Planning a long trip is what I imagine being pregnant is like. First comes the initial whoosh of excitement when a destination is decided upon, the unknown filled with promises of mystery and future thrills. After the initial excitement wears away, then the angst begins. There are multitudes of options in gear, places to stay, equipment, transportation…the list goes on. I always think, “what if I pick the wrong place to stay?” Will I be miserable for the entirety of my trip? What if I do not do enough research and properly plan my trip- will I end up messing up the experience? Even as a seasoned traveller I still experience a twinge of angst and fear of the unknown.
As in life sometimes you just have to go for it. I always try to remember that the best part about travelling is the experience, the good, the bad and the ugly. No story of a lifetime ever started with “and everything went completely smoothly.” It usually begins with “and there we were, stranded on the side of the road in the rain and a local villager picked us up and invited us to have dinner at his house and it was the most amazing meal of our lives!”
Travel planning is unglamorous, most of the time we just want to get to that beach or mountain and take amazing shots to post to Instgram, however there is a lot of preplanning involved before you head to your destination. Remember though that the experience starts from the moment you walk out your front door and head to the airport. Sure there are some tricks I’ll outline below to make sure you have the best possible trip but the first and most important thing is your attitude when you embark on a journey. Relax, let go and don’t let the unknown phase you, be of an open mind and heart.
Aside from having the right attitude here are few travel resources I use frequently.
- Maps- I know this seems like a no brainer, but in the era of the smart phone we often forget resources like Google Maps may not be available abroad if we do not have an international phone plan. I could have saved myself a lot of time and grief in Geneva if I had had a local may of the city and had not depended on memorizing Google routes when I was connected to wifi. Hardcopy maps will never fail you, even if you stay at a 5 star resort. Buy a map of the local area that you’ll be stay in. You can always buy a travel guide and most of them have maps included, or you can buy a map of just about any city/country from your local Barnes and Nobles. Having situational awareness will not only prevent the obvious- you getting lost, but it will also enable you to find those little hidden away gems that are off the tourist beaten track.
- The Local Language – If you travel widely and happen to be a savant I doubt you’ll know the local language of everywhere you visit. My personal rule is to always know how to speak a few key words in the local language. Words like “Please” and “Thank you” are the most important in my book, you above all do not want to seen like that jackass tourist that makes not attempt to understand the language and history of its host country. Knowing “Please” and “Thank You” can make the difference between getting a smile and friendly service to getting a could shoulder and sneer. “Help” and “Emergency” are always helpful to know. Having a basic understanding of the travel infrastructure (see maps above) and what the signs look like will help prevent you from getting lost. If you are a baller you can try Rosetta Stone (a baller I am not) so I use free apps like Duolingo and Translater that are fun and really effective. If you are connected to wifi Google Translate works too for more in-depth conversations, like the one that you are having with that sexy Italian man you just met.
- Blogs and Connections – Travel blogs abound these days, just about everyone has one. I find them a fantastic way to get the “real scoop” on places I am going to visit. If you are nosy like me and want to really experience a country than blogs and sites like travel advisor are a great way to. WordPress, Medium and even Instagram are filled with travel bloggers that have their own particular niche. I have found some amazingly places to stay and advice on anything from shampoo to backpacks via travel blogs. Once you find a few blogs you enjoy you can always reach out to them for more advice and perhaps in-country connections of people.
- The Power of Apps and the Interwebs – There are a gazillion different apps and websites out there. Unfortunately I am not immortal so I do not have the time list of all of the different apps you could potentially use, however here are a few that I do not pack my backpack without.
- Airbnb.com – this is gaining in popularity but when it comes to places to stay this is my FIRST resource in checking. From a $5,000 per night mansion to a room at someone’s house this app has it all. I find some wonderful deals on there always have had a positive experience. Sometimes I stay in a house that the house lives in – which can be great because they are usually friendly and show you around their city, and sometimes I rent a space that isn’t lived in by the house, affording me a little more privacy.
- xe.com – who has time to constantly figure out the currency conversion? My blonde brain doesn’t so I use xe.com (also available as an app) to do the currency conversion for me. #lovethis
- kayak.com and the app Flight Scanner– now there are countless blogs on ways to find cheap tickets. Some involve tactics like pretending you are from another country to get a cheaper rate or making a small sacrifice under the full moon and purchasing your tickets a 12:01 for the best deal. I prefer kayak because it gives me access to a full range of search engines along with timelines when tickets could be cheaper (hint, Wednesdays are usually the best day to depart.
- Hotel Tonight – I enjoy the app Hotel Tonight because if I find myself randomly stranded I can find the best deal near me.
- Smarttraveler – This app is provided for U.S. Citizens traveling abroad. It gives you travel warnings and alerts by country, a list of embassies, phone number, safety and security tips for that country, local laws (don’t get fined in Singapore for spitting your gum on the ground!), Health, Travel and Transportation tips. Incase you didn’t realize ISIS is taking off people’s heads in certain parts of the Middle East this handy dandy app would tell you.
These are just a few tried and true travel tricks I have learned over my years of traveling. There is nothing that beats plan ol’ research when you start your travel planning and it make take long hours to find the right fit in hotels, destinations, gear ect…However no manner of tips will improve your trip if you do not head into with the right attitude and spirit, remember positivity and high energy attracts good vibes in others.