Prefer Uber to Shuttles or Public Transit
Shuttles can add an hour or more to a trip. Shuttles stop at every
customer's pickup/dropoff location. Centralized pickup locations
such as airports mean waiting for all customers to arrive before the
shuttle can depart.
Public transit is often one or more of infrequent, late, slow, full,
or standing room only. Additional time is spent establishing what
ticket to buy and where to buy it. For transport that accepts cash
payment on-board, you'll need to make correct change or otherwise
Visit Tourist Attractions Early in the Morning
There is a substantial difference between wait times and crowding
(empty Colosseum at 8:30am, in
Consider taking a nap in the afternoon and getting a late dinner.
Again, this leads to shorter wait times and less crowding. If it's
summer, you'll also be out of the heat in the hottest part of the
Take Cold Medication with You
Particularly in the US, a suprising number of "pharmacys" don't have
a pharmacist. This is particularly problematic for acquiring
pseudoephedrine-based nasal decongestants (e.g. Sudafed):
psuedoephedrine is used in the production of meth, so many states
require showing ID to a pharmacist. The Sudafed sold on the store
shelf (not the card you take to the counter) is likely
phenylephrine-based, which has dubious evidence of efficacy.
The presence of a pharmacist does not guarantee psuedoephedrine will
be available. I've had a pharmacist claim to be "out of stock",
which may or may not be code for "I suspect you're producing meth
and so I'm not going to sell this to you".
Pharmacys can have inferior versions of products you have back home.
While looking for zinc while travelling, I once found a pharmacy
whose only lozenges had nothing on the label indicating the quantity
of zinc in each dose.
Tracking down a pharmacy in a foreign city is the last thing you
want to be doing when you're sick. Also, some supplements like zinc
appear most effective at reducing the duration of a cold when taken
shortly after onset: if you can't get to a pharmacy for a while, the
window of efficacy begins to close.
Get Google Fi
International roaming is incredibly seamless, there are no price
shocks, and it's a fantastic service at a good price.
Accept that Tourist Food is Somewhat More Expensive, and Comes With
a Lot Worse Service.
Like everything about tourism, food is more expensive. However,
typically only a little more so.
Where tourist food really disappoints is service. Expect to wait in
lines and/or have slow table service. Assume that bathrooms,
particularly if public, are likely to be dirty and poorly serviced.
Consider eating before you depart for the day, packing food, or
eating a little further out from central tourist locations. Walking
half a kilometer is often enough to open up far better dining
options. Remember: area = Πr^2, so food options tend to grow
as the square of distance travelled.
Forego Weekend Brunch Dining
This is true for essentially every major city. You'll make a tradeoff
between waiting in line for good food, or getting seated straight away
for bad food. Occasionally you'll wait in line for bad food. Save
brunches for weekdays. On weekends, eat out before 9:30am or after
1:30pm, or order food in.
Prefer Trains to Planes for Short Distances
You can arrive at a train station minutes before the listed
departure time, and not miss your train. Compare this to air
travel, where arriving 90 minutes or more before a flight's
scheduled departure is advisable.
Trains have none of the hassle of airport security.
Trains are more spacious than aircraft. This includes designated
dining carts, accessible to all classes of passengers. Business
class upgrades on trains provide even more space, and can typically
be had for 10s of dollars instead of the 100s or 1000s of dollars to
upgrade air travel.
Train stations are typically nearer the city center than airports,
reducing time and cost spent in transit on both ends.
Planes are clearly faster over long distances. Before ruling out
trains, consider vacationing to a closer destination.
Prefer Ubering to Activities over Shuttle + Activity Bundle Deals
As with airport shuttles, activity shuttles often add an hour or
more to a trip picking up and dropping off passengers at multiple
The one exception to this priniciple is if the journey itself is of
particular interest, and you expect the shuttle provider to provide
commentary along the way.
Resist Dining Novelty
Repeat visits to somewhere close, tasty, and cost effective saves
time for other activities. Every major city in the world has good
food: don't spend hours in search of the perfect meal once you've
found somewhere good enough. There's no long-term benefit to
finding the best restaurant in a city you do not live.
You don't need to eat out every meal. Convenience/grocery stores
sell a wide variety of prepared or nearly-prepared foods that often
require less time than eating out and at cheaper prices.
Travel with Carry On Only
You don't need to arrive at the airport as early if you don't need to
You eliminate checked luggage fees.
The airline cannot lose your luggage.
You don't need to wait for luggage at the baggage claim.
Don't pack items you have a low probability of needing. This is
particularly true for items that are some combination of low cost,
easy to source while travelling, and minimally inconvenient to go
Unless you're in a particularly hot climate, you don't need to wear
new clothes every day. When clothes do need cleaning, this can be
done in 5–10 minutes in a hotel room sink. Hang to dry.
If travelling in a group, you'll improve your transport options.
For example, additional luggage may tip you over the line from an
Uber to an Uber XL, which can have longer wait times and are more
The canonical resource on travelling with just carry on
The title of this blog post was inspired
by Ray Dalio's
book Principles: Life and Work. These
are my principles: YMMV. Most of my travel to date has been in the
developed world: undoubtedly some of these principles reflect that. One
criticism of the above principles is that some incur additional monetary
costs, e.g. Uber versus public transit, making them less appealing to
cost-sensitive travellers. Carefully consider whether the time savings of
these nominally more expensive options may permit getting the same amount done
in less time, permitting shorter stays. For example, the additional cost of
Ubers versus public transport may well be less than the cost of an additional
night in a hotel.