WARNING: HUGE WALL OF TEXT INFO DUMP OF THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME MONTHS AGO WITH SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS AND SOME RAMBLING.
1. Leveling in this game is actually pretty linear but your first character is the hardest. The best I can do is give you my ideas about how to level faster. The baseline is about 1.5 hours per level, but if you do all this, you can average a little better, I tend to average an hour or so now. Bear in mind some levels will be super fast, others will seem to drag.
For what it's worth I think you're in the slowest part of leveling right now, and your first character is the slowest because you don't have a level 80 to feed you resources. But it gets better, I'm a very casual player who doesn't even play every day and I have three level 80 characters within 5 months, and the last two were way easier than the first one. My first character was way harder than the others but it still wasn't bad compared to the usual MMO.
Since you are trying to craft and level up at the same time, here's my advice. You may have done some of these already:
A) Get all the vistas, waypoints and other things on the map in the large cities. Do this now, you need to learn where this stuff is, and while it's not a lot of XP it helps get you along. You'll also have all the waypoints in the cities which is useful and you'll get a few transumation stones to play with. They're kind of worthless but they're fun, it's something.
On subsequent characters I don't know I'd do this as much, but on your first character complete entire zones of the map. The reason you want to do this is you'll get boosters and other general utility items that help out a bit, plus this leads to you combing the whole zone pretty extensively so you'll hit all the resource nodes on the way.
If you ever do go for World Completion it's good to have at least one character who explores all zones completely just so you can start that process and not have to worry about going back and getting missing things later. Some people do the whole thing on all characters though (not me!).
C) Most new people find at some point that they can't actually complete an entire zone at a time. What I mean by that is they'll start a 25-35 zone, get to about level 31 or so, and they'll have just a few things left they can't do because the enemies are four levels above them but most of the map will be complete. They won't have anything left to level on to get to the highest level possible to finish the last few things.
This can be mitigated somewhat by constantly mining resources in the zone and doing every event you come across too, but it still happens. What you may have to do at some points if you get stuck is go to another zone that's below your level, complete it, and then come back. It's a little annoying but you shouldn't have to do it too much.
D) Food. Eat it. Use it. If you don't level Cooking don't worry because most guild vaults are full of free food, because people level cooking and make so much low level food no one wants. Join some mega guild that invites everyone if you have to and see what you can score.
You don't give two cares what food it is or what level it is as long as you can use it at your level, because the XP boost is the same for all food. The other bonuses are nice but you're not worried about that yet at this point.
E) Crafting. Here's what works for me. There's lots of other ways to do it.
First some research will help, once you learn how GW2 crafting works you won't need a guide, but maybe check out a crafting guide or two for your first attempt at it. The short version is, always make discoveries at the upper limit of your current ability rather than try to discover all possilbe items.
Pick your two crafts, and don't do what I did and pick two that use the same kinds of resources. My first character did Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing and that was a big mistake (it's fine now but at the time it sucked).
If you're doing Tailor, which uses a lot of cloth and leather, probably pick something like Artificer that uses mostly wood, or Weaponsmith which will use mostly ore and some wood. Avoid any of the other armor making skills. Jeweler and Cooking wouldn't overlap too much either.
As commented before, some crafts are cheaper than others. Cooking is probably the least expensive by a good margin. I personally pick what's most useful to me but that makes life harder.
Anyway, what I like to do is I keep both my crafts at 5 times my level until I hit level 60. So if I'm level 30, I strive to keep both crafts at 150 each.
Now this is important: I would only farm materials for crafting on your first character, I wouldn't buy them just yet. This has a triple bonus because you save money, you learn what you are willing to pay other people to get materials for you, and you get XP farming up the mats.
Even if you don't finish the crafts by level 80 I think not buying any mats until you get to a certain point in the process is a good idea, because you can make so much more money at level 80 than you will right now.
Now once I get both skills to 300, what I will do is gather a big hunk of the mats I need to finish to 400, I will actually buy them if I have to, and I will make sure I have enough karma for recipes.
I will then set everything up, pop a Crafting Booster, and have an epic crafting hour and work on one craft at a time and push it to 400. I just go for broke, and I try to do this before I'm level 80 but past level 60.
I find this method gives you a little XP boost consistently through the lower to mid levels, it gives you gear that's on your level, and it gives you a nice jump ahead at the higher levels. It also represents a good compromise between saving time and saving money.
You can get these crafting boosters for free if you complete entire zones and:
F) Do your personal quest, keep it within 5 levels of your level. The first time you do the quest it isn't quite as boring but I've never liked it. However if you can endure it gives nice XP.
