Welcome to the Memories of a Moonbird podcast, where we explore the human life through infinite forms of travel.
Hello! And welcome to the Memories of a Moonbird podcast. I’m Daniel Scherl. This episode is actually a companion to Moonbird’s Awesome Top 50 Travel Tips, which you can find in the travel tips section on the website. Since there’s fifty tips, I’ve broken them out into five episodes, with each episode covering ten tips. Today, we’ll be going over numbers one through ten, so let’s get right to it.
So what is number one? What is the biggest, most important travel tip I have? It’s very simply: “Make the Decision That Travel is a Priority in Your Life.”
Well, what does that mean? It means you have to stop making excuses that all human beings are good at doing. And you have to honestly just say to yourself, Hey, I want to travel, and that’s going to be something very important in my life. When you do that, magically a bunch of other stuff will fall by the wayside and you’ll start to put things in motion that will make travel happen. Several elements of this I’m going to discuss later on in other tips like how to budget for travel, et cetera, et cetera. But for now, the one thing you need to know is that everything else you do when it comes to traveling stems from this one choice.
Every other travel tip I have, every other piece of advice, all of it comes from this number one thing, which is why it’s the number one thing on my top 50 travel tips. You want to learn how to earn free plane tickets, you want to research your destination. I learn how to pack better, how to save money, all of it. All of it starts with that first choice. Make the decision that travel is a priority in your life. So let’s have a real life example of this. Jolene and I decided we wanted to go to Scotland. And so we did our travel plan, which we’ll talk about later. And when we had our budget for it, we sat down and said, okay, if this is the amount of money that we’re going to spend, how do we save some money so we can make this trip happen?
When I’m saving up to go travel, one of the first things to go is eating out at restaurants. The money that I would spend eating out even once or twice a week, added up over six months or a year, is a lot of money. So the discipline comes in saying, Hey, I have this goal. I want to go to Scotland, so I’m gonna tighten the belt. I’m going to be disciplined about not going out to eat and just make food at home and all that money that I normally would have spent, I’m going to put away into my savings so we can do something cool and we’re in Scotland, or rent a car, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And I think you can see that. That’s a prime example that I made the decision that travel is a priority in my life, so therefore I’m willing to make the compromises necessary to make it happen. This will naturally get referred back to over and over again as we review these travel tips.
So let’s keep it going. Number two: “Save So You Can Spend.”
Well, that’s pretty obvious, right? Save money, so can spend it on travel or spend it while you’re traveling. Believe it or not, this is pretty hard for people and the reason why is we develop habits over time. Things we really love, comforts, all that stuff, et cetera. And one of the big ones for people nowadays is going to Starbucks or another coffee shop for your daily cup of Joe. Well, I did the math on the website and you can read all the actual calculations as an example, but the bottom line is if you stopped going to Starbucks and you brewed coffee at home, and I’m not talking about forever, I’m just talking about during the time that you’re trying to save up to travel.
In one year you can accrue about $1,600 sometimes more, sometimes a little less depending on how much coffee and which coffee you buy, et cetera. But the point is that we have all these little comfort foods, I call them these things we spend money on that we don’t really think about cause it’s $2 a year, $3 there. So if you can be disciplined and again, making travel the priority in your life, then over time all those pennies are going to accrue and a lot sooner than you think you’re going to have the money to take that trip. You’re also going to get excited because the money you’re putting away is going to start to grow and you’re going to see those numbers increasing every month that that’s an awesome feeling. Now, there’s other ways you can actually save money. In one of them I tell people is, Hey, in modern day, most people have some kind of streaming service, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, et cetera, CBS, whatever.
But you don’t need them all. So again, if travel’s the priority and you are disciplined enough to say, Hey, you know what? For this six months that I’m going to save up, I’m gonna temporarily put my Amazon prime or my Netflix or whatever, my Hulu on hold and I’m going to take that $15 a month and I’m going to put it away. I mean $15 a month in six months is $90. $90 on a trip gets you a couple of really nice meals out or an a night at an Airbnb. You can see how this stuff starts to add up. Another thing you can do is check the percentage that your savings account at your bank is earning. If you have one, most banks pay 0.01% it’s really, I mean it’s pretty lousy, but there’s a bunch of online savings accounts through big companies that are known and safe and they offer savings accounts around 2% so if you’re putting away a fairly decent amount of money over time, 2% of that, it’s going to be a lot more than 0.01% so that’s something else to look into and consider.
