Traveling to a new destination can be an exciting and wonderful experience. However, for those that may not travel often, it can also be a bit overwhelming and source of anxiety. Here are a few tips from seasoned travelers to help your journey be one filled with fun, laughter and overall positive memories.
Get a good map and read it before you leave.
In a world filled with GPS units and smart phones, too many travelers depending solely on them, only to end up totally helpless if they malfunction. Paper maps are lightweight, easy to pack and don’t require batteries or cell service. Reading over a map before you arrive will help you get your barings more easily once you arrive, giving you more time to explore and relax. If nothing else, you may discover new areas to explore you hadn’t thought about before!
Never put all your eggs in one basket
In the case of international travel, your eggs are your money sources and identification. Although a passport is your official ID abroad, in a jam, your driver’s license is a good second. Keep both documents stored in separate locations just in case one gets lost or stolen. Use the same concept for your source of money. It’s a good idea to keep a combination of cash and credit cards in two different locations such as in a money belt and tucked in an internal zippered pocket in your luggage or backpack. With this setup, if you happen to lose a bag or get pick pocketed, you’re not totally without funds and ID.
Money belts and crowded destinations go hand in hand
Pick pockets are a big concern for many travelers heading to popular destinations, often crowded with a mix of tourists and locals. Many new travelers are naive to this issue and become easy targets. To start, pick yourself up a money belt at stores such as amazon.com, Walmart, Target or REI. They are thin enough to fit under your clothing without being seen and are by far the best way to secure your passport, train tickets, cash and credit cards.
If you’re sharing sleeping areas with others as is common on overnight trains or at youth hostels, consider sleeping with your money belt on.
Purchase a travel book
If you’re like most, you want to see as much as you can during your visit and a book about your destination is a great way to plan your trip accordingly. Look for books by authors that have actually frequented your destination themselves as they are a great source for hotels, restaurants and little hidden treasures. They also provide great insight into local customs you may need to be aware of.
Put the book away and get lost
Ok so we just said a book is a great tool and it is! But sometimes, simply blindly exploring a new location is a better way to truly experience the local feeling of your destination. All too often, travelers move between points of interest without exploring the areas in between which often can be more exciting and memorable than the point of interest itself…and definitely less crowded! Of course this depends on your comfort level with finding your way back to your hotel, but at the very least, look around as you’re traveling between the more well known points…you never know what you’ll see!
Consider a bike tour
Most destinations have some form of bike tour or rental, offering an excellent alternative to traditional bus tours. Exploring a new destination via bicycle is a fantastic way to engulf yourself into the local culture while being mobile enough to visit many points of interest. Local bike tour guides are often great sources of information, not only about the sights you’re viewing, but also about excellent local cuisine, dining and shopping. Taking a bike tour early in your visit is also a great way to help you get the lay of the land, leading to a better experience for your remaining days.