Are you planning a big trip across the world, or maybe a shorter journey in a very exotic location? Trekking in Bolivia? Scuba diving in Australia? Strip club hopping in Bangkok? Cattle herding in Arizona? A little planning can go a long way when heading to a foreign place for the first time.
1. Get advice
The next-gen equivalent of printed travel guides are websites like Tripadvisor.com that provide crowd-sourced reviews of everything from hotels to restaurants and spas. Take some of the angrier reviews with a grain of salt and use these resources as a starting point.
2. Penny saved
Make sure to save all the confirmation e-mails you receive regarding reservations for flights hotels and other tours or services: these will come in handy in the event that a company loses your reservation.
Online travel agencies like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com do the hard work for you, comparing air and hotel fares from a range of providers. These websites often have deals that they are offered by providers that an individual couldn’t get on his or her own.
4. Mile in my shoes
Make sure that you obtain a customer loyalty card from whichever airline or hotel company you’re choosing. Start accumulating and redeeming points – it’s like free money for travelers.
5. Think ahead
Don’t wait for the night before your flight to pack. Plan ahead, including checking the predicted weather for your destination.
6. One and only
Try and fit all of your stuff into one suitcase – this will make moving around airports, trains and hotels much easier.
7. When in Rome
Are you homosexual? Are you a nudist? Do you need to drink alcohol everywhere you go? Planning to hunt endangered species? Unfortunately, not every country on the globe is as permissive as Amsterdam or Berlin. People with particular habits should check the relevant laws of the countries where they will be traveling in order to prevent messy incidents with the police or border authorities.
8. Intimate medicine
Pack whatever medicines you are bringing in your carry-on bag. Checked luggage can get lost, rifled through or robbed, and medicine is too important to risk losing.
9. Buddhist belongings
As a general rule, don’t take anything on vacation that you’re not prepared to lose: jewelry, expensive electronics or designer duds.
10. Tag it
Always attach name and contact info tags to your suitcases.
11. Wet and wild
Flying is much more enjoyable and healthy if you stay hydrated and keep blood circulating by standing up and moving around at least once per hour during a flight.
12. Safe haven
In case you run into some serious trouble on your trip, your country’s local embassy is always a safe place to turn to.
13. Keep ’em in the know
Send updates about your health and wellbeing to your family and friends at home. Firstly, it’s nice. Secondly, if people don’t hear from you, they’ll know something’s wrong.
14. Keep it simple
Don’t fall into the common trap of over-packing. If you put five pairs of jeans in your luggage, take out three. Unless you’re going to the deep heart of the jungle, there will most likely be a supermarket, pharmacy and Starbucks wherever you’re going.
15. Local produce
Get out of your hotel or resort. Hit the streets. Explore and try local holes-in-the-wall. Sometimes your greatest and most unique vacation experiences will happen off the map and outside of the travel guide box.
16. A room is not a home
Do not leave valuable items alone in your hotel room. Most self-respecting hotels will provide a safe in the room or at the front desk.
If you’re not interested in a traditional hotel, you can find weird accommodations at UHOTW.com, locals’ apartments for rent at Airbnb.com and free sofas in people’s apartments at Couchsurfing.com. Welcome to the next generation of travel!
18. No money, no cry
Don’t carry around too much cash at any time. Use credit cards instead. That way, if you get pick pocketed, it won’t hurt too much.
19. Study time
Before you land in your exotic destination, learn a few words of the local language – you’ll be less of a clueless tourist and the natives will probably appreciate the effort.
20. Back it up
Weather is unpredictable, as are certain political regimes and bus schedules. Always have a plan B for your trip.
21. Friend indeed
Social media has made it ridiculously easy to connect with local people when on vacation. Meeting the locals and making some new friends holds endless possibilities for expanding your horizons and enriching your trip. Alternatively, you could get your face out of the computer screen and hit a local pub or park and meet the natives.
22. Can’t be too safe
Check out the cost of travel insurance before you go, especially if your destination is known for travelers’ sickness (India, Africa, etc.). If you wind up in hospital, you’ll be happy you had the money-saving insurance.
23. Little spender
When in local markets and mom and pop stores, bargaining can go a long way for saving money. Your Western culture might not have taught you to be an effective haggler, but it’s a skill anyone can acquire. Don’t be shy!
24. Small and sweet
Don’t over-shop or waste money on cheesy tourist trinkets. Focus on one or two unique local products to bring home that will stimulate great memories of your trip.