All right, so the last thing I want to talk about under “Save So You Can Spend,” is you just simply being honest about where you spend your money. Now I’m a bit of a math and numbers geeks, so I make a spreadsheet and on, you know, the left hand side, I have the categories of where I spend money. On the right hand side I have all the amounts and then over time I can see the actual amounts of money I’m spending in all those different categories. What’s really great about this is you will probably see, Oh man, I didn’t realize I was spending so much on X, Y, Z expenses, and sometimes there are things that you can either curtail temporarily put on hold or get rid altogether. Those are great ways to save money. I also think it’s really cool to see data over time, and not a lot of people actually do that, unfortunately, but if you can, you know, learn how to do a basic spreadsheet or even write it down by hand if you want to and just really keep track of where your money’s going. I think you might be surprised.
All right, so let’s move on to number three, which is: “Use Points and Miles for Free Travel.”
This is such an important subject that I actually already recorded a separate podcast episode all about it, and it’s episode number four, “How to Earn Free Plane Tickets.” So when you’re done listening to this one, head on over to that one, and you will hear everything you’ve ever wanted to know about using points and miles for free travel.
All right let’s keep this fun bus going. Number four: “Make a Pre-Travel Plan. You’ll Never Be Sorry You Did.”
That means my friends, it’s time to do some homework. For me personally, my pre-travel plan consists of doing a lot of research, a lot of reading and then creating a Pinterest board with ideas for that specific trip. One of the reasons this is so important is for example when we went to Scotland I had a whole bunch of different destinations written down that I thought would be cool to go and Jolene had a whole bunch of destinations she thought would be really cool to go to. So we compared notes and we really wanted to go to the Orkney islands, which is way, way, way North in Scotland. We also wanted to go to aisle of sky and spend some time in the in the South and we were starting our trip in Edinburgh and we had two weeks.
So we looked at a map and I started actually calculating through Google maps the distances between the different cities and places to try and see if it was something we could fit in. But I got suspicious that Orkney was going to be too far away with the amount of things we wanted to do and the time we had. We happen to have a really good friend who’s from Scotland. So I called him up and I gave him all my notes and research and, and he said, yeah, look, uh, for what you want to do and the time you have, Orkney is not going to happen because it’s too far away and you’re just not gonna be able to fit it in. And even though that may have been disappointing for, you know, 0.02 seconds, the reality was, okay, great, well we’ll take a separate trip to Scotland some day and we’ll go up to Orkney and we’ll, we’ll do that as trip number two.
And the other thing is it really saved us from a potentially miserable trip because he wouldn’t have planned ahead and then showed up and suddenly tried to fit too much in. And then we’re rushing everywhere and not enjoying ourselves. And so this is what I’m talking about, having this, this pre-travel plan, doing some research. You’re, you’re just not ever going to go wrong having that information. Now, in all fairness, I’ve had people look at me and say, well, Hey man, all this planning, you know, it kind of, it kind of takes the thrill of living in flying by the seat of your pants away. Well, no it doesn’t. And I’ll tell you why because in every trip you take that I think is longer than 48 hours, believe me, there’s going to be some flying by the seat of your pants. There’s going to be improv and there’s going to be unexpected things.
And so most of the time if you plan ahead a little bit, even if you do a a small amount of research, just having some general information is really going to help your trip be so much better. Another great example of this is the first time we went to Paris, we actually didn’t plan anything and we showed up and we walked all the way across the city and I, there’s post about this on the website called feeding birds in Paris and we got all the way across Paris spending hours walking across the stage just to go to the loop and we were there on the day the museum was closed. So our lack of planning led to us not being able to see this world famous museum because we only had a very limited amount of time. We were, we were just passing through Paris for the day.
