As someone who blogs and travels full-time, Wi-Fi has been more important to my travels than I'd like to admit. I often find myself choosing travel destinations based on the quality of their Internet and avoiding places where I won't be able to get connected.
One item that has helped me get past my fear of slow Wi-Fi while proving to be incredibly useful has been my Wi-Fi extender. I wasn't expecting much from this tiny device, but it's saved me on more than one occasion. It's simple to set up and use -- it's just a case of plugging it in and searching for available networks. I'll often see three times the amount of networks with the extender than I do without -- and the networks that I do connect to are noticeably faster. Thanks to my Wi-Fi extender, I've been able to spend more time traveling and less time wrestling with slow Internet. It's now one of my travel essentials.
See what else has been useful for my travels in my latest article: 5 Essential Travel Items You'd Never Think to Pack.
I'd never travelled with a sarong up until a few years ago -- I didn't really see the point in them. After reading dozens of packing lists from female travelers and seeing that every single one of them raved about the versatility of sarongs, I decided to try it out for myself.
I picked up a cheap sarong before I left and found myself using it within the first few days of my trip. I used it to cover up while I visited temples in Thailand. I used it to protect my sunburnt shoulders in Croatia. I used it as a pillow on any overnight flights, and I used it as a headscarf to attract less attention in Islamic countries.
My sarong is the most useful travel accessory I carry. You can see a list of the uses it's had for me on the road in my latest article: Why You Should Pack a Sarong in Your Backpack.
As soon as I decided to travel the world, I knew I had to buy a new camera. My trip was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and I knew I wanted to remember as much of it as possible. I agonized for months over whether I should travel with a DSLR or a point & shoot, knowing that each had pros and cons. Because I also wanted to take the best quality photos I could, I decided on buying a DSLR.
I knew that a point & shoot camera would be cheaper, lighter and less likely to attract attention but my main priority was photo quality.
Having said that, I did buy a DSLR without having used one before and didn't make any real effort to learn how to use it. I left for my travels with a DSLR I didn't know how to use and it took several months before I was getting the photo quality I expected.
How did you decide which camera to take traveling with you? Are you happy with your choice?
I've been fortunate to have never had anything of mine stolen while staying in a hostel, though friends of mine haven't been so lucky. When comparing their experiences with mine, it becomes clear that a lot of their bad fortune is due to their trusting nature -- they'd often leave their technology lying around on their dorm bed while they went out for dinner, ask somebody in the common room to watch their stuff or not bother using the hostel lockers.
While there is no foolproof method for preventing theft in hostels, there are steps you can take to minimize your risks. I discuss the most effective things you can do in my latest article: How to Keep Your Stuff Safe in Hostels.
Have you ever had something stolen while staying in a hostel? What would you do differently to prevent it from happening again?
After traveling through Turkey, I've frequently received emails from female students who are looking to visit but afraid to travel alone. I was also apprehensive before I arrived but left having fallen in love with a beautiful, welcoming and safe country. I loved my solo travel time in Turkey.
I was fortunate enough to experience both solo and couple travel in Turkey, allowing me to make a comparison between the two. While I feel like I received more harassment when traveling solo, it was never enough to make me feel like I was in any real danger. The men would leave me alone if I asked them to, and back away if I ignored them.
I visited 14 cities across Turkey and never once felt unsafe, even when alone. If you're nervous about visiting Turkey as a solo female, do your research before arriving and read our resource on female student travel in Turkey. Hopefully, it will help put your mind at ease.
Have you been to Turkey as a solo female? How did you find it?
I spent over a year refusing to try packing cubes, convinced that they were yet another travel gimmick that wouldn't make any difference to the way I packed my bag. I only carried a 46 liter backpack so didn't have much to keep organized.
