Top 10 Travel Tips

To travel is to live
— Hans Christian Andersen

I'm sure you've heard this before, but i'm going to repeat this piece of self-care advice: one of the best gifts you can give yourself is the gift of travel! It is always time to travel. Many people find it very beneficial and fulfilling to go on a big trip after their divorce is final and they're entering single life.

There is nothing quite as enriching and transformative as traveling to another part of the world. Not only will you see amazing sites, experience new cultures, hear new languages, eat foreign food and meet interesting people, but you will discover things about yourself that you didn't know. Here are some tips for your next big adventure!

1. Research

You may be tempted to just book a flight and go! For the seasoned traveler, this is totally an option; however, for many of us, it's a good idea to do some research ahead of time.

Your research will help you decide which are the must-see sites and which ones you can leave off the list. Make sure you have researched and noted the top 3 hotels and hostels in each city you are planning on exploring. Research the best ways to travel around the city (bus, train, cab) and the quickest and most cost-effective way to travel between cities (flight, train, overnight rail, bus, etc.).

Make sure to check into weather and transportation. When I was in Laos in the summer, there was an exceptional amount of rain (that year), so it was difficult to bus anywhere in the country - you could only fly. 

Check into travel visas for each place you are planning on going. Some countries will issue you a travel-visa at the airport, upon entry, while others require you to have the visa ahead of time (a country that comes to mind is China). All your pre-trip research will help you have an amazing time!

2. Don't Shy Away from Hostels

Some of my favourite accommodations have been hostels. Make sure to give them the consideration they deserve. When booking a hostel, you can get some amazing prices and super stylish room-choices.

Hostels typically have a bar, shared-kitchen or another type of shared space, which makes them amazing places to meet other travellers. As well, some hostels offer laundry services, walking pub-crawls, and walking tours - and sometimes these are offered for free. Hostels often offer free or very affordable WiFi and typically have computers you can use.

Hostels cater to travellers and backpackers, so they give the most amazing recommendations for restaurants, bars, excursions and sites. They know what travellers and tourists are looking for, and that is what they recommend. I personally like Hostel Booker and Hostel World to book hostels.

3. Book the First Hotel - then Book as you Travel

Not everyone will agree with this tip, but it's my favourite way to travel! The only thing I typically book in advance is my return-flight and my first hotel or hostel. I may also book a month-long rail-pass. For example, I usually look into buying a Eurail pass ahead of time when I'm traveling through many countries in Europe. But that's about it for pre-booking! 

After my first accommodation, I book hotels and hostels as I travel. This allows the flexibility to stay as long as I want in each place. Sometimes I cut time short, if I feel I'm ready to travel to the next stop, or I extend my stay, if I fall in love with a city. This is possible, since I haven't pre-booked every stop on my trip. 

How do I travel this way and not waste a ton of time researching while I'm traveling?

I make a list before I leave for my trip of my top 3 choices for hotels and hostels in each city I plan on visiting. I compile this list based on affordability and high star-ratings. Trip Advisor, hostel booker and hostel world are all great sites to check for hotel and hostel ratings. This way, I don't waste precious time on my trip researching hotels and hostels. I have my list and if my first choice is fully booked, I have two other options to pick from.

4. Forget the Suitcase - Use a Backpack

You may think you want to pack a suitcase; however, a backpack is the much more convenient option! There are going to be hotels you stay in that do not have elevators. You will not want to drag your suitcase up 10 flights of stairs. There will be trains you hop on and off, that are so much easier to maneuver with a backpack versus a suitcase. You may want to do a stop-over in a town (for a day trip), while travelling to another location. This is so much easier with a backpack. 

Some accommodations list themselves as "walking distance" from the train station, airport or bus depot. You arrive and start walking, only to realize that "walking distance" is much farther than you expected. You do not want to be making this venture while lugging a heavy suitcase behind you.

Maybe you get lost while walking and looking for your hotel. It is much easier to carry a backpack on your back versus dragging a suitcase over cobblestone streets.

Trust me on this, go with a backpack! My favorite carry-on is the Osprey Farview 40L and my favourite travel backpack is the Osprey Ariel 55L. 

