Introduction: How to Get the BEST Out of Your Travels

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I've done a lot of traveling around North America and I've discovered a few important things. The most important thing to do is to have fun! Secondly: Take lots of pictures!

Step 1: Always Be Prepared for Anything... But Be Flexible.

Picture of Always Be Prepared for Anything... But Be Flexible.

I like to have the perfect balance between preparedness and adventure. Some things that are good to have along no matter what the mode of transportation:

1) Duct tape- Ok, kinda cliche but true, I've used it to fix swim trunks, radiator hoses and leaky car windows, boats, luggage and many other things, you only need a little roll. ( you can wrap a bit around an ink pen if you like.

2) Tools- somthing as simple as a Leatherman can get you out of a lot of jams. (Think of the dude who was hiking in Nevada and had to cut his arm off with one.)

3) Extra underwear- Yeah you can wash your old stuff in a river or hotel sink or a truck stop bathroom but I really like a clean pair every couple days at least.

4) A map- some times the best maps to have are the ones that states and cities gear toward people with young children. They often have a better list of attractions within a city or state and they are usually free.(and with the maturity level of a 5th grader they are great for me)

5)Backpack- A lot of times I will travel only with a large daypack.
within I can cary a waterbottle, toiletries, a pair of shorts, t-shirt, fleece, rain jacket and even a couple books to read while on a train or plane.

6) Multiple payment options, I always bring a cheque book and cash along with my card, if you run out of cash in the middle of Kansas and need to pay for a campsite cheques usually are accepted whereas there are still many places that do not accept Visa or Mastercard.

7) Flexibility- this really should be number one I can't count the times I've had to change my plans because of rain, wildfires or strange airline standby procedures.

Step 2: Eat Local

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You can get Mickey D's at home.

I have my favorite places all over that I like to go to when I visit a city. VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland is one of my favorites. You can check out places that people tell you are good but I would encourage you to look for your self. I've found that a good indicator of good food is that the place is off the "beaten path" and has a lot of local college-aged people inside.

Step 3: Eat "in"

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I cannot afford to eat at even a cheap restaurant every night that I'm out on the road, some times I'll be hungry and 60 miles from the nearest town.

I've found that stopping at a grocery store to get some bread and lunch meat can save time and money. When traveling by a means that allows me to bring my camp stove I'll bring it along for a gourmet meal anwhere. You can pretty much make whatever you want to. Set up a picnic in a city park or by a stream in the mountains. Some of the best food I've had was made on a camp stove.

Step 4: Spend the Extra $7

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It is sometimes hard for me to spend money on "silly" things while traveling. I have found that most times the good stuff is the free stuff. Think; Pikes Place Market in Seattle.

BUT, don't be afraid of spending a little. For example it costs 3 dollars a person to get in to see the four corners it's kinda worth it... once.

Getting a Gondola ride to the top of a mountain in the Rockies may just be worth it.

I have been disappointed though too. I went to the National Forestry Museum in Portland once not realizing that it was a propaganda tool of the logging industry until I paid my $13 to get in.

Live a little

Step 5: Use Public Transportation

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In Big cities like Chicago it is a lot easier to get on the El than to try to find parking around town. Denver has really nice free parking areas where one can get on the Light rail going into down town, and Portland MAX Service goes right to the airport!

Cities like Portland and Denver have fareless ares where riding is free.

Also, you can look online beforehand to figure out where the bus or trolley stops to plan out your day. You might even find that you can ride on some unique forms of transportation like aerial trams or old city trolleys.

Step 6: Don't Go to THE Tourist Spot.

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Yeah, I like to go to the Tourist spot alot, but many times you can have a lot more memorable time seeking out somthing special. At the Grand Canyon, for example, I like to find the places that fewer people visit, Hermits Rest or Supai.

Step 7: Meet People, Make Friends, Share Travel Secrets.

Picture of Meet People, Make Friends, Share Travel Secrets.

Spend some time getting to know fellow travelers.

I met these two guys in Denver recently on the train. From England on business they were spending the day in the city just looking around as we were. They were able to tip us off to places we never would have found otherwise. Because we had researched Denver public Trans beforehand we were able to share some info with them as well.

