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9 Traditional Travel Tips It’s Safe to Ignore

If you're not a seasoned jetsetter, planning a trip and getting out of town can be stressful. But before you play by all of the so-called rules, take the advice of these travel experts on how to truly have a vacation to remember.

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Stylish girl sit at the table in loft room and write. Traveler planning the trip. Handsome latin woman making notes in notepad
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Make a plan before you leave

While travel blogger Nate Hake used to make day-by-day itineraries before he left for vacation, he now recommends a more spontaneous approach to jet setting. This might be a tad more nerve-wracking, but Hake says having every-little-detail mapped out can stand in the way of more memorable experiences. “After enough time, you start to learn that the best experiences are unplanned. From making a group of Russian friends in the self-proclaimed nation of Abkhazia to spontaneously renting a campervan and driving around Tasmania, my favorite memories were rarely something I expected beforehand,” he shares. Be spontaneous, but still safe: Make sure to follow these safety tips for smart travel, especially when alone.

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Don’t talk to strangers

Sure, your mom might have told you to be wary of strangers—especially in a place with a language you don’t speak—but take those words of wisdom with a grain of salt. As Hilary Welter, digital nomad for NRHA, explains, locals can often be your greatest resource. Trust your gut and be mindful of who you decide to strike up a conversation with, but don’t be afraid. “Becoming friendly with a local is a sure way to see some awesome off-the-beaten-path places that you wouldn’t have found otherwise,” Welter explains. “There are plenty of kind locals who are happy to show off their home city to tourists.”

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Carry your passport with you at all times

Especially if you’re new to crossing the Atlantic, your passport might feel like a prized, often scary, possession to have with you. While it is your most important document, Suzanne Wolko, travel blogger, advises against always carrying it while you’re traveling. “I take a photo of my passport and keep it in my email ‘drafts’ folder so I can access it if needed,” she explains. “When shopping and filling out tax reclaim forms, I’ve used the photo in stores without an issue.” Here are some more packing tips that’ll make your next trip way easier.

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Avoid certain countries if you’re an American, solo—and so on

Though, sure, it is important to do a bit of research on your intended destination’s travel advisories (the U.S. State Department’s website is a smart place to begin), traveler and author Kelly Hayes-Raitt says not to discount a place based on hearsay. In other words, what makes the news is often the exception, not the rule. “Bombings, frequent muggings, and other violence are usually contained to a specific area, which doesn’t necessarily mean the whole city or country is inherently unsafe,” she continues. “Be smart, stay aware, use your instincts, and don’t let others’ fear dissuade you.” In fact, these 13 “dangerous” countries are safer than you might think.

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A romantic outdoor patio dining table and chairs with an umbrella overlooks beautiful Clearlake in Lake County California
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Only Airbnb gives you the local experience

While Airbnb offers a unique experience for many, Brooke Siem, digital nomadic writer and chef, recommends thinking twice about always picking this route, as it could impact the local community. “Many residents are getting forced out of their homes by landlords who see a money-making opportunity in tourists who want to stay in the ‘heart’ of an area, be it Venice, Lake Tahoe, or Cuba,” she continues. “Consider a boutique bed & breakfast or homestay instead, which provide a local, homey experience and contribute to the local economy.”

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Sad Fired Young Employee Packing A Box To Leave The Office

You have to quit your job if you want to travel long-term

As the growing digital nomad community is proving, the definition of work is fluid. Getting a long-term trip approved might just take a bit of convincing. “Remote work is on the rise—and by explaining how you can be productive anywhere, not just in your cubicle, you might be able to make the shift,” explains Jess Tatham, digital nomad and location-independent web developer. If your manager declines your request, there are plenty of companies who operate with fully remote workers. Or, if you’re ready for the freelance route, take a line out of Tatham’s resumé and branch out on your own.

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European cities are too expensive

Always wanted to see the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, or stroll through the promenade of Rome? While these top spots usually get a bad rap for being out of everyone’s price range, Hayes-Raitt reminds that there is a budget-friendly solution for nearly every locale. Instead of thinking your dream trip is out of the question, get creative. Some of her favorite money-saving tips: “I buy museum cards that allow me to visit a variety of museums at a discount. I eat at food markets, and I walk or take public transportation rather than rent a car. And I use Groupon discount coupons for dining out and for entertainment.” All of these methods paired together can save you hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars.

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Street food for sale in market in Bangkok Thailand
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Don’t eat the street food

Many health pros might recommend travelers stay clear of the street food, but Siem says that’s a huge missed opportunity. Instead of fully cutting it out of your away-from-home diet, Siem says just to proceed with caution to keep your tummy tamed while enjoying local delicacies. “Look for crowded stands in popular locations, where turnover is high. Start with a small meal with low spice to see how you do. Stick to veggies that are peeled and meat that looks bright and fresh, and avoid any stands that smell strongly of old oil,” she explains. Follow these 15 other tips to stay healthy while on vacation.

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travel concept.group of traveller friend with trikets counter and time table background.asia tourist looking map in terminal at Hualumpong Bangkok train station.
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You shouldn’t travel solo

Exploring new terrains all by yourself is becoming more and more popular, but that doesn’t prevent naysayers (like your parents) from warning against it. As long as you are smart and careful—as you should be at home and away—traveling solo isn’t as scary as it is often perceived. “You can travel solo by joining a tour group, going solo to a yoga or surf retreat, or going independent and traveling completely on your own,” Wolko explains. Next, check out these other common travel tips that are no longer true.

Lindsay Tigar
Lindsay Aurora Tigar is an experienced digital editor and blogger in NYC. Her blog, Confessions of a Love Addict, has a large following around the world, and a book project based on the blog is under development. The New York Post named her New York City's most eligible single in January 2014. She was also selected as one of New York's most desirable singles by the lifestyle dating website Rachel & Chris and has partnered with several popular dating blogs to create viral content. She is part of the HerCampus Blogger Network and spoke at their summer conference on "How to Be a Powerhouse Blogger." She's a social media and digital media guru with large followings on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. She freelances for several sites, including Shape.com, eHarmony.com, AskMen.com, Engagement 101 and more. She's also the resident dater for Women'sHealthMag.com, writing weekly about her dating adventures in her "Dater Diary" column.