How to Travel (Better)

A travellers guide to planning, booking and being on the road

WHERE — London
PHOTOGRAPHY — Sam Flaherty

Travel exposes us to new cultures, people and ways of seeing the world. But it can also be high stress. So, to help make your next trip run a little smoother, I’m sharing all of my travel tips, tricks and words of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years.

Travel is a big part of my life; I spend a lot of time exploring new places both for work and for my own personal adventures. But whether you travel frequently for work or take one vacation each year, we can all use the odd travel hack every now and then.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still learning as I go. I definitely don’t have travel ‘nailed’. I still over-pack. I’m running late for my flight at least 50% of the time (Truth. Ask my husband), and I often spend far too long researching the ‘perfect’ hotel. That said I’ve definitely learned a few things over the years that have always stuck with me, helping make the process of booking travel smoother, and the act of travel itself a little less stressful.

So in the name of travelling a little more like a pro (and looking the part) I’ve been test-driving Paul Smith‘s most versatile, practical suits yet: A Suit To Travel In. Like the name suggests, these suits are designed specifically to still look perfect and creaseless after a six hour flight, survive being packed in your suitcase or back-to-back days of wear.

It’s 2018; you don’t need to order local currency in advance

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but you’ll be hard-pressed to end up in a place with no local ATM’s. Not only is getting cash from a currency converter before you go guaranteed to give you a terrible rate, but it’s also impossible to really know how much cash you’ll need until you’re there. By using ATM’s on the go you’ll get the best rate that day via your bank, plus you’re far less likely to end up with a bunch of spare, useless local currency sitting in your wallet the day you fly out.

Plus, most societies today are relatively cashless; I’ve gone to a number of cities without getting cash out once – even tiny islands in Bali and Mexico accept debit cards. I find it’s a lot easier to prevent over-spending when I can track each individual transaction, rather than wondering what that $300 withdrawal got spent on.

Factor in the true cost of getting to and from the airport into your overall flight budget

Often public transport isn’t running at 3am, so whilst that 6am flight might look like a bargain on paper, you need to account for the fact you’ll be taking a taxi to get to the airport.

The neighborhood is more important than the hotel or Airbnb itself

Seek advice from (like-minded) people who have actually visited the city you’re headed to on which neighborhood is the best to stay in. It’s far better to be in a run-of-the-mill hotel in an interesting part of town with plenty of restaurants and spots you want to visit, than in a super chic hotel that’s a £25 taxi ride from anywhere.

Sometimes the best place to stay isn’t actually in the very center in town, so ask around to find out which area is the best suited to what sort of of things you want from your trip.

Researching local etiquette is (almost) just as important as researching your trip itself

Did you know that in Italy you stand at the bar to drink your coffee? And if you take a seat that €1 espresso will cost you almost three times as much. Or that it’s incredibly rude to eat on the go in Japan? You’ll need to find a quiet spot to eat your sandwich rather than snack as you walk.

And in the US it’s custom to tip $1 per drink at the bar (unless it’s a fancy cocktail – for that you need to tip more), and that when you get your hair cut you’ll need to tip both the person who washed your hair and who cut it?

As an outsider these customs aren’t second nature, so it really pays to delve a little deeper into the culture you’re headed to to help avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings.

You will always over-pack. Take less than you want to, and prioritise items that are durable and versatile

Now is not the time to pack that dress you’ve never had the chance to wear. Or that silk shirt that takes 25 minutes to iron. Once you’ve finished packing, reassess what’s inside your suitcase, and be ruthless. Take out a pair of shoes, a pair of pants and anything you don’t usually wear on a regular basis.

Over-packing creates travel drag, so make a concerted effort to pack items you’ll wear more than once, that don’t crease easily, and are actually practical (which pretty much sums up the M.O of Paul Smith’s A Suit To Travel In).

Be the nerd who checks in the moment online check in is open

It’s not such an issue with short haul flights, but if you’re flying long haul, the last thing you want is to be seated next to the toilets for 17.5 hours. Checking in early often means you can pick from the better seats available. Also, if you want to get super nerdy on it (which I obviously do), check Seat Guru to find out if your allocated seat has unexpectedly limited leg room, doesn’t have a window, doesn’t recline all the way or is in close proximity to the galley.

Ensure your phone will work (without massive charges), regardless of where you’re headed

As the world has become more globalised I’ve noticed more and more phone companies offering almost worldwide coverage. And if your current provider doesn’t offer great deals abroad, maybe it’s time to shop around. My monthly 20 rate provides me with my usual allowance of calls and data almost worldwide, which gives me the peace of mind that I can just walk off the plan and Google the best transport options.

If your sim costs an arm and a leg abroad, grab a local sim once you’re in town (not at the airport – these will generally have terrible tariffs). Often for as little as €10-20 you can get a local sim which will mean access to data when you’re completely lost and ready to start World War Three with your travel partner.

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