Travelling, whether solo or with family and friends, is exciting. Nothing beats that pre-adventure build-up of anticipation – packing, organising what landmarks you want to visit or that electrifying taxi ride to the airport.
However, it is important when travelling to stay organised and prepared for absolutely anything. All well experienced travellers will tell you this is a tricky art to master. Many little secrets you learn along the way – like using the free city shuttle bus to get around, taking a thick coat on the plane to double as a blanket and pillow and knowing that yes, ‘ciao’ does mean hello and goodbye in Italian so stop looking so confused every time you leave a shop.
Below are a few essential tips to get your brain jogging on your next foreign journey:
1. Ensure your passport is valid
There is nothing worse than arriving at the airport; ready and eager to check-in only to find out your passport expired 2 months ago. Surprisingly this is a common mistake that many people make. When re-issued, passports are normally valid for up to 10 years so it is easy to become trapped in the mind frame that your passport is just always in date.
2. Pack smart
Want to avoid having to take out a loan to pay back the excess luggage fees you were slammed with at the airport? Then pack light.
If you’re only away for a week organise which outfits you will wear each days or pack a staple pair of pants/skirt that will go with almost anything. The critical area of weakness here are shoes: only pack 1 pair for each various situation (day, evening and casual) Hint: always pack a pair of thongs if using communal showers!
3. Stay as central as possible
When booking your accommodation firstly take into consideration location then price. Location is everything especially when you are staying in an area you are not familiar with. Staying central ensures you are close to public transport, popular attractions and are able to fully immerse yourself in a different culture/way of life.
4. Pick up the Map & hotel’s business card from reception
This is a big must. Before venturing out to explore make sure you grab the hotels business card and a map from the check- in desk. This card usually contains important information about the hotel such as its name, address and phone number. This way, if you get lost, it’s no problem trying to find your way back! Simply jump into the closest taxi and provide them with the hotel card.
5. Learn a few phrases of the local language
This is always a good idea. Having even just a basic knowledge of some words will help you get the things you need or get to the places you want to see. Plus, locals will be more able (and willing) to help you out.
Hint: Also learn how to say ‘no’ or ‘no thank you’ in countries where you may be harassed or haggled by street vendors.
6. Educate yourself on the history and cultural expectations of destination
This will only enrich your experience. When visiting popular attractions, cultural landmarks or museums it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of its significance. For example: there’s a difference between seeing the Colosseum in Rome (a huge circular rock arena thing) and seeing the Colosseum in Rome (the largest amphitheatre in the world built by the ancient roman empire in 80AD).
7. Carry hand sanitizer at all times
This also goes for chapstick, tissues, wet wipes and cold/flu tablets. Running water may not always be available to wash your hands before or after a meal!
8. Carry plastic bags for dirty or wet clothes
This is vital. No matter how deep you stuff your dirty 3 day old socks into your suitcase or how long you leave that Hard Rock café shirt out to air smelly clothes will always make your clean clothes stink. I promise you.
9. Invest in a portable charger
To avoid having your camera or phone die on you mid ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ kick have a portable charger with you at all times to ensure your device always has charge. These life savers vary in price but are well worth it – how else would you remember that beautiful sunset over Angkor Wat?