So what happens on our next trip to Paris, we planned ahead and we got to spend a lot of time at the lube and it was awesome. Another really important part of this that I want to bring up is that I personally think when you start doing your pre-travel plan, that’s when you get really excited because not only have you, have you decided to go travel, which is in and of itself awesome. But now, now you get to actually start digging into the stuff. You get to put a post on Facebook and ask friends if they’ve been to the place you’re going. You get to read a travel book or do some more Google research and see people’s pictures. You can look on Instagram and there’s so much easy research available to us in the modern day and I think it’s awesome to start getting really jazzed and excited about taking your trip after all, most likely you’ve saved up for quite a while to do this and why not let it be something really cool to look forward to every single day.
Weather is another big factor of the pre-travel plan. I always check the kind of year average temperatures for the time of year, I’m going to be going to a particular destination. And of course about, you know, two weeks to four weeks ahead of the trip, I start checking the weather every few days to see if there’s a pattern or things are unseasonably cold or unseasonably warm obviously because this not only affects your excursions and the things you want to do, but it has a big impact on your wardrobe. Obviously the colder the weather, the more clothing you’re going to need and vice versa. So these are just things to look at. Every person is going to have a different pre-travel plan, but I’m going to throw out a few more things that I think you should do, should take into consideration. One, when you are actually planning your trip before you’ve purchased plane tickets, make sure you use some apps that scan airlines for the cheaper flights.
You never know. And a lot of time, apps like Hopper and Skyscanner are great for checking when things are on sale and trends, etc. And the apps will even tell you, Hey, don’t buy this ticket right now. It’s definitely going to go down in price in the next couple of weeks. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars by just using those simple tricks and speaking to plane tickets. Let’s talk about flexible airfare. Should you purchase a ticket with a flexible airfare rate? Number one, it’s much more expensive. What are the benefits? Well, it allows you to change your ticket pretty much whenever you want with little or no fee. Now, if you’re living a life where you have a lot of last minute things going on and you need that flexibility, well, okay, then budget for it and pay for it. Me personally, I rarely pay the extra for that kind of flexibility because number one, I’ve planned this trip for quite a while and I’m really excited about taking it and unless an emergency, I really don’t want to change my plans.
Number two, God forbid there’s an actual emergency. Most airlines will let you miss your flight and then give you a credit with their airline that’s good for one year from the date of purchase on the ticket, so even if you have to miss a flight and unfortunately then you can have that credit and reuse again and repurchase the ticket later on. So definitely check with whatever airline you’re going to book with and find out what their specific policies are because they’re all just a little bit different. But in general, I’d rather say that money and use it for something cool while I’m traveling. If you’ve done some research and you’re going to a place that has really cool exhibits and museums and things like that, I really highly recommend purchasing a pass for those museums or seeing if they have a city pass for your destination ahead of time.
This will save you standing and really annoying long lines and get you right to the front of the queue. If you’re going to be traveling by rail or subway, wherever you’re going. Again, purchase a rail or subway pass ahead of time if you can. If your smartphone has a digital pass for whatever rapid transit system you’re using, great. Set that up ahead of time so you can just go and not have to worry about it when you’re there. Now I know I’ve talked about researching a place. Well why is that important? I wanted to give you a real example. When we decided to go to New Zealand for our 10 year anniversary, we did some basic research and we, we read a little bit and we saw a, you know, a bunch of things we wanted to do. We wanted to go to Hobbiton, we wanted to, a friend of ours told us to take a helicopter, uh, and, and go up to the top of this glacier, which I’d always wanted to do in my whole life.
Which side note, there’s a really cool post on the website all about that. But while we were reading and doing research, we stumbled across an entry about a, an adventure called the black abyss. Now we’re both rock climbers and we tend to like really cool adventure stuff. But I looked into this thing and it turns out it’s this really incredible two or three hour underground caving adventure it is to this day, one of the coolest things that we’ve ever done anywhere in the world, and we only found out about it because we were making a pre-trip plan and doing some research and that’s what I’m saying. You’re going to discover a lot of really, really cool stuff that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.
All right, halfway there. Number five: “Don’t Plan to Go Everywhere in One Trip. Please Trust Me on This.”
