You have chosen your destination and now the wonderful planning for your trip of a lifetime starts.
When travelling, there are few things to consider with regards to accommodation. Do you want to be in the city centre or can you stay on the outskirts and cycle or use public transport to get to your daily activities? For more affordable options than hotels try websites like Couchsurfing or Airbnb.
- Buy tickets in advance for places you know you want to visit or see. By buying in advance you’ll be able to skip lines and find more deals targeted towards your interests.
- Get guidebooks. Guidebooks usually include maps, keywords or phrases, and give you enough detail on certain sites that you won’t need to purchase the pamphlet at the venue.
- Research events taking place during your stay. This will help you make sure that you’re not missing the best events in the city – fun things like festivals, ceremonies and natural events.
- Bring a charger adapter. Different countries have different size plugs and voltage. Check the voltage of your electronics (nothing is worse than having an adapter and still not being able to use a blow-dryer or a straightener because the voltage isn’t high enough).
- Find out whether there will be Wi-Fi available (at your hotel/ Couchsurfing/ Airbnb host) or activate your phone’s global capabilities. There’s usually a charge for doing this, but it is much less than the roaming charges you’ll rack up if you don’t.
- Consider using the Travelzoo app. It can help you find great deals in a variety of countries, and has options from local deals to transportation options.
Security & Health
- Check in with your doctor and insurance carrier. Make sure that you have all the proper vaccinations and that you have renewed all essential prescriptions.
- You are welcome to obtain a certification document from IPS to ensure that Customs do not confiscate your vitamins.
- Also, ask you medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it doesn’t, and you want to add extra coverage, consider supplemental insurance.
- Bring copies of your passport. If your passport gets stolen or lost you want to be sure that you can still get back into the country, or be able to prove your citizenship.
- Register with your embassy. If there’s a problem in the country, this will make it easier for your government to contact you and get you to safety.
- Make sure your debit/credit card will work in the country you’re visiting. European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards.
- Call your bank or credit card provider. Sometimes banks think that fraud may be occurring if transactions are suddenly happening in Bali when you’re from South Africa, and they will deactivate your card as a security measure.
- Go to a bank or ATM in the country you’re visiting. The conversion centres in the airport or around the city tend to be huge rip-offs. The fees at the ATM or the bank will be lower, and the conversion rate will be exact.
- Always have local cash. Not every merchant accepts credit cards. This is especially important for trains or buses and street markets.
Luggage & Packing
- Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag. Don’t be caught in the same clothes because the airline lost your luggage and you have nothing else to wear.
- Do research about tracking methods such as a homing pin to prevent lost luggage.
- Each airline has its own set of guidelines as to how many bags can be checked or carried on for free. Be sure to look up what your airline’s rules are to avoid any incremental fees.
At Your Destination
Wake Up Early
- Get up at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and it is usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.
Stash Extra Cash
- Cash is king around the world. To cover yourself in an emergency, make sure to stash some cash in a few different places. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.
Meet Local People
- Make it a point to avoid other travellers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.
- Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do. Also consider using the Google translate app.
Take Lots of Photos
- You may only see these places and meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.
- They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.
Get Lost on Purpose
- If you want to see the parts of town where people live and work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.
- Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighbourhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.
Eat Local Food
- Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with long queues.
Keep Good Notes
- My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 7 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it. Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a town smelled like.
- If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy. These days I use an incredible note-taking app called Evernote, which I use as my second brain. It is so useful for all kinds of applications — from planning trips to journaling about them later.
Don’t Plan Too Much
- Pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.
And lastly, have fun and savour every moment! Remember that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.