or pack. You can use pieces as a trail marker when hiking, a way to patch ripped pants or shoes and a portable lint remover - all in one!"
- Lindsay McCormick (Travel Producer & Youtube Personality)

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Lindsay McCormick

10. Be Nice
"Be genuinely nice to everyone and it will open all kinds of doors."
- Johnny Jet (Writer, JohnnyJet.com)

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Johnny Jet

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