One backpacking discovery trip under your belt or a certified regional explorer, we all like to think we know how best to travel. At least I do. With a little organisation beforehand you can soak up that serenity while you’re away, carefree.
It’s more than just successful packing, although you definitely need to do that too. Maybe it was that unfortunate brush with local customs, a minor injury that cost you majorly or an eye-watering roaming charge that made you never want to return home. Whatever awful travel story you have, here are the tips to best equip you for a smarter journey this time round.
Choose Your Timing Carefully
From the start where you’re looking at a guidebook or scrolling through travel bloggers feeds, your destination matters. Managing your expectations about travelling Paris in the height of summer, it’s hot, stinky and packed. But the Eiffel Tower will still be there. Or perhaps you’re finally ready to jump aboard that Jetstar flight ferrying Aussies to Bali every three hours, regardless of the wet season. Who cares about a little rain? You definitely should.
Have a look into the weather and peak seasons of your destination before you lock it in, instead of peak summer travel head for May or September. Still beaming with sun but much more affordable and far less crowded. So you can wander the streets in a little more peace. Or if you’re heading tropical your options are even greater, just look for dry periods of the year and you’ll be set for blissful beachside cocktails without a cloud in the sky.
Have a look at neighbouring countries too that are a little less on the tourist map. Interested in Cambodia, why not Laos. Ready to be charmed by European cities? Trek East not West. The alternatives are just as wonderful and nowhere near as pricy.
Do Your Research Before You Book Your Flights
Now you’ve locked in on where you’re going, just how are you planning to get there? Instead of religiously using Skyscanner then getting frustrated and heading to the travel agent, do it yourself. Thanks to those wonderful little internet trackers known as cookies, your endless searches are revealing to the website just how keen you are to go. Tangled webs of algorithms then up the price to reflect your eagerness, not ideal.
Before you switch up the days and start perusing either side of the calendar, clear your cookies. Resetting in this way will give you a true reflection of the cost at the time. If you’re set on finding the very best deal all on your lonesome, use Kayak. No, you won’t be paddling you’re way abroad, Kayak is a site that collates airfares but operates outside of commission. It’s a little peak into what your travel agent is seeing when they search their internal matrix.
If you’re not laybying your flights, jumping onto the airline website and seeing if they’ll match it is worth a go too. Often then you’ll earn some points while you’re in the sky too.
Read Traveller Reviews
Thanks to the power of TripAdvisor, a lot of spots offer discounts in exchange for positive reviews. Not ideal. If you really want to know what the accommodation is like jump onto Booking.com, Expedia, HostelWorld or the businesses’ own Facebook page. If it’s not great, people will be talking about it.
Reach Out To Local Bloggers
Who knows a city better than a local? You may think your weeks of prep study have set you in good stead, but I guarantee they know it best. When you get to your destination you can hassle the receptionist, taxi driver, bartender and waiter for all the hotspots. But before you leave, local bloggers are a solid option too. Not only will they have pictures a plenty, they’re likely to be flattered if you reach out for recommendations. Plus at least a little chuffed that someone abroad reads their blog. BlogLovin or Instagram geo-tags is an easier way to find bloggers than wading your way through hashtags.
Stay Connected And Organise Your Sim Card Before You Go
There’s nothing worse or more anxiety inducing than being stranded without contact. Lost in a new city, trying to find a sim on arrival is no simple feat. Language barriers, availability and tourist mark-ups mean you’ll likely be out of pocket. That’s if you can even find a sim for sale without Google Maps. And roaming is not a smart option, unless you want to be charged for receiving messages from home. No thanks.
With a little prep, as soon as you know your itinerary you can order your foreign sim to arrive before you go. Saving you all the stress and hassle of finding a sim and making you gleefully excited to get the mail again. Sims Direct works with local telcos to provide travellers with sims from their destination, so as you step off the plane you’ll be connected. Easy as. They’ll even cut it to size, which no local dealer will do without a surcharge.
You can organise it on the ground, but you better memorise some key phrases in the local language so you don’t get ripped off.
