Travel can create anxiety for the most seasoned of adventurers and culture trippers. For those heading overseas for the first time, it can be downright brutal. The good news? Well, it doesn't need to be. From searching for flights all the way through in-depth cultural exploration, travel can and should be rewarding, exhilarating, and above all, enjoyable. Lucky for you, we've put together a few easy travel tips and tricks so you can be well on your way to that perfect trip abroad.
Do Your Research
This travel tip seems easy, and it is. Unfortunately, it's also surprisingly easy to mess up. Don't wait until the last minute to get your passport taken care of, your bags in order, or your medication filled. Do your research and check off that to-do list ahead of time.
Consider what activities, excursions, or adventures you'll take part in. You don't need to schedule your days by the hour, but you should have an idea of what you want to see, do, eat, or drink before you arrive. That'll provide some structure to your trip and help ensure you don't miss out on the best of wherever you're going.
Think about the mundane as well. Although it's easy to plan for snorkeling in Belize, it can be more challenging to think about banking and cell service. But, those things are essential as well, and it's necessary that you figure them out before you start slugging down that Caribbean rum. Make sure your bank knows where you're traveling, so they don't put a hold on your account. Check with your service provider regarding international plans and sort out the details before heading out so you don’t get slammed with hefty roaming fees.
Save yourself a bit of money and a boatload of stress by thinking ahead. We're all for spontaneity and adventure when we travel; that's what keeps us going. But that doesn't mean we're not doing our due diligence before we depart.
Some people love packing; others hate it. All we know is it's a necessary step in the process and something that can cause real headaches down the road if not done correctly.
Start thinking about what you'll wear on your trip early so you can buy anything you don't have. Remember that your activities and the weather you encounter should dictate most of what you pack. Consider purchasing packing cubes to keep everything organized.
Heading to Greece in July? The weather will probably be quite a bit different than the weather in February. You'll have to consider your wardrobe, and it's much cheaper to do that before you leave than it is to buy all new outfits in Europe.
Make sure that you pack your essentials and one outfit in your carry-on. The airline industry is still recovering from the Covid pandemic, and we've seen more delayed flights and lost baggage than we can remember.
Check out a packing list; there are a million out there, and some are pretty damn good. We send out country-specific lists to our travelers before all trips.
Find the Best Flights for You
Buying flights has always been tricky, and we wish we could say those difficulties are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that's not exactly the current situation. Sure, today, we have more options than ever before when it comes to researching and finding our flights, but that in itself can create more uncertainty and another level of stress. Tack on the delays, cancellations and industry-wide changes brought on by the Covid-pandemic, and, well, we couldn't blame you for throwing your laptop out the window to see how far it could fly. Fortunately for you, we've got some helpful tips to take the stress out of the process.
Things will be much easier for you if you're flexible with your dates. Consider flying in early if you can; that way, you won't miss anything if you experience a delay.
When booking your flights, remember that the cheapest days to fly are generally Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Now that's not always the case, but you should take a look at it because it could save you quite a bit of cash and, in turn, purchase you more of those rum drinks in Belize.
Check out Skyscanner and set up flight alerts so that you don't have to keep checking for fares to go down. Delegate your work to the wonders of the internet whenever you can.
We've built a complete guide that breaks down how we find the best, cheapest, and most convenient flights. So take a look before you even start the flight process.
Learn Some Basic Lingo
You don't need to speak French to go to France, and you don't need to be fluent in Italian to head to Italy. However, you should learn some basics before you get going. A few key words will go a long way—not only will it benefit you and make things easier, but it will also gain you respect amongst the locals.
Download a language app; Duolingo or Babbel are our favorites. Take a few minutes every day to practice some basic vocabulary. Learn "hello," "thank you," "goodbye," and how to say “do you speak English?” and your trip will be immensely more enjoyable.
Stay Calm, You’ve Got the Map
You've packed your bags, you've checked the weather, and you've even learned some basic lingo. You step off the plane and "oh my god!"
Luckily, you were brilliant, and before you headed off on your adventure, you downloaded the offline Google map for your destination. Tons of people don’t do this. Don’t be one of them. Feeling lost adds a whole new dimension to your stress, and that can be easily remedied by downloading offline maps.
Travel is overwhelming even for the most experienced. And that's part of the fun. So take a few deep breaths and smile because what you're doing, seeing, eating, and drinking is unlike anything you've done before. Sure, it can be scary, but at the end of the day, you're expanding your boundaries and discovering something new, and that in itself is pretty special.
Try Everything and Ask the Locals
This is our most important travel tip and something near and dear to our hearts. Travel is an experience, so experience everything. Eat everything, drink everything, see everything. That's why we do it, and that's why we love it.
Speak with the locals whenever you can; odds are they've got better recommendations than any blog or guidebook could ever give you. They're the ones truly in the know, and often they'll be flattered that you asked.
There is no better way to become truly immersed in a culture than by partaking in everything as the locals do. At first, it may seem odd or even difficult, but when you really dive in, when you really let go, you'll discover the satisfaction and joy that comes with it. We can't tell you the memories we've made trying out something new and embracing a way of life with people from entirely different backgrounds. It's a bonding experience and one that every person should strive to take part in.
Perhaps no one has summed up this mindset better than the late, great Anthony Bourdain:
"If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food, it's a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move."
More Advice from Our Alumni
We polled our audience to find out what they wish they had known before they took off on their first trip…Here are some of their answers:
Before you go –
“I take pictures/screenshots of all of my travel documents (passport, ID, vaccine card, insurance, flight/train confirmations, etc) and add them to a photo album on my phone so I have quick access in one place if I ever need them. Paper copies are great too!”
“When in doubt, opt for packing the comfortable outfit/shoes.”
“Make sure your credit card doesn’t have any foreign exchange transaction fees!”
While your there –
“Download maps whenever you have access to wi-fi so you can explore freely without using any of your data.”
“Make sure you know the emergency numbers of whatever country you're in – just in case!”
“Check the exchange rate before using an ATM wherever you are.”
“Always keep a power bank + charger on you and use airplane mode to conserve battery.”
“Bring a reusable water bottle with you at all times.”
“I always keep a browser on my phone open to google translate and the destination conversion calculator so I can quickly access both.”
For your return –
“Download the mobile pass app to avoid long custom lines.”
“Always arrive at the airport early - especially on your return! You don’t know this airport, better to wait than stress!”
What about you?
Drop us a comment and let us know your best travel tips or tricks for heading out on a great adventure. We’re always looking for advice.