Travel Dos and Don’ts
I’ve been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of wandering over the years, and I’ve traveled alone, with a group of strangers who became friends, and with my hubby. There are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way (as well as a number of mistakes I’ve made) that I wanted to share to help you plan your next big trip.
DO try to learn a few words of the local language.
Knowing how to say “please”, “thank you”, and “hello” wherever you are can go a long way toward making your trip more pleasant. The people around you will appreciate the courtesy, and you never know what kind of awesome conversations you’ll have just because you didn’t rely exclusively on your native language!
DON’T think that your high school or college language courses have prepared you for full conversations.
With two years of Spanish and a semester of college French under my belt, I was sure I could handle anything on my first trip to Paris…until I stood in the airport, staring blankly at the information desk, trying to recall the words I needed to ask directions. Speaking a language in a classroom is one thing, but speaking (and listening) with a group of native speakers is another. If you do want to try it, be prepared to laugh at your mistakes, and keep a phrasebook handy just in case.
DO pack light.
If you’re traveling during the summer, skip the jeans and pack a couple of knit dresses that pack small and don’t wrinkle. And lose the hair dryer and assorted beauty products: make friends with a scarf or two to hold back your hair, and don’t sweat it. Also, one pair of good walking shoes (sandals are totally perfect for this, if you have a pair that doesn’t eat your feet) is plenty. My rule? Try to only pack what you can carry by yourself (living out of a backpack is easy if you do laundry in the sink).
DON’T bring the maximum amount of luggage.
If you need to (and trust me, I’ve done this before), you can usually buy a spare suitcase for pretty cheap to hold all your souvenirs and gifts for the return journey, but lugging around the extra bag for your entire trip is a drag. Think like a turtle and keep your baggage to a minimum!
DO tell people where you’re going.
Check in with folks at home regularly, make sure someone knows your full itinerary, and if you’re alone, be smart about where you wander. When I was traveling alone, I always headed back to my hostel before dusk. It meant I missed out on some sights and nightlife, but it also meant I felt a lot safer. Plus, my family knew when to expect calls and emails from me, another layer of safety.
DON’T assume anyone you meet will look out for you.
I love making travel friends, and teaming up with other explorers is a great way to explore any destination, but no matter how quickly you’ve bonded with those girls at the club, remember: they’re still essentially strangers. Look out for yourself, have fun, and if your intuition tells you something isn’t right, listen and act accordingly.
Those are my biggies! What are some of your travel dos and don’ts?
One adventure abroad they’ll never forget.