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12 Happy Travel Hacks To Leave a Trail of Beautiful Smiles

happy travel hacks

Do you like to enjoy happy travel?

Do you want to leave a little trail of smiles wherever you go and spread a bit of love and positivity?

Then check out this list of happy travel hacks!

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Learn Some Local Words

Happy Travel Hacks 1

1. Learn a Few Words of the Local Language

Taking a bit of time to learn a few words of the local language shows respect and appreciation for other cultures when you are travelling.

It’s one of my favourite happy travel hacks as it helps me to feel like I am experiencing the destination a bit more deeply.

With the advent of modern apps it has never been easier. Google Translate is the go to for language and it has a helpful feature that speaks the words so you can practice your pronunciation.

You can also download languages in Google Translate for offline use meaning you can use the app whenever you don’t have a phone signal which is a very helpful feature.

If you want to dig a bit deeper I love the site 1000 Most Common Words. It claims to have every language in the world available and it is totally free. It doesn’t have pronunciation but it can be a fun way to learn a few more words in order to put some basic sentences together.

Another site I really enjoy using is Memrise. It makes learning really fun and goes back over learning to help cement the language. It feels more like a game or quiz. Be warned it is quite addictive. I like the locals speaking the language and it is quite visual as well. It makes learning feel very easy.

There are also plenty of podcasts and apps to help you learn a language – just search and you will find plenty.

Wherever you are going learning the basics of hello, goodbye, please and thank you will always be appreciated. Don’t be afraid about your pronunciation – people will appreciate the fact you try and if it’s really bad you will still spread smiles!

happy travel hacks gifts the professional traveller
Souvenirs From Home

Happy Travel Hacks Number 2

2. Take Some Little Gifts From Home

Depending on where you are travelling to and what type of holiday you are taking a little gift can often be a nice touch and a little happy travel thank you to your local hosts, guides, connections etc.

In my early years when I was travelling to China, I would take little gifts related to London or the Royal Family for the guides and drivers I met along the way. These always went down very well as they were something quite unusual and they appreciated the thought as much as the gift.

Now I live in Scotland I sometimes take tablet as a local gift depending on where I am travelling to.

In some parts of the world, they appreciate educational things for children such as basic stationery supplies – pens, pencils, notepads etc.

As a Tour Manager I have a lovely collection of gifts that people have brought me over the years – everything from personalised tiles to cactus jelly, local sweets (I’ve eaten them of course!), coasters, keyrings and more. I have always appreciated the thought of bringing a gift and the time taken to pack and transport it. It really does make a lovely reminder of a trip.

Happy Travel Hacks Number 3

3. Spread Good Manners and Politeness

There is a great saying that manners cost nothing and in my opinion, they are often priceless.

Being polite when you travel seems blindingly obvious but it is not always the case. Sometimes people are anxious about travelling perhaps, or simply out of their normal routine and comfort zone. Whatever the reason there can be occasions when the basic politeness of every day disappears.

Wherever I have travelled in the world I have being polite has often smoothed over some difficult situations, calmed people down, or it has meant a problem has been sorted more quickly than shouting and screaming.

Being polite sounds such a simple thing and it can make such a difference.

If you are on a coach holiday simply saying hello to your guide and driver each day can really make a difference in how everyone starts their day together.

Saying hello and thank you to local guides can also help relax everyone and lead to a much better tour.

Don’t forget of course to chat with locals – sometimes these conversations can be a real holiday highlight.

Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to chat – as an introvert, I know that only too well but a smile really is international and is a great way to spread a bit of happy travel love around.

give a tip happy travel hacks the professional traveller

Happy Travel Hacks Number 4

4. Tip Your Guides and Drivers

Tips are really important in the travel industry because the pay is probably not as high as you think it is.

How much do you think a cruise escort gets paid for example? That’s someone who is sent by the holiday company on a cruise with guests to sort out any issues – Β£150 per day, Β£100 per day. Cruise escorts sometimes don’t get paid at all, but the pay can also be really low. I’ve been paid Β£45 to go on a cruise and out of that I had to pay for all my drinks and any optional tours that I wanted to go on, along with any other services such as fitness, hairdressing, cleaning etc.

I once did a cruise where I had 135 people to look after and a great deal of work to do. I was working 14 hour days too!

In terms of being a Tour Manager pay can also be much lower than you might think. Some companies still pay well under Β£100 per day, which given the fact a Tour Manager is on call 24/7 is very low.

Drivers’ pay can also be lower than people think – lots of drivers would love to earn over Β£100 per day. The pay rate often doesn’t reflect the responsibility or the hours particularly well, especially when you consider coaches on tour generally need lots of cleaning.

