I’ve done a fair bit of traveling through 20+ countries, both with and without money, alone and with friends, and for a variety of different purposes. Through all my travels, here are some things I’ve learned.
First, it’s definitely cheaper to travel with someone else.
I travel pretty openly, meaning I usually only buy a one-way ticket to start with. By waiting to buy my return ticket, I don’t feel pressured to be in a certain city by a certain time.
I’ll always book the first hostel or hotel before I fly out, so at least I’ll have somewhere to go when I land. I’ve done the dorm thing, but I’m not a super big fan of it. Sometimes you get lucky, for example I was in Paris and booked a bed in a 6 bed dorm and I was the only person in there for 3 days, so you never know. Traveling with someone else comes in handy in these situations because lots of hostels have a twin room (2 separate beds), so it's like a hotel but cheaper. These days, I think Airbnb might be the best option, and they usually offer better amenities than a hostel. Many Airbnb’s in big cities offer a room in the apartment instead of the whole apartment, so it's even cheaper. Conversely, hostels offer a better social atmosphere, usually with a big bar, foozball table, or movie area where it's easy to meet people to party with.
I book at least one day of accommodation before I go, but looking at a map and being there are two different things. Once you get there, you might not like the hostel or whatever, so don’t book 3 nights or something because then you’re stuck. Can you tell that I have commitment issues? For example, Bangkok is a huge city, so me and my buddy stayed in a hotel in one part of the city for two nights, then booked a different hotel in another part of the city after that.
I bring my computer with me when I travel and based on what you want to do in the city, price-range, other variables, I just book as I go. Always book something ahead of time, meaning when you land/arrive, always know where you’re going.
If you want to workout while traveling, which I always do, just go into a big hotel and take the elevator straight up to the gym. Then go in and workout, or someone will let you in since you don’t have a keycard. Just act like you belong, works like a charm.
As a male, I’m sure I travel with less shit than girls do. Me and my buddy took 36 Liter Osprey backpacks, not the huge "I'm backpacking Europe" ones, just slightly larger school backpacks, and traveled for 6 weeks in Southeast Asia. There’s no luggage to pick up after landing, nothing to drag on the ground, and easy to pack up. However, SE Asia is easy since its hot and I mostly took tees and tank-tops; I’m sure Europe in winter would require a suitcase.
Exchange some money before you go or you’ll get screwed on exchange rates at the airport. You can do that at a local bank. Let them know you’ll be traveling so they don’t flag your card and lock it down. It’s happened before. Not fun.
Before I travel somewhere, I know there'll be a few big ticket items for each city I want to see. Like Paris, the must-sees were the Eiffel tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, stuff like that, but I also met people and discovered other things I wanted to see while I was there. So I plan to do big touristy things, but I don’t like to plan too much. Half the fun is discovering new places to explore.
I always try to find a market where I can by cheap goods (they make good presents for people) and it allows me to talk to the locals and be in a lively atmosphere. Embrace the street food as its usually always tasty and cheap. Lots of hostels and hotels will offer ‘tour’ packages. I’ve always been weary of these, but I have done some awesome ones. Plus, it's an easy way to meet people. Also, because I hate being labeled an American, learn at least “Thank you” and “hello” in the local language.
Bring a lock, the kind that has the sliding numbers on it. That way, you can lock your zippers on your suitcase or lock your storage unit in the hostel. Do laundry. You can easily take it to get done in big cities and they’ll charge you by weight. Trust me, it's worth it.
Make sure you check the electrical outlets of the countries you’re traveling to and bring the appropriate adaptor.
One thing I never travel without is a compression bag for clothes. I can roll all my shirts and put them in side by side, I zip it closed, then there is a second zipper that crunches everything down. It's a space saver, and it keeps all my stuff organized. Forget the plastic ones, the bags I use have a mesh top which is super durable. I also use smaller compression bags for socks/underwear and toiletries. Believe me, when its day 12 on a trip, it's nice to have everything organized. They are a lifesaver for packing.
I also just bought a pair of Apple Airpods (The wireless ones) and I can't explain how much of a difference they have made in my life and traveling. No cords to mess with, they charge quickly, and I can sleep on trains and planes easier. Wireless headphones make traveling a lot simpler.
I hope you have a great trip! Let me know what tips work for you while traveling!