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9 Ways to Travel Better

Clever tips for smoother, stress-free travel.

U.S. News & World Report

9 Ways to Travel Better

Passport, maps, money, boarding pass etc

Packing strategically and carrying the local currency are just a couple of ways to travel smarter.(Getty Images)

The words "tourist" and "traveler" are often used interchangeably, but for seasoned globetrotters, they carry distinctive meanings. While a traveler seeks out the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable, a tourist stays in his comfort zone, sticks to major cities and enjoys staying at hotels with amenities that rival those at home. And unlike tourists, travelers seek culturally immersive experiences and venture off the beaten path and, in turn, are rewarded with meaningful and enriching experiences. So, if you want to venture into the unknown with the mentality of a traveler – not a tourist – toss out that guidebook and follow these expert-approved tips.

Learn the Local Language

Even if you can't master a new language before you go, it's a smart idea to learn a few key phrases in the country's native tongue. While you may not be able to hold a conversation, knowing a few words can go a long way, and help you haggle for the best prices, communicate with locals and get the most out of your trip.

Arrive at Each Destination With Bills in the Local Currency

Many travelers assume that foreign countries will accept major credit cards, but that's not always the case. And keep in mind many credit cards charge foreign conversion fees, so it's important to make sure you know what fees to expect before you use your card overseas. Plan ahead and carry at least $100 of the local currency in your pocket to cover necessities, such as meals and transportation.

Stay Social

Sharing your memorable travel experiences with a hotel, tour group or airline on Twitter and Facebook provides more than just updates to friends and followers on social media. Many hotels engage with guests on these platforms, and sometimes reward social media users with room upgrades, loyalty points and free amenities.

Pack Smarter

Even if you're planning to stay in one hotel room or on one cruise ship cabin, leave enough room in your carry-on to bring home keepsakes from your trip. The last thing you want to worry about is how you're going to transport those irreplaceable souvenirs you picked up without paying exorbitant fees.

Go on an Expert-Led Tour

There's no better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a destination than with a local tour guide. Choose excursions led by resourceful guides, which will afford you with greater insight and access to lesser-visited places. Plus, knowledgeable guides can help break down language barriers, making it much easier to communicate with locals.

Rent Camera Equipment

Even if you're not a skilled photographer, a high-tech camera can help you capture incredible vacation photos. Before you rent a camera, make sure you read online reviews and practice taking photos before your trip. The last thing you want is a camera you don't know how to use on an epic African safari or a once-in-a-lifetime European getaway.

Eat Like a Local

The best part about traveling is the chance to sample the local cuisine, so skip major chains in favor of regional specialties. For example, dig into a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters in Montana, a deep-fried tarantula in Cambodia or a plate of tart ceviche in Mexico. Apart from savoring boundary-pushing plates, you'll have the added benefit of learning more about the local culture and creating long-lasting memories over an unforgettable meal.

Stay Connected for Less

Want to know how intrepid travelers save hundreds of dollars on the road? To start, they're never paying high Wi-Fi fees or data roaming charges. Skip hefty Internet fees and download Boingo, which can keep you connected for less than $5 a month. 

Connect With Locals

Embrace the different customs and cultures you encounter in the places you visit. Make a point to ask locals questions and learn about the destinations on your itinerary. And spend as much time meeting locals and broadening your understanding of different cultures and perspectives as you do exploring major landmarks and neighborhoods.

Tags: travel

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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