Gadling Reviews: “The Smart Traveler’s Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers”

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that Budget Travel had published The Smart Traveler’s Passport, a nifty compendium of 399 tips concerning the art of travel. Interestingly, each and every one of the tips was provided by the readers of Budget Travel. I was curious to see what ideas “non-professional” travelers could generate and if those ideas would be applicable to my life. To that end, I recently got my hands on this idea-filled book.

Each tip in this book is a clever, practical nugget that helped someone along the way. Some of the tips made me think, “Brilliant” (e.g., use a small piece of painter’s tape to protect the lens of a disposable camera while hiking, page 211). Others made me say, “Huh?” (e.g., pack non-skid bath mats to prevent falling in the shower, page 118). Though I’m pretty sure I’m never going to pack tub mats in my luggage*, I’m confident that one man’s “Huh?” tip is another man’s “Brilliant!” tip.

Moreover, even if I toss out this one tip, there are still at least 398 other useful tips in the book.

Designed to resemble a US passport…

…the 224-page is, nevertheless, much thicker than a regular US passport.

Simply by looking at the table of contents, you’ll immediately notice that The Smart Traveler is NOT a destination guide. While some of the tips are location specific, the bulk of the tips are provided to make you travel smarter, cheaper, and more comfortably — to anywhere.

In short, The Smart Traveler’s passport is a tool to help you think systematically and creatively about trip-taking. Each page has one or two travel tips on it that relates to the chapter at hand. There are no pictures, no ads, and no clutter to distract you from what you want: simple, practical advice on how to get the most out of a trip.

A few of the tips I found useful are:
  • Use laminated city maps, so you can mark your destinations at the beginning of the day and erase them at night (page 158).
  • While flying, a partially inflated beach ball can function as a footrest, back support, or a table for your book (page 90).
  • Don’t save the activity you’re most eager to do for the last day; weather or other forces could make you have to cancel it (page 187).

There are a number of things I really like about this book.

  • It’s clearly organized. I like that it’s laid out simply, one tip at a time. There’s plenty of room in the margins to jot notes to yourself, or to edit the tips with your own variation(s).
  • The advice is practical. It doesn’t focus on expensive or lengthy round-the-world trips that most people don’t take advantage of. Rather, the tips are for “real people” taking “real vacations.”
  • The tips are creative. While I’ve used dental floss on a trip to sew some ripped shorts, I never thought to use it as a ruler. Excellent idea.
  • Many of the tips are applicable to different kinds of trips. You could use this book as a resource when preparing for an across-the-state road trip just as easily as you could use it for that around-the-world adventure you’ve finally gotten around to. Business travelers could benefit from the book, too. I’d suggest looking through the book a week before a road trip and as much as a month before an international trip.
  • Finally, I love that this book “democratizes” travel books. While I support — and regularly depend on — expert guides, I’m delighted by the fact that this book has been made by real people. In other words, it shows that travel isn’t something to fear. Rather, travel is something to relish, think positively about, and have fun with.

The back of the book lists the price as $15, and I definitely think it’s worth that much. However, you can find the book online for as little as $10, which I would consider money well spent.

Have fun! And smart traveling!

* Now that I’ve bashed this tip, I’ll almost certainly wish I’d packed tub mats on the next trip I take.