Be prepared… appropriate clothing and accessories can make or break a trip. The weather is not something that can be relied on, and if you are able to whip out a raincoat to salvage the day not only does it make for a great story, but you can continue to experience the NEW.
If you’re like me, sought after destinations won’t always have desirable weather anyway (desirable weather to this bird is 10-20 degrees, no wind, partially cloudy) AND as most of the places I like to go are at a high altitude or seaside this often means I get drenched (rain boots) Make your life a little easier and offer yourself quick solutions to potential challenges.
Find a travel partner who can make your experience better, or travel solo. We all know being with someone 24/7 can be a chore, if you are travelling with a moody Marvin consider booking a hotel with a separate area for some alone time, or set clear boundaries. If you have differing interests it can help to set your time between activities and locations that each of you enjoy, or schedule meal times together in advance to divide and conquer.
HACK : If you are booking cars or hotels through a booking site (I religiously use booking.com) start your search early so that the site knows what you are looking for and for several weeks up to the trip date they will send you discount codes based on your searches, hopefully resulting in a better deal!
If you require Wi-Fi, parking, a separate bathroom or any number of other accommodations refine your search…. fun fact- if it doesn’t say private bathroom and you’re traveling to Europe, it likely means shared. ASK.
If you’re traveling abroad find out if your phone company offers a “roam like home” plan, the ability to turn on a GPS in a pinch can save your life (and you’re only charged if you use it).
Bring or buy an empty water bottle, hiking and walking all day to pack in the fun can be exhausting and the best way to not burn out and maximize your trip: HYDRATE.
Be Flexible…having an idea of the things you’d like to see is wonderful but setting an itinerary can lead to disappointment (and limit the ability to stop if you see something interesting you hadn’t known about).
Research desired plans for the day and distances in advance (when in Wi-Fi if you can), this can help with efficiency of hitting all preferred sites in one neighborhood or location to maximize your time.
Rent a car! I cant stress this enough, if it is within your means and you’re going anywhere with great landscapes…rent a car, there is nothing worse than being in a beautiful location (I’m looking at you Spain) and not being able to get to the destination/hike you have in mind– bus tours mean there will be hundreds of people looking at the same delicate flower as you, at the same time as you… this is not so enjoyable for those like me who want to appreciate the view in silence or solo or don’t want Jim the paralegal in their vacation photos. Most excursions cost roughly the same amount as renting a car for the week would anyway, so if you prefer a non guided experience this may be the way to go.
Pack light. You’re on vacation! I can’t think of going anywhere with more than a carry on… the wait at the airport, the hassle of misplaced baggage, the heavy walk to the hotel. Wear your jeans, enjoy your trip, everything you need is there.
Take time to enjoy the scenery before you take pictures. The view never translates quite as well and this helps to keep you in the moment. Enjoy your experience, then decide whether it’s something you need a photo of. (this is a reminder I often need).
Be informed… I’m not one to buy travel guides (but if you are they can be a great tool!) but knowing your surroundings in a strange place can help you navigate to your interests…every time I land somewhere I immediately pick up a map and get my bearings… most hotels have maps at the front desk with local restaurants and attractions listed, browsing those is always my first step. Googling local crime rates and customs can also be important based on location.
Learn key phrases in the native tongue… pick up a phrase book or download a translator app (which work even when offline) to help navigate potentially hazardous situations, and to assist if you get lost.
Budget your trip (if you don’t have an unlimited amount of funds). Calculating the flight, car & lodging costs before the trip allows you to determine how much disposable income per day you have remaining for food and shopping. I always cut my financial number in half so I have back up if there is an emergency, I come across an exhibit I HAVE to hit or I’ve miscalculated the local currency.
Have at least 3 meals worth of money on hand in the local currency. Many restaurants in tourist areas only accept cash, and you never want to be stuck if you weren’t aware. This also alleviates any issues in the event of a credit card malfunction on the first day.
Inform your CC and bank of travel…its possible your bank will request to be notified of travel to implement travel protection (call to find out). There are some banks who will lock the debit/credit card if they suspect theft, this call will help to avoid that mistake.