Most of us can only hope for a trip once, maybe twice a year. But there are the lucky few who get to hit the road every month – if not more! Fortunately, the hard-won tips they’ve picked up on their hard core journeys can work for us as well. Here are three key areas and tips for each you’ll want to know, no matter how many times you hit the road.
Before you even think about packing, prepare yourself for security and accessibility, particularly if your destination is not as first-world as your home base. Here’s how to be ready for most speed bumps.
- Back up your docs.
Passports, credit cards and itinerary confirmations can all get misplaced. Scan them into PDF form and put them into the cloud (Google Docs, Dropbox). If you lose them, you’ll still have access for easy replacement. And don’t forget to scan both front and back!
- Send your details ahead.
Before going, email yourself the local addresses you want to visit and hotels you’ll be staying in. Create maps and save those. If you can, send the information to your smartphone. Then you’ll have it all in one place – even if your phone has no service.
- Take note of where you parked.
If you drive yourself to the airport, send the location of your vehicle to yourself electronically. One less thing to think about.
One of the first ways people bungle their trips is through bad packing techniques. Experts know the ropes, and understand there’s a system. Here’s how to get the most out of your trip by putting the least into your bags.
- Plan ahead.
Pack early (48 hours is a good time frame). Put a note on your bags if there’s something you’ll use right up until you leave, but need to remember.
- Pack twice.
That is, put everything on your bed or sofa and make a list of what you’re taking. Then check off that list as you put it in the bag. Then, keep the list: If something gets lost or left behind, you’ll know what it was.
- Wear heavy.
Put on your heaviest, bulkiest items (like shoes and spare sweaters). The more you have on, the more you avoid packing.
- But pack light.
Avoid checking bags whenever possible, and take only what you can carry. Consider outfits that are interchangeable, and minimize shoes for maximum usage. And use bags that will squish – so they more easily fit in that overhead compartment.
- Charge up all in one place.
Put all your chargers and adapters and other electronica in a Ziploc bag. Mark them with colored tape so you know what goes with which piece of equipment.
Part of a vacation is about relaxing, but you’ll get a lot more out of your experience if you figure out how to take things easy in every part of the journey. Here are some areas to think about and get your mind right.
- Be flexible about your transportation options.
Being willing to land in a different city or fly in a discount airline like Easy Jet or Ryanair, or consider ground transport, can save money and occasionally get you where you want to be faster. And volunteer to be bumped, if you can, as the perks can be substantial.
- Be flexible about problems in your transportation.
Avoid apoplexy when your flight is delayed (or it takes longer to get into a museum you want to see) and drop expectations for a rigid schedule. Plan for extra time around every scheduled event so that one delay doesn’t throw off your whole day.
- Adapt to your surroundings.
Read the local newspaper or arts magazine, and get out among the people – and away from the tourist areas. Shop in outdoor markets, stop in a library and speak to the locals. That’s how to really find out about the place you’ve brought yourself all this way to find.
- Find a quiet spot.
Day passes are easy to get for most airline lounges, and are worth the price if you have a lengthy layover. The Priority Pass (which can cost from $99-$399 per year and gives access to 700 airport lounges around the world). And some credit cards you may already have provide access. The peace and quiet will make your journey that much easier.
One Last Thing
Bring duct tape. Seriously: If there’s one advanced-level-traveler tip most everyone recommends it’s to have some duct tape around. You don’t need a whole roll, just some wrapped around a pen will do – but the repair properties this simple, ubiquitous item have make it one of the best travel companions you can have.