Many years ago it was very different. Drives and guides earned lots of money on commissions, they could take people to lots of places not on the itinerary for meals and other activities which they earned money on. They could also sell things on the coach like teas, coffees, wines, and beers and sell other things such as chocolates from Belgium There were lots of opportunities to earn more money and tour companies didn’t mind as long as everyone was happy.

Passengers often took most of the optional tours because people hadn’t travelled so much which also meant lots of commission for Tour Managers too.

However, that was 20 years ago and today things are very different. More companies are offering pre-booked optional tours which pay little or no commission. Tour Managers are often expected to do more guiding whereas before there would have been local guides used.

As such tips are a much more important part of the picture for drivers and guides.

Often holiday companies will give guidelines on how much to tip. This makes things much easier for everyone. If they don’t you can always ask the holiday company.

A tip in an envelope (available from hotel reception) is a nice thank you and if you are able to write a little note or a card that is always much appreciated. I have a lovely collection of notes, cards and drawings from guests I have travelled with over the years and they remind me of great trips with great people.

Your Tour Managers, Drivers, guides, cruise escorts, resort reps and other members of your holiday team will be doing their best to help you have a great holiday so do try and give some happy travel thanks in return.

(OK so I might be biased as a Tour Manager but this is one of my happy travel hacks that I use when I travel as well.)

Happy Travel Hacks Number 5

5. Buy Local

Buying and trying local products is a great part of travelling. Of course, there will be a few disasters along the way but in the main, it’s a fun way to try new things and it also helps to support the local economy.

Whether it’s staying at an independent hotel, eating or drinking in a non chain restaurant or simply shopping at the local market there are lots of ways to spend your money locally when travelling.

If you are planning on taking tours then why not look at local tour operators who may offer a more local perspective on things?

I really like Tour With Locals. It’s a site that connects travellers with local people, either for a shared meal, a tour or some sort of local experience. Due to Covid19 I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet but hope to on my next trip overseas. They have a good selection of food tours.

As a cake expert, I often ask the staff in a local bakery or patisserie to recommend something – it’s a great way to find out what the most popular local treat is and it’s another reason why buying local is one of my favourite happy travel hacks.


Happy Travel Hacks Number 6

6. Give Some Positive Feedback

When was the last time you gave some positive feedback?

Often we give negative feedback and we are hardwired to want to share negative news given it is how we survived for thousands of years.

Giving positive feedback can often feel a bit weird, often because people don’t know how to receive it. Recently I had a lovely chat with a checkout operator in a local supermarket. He was genuinely friendly and as a result, I went to tell customer services about him. They were expecting some sort of complaint and seemed quite flummoxed by what I was telling them, but it’s important to share the good as well as things that need improving.

One of the things I often ask on tour is for people to tell me what they thought at the end of the day – what they enjoyed and what needs improving. This simple request has led to some great conversations and it also means we can finish the day on a positive note together.

Even if something has gone wrong there is generally something that has gone right!

Confession Time

I should confess at this point that I write down 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each day. I now have around 8 years of these and it is wonderful to look back over them and compare them from year to year. It never ceases to amaze me how it is often the simplest of things that have made it into my journal – a good conversation or perhaps seeing something beautiful.

Journaling in this way helps me to notice things to be grateful for.

Why not record 3 things you enjoy from each day of your holiday and bring home some wonderful happy travel memories alongside your photos?

happy travel hacks the professional traveller survey

Happy Travel Hacks Number 7

7. Fill In Surveys

This follows a little bit from the positive feedback above. Often when guests fill in surveys it is because they have something negative to say. If everything has been OK then filling in a survey can seem unnecessary but it is still just as important.

Holidays don’t just happen on their own – there are many people involved.

For coach holidays there are product departments that research and put together tours. There are teams that work with suppliers to produce the tours, marketing teams, sales teams and customer service teams. There are people who test tours out, and then, of course, there are Tour Managers and Drivers along with local guides and agents who deliver the tours.

They work hand in hand with local operators, hotels, restaurants and activity suppliers to make sure everything happens as it should.

Having travelled with groups of 47 people it can be very demoralising to see only a handful or surveys returned which mention something the guests weren’t happy with, but there is no feedback from the vast majority of people on the trip.

If your holiday company sends you a survey, and it’s not too onerous, filling it will be much appreciated. Your comments will be passed back to those involved in all aspects of your holiday.

happy travel hack local food the professional traveller
Local Recipes

Happy Travel Hacks Number 8

8. Try Local Foods and Bring a Recipe Home

Trying new foods is a real highlight when travelling. I love discovering new taste combinations, new flavours and new recipes.

