Updated May '19
If you are just about to start your first big trip, or have been on a few already, these tips are a useful starting point to help you begin your journey. Or, it may be a good reminder of things you already know!
1. Pack Light
Take out everything you think you will need and spread it out on the floor or bed. Then, halve everything. Trust me. You will never use everything you bring. And if you do end up needing something you can always find it and buy it cheaply on your travels.
Bring travel sized bottles, tape them shut or roll them into plastic bags in case they spill en route. It is easier to clean out a plastic bag than your toiletry case. Remember that accommodations may offer complimentary items. Towels are usually provided, so don’t bring your own.
3. Itinerary and Passport
Whether it’s a list you’ve made or the e-ticket the airline sent you. It is handy to have in case of emergencies, for others to know your plans.
Have a photocopy of your passport as well as a digital copy. Bring extra passport photos as well. You never know when you’ll need it, and if you are travelling across borders the passport photos will make your visa application process much faster.
4. Warm Layers
When travelling on buses, trains, or planes, you will likely feel cold. They blast the air-conditioning like no tomorrow! In your carry on pack your hoodie, a pair of socks, a scarf or sarong to use as a blanket or an extra layer of warmth. I recommend you wear long pants for your journeys.
5. Portable Charger
These days almost everything we own is electronic. Cameras, phones, Kindles, iPods, computers, tablets… We want to stay connected and entertained while travelling, and the worst thing that could happen to you is if your e-book dies half way through your plane ride, or your camera battery runs low mid-tour. The digital nomad’s best friend is the portable charger.
6. DO NOT bring a neck pillow
Whether it’s the kind you blow up or the ones with the little beads in it… just don’t. They are fussy to carry, uncomfortable to use (in my opinion), and once you arrive at your destination they are a useless weight that will collect dirt and bacteria. If you need a pillow, use your sarong or your hoodie. They are items you will already have on hand, and are easy to pack and (more importantly) wash!
Pack clothing that you know are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting dirty or ruined. Pack things that won’t wrinkle, that are machine washable, and that are easily replaceable if lost or ruined. Bring a pair of flip-flops, and a pair of walking shoes. Make sure whatever footwear you chose, that they are comfortable, support you when you walk, and won’t damage your tootsies!
This will be your best friend while travelling, if you stay in dorms, sleeping in a noisy neighborhood, or at the airport terminal (but, if you can’t sleep at the airport, don’t worry you’ll have other things to keep you occupied in transit) http://ilefthome.com/14-things-to-do-in-transit/.
9. Seat Logistics
Where you sit can make all the difference between having a comfortable and enjoyable journey or a really terrible experience. Of course, there are some things you can’t control like who you end up sitting next to… but some things you can: Aisle seats are good for those who easily feel claustrophobic, or need extra legroom. I prefer the isle seat because I am able to freely get up and use the bathroom without disturbing my neighbours. Window seats are ideal for those who tend to experience motion sickness. Looking out the window at the horizon really helps! Having the window to lean against is a plus for those who enjoy napping. Middle seats are the trickiest, in my opinion. Being sandwiched into a small space for any given amount of time doesn’t sound so comfortable – unless you are travelling with someone who you doesn’t mind sharing their personal space!
10. Accommodation Booking
Arriving at a new place will always be a gamble no matter how many reviews and pictures you have looked up on TripAdvisor. Your personal needs and time of stay will affect your experience for better or for worse. Book for only a few nights at first and once you arrive and have seen how you fit in you can extend your booking. This has helped me through some bad experiences a number of times. It has given me the flexibility to change my plans and stay longer, or easily move somewhere else in town if I felt like it.
Don’t hesitate to try new things! A large part of travelling and experiencing new culture can be experienced through food! Try the local street foods! Find a place that has a handful of costumers, that way you can have a look at what food is offered. A food stall with people means it is popular and most likely means the food is good!
12. Don’t assume – If you believe that people around you should understand you, or feel like your behaviours are obvious, you will most likely have a hard time communicating and connecting with the locals. Observe how things are done in the country you are visiting. And when in doubt, be extra polite and ask before doing!
The best thing you can do for yourself while travelling abroad is learn one or two words or phrases in the local language. Not only will it make you feel really cool, it will help you seem like less of a clueless tourist, and a single “hello”, “thank you”, or “please” in the language of the country will bring you so much help and friendly smiles!
14. Be Flexible
Don’t over-plan your time and pack your days full of places to see and things to do. You will burn out. You won’t be able to take on the unexpected, or accept invitations from the new friends you’ve made. Your time abroad will feel like a race to finish the list, and you won’t enjoy much of it! It is ok to take it slow, do only a couple of things per day, even take a day off to sleep in, enjoy your hotel, or walk around the nearby area. Doing less is more. If you don’t do everything that’s fine, you can always come back – there is no rule saying you can only visit a place once!
Don’t be afraid to get lost. Mark your hotel’s location on Google Maps for a peace of mind, the GPS on your smart phone can lead you back. You are on an adventure, so let all the stress go and see where your feet take you! Don’t be afraid to pass the touristy parts, explore what surrounds you as you are making your way to a popular tourist attraction (you never know, you may find a smaller more authentically local version of that temple or park you’re headed to… or even a local bakery that will become your new favourite coffee spot).
Remember, travelling is meant to rejuvenate. Travelling is meant to open you up to new experiences and give you the chance to enjoy life! Take it easy, pack smart, travel light, and enjoy the freedoms and joys of your new adventure!
Shared with Luxury Travel Hacks by Kristina from ‘I Left Home’
Unfortunately ‘I Left Home’ is no longer an operational blog, however, we still find this post super helpful and hence still have it published.