When my boyfriend found himself with some spare packing cubes and offered to let me try them out last year, I was skeptical I could be converted. I was wrong. The packing cubes did make a difference! Now, it's so much easier to find things when I need them and there's no more unpacking of my bag every day to try find something that has inevitably worked its way to the bottom of my backpack. Packing takes less time now that I only need to find a way to fit four packing cubes, rather than the 50-odd items I used to have to arrange.
If you're wondering if it's worth carrying packing cubes, the answer is yes. I couldn't imagine traveling without them!Have you tried traveling with packing cubes?
One of the first decisions you'll have to make when you decide to travel is whether you want to be carrying a top-loading or front-loading backpack -- there are pros and cons to both.
Which style of backpack you choose to travel with can affect your travels in more ways than one, so you'll need to assess what your priorities are. Front-loading backpacks are generally more secure and easier to pack, whereas top-loading backpacks are usually thinner and offer greater support for your back.
For me, I chose comfort and a reduced width as my priorities. I'm not particularly strong and I have problems with my back so I wanted to buy an ultralight backpack that was designed for hikers. My backpack -- an Osprey Exos 46l -- is thin, fits my body well and is so comfortable that I often forget to take it off! The reduced security has yet to be an issue for me as I've never had anything stolen from it.Would you recommend a front or top-loading backpack? What do you travel with?
One of the biggest concerns I have on the road is how I can keep my money safe -- after all, if I don't have money I can't travel! I've been fortunate to have never been mugged while traveling but I do know people who have and it's not something I want to go through. I've spoken to my friends who have experienced theft while traveling and asked for their advice -- here's what I learned from their mistakes:
Don't be too trusting: Hostels can provide an extremely safe and comforting environment for travelers and it's easy to forget that you don't know your fellow dorm-mates very well at all. Take precautions and make sure you lock your things away whenever you leave the room -- you don't want to be down a laptop because you trusted somebody you didn't know to look after it for you.
Hide your money in multiple places: Be sure to store your money and credit/debit cards in several places -- in your backpack, your daypack and on your person. That way, if the worst does happen, you won't have lost everything.
Track your expenses: I've found that tracking every single penny I spend has helped me be more aware of how much money I have and where it's stored. I'd now notice if $20 suddenly went missing when I asked somebody to look after my things.
Don't use a money belt: I know that there are lots of fans of money belts out there, but I find that you're just drawing attention to the fact that you have lots of money on your person that you want to keep hidden. There's also the fact that every time you pay for something it looks like you're reaching into your underwear!
What do you do to keep your money safe while traveling? Share your tips!
Creating a travel budget sounds simple -- work out how much money you'll need for your trip, how much you need to spend before you leave and how much you can save on a monthly basis in order to meet your goal.
The reality, however, is far different. Working out how money you'll need for each country can be tricky, especially if you're not going to be traveling with fixed plans. Planning for the specialist equipment you'll need to buy before you leave can also get complicated -- which visas should you get in advance? Will you need to buy a new backpack? What about clothes? The same goes for any huge expenses on the road -- will you be skydiving on bungee jumping on the trip? How about any tours you want to take?
My latest article aims to help you with all these questions and more: Creating a Travel Budget.
Do you have any budget creation tips to share?
If you've decided that 2014 is going to be the year you travel, you're probably spending every waking second thinking about how you can save as much money as possible before you take off. I managed to save $24,000 before I first set off to travel, so I know how much discipline it takes. The one thing that worked best for me was making travel my priority, and letting everything else take second place.
What this means is that every time I decided I wanted to buy something, I would think about my upcoming travels and what the amount I wanted to spend would get me in a country like Thailand. This was usually enough to convince me that I didn't need whatever I was thinking about buying. I also stopped going out with my friends as much, convincing them to spend some time round mine having a movie night, so that we could all save money. I ate out less, and didn't put the heating on when I didn't need to. For my final six months, I even moved in with my parents to save money!
It really is that simple. When you think about spending money on something think about your travels and how that $50 could give you an extra 3 days in Cambodia or a overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay. Making travel your priority keeps you focused on your goal and helps you build your savings up.