It feels like a lifetime ago since I bought that one-way ticket to Costa Rica, almost feels like a dream, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again.
As we’ve been shut down for a while during this pandemic, it really makes everyone appreciate past travel adventures. As I’m finally going to travel again for my birthday to Cancun at the beginning of the New Year 2021, I wanted to share my best 10 travel tips.
1. Set a Budget, But Don’t Deprive Yourself
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to watch your spending, especially when you’re traveling.
But at what price?
Don’t get caught up on the pennies you can save on each dollar. Your travel time is the most valuable commodity you have, and you want to enjoy it, not spend it all worrying on a budget.
When you’re traveling, money is a finite resource and you have to be careful about how much you spend. Even then, some things are just a must do when traveling and It can be okay to splurge a little over budget. If its a once in a lifetime opportunity, it just may just be worth the price.
But rather than focusing on saving small amounts here and there, focus instead on the larger amounts.
At the end of the day, you’re going to remember the great times you had, not the dollars you saved. So try not to spend too much of your time thinking about how to pinch every penny, and instead, just try to cut larger costs where possible. Focus on the experiences and the lifetime memories that will go along with them.
2. Only Travel with Essential Items
Every item in your travel bag should be something you use daily or weekly. There is something to be said for simplicity when it comes to packing. Plus, you do have to carry everything you bring.
So, make things easy for yourself or you’ll regret it later.
Packing “just in case” items means extra stuff in your luggage that you simply won’t need and will probably never touch. This also means more weight to carry around and higher baggage fees that airports charge! You can always buy things as you go, and leave what you don’t need behind.
Look at the items you rarely use and leave them at home. Clothing is an excellent place to start since it is easily replaceable.
For example, when I flew from freezing cold London to hot and humid Morocco, I threw out my hot heavy North Face jacket. I knew I wasn’t going to need it for the next couple of weeks, so it would have been pointless to carry it around with me.
3. Learn the Local Language or their Cultural Practices
The most rewarding welcome you’ll get from locals will come when you can greet them in their own language.
Learning a few key phrases, like “How are you” and “thank you” can actually go a long way. It seems simple, but it’s effective! People will always receive you more warmly if they can see that you are genuinely trying when you come to their country. Give it a try!
Learn to ask for help, directions, and how to say their currency in numbers. Try learning some local food dishes as you’ll be using them at least three times daily!
Spent some time before your trip reading a small book on the culture/history and take a look online for language practice. I would always have a currency tab open on my phone which converts their currency to USD. This is very important when shopping around in local markets.
Just absorb as much as you can. Adapt to your surrounding and observe the cultural interactions that take place on a daily basis. That’s part of the joy of traveling!
4. Spend More Time in Fewer Places
I decided a while ago that I want my experience as a traveler to be about deep immersion, not quick stamps in my passport.
I see many travelers powering through whole countries in less than a week. I’ve done it myself. I got caught up in the race of trying to see as much as possible as quickly as possible.
But I’ve learned that sometimes less is more.
At that speed, you’ll only get a surface-level look. So, when you arrive in a new country, take your time. Dive into the language, food, nature, culture, art, history, the people, and their way of life. Cultivate an amazing experience for yourself so you can leave a place feeling confident that you truly felt the experience—you didn’t just see it.
After my year of travel, the number of places I’ve visited may not be as high as others, but I know without question that my experiences are richer.
5. Trust Your Gut
You know the feeling—something in your stomach telling you something isn’t right. When you’ve got a bad feeling about something, trust it.
Travel tips are helpful, but so is your gut. Your instincts exist for a reason: to keep you out of harm’s way. Opting out of something isn’t going to ruin your day, but opting in sometimes could. Some decisions are life-changing!
With that being said, the opposite is true as well. If you’re feeling extra confident, then go for it! Take a chance on something that could turn out to be an amazing time. Travel fearlessly while being smart. Take a chance if your gut tells you to.
6. Don’t Over-Plan
Travel plans look great on paper. They look organized and you feel like you can follow a schedule. But that’s about all they’re good for. The best-laid travel plans are going with the flow once you arrive and take it from there.
Planning every minute of your trip leaves no room for spontaneity. And that is no fun! Over-planning your travel itinerary can create stress for no good reason.
Booking the perfect hotels, finding cheap flights, getting good deals, the tight budget, extra stamps in your passport, packing and repacking…it’s too much to take on if you let your travel plans run your day by an hourly schedule.
I always have a general layout and include a couple things that are a must while I’m there. I still leave some free downtime to explore, chill at the beach, or shop around for souvenirs.
If you try too hard to force plans, they won’t always workout the way you want them too. Just include a few priority scheduled activities, and you’ll enjoy the journey a lot more.
Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow of life…
7. Invest in Quality Gear
Your gear is going to be with you 24/7 in all weather conditions.
Your travel backpack is going to get beat up in airport transit and beat down by carrying it around often. You’re going to pack it full of everything you own and buy, so it needs to serve you for as long as possible while you travel.
That $20 light backpack from China may get the job done, but it’s not going to last long.
You’re better off paying more upfront and save long term. Using high-quality gear will make your life easier and more efficient.
8. Get out of your Comfort Zone
You’re not traveling to stay within your comfort zone. You’re traveling to see and feel new and unique things, unlike any experience you’ve had at home. You’re traveling to embrace yourself with the full range of living life to the fullest!
So if something scares you, make a point to do it. Whether its skydiving off a plane or going scuba diving in the ocean, you’ll regret not doing that crazy thing later down the line.
9. Be a Global Ambassador for Your Country
Everywhere that you travel, you’re an ambassador for your country. Do your best to represent yourself and your culture in the most positive way possible.
You never know what stereotypes, good or bad, you may be reinforcing in someone else’s mind. I always strive to be open minded and respectful, especially when I’m traveling. And in doing so, people have told me that meeting me opened their perspective on Mexican culture and American society.
It’s a satisfying feeling to know that I can get along with people who are from different parts of the world!
Even while in London, I had a close friend I met there who was from South Korea and we got along well despite being raised in different countries & cultures.
10. Always Keep a Backup Plan!
It’s easy for things to get broken or go missing during your travels. The hat you left behind at a hostel in Amsterdam? Not a big deal.
But what would you be scared to lose? Your phone, right? And yes, that includes all of your travel photos, passwords, and private information.
You have to keep a backup plan.
My data is the most important thing I own, and for that reason, I always keep copies on Google drive or an external hard drive. And to keep things really secure, I also recommend multiple passwords that you can easily remember.
You should also keep digital backups of essential documents like your ID, passport, etc. Have a paper copy and a digital copy of everything.
My data is my digital identity and that’s why it’s important to keep your data safe.