Some people like to do them ahead of sequence and that does work, but me personally, I try to do them on the reccommended level and just keep on it. Lots of XP here and a few useful trinkets here and there. I hate the quest story but it's a good leveling tool.
G) Some people do dungeons to level, I personally don't bother I only do them at level 80 for money but it's a viable strategy if you want to try it.
H) I've played a lot of MMOs where the way you leveled was you chain killed the same monsters over and over again many time. GW2 is very much not like that. Random mob killing won't get you very far very fast experience points wise.
HOWEVER bear in mind GW2 rewards some pretty large bonus XP if you kill mobs no one else has killed for a long time.
- Underwater PvE kind of sucks, but if you like easy XP, most underwater mobs aren't killed very often. It happens more often now due to the dailies, but these areas are often passed over. As a result, the underwater mobs can be worth a lot of bonus XP.
- Yellow mobs (neutral ones) are often not killed either, so they can be worth some pretty sweet XP.
- You can get some crazy XP if you go out to WvW late in the week (got at a time when it's not busy and no one cares, don't interrupt real WvW to do this please) and kill the mobs, they often are left untouched for extended periods so the bonus XP can be huge. An enemy player might kill you, but if you go at a dull time and stay close to the entrance portal, this usually won't happen.
- For that matter if WvW is active, run with a big group (a zerg) that is taking over objectives on the map. This can be pretty fast XP and for me it's a lot more fun than most other methods. You don't have to be high level to carry supplies and help build and repair. Just be forewarned this is a PvP suggestion, other players will kill you and will do so easily because you're underleveled, and I don't know how you feel about that. For me this is the most fun leveling by far.
I) Grab up lots of skill points, the sooner you unlock everything the better off you'll be.
J) And this is an easy one: do as much of your daily and monthly as you can. Even if you cannot finish the daily or monthly, each part you complete gives you a little bonus XP chunk.
2. GW2 is not really a "loot" game like some others; there's not too many tiers of it and it doesn't drop very often (which can be a problem for new players). Here's my general advice for loot.
Here's where some people might not agree with me, but I think a low level character in a guild especially could get a pretty good amount of free items besides food.
And at the low levels, I say take only what you can get for free. Only buy training manuals, repairs, and necessary Waypoint fees.
Don't ever beg because it's not necessary and it's annoying, but I think it's okay to politely ask if anyone is willing to part with low level gear they don't want or need. Some people are actually nice and will throw you a proverbial bone because it represents no appreciable cost to them to do so.
People who craft up anything will make so much low level gear that isn't worth any gold at all on the trading post and most of it just gets salvaged or vendored. I can't speak for everyone but I'd much rather have given more of this unwanted gear to new players than just throw it away, once it's made you can't recoup what you spent on it in any meaningful way. I think there's potentially a lot of "stuff" to be had for the asking if you are very polite.
Asking people for surplus or unwanted items ONE TIME (especially in a guild chat) isn't wrong, for instance you could say something like "Hey everyone, I'm a noob and I really need a level 35 axe. If anyone just happens to have one they are willing to part with that'd be awesome but don't worry about it. Thanks for your consideration."
But don't repeat yourself, don't beg, thank anyone who ever gives you anything, and never ask for money. I am convinced however you could get a few things this way around level 40ish and below. Past that stuff starts to get a bit too expensive to be generous with and it's better not to ask any more.
But back on topic...
Loot does get better as you keep going. At first all the magic loot you find has only one modifier, later on you'll get 2 modifiers, and finally 3. Also around level 60 something or so you start to see Exotic gear for the first time.
That's the good stuff, but I never had anything better than masterwork (green) with most of it being blue until I got to level 80 and I was just fine.
Be cheap and frugal until you get to level 80.
My advice is, save your money as much as you can, don't buy anything but repairs and the books from your class trainer, try not to use waypoints too often, and just don't buy anything.
At level 80 you may then be able to make or buy (it's often cheaper to buy, always check) rare gear. Buy rare gear and use it until you can get Exotic or Ascended gear. You won't be at much of a disadvantage this way and Rare gear is pretty cheap.
Then get your Exotic gear one piece at a time by whatever method is easiest at your leisure.
In fact you can PVP in Rare gear and be fine. There's not a huge difference between one tier and the next, you have to go at least 2 tiers apart before it seems noticeable and even then it's not mathematically a big difference.
Most people in WvW who are running a level 80 will usually have some kind of Exotic gear, it's uncommon to find players who also do enough Fractals to have Ascended stuff and do WvW too. They exist but it's not most people. Your Rare gear is only 1 tier behind so you aren't at some big disadvantage that way.
Anyway sorry that was long and a bit off topic, but this is an info dump I would have appreciated back when I only had one character that was only level 20.