Now, why should you trust me on this? One of the classic mistakes that people make when they travel is trying to go see a multitude of locations in a short amount of time because they feel like, Oh man, Hey, this trip costs me a lot of money. I’m in Europe. I want to see like 15 countries in 12 days, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. For most people walk in the planet earth, that is actually a mistake. It’s, it’s a real misnomer to think that you’re going to get your money’s worth by seeing all these different places in a short amount of time because what’s going to happen is you’re actually not going to get anywhere near your money’s worth, and the reason is that when you try to fit in lots and lots of locations, destinations, there’s no way for you actually to relax and take in the culture and the people and the feel of these incredible places.
Now, you’re going to hear a lot of different opinions on this subject if you start talking to people, but I do encourage you to do that. However, I also encourage you to remember this phrase. Consider the source. Is the person you’re talking to into a lot of the same kind of stuff that you are, are they someone you know? If you love museums, are they someone that loves museums? Because if they’re an adrenaline junkie and you’re a museum person, your opinions on this subject are probably going to be different and they might not necessarily line up. I often tell people that. The analogy I make is that traveling quickly through a lot of destinations is basically like watching several days of movie previews but never actually sitting down to take any kind of movie in. If that’s the kind of trip you want a highlight reel of Europe, well, okay then go there and have that trip and have a great time.
But I’m telling you if you go to one or two destinations instead of 10 and you’re there for a week or so or maybe two weeks and you get to talk to people and absorb the culture and see how other people in other parts of the world live, that is such a better trip. I will tell you, no one’s ever going to convince me that speeding through a bunch of destinations is a better trip than taking the time to be there and be present. And the reason why is that I’ve actually done that trip a couple of times. We did this crazy marathon trip once where we were in five countries in one week and we not only got sick, but we actually spent so much time in trains and buses and planes and airports that we were honestly exhausted and cranky and we missed so many things because we spent so much time on all this other nonsense. Now I don’t consider it a wasted trip because we obviously learned this valuable lesson, but trust me, you don’t want to squander your time and money like that.
All right! Number six: “Use Airbnb and Avoid Expensive Hotels Unless You Can Afford It.”
Airbnb, for the most part is really, really great. In all the years that we’ve used them, we’ve honestly only had one bad experience and that wasn’t the fault of Airbnb. It was the fault of the person who had basically lied about their listing. And yes, there’s a post in the things don’t always go as planned section coming soon, all about that fun time. So why Airbnb over a hotel? I’ll tell you why. Because when you go to Airbnb, you basically get to find a place that’s a home away from home. Now obviously having a little home away from home to come back to is a really nice thing and it’s very comfortable and cozy and that’s all great.
And of course, being able to cook your own foods and save some money, that’s all really awesome. But for me personally, if you rent an Airbnb that you have to yourself, the best part is that you’re not surrounded by a bunch of weird, crazy, stinky people.
All right! We’re just flying through them… Number seven: “Invest in and Get Fitted for a Really Good Backpack Because Proper Fit is Everything.”
If you are a traveler carries a backpack. When you go gallivanting around the world, no matter where you go, getting fit for a backpack is one of the most important things you will ever do. And your future self is going to thank you profusely. Why? Well, believe it or not, all human beings are not actually built the same size. If that’s not unbelievably obvious. So why would one backpack fit everybody? Well, of course they don’t.
The problem is that most people pick a backpack up and go, yeah, it’s fine, and then they carry it around and what happens is they end up hurting themselves or getting a sore back or their shoulders hurt, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The reason this happens most often is either that the backpack itself is an improper fit or the load the cargo in the backpack is packed incorrectly. The weight is not distributed well, and so it’s bearing down on all the wrong parts of the body. Now, this subject alone could fill up a very long podcast, but essentially if you’re a person who’s going to be traveling and using a backpack quite a bit, or you’re a student going to school, I highly recommend going to a store like REI and having them properly fit you for a backpack. They’re going to measure you.