5. Pack Light!

This has an exclamation mark on purpose. I'm going to assume you went the backpack route. First-of-all, there is only so much room in a backpack. Secondly, every time you travel to a new place you are carrying all your items on your back - you aren't going to want to be carrying anything too heavy.

When you're packing, consider every item you are bringing. As much as you think you think you'll need high heels and 6 other pairs of shoes, you probably won't. As much as you think it might get cold on one random night in southern Italy in the middle of summer, and you need to pack jeans; this imagined cold-snap probably won't happen, so those jeans are just taking up precious space. Get my point? 

6. Pack Similar Items in Bags Inside your Backpack

This is a trick I discovered after travelling on a couple big trips. My first few experiences, I just packed all my stuff into my backpack, without sorting a thing. Every time I needed anything, i'd either have to riffle through all my clothes or dump my bag. Both ways were super annoying!

My solution to the problem became this: I pack all similar items in the same plastic bag. For example, I might pack all my shorts in a bright pink shopping bag and all my tank tops in a bright yellow bag. That way, when I go looking for something in my backpack, I know exactly what bag to find it in and only have to pull that bag out. 

7. Watch out for Pickpockets and Scams

It's pretty safe to say that pickpockets are in every country; however, in certain countries, they are way worse. Research ahead of time so you know what to expect.

Make sure to always have your purse in front of you, or wear a money pouch under your clothes. If you decide to carry a purse, hold on to the zipper, while traveling on a bus or walking through the street, so that no one can open it. If you carry a day-backpack, lock up the zipper with a mini-lock, so that no one can get in. When you're sitting down at a cafe, do not put your purse or backpack on the back of your chair or on the table, put it on your lap. When I was in Paris, I saw a pickpocket run by a cafe and steal a purse right off a table, while the tourist was sitting at the table.

Watch out for scams too. While in Bangkok, someone tried to scam myself and a couple friends into going on a paid guided tour of a palace. He told us the palace was closed because it was a Sunday and he had "exclusive entry." We declined, went to the palace on our own and discovered that the palace was open to all tourists. We toured the palace for free, on our own. Make sure to do your research to avoid scams.  

8. Sort out your Phone and Data Backup Before you Leave

The last thing you want to be doing when embarking on an adventure is having to sort out your phone or your data backup. 

Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave. With an unlocked phone, you can usually get a local SIM card for cheap high-speed data in most places. Don't waste your money on overpriced travel plans. Get the local SIM card and save yourself some money.

In regards to data backup, make sure you have it. I had one friend who had his camera stolen and lost 4 weeks' worth of pictures, which was nearly his entire multi-country trip through Europe. Cloud backups are easy to use and cheap. Look into one and have a plan for how you will backup as you travel.

9. Pack a Scarf and Earplugs

I use scarves for so much while travelling. Scarves are great for sun protection, to cover your eyes when you want to get some extra sleep on a train ride, to carry stuff around, as a makeshift towel and as makeshift pillow.

If you plan on seeing any churches, temples, sacred ground, or any other religious buildings, you will typically need to cover up, so that your knees and/or shoulders aren't showing. This differs from site-to-site, so it's good to be prepared. 

Ear plugs should probably be the #1 on the list. They come in handy so much! You may need to block out barking dogs, noises from the street, drunken room-guests in your hostel, crying babies, and on and on and on. Ear plugs really are a traveler’s best friend. My favourite earplugs for flying are earPlanes. My favourite for noise cancelling are Peace & Quiet.

Cirrus Healthcare Products

10. Be Flexible & Open-minded

One time, I missed a train because there was a local restaurant that I stumbled upon as I was walking to the train station to leave. I had to try the restaurant, so I missed my train. Guess what? That restaurant ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. If I hadn't been flexible enough to change my travel plans, I would have missed out on a favourite highlight of my trip.

It's so important to be open to new adventures that may pop-up as you're traveling on your pre-determined route. Be flexible to accommodate these new adventure. Maybe another traveler recommends a sensational island-excursion that "you have to take!" Well, change your plans and take that excursion! If you don't, you may miss out on something incredible. 

So, there you have it, my top 10 travel tips! Get out there and book your next adventure!

The world is waiting to be explored!