Step 8: Finally: Sleep on a Friend's Couch.

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Why else did you go to college than to have friends all over the world?

Seriously though, I love to visit my friends who live in various cities I visit. I can also spend a lot less money by sleeping on their couch and taking them to lunch than I would spend at a nasty hotel.

This also can benifit you, they often know the best places to eat and shop in town... and the best bars. Like this one In Mesic, MI.


tpaul9 (author)2013-04-11

Honest... some of the BEST travel tips I've heard in a long time...

timmycutts (author)2011-09-26

If you don't happen to have friends to stay with, you can get onto It's a free non-profit service that hooks you up with a volunteer host. They let you stay with them and it only costs you a bit of effort helping with chores and such. It's a great way to make new friends with people all over the world.

robtroi (author)2008-12-31

If you visit Bath in England, don't use a car or public transport. just walk!.You see much more of the city which is fantastic place to visit.

superdry (author)robtroi2009-03-12

Completly agree! (and I am a Bathonian local!) Happy travelling everyone!

goodernst (author)2008-09-19

i hate that voodoo thing liner

pyrotmaniac (author)2008-06-23

This is a fantastic instructable, However not everything is cool. Here in alaska it is considered sport to give bad directions to unsuspecting tourists. Even my grand mother does it and laughs. ~Y

josh (author)pyrotmaniac2008-06-24

Oh, that's why I got stuck in Seward for 6 hours once!

LinuxH4x0r (author)josh2008-06-28

NE? I went through there 2 days ago....

Southpole (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-06-30

whats up with that directions asking or using maps, i thought thats over ... what about gps? you need it anyway to do local geocaching

josh (author)Southpole2008-06-30

GPS is fun but I personally wouldnt ever replace a map with GPS. I was in Chatanooga TN one time in a caravan of 6 fifteen passenger vans. The guy in the lead van had GPS because of construction he got us all completly lost for an hour. The entire time I had a route chosen. Only when he finally gave up and let me lead were we able to arrive at our destination.

Southpole (author)josh2008-07-01

ok, yes, let me make that gps + common sense. i used to live in a town with so much construction, i could only use the gps as map, it was completely unable to compute any routes that existed in reality. but it still was a convenient map, where not everything is on the fold. also it has a bug that would tell me to make an immediate u-turn on the autobahn at 140 mph everytime i pass a complicated exit ... not good idea to follow that one...

Derin (author)Southpole2008-07-29

autobahn?vignette or no vignette,any of the sign below:


pyrotmaniac (author)josh2008-06-29

you got stuck in seward? Man, that place is the size of a postage stamp. isn' there only one paved road leading out anyway?

Derin (author)pyrotmaniac2008-07-29

see bulgaria!sofia was easy to find (ABSOLUTELY NO PLANE)

Yerboogieman (author)pyrotmaniac2008-06-26

Thats so funny to do!

lawizeg (author)Yerboogieman2008-06-28

I hate it when people do that. It's mean. Poor tourists are just trying to find their way around.

JamesRPatrick (author)lawizeg2008-06-29

Kinda sucks when they do that in Todos Santos, Mexico...

lawizeg (author)JamesRPatrick2008-06-30


Derin (author)2008-07-29

also,eu has hop on hop off buses

clipless (author)2008-07-07

OMG, I've been to that bar! It was before the North Country Trail race a couple years ago. It goes from Mesic to Baldwin (or vice versa).

Southpole (author)2008-06-30

basic but great tips for travelling developed countries by car. that is my favourite way to travel, freedom is greatest and hassle is least. what i can sign most is your advice on preparing your own food from the supermarket (unless there is some great local specialty that would sometimes even be the reason why i visit some place in the first place). because that's what you do at home. and even supermarkets have a local flavor and give you a good idea what the locals eat (or drink - last summer i had some Moxie in New England...) the second tip i liked a lot was to spend the extra $ (or euro, over here). a part of my family went to visit New York City in 2001. on september 7 they were too cheap to pay the 16$ or whatever it was for the elevator to the roof of the WTC. it is also true what you say about the tourist spot. it may seem like a cliche at first if people say a certain spot is spoiled by too many tourists, but i have found it true increasingly often recently. for example, the main islands in Thailand and certain parts of Ireland have become completely unvisitable. in the US, some places are only made special because there ARE so many tourists and going there is a sort of fun "tourist-watching". there are also road side attractions in the US like muffler men, that remind us Europeans that while Americans are crazy and dangerous, they are also ultimately lovable :-) (you can file that last sentence under travel secret)

