We all know our basic travel rules (Book in advance! Don't overpack!), but after years of the work-travel-work-travel grind, they can become nothing but empty mantras, tacked onto a list of stale travel habits that don't serve to improve our experience much at all.
Travel masters, however, are those epic wanderlusters who keep their journeys ever fresh. They hold fast to a smart, new-wave set of travel rules -- ones that aren't outdated or set in convenience.
Learn from them, and let your approach to travel be awesomely refreshed.
They book about two months before a trip.
According to analysis by flight-booking experts, domestic airline tickets are at their cheapest precisely 54 days before takeoff, on average. And if you don’t hit 54 days on the head, you should usually book between 104 to 29 days before your trip -- within the “prime booking window” -- for the lowest possible prices.
They don't try to work while they're gone.
"You just won't ever get nearly as much done as you want to," says Clayton B. Cornell, who quit his job and travelled for a year. "If you're going to travel, then just travel. There are sights to see, spontaneous adventures to be a part of, and all kinds of unexpected things that happen. Aren't you traveling to take advantage of those?"
They follow the 80/20 rule.
If you're backpacking, every pound over 20 is absolutely crippling to mobility, Cornell adds. He recommends carrying the 20 percent of your necessities that will cover 80 percent of possible travel scenarios. "Packing for every possibility is suicidal," he says.
They learn slang.
Studying a few phrases of your host country's language shows that you care about locals, which translates to major respect from the people you'll be meeting. "Understanding (slang expressions) will give you a huge boost in comprehension," writes journalist Whitney Richelle. "Using them will make you much more fun to talk to."
Thirty-eight percent of Americans check their work emails on vacation. This is not the case with master travelers, who know what a tech-free trip does for mental health (it boosts melatonin production, increases feelings of satisfaction, and gives you the ability to focus for longer periods of time when you get home). Master travelers send critical messages and set out-of-office responses before they board the plane, and they use apps to disable their phones while they're gone.
They go alone.
Not only could it ward off depression, but it allows master travelers to make strong social connections and therefore expand the number of friends they have the option of visiting around the world.
They don't buy travel-size anything.
You can save a buck (or hundreds) by refilling empty travel-size tubes with big ones. It's just one of many travel hacks -- like using plastic wrap to store necklaces and linking your USB to the hotel TV -- that expert packers rely on.
They know what to do during a plane crash.
"A number of crash studies focusing on both survivors and staged experiments have proven that the brace position saves lives in airline accidents," writes SmarterTravel. "According to the FAA, you should brace correctly by returning your seat to the upright position. Then rest your head and chest against your legs while grasping your ankles or legs, keeping your face down in your lap (not turned sideways)."
They brief themselves on cultural differences.
The metric versus the English system, the 12-hour clock versus the 24-hour clock, Fahrenheit versus Celsius, various national exchange rates... a knowledge of all these cultural peculiarities is part of the master traveler's arsenal.
They let their credit cards do the deal-hunting for them.
"By milking the system, you can get tons of free air tickets, hotel rooms, vacations, or even cash," says Matt Kepnes, author of the award-winning budget travel site Nomadic Matt. After exchanging his credit cards for ones that offer travel rewards, he racked up thousands of airline miles, first class flights, and nights at hotels, without waiting for years. And choosing a good rewards card is easier than you think.
They check for bedbugs.
It's one of the first things you should do when you walk into a hotel room, say the experts at SmarterTravel. You might not see the actual insects, but they will leave small stains behind -- those who are savvy enough to notice can swap a room out before anything unsavory happens.
They ask for the window seat.
Yes, this ensures that master travelers don't get bumped by the drink cart. But it also means they have a shot at capturing epic photos like these.
They talk to locals.
Ever ask a local where to go for dinner after consulting your travel book, only to find a HUGE price and quality difference? "Good travel is all about meeting people, talking with them, and learning," says Rick Steves.
They travel selflessly.
Selfish travelers are those who pressure others to "eat, sleep and play wherever they like," writes manners coach Richie Frieman. This self-serving attitude causes conflict with travel companions, so a master traveler manages a sensible give-and-take between his or her wants and the wants of companions.
They dream up destinations, then find low-cost alternatives.
The secret to traveling often is to remove the daunting, overwhelming, wallet-smashing elements of booking a trip. Master travelers often pick a pricey dream destination, then research a cheaper city or beach that has the qualities they're looking for. Not only does this lower the cost of traveling, it also ensures they meet more locals, see less crowds, and enjoy a more authentic all-around experience.
They don't let anything rain on their parade.
A day wasted -- whether emotionally or economically -- isn't a concept master travelers are familiar with. If their flight is canceled or the hotel lost their reservation or the weather is poor, they use ingenuity to make the best of it.