Planning your first trip? Traveling for the first time can be both scary and exhilarating. Here are a few tips to ease you into your first travel experience you lucky duck!
- Cut Your Itinerary in Half
Close your eyes and repeat after me: “I only have __ days to spend in this amazing place, I won’t enjoy it nearly as much if I feel like I am starring in an episode of The Amazing Race.I constantly have to remind myself to limit my itinerary when planning my trips. It’s really easy to get carried away, after all you are going someplace you have never been before, you want to see as much as possible right? Nope, trust me, don’t make that mistake – think quality over quantity when it comes to itinerary planning and always build in time for walking/transportation and rest.
- When in Doubt Don’t Pack ItOn my first solo backpacking trip to Costa Rica I left an item from my backpack in every hostel I stayed in. I had just packed way to much stuff and every day my backpack seemed to feel a little heavier, so I decided to lighten my load – best decision ever! I bet my worn copy of Beautiful Losers is still floating around Costa Rica somewhere to this day!
One of the first things you learn when traveling is that the less you pack the happier you tend to be. Light, easy to carry luggage makes everything easier. It also puts the focus on your trip, not on the junk you carry around with you (always a good thing in my opinion).
- Learn How To Say These Three Phrases – I’m Sorry, Thank You and That One PleaseThis one is for those traveling abroad – you might not have time to learn the native language of your destination but taking the time to learn these three phrases can help you in so many ways.
I’m sorry – just learn it and then when you bump people with your overstuffed luggage you can apologize :).
Thank You – politeness pays off when traveling.
That One Please – I used this phrase so much when I went to France, in bakeries, restaurants and at souvenir stands! Being able to point at something and ask for it (politely) is really all you need to be able to feed yourself or buy gifts for your lucky friends.
- Splurge if Your Heart Screams YesEven if you are on a budget, if you have a nagging “I really want to do this but it costs too much” feeling, splurge! Don’t splurge on everything, just the things you feel you will regret if you don’t get to experience them.
When I look back on my travels I am so glad that once in a while I spent the money to do the things that set my heart a pitter patter. I will never forget what it felt like to ride in a helicopter up to a glacier in Alaska or the amazing boat ride I took in Southern France. Sometimes you just have to splurge.
- Shoes Make All the DifferenceForget the heels (unless of course heels make your heart sing), bring at least one pair of shoes that are comfortable. You are going to walk…a lot most likely. The worst feeling in the world is not being able to do what you want to do because you have giant blisters on your feet.
The best type of shoes for travel are lightweight (for packing), water resistant (wet feet = bad news) and semi-casual (sneakers work, but it’s extra awesome if you can find a shoe that can be dressed up just a little for those fancy dinners you have planned). These are my current go-tos.
- Get There Before DarkI learned this the hard way and ended up driving tiny curving French country roads in search of a vacation rental I had booked. In the end I had to call the owner to come and fetch us and luckily she kindly obliged.
I’ve found that the best thing to do when you are traveling somewhere you have never been is to arrive while it is daylight. Not only does it feel safer, but you can also read (or spend time deciphering) street signs and if you have to drive, the roads don’t seem nearly as intimidating.
- Copy Those Documents!Make a copy of your passport, drivers license, health insurance and any other important documents and carry it with you in case yours are lost or stolen. You can also email yourself a scanned version so you could print it out from anywhere if you ended up losing both the originals and the copies. I have a freakish fear of losing my passport so doing this helps to set my mind at ease.
- Choose Luggage That Stands Out
You don’t want to be that person at the airport who tries to head off with someone else’s luggage do you? Or even worse, that person who’s luggage someone else picks up by mistake.
- Technology is Your Friend But Not Your Only OneI love my iPad. I love it love it love it. If ever there was a more perfect travel partner, I’ve never heard of it. Technology is great for helping you find places, giving you recommendations on what to eat and where to go, and even teaching you how to say something in a foreign language.
I think you should totally take advantage of it. But don’t forget to ask the locals where their favorite spots are. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions from a passerby on the street. And don’t worry too much if you completely butcher the language you are trying to speak and people look at you with a mixture of amusement and confusion.
If you are traveling, be present. Meet people. Say Hello. Be vulnerable. Ask for help. Travel is as much about the land as it is about the people. Don’t hide behind technology; interact on a larger scale by actually talking to people.
- Be Grateful, Be Open, Be CuriousI don’t want to tell you how to travel. I think everyone has a unique approach. You don’t have to be bold, you don’t have to be quiet. You can visit every museum in town or just spend the week hanging out at the beach. It’s all good. I do however recommend three ways of being when traveling and those are grateful, open, and curious.
Grateful because you are so very lucky to be doing what you are doing. You are lucky to be living at a time in history when travel is very accessible. You are lucky to have the resources to travel. You are so lucky to get the chance to see new things and know new places. Walk in gratitude, it can only make your trip better.
Open because it may be difficult, you may be somewhere where everything is new, where you can’t understand a word people are saying, where the customs are so foreign that you are not sure how you should act. Being open will allow you to let down your guard and soak in all these new things. I think travel is one of the great teachers and as much as you can, free up the space inside of yourself to be taught.
Curious because your curiosity will drive you to experience, taste, hear and see. Your curiosity will gift you with magic and fill your soul with wonder. Isn’t that what travel is all about anyway?