Local markets are great to explore as you get a real sense of what people eat every day. Having a look around supermarkets can also provide everyday insights too.

A local market is one of the first places I had to when travelling and I often recommend them to my groups when on tour too. Riga has the biggest indoor market in Europe, housed in several old Zepellin hangars. Everything is grouped together with a meat hall, fish hall and a huge range of fruit and vegetables. It really is worth seeing.

I’ve even taken my groups to a local market on one of my early visits to China. Much to the chagrin of the local guide we explored the food market in Chongqing. It certainly wasn’t for the faint-hearted but that insight into local life was a trip highlight for many guests.

Why not bring home a new dish or recipe from your travels and enjoy those holiday flavours at home?

Cooking new dishes for friends and family is certainly more interesting than sharing holiday photos so this is also one of my family’s favourite happy travel hacks!

Happy Travel Hacks Number 9

9. Bring Something Useful Home

If you travel regularly you know that holiday souvenirs can quickly lose their charm and if you have seen one fridge magnet you have seen them all (sorry fridge magnet collectors!)

However, bringing something practical or decorative for the home back from your travels can be a nice reminder of your trip and if it is something local then it also helps support the economy too.

I have posted things back from Australia to save carrying them in my luggage before as it was much cheaper. That said I also saw a self-cleaning dog’s bed in Bangkok airport that I simply had to have so jammed in my hand luggage – if you put it out in the sun it freshens and cleans itself (I have no idea how!).

I’ve also bought plenty of doggy accessories from overseas – something unique and practical for my two dachshunds and a nice reminder of my trip as well.

Buying clothes overseas can be a nice reminder of trips. I still have items from my early trips to Australia 15 years ago that are going strong. It’s unlikely that anyone else in the UK is going to have the same items so they are unique as well.

happy travel hacks the professional traveller photos
Travel Photos

Happy Travel Hacks Number 10

10. Take Photos and Don’t Take Photos

Photography is such a great pastime, albeit one of the most dangerous ones when travelling due to the number of accidents people have had on tours while trying to get that perfect shot.

Photos can be a great reminder of your holiday and enable you to relive certain moments, places and experiences.

That said there needs to be a balance.

I have seen guests on tour spend so much of their time photographing their holiday that they haven’t really experienced their holiday, apart from through a lens. They are so busy recording things that they aren’t experiencing things. One lady recorded the whole holiday from the front seat of the coach saying she would enjoy rewatching the video when she got home. It seemed such a waste given she spent most of her time looking at her video camera rather than looking out of the window.

I get the attraction of photography, I love it myself. It’s easy though to miss something wonderful while looking for that great or perfect shot, so take lots of pictures but also just take time to enjoy too.

Of course, you should always be mindful of taking photographs of people and culturally sensitive when it comes to photographing sites and places too.

If in doubt just ask!

Happy Travel Hacks Number 11

11. Just Enjoy The Experience

Going on holiday is a big investment of time and money and sometimes you want to make sure you get the maximum value.

I have had guests that have planned or scheduled so many things they have rushed from one place to another and felt under lots of pressure during their holiday. I once had a guest who spent most of his holiday looking for the top Tripadvisor reviewed restaurants locally. These involved lots of travelling, in many cases booking, and left him little time for everything else. At the end of the holiday he felt really tired and that he might have been better off getting local recommendations instead, but having put such time into his planning (he ranked all the restaurants according to review scores and a number of reviews) he felt he had to carry on.

I have also seen guests buy visitor passes and then feel that they need to do lots of things to get value out of them – London visitor passes for example which include entry to various attractions. This can cause them to feel under pressure to get through the attractions, which then spoils the enjoyment.

In my experience of travelling less is often more. Leave time for doing something unexpected or simply doing nothing other than lingering over a lovely glass of something and watching local life unfold around you.

Sometimes not doing much is the best way to experience somewhere.

Happy Travel Hacks Number 12

12. Chat To Locals

When people talk to me about the best experiences on holiday this often involves making some sort of local connection or conversation.

When I have been travelling to some of my most memorable experiences have been conversations with locals, whether that be about politics, the differences in daily life or the similarities.

My everyday life in the Highlands is good training for this particular tip. I forget that in other parts of the country/world, people aren’t quite so chatty and often have great random conversations as a result and at the very least a shared laugh.

People are people all over the world, and we have a great deal in common. Don’t believe me? Check out Common Cause which studied people in 80 different countries to find out what was most important to them.

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You can find more resources on my Travel More and Spend Less page

Author Bio

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Melanie Newdick, The Professional Traveller

🌏 Professional Traveller for +36 years
🚍 Coach holiday expert – taken 8,000 people on holiday

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