I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled since I was about 15-years-old. Anywhere from Homer, Alaska to Mykonos, Greece. I’ve jet-setted with friends, family, and by myself. I’ve stayed in Four Star resorts, $20 hostels in Spain, and tents in the Israeli desert. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about myself as an individual, along with a myriad of tricks to make traveling easier and more fun.
1) Don’t try and pack too much into one trip – When you travel overseas, it’s easy to get the “I want to see everything” mentality. From my experience, I’d advise against this. If you have three weeks of traveling, I’d pick 3-4 places you really want to see. It’s hard to immerse yourself in a city if you don’t spend at least a week there.
2) Plan in advance - It’s good to lock down flights to places you are 100% going to check out. If there’s a restaurant you know you have to eat at, book the reservation in advance. Having these place holders on your vacation gives you a set schedule to work around, but leaves plenty of room for spontaneity.
3) Travel with like-minded people – Traveling with other people can be the best experience you’ve ever had, or potentially the worst. Make sure that you are all on the same page about what you want to get out of the travels. Do you want to stay at an all-inclusive resort for a week and get wasted the whole time, or do you want to island hop and check out epic surf spots while sleeping in hammocks? It’s good to know in advance the wants/needs of everyone traveling. Food is also a HUGE aspect of this. I’ll pretty much eat anything at this point in my life, and when I travel, make sure to go with people who like to try new things so we can order a smorgasbord and share meals!
4) Give into spontaneity - Step out of your comfort zone while you travel. You will learn a lot about yourself and that you’re a lot more resourceful than you expected. I’ve eaten unspeakable things and ended up in situations that I probably shouldn’t have survived because I embraced the spontaneity. I’m not saying that you should strap a kilo of cocaine to your chest and go border-crossing, but try and live life the way locals do. Immerse yourself in another culture, that’s what you’re there to do right?
5) Talk to your mobile provider before the trip - I can’t tell you how many of my friends have been royally f*cked on their cell phone bill because they didn’t let their carrier know they were traveling. They will work with you to set up the best plan possible based on where you’re traveling, and what you’ll be doing. I usually set up a data plan for 300-500 text messages, and turn off roaming. Most cafe’s have wifi, so it’s easy to send and receive text messages for free through a plethora of apps. Also, always keep your phone on airplane mode!
6) Pack light - If you plan to travel around on planes, trains, and automobiles, only bring one travelers backpack and a small carry on. You will be happy that you’re not hauling around a couple duffle bags on each flight, and walking down the streets trying to find your hostel at 3:00 in the morning with sore arms. REI makes some great packs for traveling, ideally you pick something that fits as a carry on. This will make connecting flights a seamless process as well!
7) Live like a local - Step outside of your comfort zone when you’re traveling, and meet the locals. Try the cuisines that locals eat, and explore off the beaten path. This is hard to do unless you know someone in the city, but you can always find a local dive bar where people hang out. Also, ask the people working at your hostel- they generally have a good insight into their city. A lot of the times, they will even go out with you!
8) Stay out until the sun comes up – Even if you’re not a party animal, you need to see the sun come up at least once on your trip. Get lost in the moment, and let the night go where you never would have expected. I’ve shared some of my most memorable experiences with strangers at 4:00 am.
9) Ball out for at least one night – Forget that you’re on a budget for one night, and treat yourself to a meal that blows your mind. Order champagne before and after the meal, just because you can. Get a room at a nice hotel for a night or two to break up the craziness of hostel surfing.