Always Buy Travel Insurance
Non-negotiable. It may seem like an unnecessary cost at the time but it’s worth every penny. Maybe you were pick pocketed in Barcelona, injured jumping off a cliff in Bali or encountered a bad bout of food poisoning on your trip; travel insurance is the solution. Even if you didn’t claim last time, doesn’t mean you won’t need to this time round. Just do it. Slacklining through jungles and surfing coastlines is a lot more fun with a little piece of mind.
Everyone says it, but we still don’t listen. Perhaps it’s the holiday excitement that overwhelms. Or any buffer to curb holiday spending. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll over pack. But carrying your backpack loading with too many pairs of sneakers, an extra towel or a hairdryer doesn’t seem so worth it when it’s breaking your back. Pack smart, write a list and keep it as light as possible. Lugging around extra crap is never fun.
That Said, Bring A Little First Aid Stash
A cut, a stomach bug, a deathly hangover; bring whatever you need to fix that. Don’t let a minor impairment set you back and stop you from seeing this new country. Band-Aids, Panadol, bandages, disinfectant, antihistamines, Berrocca and whatever extras you require. Trying to communicate what you need for a cut in Spanish may sound fun, but it’s not really.
Adjust Your Sleeping Patterns Early
Thanks to Australia’s location on the other side of the earth, travelling anywhere outside the country means inevitable jet lag. Groggy mornings and sleepless nights, with a little help from an app you can reset your body clock before you go. Solar Clock: Circadian Rhythm maps your sleeping cycle and helps you adjust it to your destination before you arrive. Want to enjoy your sleep on the flight over? They may just have the answer.
Map The Attractions Before
Travelling the globe over and missing out on a key attraction is not ideal, perhaps you ran out of time or the line was too long. Excuses aside, with a little extra research you can map out an itinerary to include everything in a logical manner. Google Trips and a little travel data will have you ready to take on every corner of the city, with not a single qualm. You can use Maps offline, log attractions and organise routes before you start.
Choose Your Food Wisely
Gyros in Greece, crepes in Paris or tapas in Barcelona, know that if you’re within six blocks of a major attraction you’ll be subject to a tourist fee. Not an official fee of course, just vendors within that area know there will be plenty of tourists milling about that they can charge them whatever they please to rid themselves of hanger.
If you’re staying in a hostel, pack some of the breakfast for lunch or just make sure to allow time for eating stops in places you can afford. Locals never eat at the main drag, so ask for recommendations to find the authentic eats wherever you are.
Switch Up Your Transport
Getting from A to B is not as easy as booking an Uber in some spots. But no matter, the best way to see the city you’re exploring is a little slower anyway. On foot you can wander the laneways with ease, or pick up the pace on a two-wheeled journey – just don’t fall for the tourist trap of those vendors who transport you by their own pedal power. Rip-off.
And in most places avoid taxis where possible, if you’re desperate make sure to speak as little English as possible and try use a key phrase or two. Speaking English let’s them know you’re a foreigner, you might just get ripped off.
Get Your Money Sorted
As fun and as frivolous as you want to be on holidays, if you’re not tracking your money you could end up couch surfing and hitching a ride home. Less than picturesque. Download your bank’s app and make sure to stay on top of it. Multiple accounts and multiple cards are ideal to lock down your cash safely.
Bring a little local currency with you for arrival, so you can buy gum or pay for the taxi without having to fork out for exorbitant airport transfers.
Document Your Travels
Don’t gram the whole thing and miss the experience, but make sure to capture the highlights. You want to be able to look make and treasure the experience with a little photographic evidence too. If you’ve experienced the pain of a stolen camera or lost SD card, you’ll recall just how horrible it feels to loose the memories of your trip. So back it up. You know your Mum is desperate to see your pics too and know your safe. So even just for her sake take a cheesy snap or two.
Are you travelling anytime soon? Now you’ve got the tips, organise your local sim with a snap of your fingers with Sims Direct. Make sure you can share the view, Instagram everything, message mum and stay connected abroad, hassle free.
Image source: We Like Bali, Travel and Leisure, NAB, VISA, Live Travel Blog, CNN, Travel Sim, Little Grey Box, Eagle Creek, Travel Guru, Adventure in You, Boston Magazine, Wanderlife.