1. Put Down the Mobile!
This simple act does not include days of planning, physical exertion or fancy equipment, but will most certainly ensure that you get the most of your travels. I’ve seen herds of people trek to iconic monuments, only to bury their heads in the mobiles or posing for the perfect selfie, instead of immersing themselves in the unadulterated awe of seeing and observing what is in front of them.
A well-taken photo is a great keepsake, but is it how you feel in the moment that will stick with you for a long time. In our world of noise constantly clamouring for our (finite) attention, travel is your opportunity to filter through the noise and be present with who you are with, and what you’re experiencing in the moment.
2. Learn the Basics of the Local Language
When conversing with the locals, have you instinctively (against your better judgement) slowed down the pace of your speech? Well, I reckon they still can’t understand you – because you’re speaking a different language!
Taking the initiative to learn a few conversational greetings in the local language is a way to show your respect for the people and the country. Oftentimes, the inaccuracy of your newly-acquired pronunciation will elicit exchanges of laughter, which can only be a good thing! Breaking down barriers and forging an unspoken camaraderie with the locals is priceless, and through these experiences, you’ll learn to appreciate the intricacies of the local culture.
3. Do the FREE Stuff
Many city destinations offer free walking tours, conducted by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about sharing the local history and heritage. Discovering a place on foot is one of the best ways to know a city – there is so much that remains tucked away in the alleyways, and the smells of the city you might easily miss if you’re on the bus, train or racing around by car. Plus, walking is absolutely free and it’s also good for your health!
Ideas for Free Activities:
- Take a bike ride
- Visit street fairs or cultural exhibitions
- Catch a sunrise/sunset by the beach
- Trek through local forests or mountainscapes
- Visit museums (on specified free days)
- Swimming in the lake
- Picnic in the park
- Visit a market
4. Talk to the Locals
If you’re thirsty for more than what’s published in Lonely Planet, you’ve got to pick the brains of the locals for insider knowledge! They’d be able to tell you where to get the most authentic food, lesser known places to visit and you might even score a homemade meal in their homes!
Open conversations with easy questions like:
- Where can we get the best coffee?
- Where is your go to spot for the most authentic local noodles?
- What’s the best spot to watch the sunset?
Go on and strike up a casual conversation – you never know where it’ll lead. Locals love sharing their stories, especially with out-of-towners!
5: Start Early to Avoid Crowds
Get going before sunrise to secure the best attractions all to yourselves, without the jostling crowd. I know we said earlier to put down your mobile, but if you have a bit of a photographer in you, this is also the most magical time to capture the cityscapes due to the natural, soft diffused light for those Insta-worthy snaps.
6: Observe Daily Life
Park yourself in a good spot and spend a few hours people watching to get a true feel of the pulse of any place. Observe the lives of people’s unfolding before you on a busy street corner or a popular cafe, paying close attention to the sights, smells, colours, clothes and richness of human interaction.
7. Don’t Travel Without Travel Insurance
Planning for travel insurance might take a backseat during the holidays, because no one wants to incur an ‘extra’ expense. In the excitement and anticipation of planning for a holiday, it’s unimaginable to consider that the trip might be cancelled or postponed. But things happen when we least expect it, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise!
Make it a habit, as the odds play out in your favour. I would spend an extra $100 for a trip and probably not use the insurance, than to have my bank account wiped clean if something did go wrong. All the things that can go wrong, may go wrong:
- An emergency crops up and you need to cancel your trip
- Natural disasters ravage your destination
- You are affected by a terrorist event
- You get injured on your trip
- Your laptop is stolen
- You are robbed
8. Pack Smart
I’m one of those (weirdos) who enjoy packing for a trip – part of the joy lies in the planning and anticipation! For most others, packing can be a big cause for stress, especially if you are travelling with family, including children and elderly. My best tip? Just pack the bare minimum and you can purchase the rest at your destination! My top travel packing tip is to bring along comfortable, versatile and loose fitting clothes in neutral palettes. These can be easily worn and paired in multiple combinations so that if an item gets dirty, you can easily replace it with another! If you travel with children, it might be wise to goad them to pick out their own clothes to encourage ownership, minimize whining and impart simple planning skills from a young age.
An important tip – If you have concerns about exceeding the weight limit, wear your heaviest clothes on the flight (like your chunky hiking boots) and check-in the rest!
9: Carry Spare Passport Photos
Obtaining visas and documents for some countries can be a complicated process, and some procedures may require multiple passport sized photos. Plus, photo booths in unfamiliar foreign lands might not be easily available! Before you leave home, prepare and print a set of passports sized photos and carry them with you, just in case. It will save you a lot of time and hassle, and weighs practically nothing!
10: Treat Your Body Well
Travel can throw your body out of balance. We’re likely to be eating too much, staying up too late, and generally, not really taking good care of our bodies. It’s hard to maintain a regular workout routine when on the move, but it’s always prudent to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthily, use sunscreen, and exercise often!