Many of us are guilty of going to a new place, wandering about aimlessly, eating and drinking at the best pubs and restaurants, shopping for souvenirs, and coming back home with a phone full of photos. But traveling is all about experience and by paying attention to small things you can really enhance it. Here are 10 tips that can really help you make the most of every trip you take.
Plan a general itinerary before you reach your destination
Trips require a lot of planning and while we choose our tickets and hotels with care and even research about bars and pubs in the area we will be staying at, most of the times we are undecided about what we want to do to in terms of exploring and discovering a new city. Instead of wasting valuable time at the hotel room deciding what you want to do, plan ahead and get a basic itinerary worked out before you reach your destination. This will help you pack as many activities as possible even during a short trip, and also enable you to get your money’s worth and save time by pre-booking tickets to various attractions. Spend some time on the internet reading blogs of people who have already been to the destination you are planning to go to and make a list of things you want to do and then work out the details.
Interact with the locals
Our most important discoveries and memorable experiences come from those we meet during the trips we take. So make it a point to interact with the local people and other travelers as well. Ask questions to dig deep into their cultures and beliefs. Listen attentively. Make it your mission to learn as much as you can by engaging with those around you. One of the best ways to learn about the place is to talk to the hotel staff or bartenders and waiters at pubs and restaurants about the city and country. Also, be weary of strangers but don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation whenever possible. Often times, people end up becoming friends with random strangers and this can be really helpful during future trips.
Get out of your comfort zone
On an international trip, many things will break you out of your comfort zone; dealing with the language barrier, navigating the streets, and ordering foreign food. But, also make it a point to do something that scares you just a little. Schedule something new and a little uncomfortable every day of your travel itinerary. Eat something bizarre, try an adventurous activity, and explore the secret nooks and crannies of a unique city. There will be many novel and interesting things to do at a new place so don’t miss out on this opportunity. If you have always been afraid of heights, go skydiving if you can. If water sports scare the daylights out of you, then opt for a diving lesson. The key here is to do something that you would or could never do back in your own country.
Hire a guide
The idea that guided tours are adverse to independent travel, an activity for amateur tourists, is a silly misconception at best. Hiring a guide could be the best move you make on your next vacation because that way you are ensuring that you won’t miss any crucial sights or attractions. Inquire at the hotel you are staying at to see if they can provide a guide for you. Having a guide will also be safe in conservative societies where inappropriate dressing and even eating the wrong way can be seen as offensive behavior. A guide can also enlighten you about the culture of the place apart from taking you to different landmarks and telling you about their histories. So find a reliable guide and let him show you around instead of wandering around aimless and clueless.
Keep a record
Take a lot of photos, keep a journal, or write a blog. Do whatever you can to capture the experience you are having. Once your trip is over you will want to look back it and, if your memories fade, you will be able to remember the experience in much greater detail with some aids. Also, it will be fun to toss some memories – like ticket stubs and odd coins – into your travel trunk (if you don’t have one, it’s time you made one) to go through later and reminisce about all your adventures. Once you are back, you can opt to make a collage of your trip to go up on your walls. You can also put together mementos of different trips and prepare a single collage of all your travel escapades. There’s nothing quite like personal art hanging on your living room wall.
Given how you can only take so many days off from work, it’s natural that you might want to pack in as much as you can during your trip. Often as travelers we find ourselves rushing from destination to destination, skimming the surface and “checking off” a place before heading on. But instead of hustling from city to city during a two-week long trip, why not try staying at one city and discovering it to the fullest? Slowing the pace down and absorbing an area more fully can be highly rewarding as you get to know the people, culture and place better and learn a thing or two from it all. And if you are on a long-term trip, don’t be afraid to put down roots for a while in an area.
Get lost on purpose
Wandering aimlessly through a new city is a good way to get to know it, get off the beaten path, and away from the tourists as well. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you inevitably run into or the little shops and cafés you discover along the way that you would have never gone to otherwise. Try to wander around and find your way without using Google Maps. We suggest you make morning time your activity time. The weather will probably be friendlier, your energy levels higher and your agenda emptier than later in the day. Exploring a city is all the more fun when you know you have the whole day ahead of you to do the many things that you have in mind.
Try the local cuisine
It can be tempting to opt for food that you are familiar with. But there’s a lot you can tell about a place and what they value purely based on their food. Trying traditional food is a cultural experience. Also, supporting the local community is a really important aspect of travel. You can go anywhere in the world and walk into a KFC, but instead of benefiting the local community, a large chunk of what you have just spent is leaving the local economy. Also, half of the fun of traveling is eating different cuisine and sampling snacks at markets so don’t deny yourself such an amazing opportunity to try interesting flavors.
Take the public transport
There’s really no better way to get a feel of a city than by taking public transportation. Buses especially help you grasp neighborhoods. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled, bring a map, and be aware of your personal belongings at all times. It might take you a while to figure out the subway or bus routes but once you get the hang of it you will find that it’s actually quite easy to navigate and also considerably lighter on your pockets than taking taxis everywhere. Taking the public transport will also let you observe the people of the place and nothing can be more fun than a little people-watching at a new place.
Be frugal, not cheap
Don’t be pennywise but pound-foolish. It’s a good idea to look for deals and not waste money, but don’t miss out on great experiences or walk five kilometers just to save a couple of dollars. While traveling, time is money. Spend them both wisely. A lot of people try to scrimp and save and end up having a nightmarish experience by having to deal with the wrong crowd or places. It would also be unwise to not spend on attractions that you might never get a chance to visit again. You also don’t want to eat street food all the time and miss out on good dinner cruise events or special nights at different pubs and restaurants in your area and neither do you want to stay at a dingy bedsit and dread going back to the place at the end of the day. So be willing to spend a little without throwing your budget out of whack.