I often think about what makes a good traveler, and usually those thoughts go on to higher levels of personal philosophies and self-improvement. At it’s base, though, no matter where we go there are a few things we should all know to make us not just better travelers, but better people. Here are a few I thought of; I’d love to hear what you think should be added to this list.

  1. Wash clothes in a sink: All of us, from luxury to budget travelers, will at some point have a laundry emergency and be forced to launder our own clothes effectively and probably quickly. 

  2. Learn how to use needle and thread: I can’t sew, I’m the first to admit that ,but I do know the basics of threading a needle and reattaching a button. You never know how and when you’ll need to repair clothes or even luggage, so learn the fundamentals of sewing.

  3. Know where the nearest embassy is: If you’re leaving the country, this is a simple and important thing to know. You never know what will happen, from losing your passport to military coup (less likely) so just do a simple search for the nearest embassy. If you’re from the US, here’s a guide: Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions

  4. Keep an emergency stash of money: Travel can be unpredictable and I’ve heard far too many horror stories of theft and loss on the road. I’ve even had it happen to me so I know the importance of keeping a secret stash of money. Try hiding places like undergarment pockets, locked storage areas, or even empty shampoo bottles. Just don’t forget where you put it!

  5. Learn how to say 'No, thank you,' wherever you are: I mean this in two different ways. First, I literally mean you should take the time to learn this phrase in the local language. It will help you a million times, from warding off salespeople to avoiding buskers. Second, I mean that you should be somewhat selfish when you travel. Don’t do things you don’t want to do or waste time on experiences not important to you. How to Say No in Various Languages and How to Say “Thank You” in 58 Languages

    14 Adventure Tips

  6. Swim: Okay, this is more a life skill than purely a travel one, but it’s important. For one thing, you never know when you might need to swim. Be it in an emergency situation or just as part of a fun new experience you want to try, swimming is an important travel skill everyone should possess.

  7. Know the basics of geography: I think that to be a good traveler you have to be a smart traveler. Sure, idiots can (and do) travel, but armed with a little knowledge you can dramatically improve your travel experience. At the top of the list of things to know is basic geography. World Atlas

  8. Learn how to use a compass: Granted, few of us find ourselves lost in the woods with only a pocket knife and compass to save us. But using a compass is such a basic skill and so arguably important at times that I think we should all know the basic tenets of proper compass use.

  9. Realize that local grocery stores are awesome: I’ve written about this several times, but one of my favorite ways to learn about local culture quickly is by visiting the nearest grocery store. Instantly you will learn what they eat and what importance they place on certain foods. The multiple aisles of olive oil in Madrid says something about Spanish culture. Grocery stores are also a great place to get cheap snacks, drinks and even meals. Cultural Immersion When you Travel

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  10. Know how to change a tire: Many of us will rent a vehicle of some sort when we travel and the chances of getting a flat tire somewhere, anywhere, is pretty likely. Instead of being held hostage to roadside assistance, take some time and learn how to change a tire yourself. How to Change a Tire

  11. Be able to sleep anywhere: I wish I could master this skill, but even though I haven’t succeeded yet I know how important it is. So many times we find ourselves in cars, planes, trains or wherever, and a few minutes of sleep could mean the difference between sanity and going nuts. If you can tackle this skill, you are on your way to being a travel master. Power Napping: How To Fall Asleep Anywhere

  12. Have three good jokes: The ability to add levity to any situation is a great skill to have, even if some things may be lost in translation. If you’re not a naturally gifted joke teller, take some time to learn a few and keep them in your travel arsenal. Pretty Good Jokes

  13. Learn basic first aid: You never know what will happen or where, which is why it’s smart to be prepared. Take a local first aid class or simply research on line how to do simple things like offering CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.

  14. Be able to take a decent photo: Almost everyone takes photos when they travel, but not everyone takes good photos. You don’t have to have a fancy camera or be an expert to come home with quality photos, so take a few minutes to brush up on the basics. 5 Tips for Taking Awesome Summer Travel Photos
These are just some things I think every traveler should know – what would you add to the list?

Matt Long

An experiential luxury traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his adventures with thousands of readers every day through his award-winning site LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Based in Washington, D.C., Matt has been to more than 65 countries and all seven continents.