Travelling is one of the best way to get to know the world and yourself. While almost all of us can agree that travelling can be a great time, many of us have experienced our fair share of hiccups along the way. Read on to discover some helpful and useful tips that can assist you in making the most of your trip before, during and after.
This is the stage where your trip is still 99% dream. You’ve made the initial decision to go explore, and you’re so excited that you want to start making Pinterest inspiration boards and buying the first plane ticket you see. Keep that excitement, but curb your enthusiasm. If you do this part of your trip right, the rest will have a sturdy platform to grow from, so here are some tips to help you do just that.
1. When searching for plane tickets to your next destination, there’s a little-known evil trick that the Powers that Be play–if a website notices that you keep returning to check the price on a certain flight, the price of said flight will rise incrementally each time you check. In order to avoid this, you have to keep the website from registering your return. To do so, make sure you have cleared your history and deleted cookies before navigating to whichever airfare site you use. To play it even safer, open a Private Browsing window, and then navigate freely… without the fear of the Big Web Brother watching your every move, and charging you for it.
2. Check multiple sites when buying plane tickets. Aggregation sites, like Kayak, are great when you’re looking for the cheapest flights available, but some are better than others. For example, SkyScanner gives you the ability to choose an entire month or even an entire country when choosing dates and destinations. This allows you to see the cheapest days to fly as well as the cheapest airports to fly into. This comes in mighty handy when travelling on a budget, but with a flexible itinerary.
3. Do some research but actively plan only a handful of destinations. One of the most common mistakes travelers make is to try to schedule and plan every step of their trip. While this will allow you to see all the things you know you want to see, it will also keep you from experiencing other things that weren’t in the guidebooks. Some of the most beautiful places are those known only to locals. Give yourself time to explore on your own or with other travelers or people you meet. You’ll rarely regret the places they’ll take you. The other downside to strict itineraries is that they tend to pack too much into too little time, leaving you exhausted and with a hazy memory of the time you did have. So pick a few destinations (for example, Machu Picchu or the Great Wall of China), but leave the time surrounding them open. There’s no telling what you’ll see when you step off the pre-planned path.
OK. Your flight has been booked, your passport is stashed in a safe place so you won’t lose it before the trip, and it’s time to start packing. This in particular is an area where many travelers struggle, so read on to find ways to avoid this mistake. I’ve also included a few tips that I’ve learned through experience (both the good and the less so). You’re almost there!
4. It’s tempting to google what to pack for any given destination, but what you’ll get is a tidal wave of overlapping and contradictory advice. Everyone has something to say about what to pack and what to leave at home. My advice is this, if you have something similar already on your list, or if you think, even to a tiny degree that you won’t use something, don’t bring it! Just remember everything you bring will be your responsibility to carry around with you. Bring things that serve multiple purposes (i.e. not high heels), are light, and that you wouldn’t be too torn up about if they were to get ruined, lost, or had to be left behind in the interest of space. Don’t worry though, the more you do this, the easier it gets.
5. Once you actually begin to pack your bag, don’t fold your things neatly like your mother taught you to. Roll them. It saves on a lot of space. Eventually, you’ll get so good at rolling your clothes and filling all available space that your bag will look like a jigsaw puzzle. Just make sure you don’t get too excited and exceed the weight limit for your airline. No one likes to start a trip by paying excess weight fees.
6. Pack a couple emergency items into your carry-on. It is all too common to have a bag not arrive at the airport at the same time you do, and no one wants to go days without a change of clothes or any toiletries. When packing your carry-on, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache if you pack it as if you knew your checked bag would be lost. Hopefully, that doesn’t ever happen, but if it does, you’ll be very grateful that you thought ahead.
7. This one goes hand in hand with #6. If you can swing it, make your carry-on a backpack or another easily portable bag (let me tell you, suitcases with wheels do not go well on cobblestone streets). This is for two reasons: one, you can use this bag as a day bag, for when you go on hikes or just walk around town, and two, this is where you should keep your valuables whenever travelling by bus, as it will stay with you at all times, thereby making it much more likely that said valuables will still be with you by the time you get wherever it is you’re going.
8. Scan your passport, ID, and any other important documents before leaving home. If you lose any of these VIPs, you will always have a digital backup. Easy.
9. When you check your bag, claim that its contents are FRAGILE. The accompanying sticker will result in your bag being handled much more carefully than usual, and bags marked “fragile” are always put on top of the rest, which means that your bag will also be one of the first to come out at baggage claim. Score.
10. Instead of using the currency conversion services at the airport or anywhere else for that matter, it’s often a better deal if you pull national currency directly out of an ATM. Although your bank will most likely charge conversion fees as well as foreign ATM fees (make sure you get the details of this before you leave), you’ll often still come out on top as opposed to with the former two options. However, you want to make sure to have some money when you arrive in a foreign country to pay for taxis, etc., so if necessary, exchange a small amount of money in the airport, but by no means should you change all of it. It’s not very smart to be carrying around a large quantity of cash in any case.
11. While you still have WiFi (most airports do, for example), you should use Google Maps to familiarize yourself with the area where your hotel will be. How often I have wished that I had a map while circling in a taxi when not even the driver knows where we’re going. The good news is that there’s a secret way to view Google maps offline! While you have internet access, open Google Maps and find the area you want for later. Bring up the search bar and type “OK maps” (without the quotation marks). Press Search. If you’ve done it correctly, you should see a prompt informing you that the map is downloading. Once completed, that portion of the map will be saved to your phone. This trick is very useful when going to an area that you’re not familiar with, as it allows you to zoom in to the map without having internet. You’ll still need a connection to pinpoint your location or get directions, but this is a very handy trick regardless.
12. Another useful app for travelers is Google Photo. This app allows you to back up all photos from your phone, and can even be set to do this automatically whenever you are connected to internet. May you never again lose all your travel photos because your phone was lost or stolen.
13. This tip comes down more to personal preference, but I always recommend that people only reserve one or two nights in any hostel/hotel, even if they plan on staying in a place for longer (the only exception being during high volume times, like festivals). My reasoning is that sometimes you don’t like a place as much as you thought you would, or the hostel doesn’t have hot water or it has buggy beds, and if you haven’t made a deposit on more nights, you can high tail it out of there as fast as possible. Granted the deposit is generally only a few dollars, so it depends on how tightly you’re pinching your pennies. If you do like it, all you have to do is reserve more nights. No skin off your teeth.
Congratulations, you’ve made it! Hopefully your trip was everything you dreamed it would be and more. But before you set off for the airport and your flight home, I’ve got a couple more tips for you.
14. Before leaving for the airport, it’s generally a good idea to check your flight status. Now, depending on where you are, the internet may not be entirely up to par, and I’ve found that trying to get into an airline’s website and check the status that way takes forever with the given bandwidth. However, did you know you can type your flight number and carrier into Google Search and find your flight information easily? Now you do, and you’re welcome.
15. Before leaving, give your spare change to a homeless person or, in the off chance they can’t be found, to another traveler. You won’t believe how appreciative they’ll be in general, and–let’s be honest–what are you going to do with a bunch of foreign coins back home? If you’re the type to hold on to change as a souvenir, pick your favorite one and give the rest away.
I hope you’ve found this helpful! Some of these tips will very likely change the way you travel. Bon voyage! Got something to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below!