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My two best suggestions.

First: mostly stay in hostels. A few words in praise of 'youth' hostels, and home-stays are just as good. If you are a senior, a seriously independent budget-minded traveler and you have plenty of time to enjoy an extended trip, more time than money, staying in hostels is a fantastic accommodation choice. You can get your own room which often means a reservation in advance. Some private rooms have bathrooms ensuite but honestly, that bathroom-down-the-hall thing is surprisingly not the problem you might imagine.

And it's FUN. There are people of all ages from everywhere happy to have a chat in English. There are kitchens that not only cut down on food costs but also let you eat more healthfully. There are lounges for socializing, usually with wifi access, and for the most part they are perfectly clean and safe (and you'll know the good ones because you'll read the reviews).

Second: learn how to say perfectly in the local language, with correct accent and intonation, at least these 10 expressions and while you're at it know how to easily use your maps (and a compass!) and phrase book and dictionary. Local people will clamor to help you. First check out the BBC. There are so many free lessons and whole sections on just the expressions I mentioned. It was new to me in 2010 and amazing. Before I got hooked on the bbc site I found the Pimsleur beginner series quite good for acquiring a very few expressions with correct accent and intonation, or another idea, get someone in your town to teach you...maybe put an ad on craigslist or go to a restaurant specializing in the area you will be visiting.

1 Hi!
2 Thank you!
3 You are welcome.
4 Goodbye!
5 Please, where is...(Point to your guide book, a map, a business card, and have a map, notebook, and pen ready for the answer.)
6 Please, take me...(To a taxi driver, again with the pointing.)
7 Please, may I have...(Pointing to a menu, in a shop, etc.)
8 How much? (Always have a notebook at hand and write down the price so you can agree in writing.)
9 My family! (Carry photos of your family to share with grandmas you meet on the bus.)
10 Here is my card. (Carry name cards with your email address - it's a big hit and even better with your photo on it.)

Directory of TIPS!
My two best suggestions.
Deciding where you want to go.
Planning your itinerary.
Getting the logistics right.
Where to stay.
Know before you go!
Schlepping your stuff.
Some good ideas that aren't for me but might be for you.
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