They’re going to have you try on several different backpacks. They’re gonna explain to you how weight gets distributed properly through the waist adjustment, through the shoulder adjustments, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They’ll also put some bags of weight into the backpack so that you can feel what it’s like when there’s actually weight bearing down on your body in that particular backpack and I highly recommend again, that you not only have the proper fit done, but that you try at least two or three different kinds of backpacks on to see which one you really like.
Now this segues beautifully into number eight which is: “Invest in and Get Fitted for Really Good Walking Shoes.”
Pretty much every single thing I just said about getting fit for a backpack applies to walking shoes. You are going to be on your feet a lot in your life. This does not apply to just travel. This is also for just your regular old human existence on earth. Having a great pair of walking shoes that fit properly. You have the right size, the right width, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera is so important for physical health and for a stress free, enjoyable travel experience.
Number nine: “Invest in a Portable Battery Charger or a.k.a., a Power Bank.”
If you want to get extremely technical, a battery charger and a power bank are slightly different things, but for all intents and purposes for what we’re talking about, they’re the same thing. And on Amazon, if you type in portable battery charger or portable power bank, you’re going to basically get the same thing, which is essentially a portable power source that can charge your phone and other USB related devices. Why is this important? Well, let’s flash back to the one time that I was standing somewhere really, really beautiful, knew my phone was getting low, pulled it out to take a picture of this awesome landscape and my phone died.
After that experience, I went home, hopped on Amazon, looked up different ratings for the different battery chargers and one I gotta be honest with you, it has saved our life so many times. They’re, they’re great to have. They’re relatively inexpensive, they’re not super heavy anymore and you can throw them in a backpack easily as a very important side note, any battery that you purchase, especially lithium ion batteries, they must go in your carry on luggage. When you travel by plane, they cannot go into your checked bags because they can actually catch fire and explode and do all kinds of terrible things. So any batteries you purchase, keep them in your carry on.
Alright, can I get a big woohoo?! We made it to number ten! “The Value of a Good Set of Earplugs Can’t Be Overstated Enough.”
Why is that? Well, true story. My dad was a dentist and he always told us growing up, look, brush the teeth you want to keep. Well, funny. Uh, the same principle actually applies to your ears. Protect the ears you want to keep. That’s why I tell people it’s a noisy world out there and it can also be a very annoying one. So whether it’s noise from the airplane or screaming babies or crowds or concerts or whatever, sometimes you just need to shut the world out or protect your ears. Now we’re troubles. Concerns specifically. Earplugs are great because on a plane you want to drown out the noise of the engines or there’s a screaming child and you just want to get some sleep. Well, hey… pop your earplugs in and off you go. Also, if you’re staying somewhere where it’s actually noisy, maybe you’re in the middle of Cleveland or Paris or Toronto and the hotel room you have happens to not be very soundproof. You can pop your earplugs in and zone off, right to sleep.
There’s different kinds of earplugs, so you’re going to want to do your research and find out which one’s best for you. They’re also rated for the protection at different decibel levels, so make sure you do really look those things up and figure out what’s best for your ears. Me personally, I bought a pair that actually come with a really cool little metal carrying case that clips onto my key chain. So no matter where I go, I always have a pair with me. They’ve really come in handy in everyday life. Actually, when I go to see movies with friends, and let’s say it’s an action film and the explosions are just too loud, I can pop the earplugs in temporarily or put them in halfway and kind of reduce that, that sound and protect myself, so I really can’t recommend them enough. They’re awesome.
All right, well that, my friends, takes us to the end of this podcast and tips one through ten. We’re going to address the other forty in future episodes. We’re going to talk about some fun things like some basic photography tips, how to pack a suitcase better, and much, much more. Lots of cool stuff to look forward to. I also have some really cool interviews and some great stories coming on the podcast, so stay tuned and hey, tell your friends to subscribe to. Let them be one of the cool kids. Thanks again for listening.
I’m going to leave you today with a quote that my dad told me: “Never judge somebody until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That way, when you judge them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes!” Have a great day!
If you’d like some more Moonbird in your life and hey, who wouldn’t? Head on over to memoriesofamoonbird.com or visit me on social media: @memoriesofamoonbird.
All content © 2019 Daniel F. Scherl / Memories of a Moonbird