Travel can be life-changing, exhilarating, …and stressful. I’ve experienced a little of all these things and have finally gotten, if not smart, at least a bit more travel savvy. I’ve developed strategies to stay organized, healthy, and pack light. Here are my top travel tips for enjoying your adventures. I hope a few of them will make your travel easier.
- Traveling Tulls Top Travel Tips
- The Most Important of our Top Travel Tips
- Want More of our Top Travel Tips?
- Packing Lists for Our Trips of a Lifetime
Traveling Tulls Top Travel Tips
Planning the Trip
- Plan Ahead – check opening times, admission requirements, transportation, etc.
- Consider Travel Insurance. We always buy it for trips that are physically challenging, and for the expensive journeys.
- Alert your bank to your travel plans.
- Take photos of your passport, driver’s license, tickets, etc. and email the images to yourself and a trusted contact.
- Plot out your accommodations, and spots of interest on a map. It’s good to have an idea of where everything is in case of a change in plans.
- Learn about your destination. If you’re traveling outside of your country-
- Read a bit about the history and culture of your destination
- Learn a few essential phrases in the language – please, thank you, etc.
Lesson Learned: Check the Map
Dave visited Paris several times on business and always stayed at a lovely hotel. As it was work travel, he wasn’t able to do any sightseeing. He left the hotel each morning, turning right to get to the Metro station.
When finally, I accompanied him, we discovered that had he walked one block left from the hotel he would be at the Eiffel Tower. (And another Metro station!)
Planning and Adventure trip? Read: Outdoor Travelers: Secrets for a Safari and Other Adventure Trips.
Packing for the Trip
- Pack light – carry-on if possible. Check that your bag will fit your airline’s cabin bag allowance. If you need to check bags, make sure to pack all essential medications and one complete outfit in your personal item/carry-on. Include underwear and nightwear (optional- include swimsuit and/or workout clothing if cruising or heading to the beach)
- Test your pack out a week ahead. Make sure all items coordinate, are clean and in repair. I like to take photos of particularly nice combinations to remember on the trip.
- Pack only clothing you’d comfortably wear at home.
How to Travel Easier: Getting There
- Enjoy the airport. Most major airports rival malls with shopping, dining options, and even massages. Changing your perspective on time spent at the airport will make your travel a lot less stressful.
- Prepare for the flight. Consider entertainment, books, and activities that’ll keep you busy.
- If at all possible, leave a day early to allow for flight delays, cancellations, etc. If the worst happens, you’ll still arrive in time for your event or tour departure. If all goes well at the airport, you’ll have an extra day to adjust to time changes and relax.
Lesson Learned: Allow for an Extra Travel Day
When booking flights for a Barcelona to Lisbon small ship cruise, we realized we could save a lot of money if we booked cheap round-trip flights to Lisbon, enjoyed a day in the city, and then took the short hop to Barcelona. Well, the inexpensive flight we booked to Lisbon was cancelled and our departure delayed a day.
Fortunately, we’d planned on the overnight in Lisbon, and the stars aligned so that when we arrived in Lisbon a day late, we were just able to make the flight to Barcelona. We lost a night at a special Lisbon hotel, a tour we’d booked, and the cost of our airport transportation, but at least we made the cruise departure. (our travel insurance covered some of these costs)
So TWO lessons learned – Allow the extra day and DON’T fly unreliable airlines.
- Use a packing list. Better yet, use a packing list app. Check it when you pack, when you change accommodations, and again when you get home to note what was unused. Duplicate and edit for your next trip.
- Carry a pen in your airline personal item. Sounds simple but it’s easy to forget. Don’t be that person who is left scrambling to fill out immigration forms because they don’t have a pen.
- Use multi-colored packing cubes to easily identify where you’ve packed your items.
Stay Healthy and Safe
- Stay hydrated, especially on long flights. Bring along an empty water bottle to fill at the airport.
- Schedule downtime. This is especially important when you’re on an intensive sightseeing trip as you would be in Europe. Take a day off of touring every 4th day or so. Or add a ‘vacation’ at the end of a strenuous tour as we did in Zanzibar.
- Wear sunscreen. And a hat…
- Pack a health kit with 24 hrs. of common medications. No one wants to run out to a pharmacy at 2 a.m.
- Maintain fitness by touring on the ground level – walking, cycling or neighborhood food tours are great ways to get some exercise while enjoying an area.
- Carry a ‘fake’ wallet including expired credit cards and a minimal amount of cash. This can be used as a diversion but IF YOU ARE IN DANGER, HAND OVER YOUR VALUABLES. Your life is worth it.
- Keep a small amount of cash hidden in your room or luggage in case of emergency.
Lesson Learned: Carry basic medications & Schedule downtime
I came down with a nasty cold in Spain, and bronchitis in Egypt. In Spain, we skipped a planned excursion to find a pharmacy and in Egypt our tour guide had to bring in a doctor. Now I pack basic cold medications and an extra inhaler…
Scheduling downtime is a difficult travel challenge for me. I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm on our trips and want to go, go, go. Unfortunately, that means I often get rundown and fall ill. I’m trying to learn, but in the meantime, I make sure to pack basic meds.
How to Travel Better: Savor the Trip
- Talk with the locals. Learn their stories.
- Be respectful. Remember that you are a guest in someone else’s ‘home.’
- Keep a travel journal. Take 20 minutes every evening to jot down quick notes and memories.
- Be flexible, patient, and maintain your sense of humor.
The Most Important of our Top Travel Tips
Leave the Place Better Than You Found ItThis may be as simple of picking up litter or as powerful as establishing friendships and understanding across cultures. Sustainable Tourism: guide to being a responsible traveler.
Want More of our Top Travel Tips?
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Packing Lists for Our Trips of a Lifetime
- African Safari – Complete Guide to Packing for an African Safari | The Challenge of Packing for Safari in a Carry-On
- Costa Rica – Essential Guide to Packing Light for Costa Rica
- Cycling through the Netherlands on a Bike/Barge Trip – Packing Carry-On Only for a Bike/Barge Trip
- Egypt and Jordan – What to Pack for Egypt and Jordan
- Mediterranean Cruise – Packing for a Luxury Mediterranean Cruise
- Caribbean Cruise – Packing for a 7-day Caribbean Cruise
- Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – Packing for a River Rafting Trip
Now it’s your turn – share your favorite travel tip in the comments!