Traveling is awesome. Regardless if you are going to the Gateway Arch or to the fjords in Norway, it is almost always an incredible experience. However, those amazing memories usually come well equipped with some not so amazing traveling stresses. In order to avoid the chaos and stress that is often associated with traveling, keep these tips in mind to make your next big trip the best it can be!
Research everything! Look at flights once or twice a week before finding the perfect flight. Research the area you are going to be in. If I had a dollar for every time I just showed up in a city, thinking I could just find my way around everywhere, I would be rich beyond belief! Make sure you know the customs, the cool tourist spots and the even cooler local spots. You want your trip to be magnificent, so do your homework!
2. Prep yourself for the flight
Flights are terrible for me. My first flight without my mom, I got a full body search because I was wearing a tank top with sparkles on it. It definitely set the mood for the 4 hour flight ahead of me. Bring a neck pillow and blanket, unless you prefer the itchy airplane “blankets” they offer. Bring snacks and fuzzy socks. If you are going abroad, you will most likely be on a plane for 10 hours minimum, so be prepared to try to get comfy and bring lots of entertainment – CHARGE YOUR DEVICES.
3. Leave the riches at home
If you’re a tourist, chances are you will most likely stand out, no matter where you go. I am sure you have heard this before, but don’t travel with expensive items – this includes laptops and extra electronics that you could live without for the majority of your trip. If you absolutely love your diamond earrings that you got for Christmas, try finding a cheap pair that resemble the real ones that wouldn’t break your heart if stolen.
It seems silly, but hear me out. Photocopy everything: your passport, your driver’s license, itinerary, insurance card, credit card, etc. You never know what can happen and it is better to be safe than sorry. Keeping copies with you will help ease nerves in case you happen to leave your purse/wallet at the Louvre.
5. Exchanging money
If you can help it, DO NOT exchange money at the airport. They have insane exchange rates and there is usually an ATM in the airport if you are in a money emergency. Also, try to exchange money in your home country before getting to your destination, where exchange rates tend to be higher.
6. Pack and Unpack
I find this tip to be super helpful. I always over-pack, no matter how long the trip. I have learned that if I pack and unpack, I get a second or even third chance to look at what I want to bring and the things I don’t really need. And remember, the less room in your suitcase on the way there means more space to bring souvenirs back!
7. Keep a Journal
I have yet to use this one, but I think it is a great tip. The idea is to take a notebook and at the end of each day, write down anything and everything that stood out to you during your excursions. Another idea is to send yourself postcards once every other day so that when you get home you can turn it into a scrapbook of all the places you’ve been.
8. Search Incognito
Every time you search a flight, the website used, stores the information and then ups the ticket prices that you have been searching for. So instead of them getting lower on Monday night, they skyrocket, tricking you into purchasing them at a higher price. If you search in an incognito window, your cookies will not be saved and the companies will not be able to track you.
9. Learn the language
If you are going abroad, this may seem like a “duh” tip. But there is more to it than just learning “hello” and “do you speak English?” Learning how to say “no thank you” for busy flea markets and traditional phrases of the country will enhance your experience and help you connect to locals.
Talking with the front desk attendant at your hotel is the best way to find out hidden treasures of the city or town you are in. They may lead you to an awesome restaurant that will get you talking to a local who will send you to yet another hidden gem. It is a fantastic treasure hunt you may miss out on if you do not step out of your comfort zone.
So, the take home lesson is: do you homework, document your time whether it be a journal or a camera, and step out of your comfort zone. You will feel a lot more at ease and your trip will be that much better!