josh (author)Southpole2008-06-30

I'm presently visiting a small mountain town in southern California which will remain unnamed. It is one of the most beautiful tourist-free places in the south-west US. Great vistas with amazing hiking trails. P.S. Cortez, Co has a roadside mufflerman display. The owner is a good friend of mine

CAR_RAMROD (author)2008-06-29

Being from Michigan, I looked at that picture and thought "this looks like Michigan" then I read on and it was. I am not familiar with Mesic, but I am sure it is a fine place. Nice instructable.

josh (author)CAR_RAMROD2008-06-30

well it's really just your typical Northern Lower Penninsula town. They have some weird obsession with musrooms there.

msfwebdude (author)2008-06-23

Great tips I am the kind of person who would rather be lost for a hour that spend 10mins asking for directions. But I have been trying to change that, and I have found that people are nice, the tips out there are ready to be given. In San Jose, I was going to take a long walk to the caltrain terminal. But I decided to ask the info desk person about alternatives, and he told me about the free shuttle that takes you extactly where you need to go and it stops right there.

JamesRPatrick (author)msfwebdude2008-06-29

San Jose del Cabo? Or in the US?

msfwebdude (author)JamesRPatrick2008-06-29

Ah, sorry... San Jose, California USA. Take the bus to santa clara train station for free.

JamesRPatrick (author)msfwebdude2008-06-29

I was in the Baja California Sur(Below California?) San Jose del Cabo yesterday. It's dusty.

Notags (author)2008-06-23

This Instructable is right on time!! I am traveling to Misery... er uh... Missouri on Friday. Driving from MD with SWMBO, her sis and husband. Too bad we're not taking the Harley, but with these tips, we should have a great time.

JamesRPatrick (author)Notags2008-06-29

This would have come in handy a week ago. Just got back from a 10 hour trip from Cabo.

phillipeb (author)2008-06-27

Salt Lake City, Utah has a free fare zone as well.

Yerboogieman (author)2008-06-26

if your ever in northern washington (state you dumbasses not DC) go to the Rock Fish Grill in Anacortes or Rock Bottom brewery in seattle, they both have great food.

Rishnai (author)2008-06-23

It's great to hear Denver mentioned! We really do have a good, progressive transportation system... If you need to get someplace like, say, Boulder, and it happens to coincide with a CU Buffs game, you can take a bus there for a reasonable fare, avoiding driving and parking entirely. p.s. I see folks with out-of-state plates screw this one up all the time: be careful at intersections downtown, as many of them have light rail tracks going through what would be a normal traffic or stopping area in other cities. Make sure you don't hang the nose or tail of your car over the tracks. Even if you don't get hit, you tie up rail traffic through that area. People get cranky when that happens. The tracks aren't always easy to see, and they're not always perfectly "neon-sign" marked. Just watch out. And remember, the train runs the opposite direction as car traffic on downtown streets, so look the right direction!

woofboy111 (author)2008-06-23

I couldn't agree more with step 2. Avoid eating at McDonalds, or any other chain restaurant for that matter. That is, unless you are largely outnumbered by people that all want Mcdonalds and you don't have a choice. Then there are times when you end up in a town in the Carolinas looking for a place to eat, and the only choices are chains because all of the private restaurants are only open on weekends for some reason.

Yep, it makes eating a whole lot more entertaining while traveling if you turn it into an adventure. I just back from a trip and eating was one of the highlights. Especially if you're a nerd like me and enjoys taking pictures of food and put them up on a blog. June 9 to June 22 is the food I ate on my latest trip...

=SMART= (author)2008-06-23

I have yet to travel alone but im thinking of doing a bit of n adventure with my friend this summer on our own

darkmuskrat (author)2008-06-22

Good instructable. I'll remember some of this for when I go to Oregon next.

About This Instructable




Bio: Traveler
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