This is the best way to travel

Here is the best way to travel according to Christopher Elliott.

Turn off your cellphone. Downsize your luggage. And remember that your standards aren’t necessarily their standards.

Ask the most experienced travelers for their advice, and that’s what they’ll tell you. And who are the world’s most experienced travelers? They are hard-working business travelers, including expatriates and foreign service workers, who live outside the U.S. for weeks, months, even years at a time.

I used to be one of them. I spent 18 years in Europe and I moved around every year or so. And I also wrote a book called “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” in which I failed to credit these frequent travelers for their travel smarts. I’m about to remedy that – and just in time for the busy travel season.

Most expatriates travel with a minimum of fanfare – which is to say, they get there as quickly and efficiently as possible and avoid touristy activities.

Power down that smartphone

Jason Donahue, the co-founder of the site Sidewalk, and also a foreign service brat, shared an interesting story about a friend. He’s the boyfriend of an Instagram celebrity who privately admits that he hates to travel.

“He never gets to enjoy a new place,” says Donahue. “He is always behind the camera to photograph food as it grows cold, to position tripods as the golden hour approaches, to photoshop perfection in the late hours of the evening. Too many social media travel stories depict an aura of artful travel, but they are manufactured facades.”

How true. He says you have to set aside time to explore the neighborhood behind a popular tourist attraction, to eat where the locals eat and, above all, to give yourself permission to enjoy it.

I live in Studio City, California, at the moment, just a few city blocks away from the famous Brady Bunch house. Every morning, I walk past the house, which was recently purchased by HGTV and is being restored to its 1970s glory. I see tourists snapping pictures of the home and then driving off to their next stop.

But they’re missing one of the coolest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, a leafy suburb with architecturally interesting homes and citrus trees with ripening fruit. I have no objection to people taking a snapshot of the home, but afterward, they should holster that handheld and take a walk to see the real L.A.

Lose the luggage

Travelers pack too much. Board any bus, flight or train, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Transporting your baggage is big business for airlines, which collected a record $4.6 billion in luggage fees in 2017, up from $4.2 billion the year before.

Almost every travel advice story I’ve written has a talking head who preaches the virtues of minimalism. But for Sara Bishop, an expatriate who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, traveling light means something entirely different. She’s an anthrozoologist, studying interactions between humans and other animals, and for her, it’s the animals in our luggage that should get some scrutiny.

“To have or not to have pets?” she asks. “Is the emotional cost worth the benefit?”

It’s not just the stress to the animal, but also the expense and hassle of transporting pets.

“I have shipped tigers with more ease than I can move my personal animals,” she says.

I have two perspectives on this issue: as a former pet owner (actually, it would be more accurate to say that my Bengal cats owned me) and as an advocate for travelers. Every day I receive complaints about traveling with pets or about other people’s cats and dogs. And I agree with Bishop: Travel and animals don’t mix, particularly transporting pets on domestic airlines.

For me, though, it’s the emotional cost of having a pet and being separated from it when you go on the road. Eventually, I had to give up my beloved Bengals for adoption. I miss them every day. I’m now an advocate of traveling light, by which I mean, if you plan to be on the road a lot, don’t adopt a dog or cat. The burden is too heavy.

A note about standards

One more thing: Assume nothing.

That’s particularly true when it comes to standards. Sheryl Hill, who is the executive director of a travel safety nonprofit called Depart Smart, learned that lesson when she worked in diabetes rehabilitation in Vienna and traveled into Eastern Europe.

Medical care is not always to American standards overseas and even when it is, your insurance may not cover the treatment. “I didn’t really have a handle on the fact that my medical insurance would not cover me,” she adds.

She also discovered that many of the things we take for granted in the U.S., including adequate heating, are not always provided.

Many travelers leave the country assuming that everyone will speak English and that their accommodations will be just like at home. But expatriates know that’s not true, and they assume nothing. Adjusting their expectations means they’ll almost never be disappointed – and there’s something to be said for that.

How to travel like an expatriate

  • Register with the State Department. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The State Department sends important information from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination.
  • Get the right protection. If you’re overseas for a long time, you’ll want to consider an annual travel insurance policy through a company like Allianz Travel Insurance or AIG Travel Guard, or a membership in Medjet, a Birmingham, Alabama, company that provides medical transport and travel security protection.
  • Learn the language and customs. The best way to get up to speed is through a language immersion course, but if you don’t have that opportunity, try one of the learning apps like Babbel, Memrise or Rosetta Stone. They’ll help you get up to speed on a new language quickly.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend