Willing to go on a weekend away, a relaxing holiday, a discovery adventure, or on a world tour?
It doesn’t matter if you are a heavy planner or a last-minute decision maker, the perfect holidays will always require some minimum planning.
It doesn’t mean that everything has to be scheduled to the minute and there is no room left for spontaneous opportunities. On the contrary, these 5 tips will allow you to make the best out of your trip in any situation!
1- Be realistic
It’s natural to be willing to do and see as much as you can. But running from one place to the next is not necessarily the best way to enjoy anything. And you might just end up getting tired, feeling overwhelmed and not able to appreciate any of the wonders in front of your eyes.
Take the time to enjoy. Allow yourself to absorb your environment. Look around you, admire the buildings or appreciate the peacefulness of a beautiful landscape, observe the people around you, and try to understand their culture. Don’t just jump from one thing to the other for the sake of checking it off of your to-do list!
And also take the time to rest. Away from home we tend to forget our natural rhythm and our body’s needs. Resting is not only sleeping, it is also taking the time to sit under the shadow of a tree when it is too hot out, having a drink on a panoramic terrace, taking the time to savour the local cuisine in this small restaurant recommended by a local you took the time to have a discussion with on your way.
So be realistic on the amount of things you really want to do, set priorities, reserve enough time for your visits and plan some time for breaks.
2- Be efficient
Of course, taking night buses, night trains or night flights can allow you to save on a hotel night. But just because it is cheap doesn’t mean it is the best solution. Losing 3 days to travel via 3 buses and 2 boats might end up being cheaper than flying to one place, but it also means you just lost 3 days of your travel time. And that’s without even considering all the incidents that could delay the original schedule.
If you are in a similar situation you should consider: is it worth losing X amount of time to save Y amount of money? If the answer is yes, go ahead. If the answer is no, think about alternative routes.
3 - Be logical
Take into account some basic constraints:
- Where are they located? One thing you want to avoid is losing time going back and forth. So look at where all the points of interest are located and organize your route accordingly. Try to focus on the places located in the same neighbourhood before you move to another one for instance. Or visit from north to south, or west to east. Or even define a loop on the map: a circuit that would allow you to visit what you want without having to pass by the same streets again and again.
- What are the opening times? Look ahead of schedule at the places you want to see: check opening and closing times, but also opening days during the week or special festivities. Nothing is sadder than going such a long way to be faced with closed doors!
- Is a touristic pass really worth it? Many places do offer touristic passes that give you discounts on museums entrances and other activities. Depending on what you are actually interested in and your realistic available timeframe, it might be interesting… or not! Read the offer carefully; if you really want to visit only 2 out of the 10 places suggested, you might be better off buying individual tickets.
4- Be flexible
Now you have to accept that not everything will go as planned. And it’s okay! The best parts of a trip are not necessarily the ones you had planned or even the ones you were most looking forward to.
On the contrary your best moments, discoveries, laughter and eventually memories might be unexpected places you ended up at when getting lost or going out of your way: special encounters you made on the bus, beautiful stories you got told in this small coffee shop, amazing food you tasted in that small restaurant a local told you about…
Surprises are at every corner when you keep an open mind!
5- Be informed
- Be aware of your surroundings: pickpockets, thieves or even worse kinds of people can be found in every single country in the world. First rule is: don’t do something you wouldn’t do at home. And if your home is a pretty safe place with minimum risk, make sure to change your habits to be extra-cautious. As a tourist you will probably attract some more attention so no need to add to that by showing off expensive equipment, loads of cash or by isolating yourself in dodgy neighbourhoods. Be prudent, especially at night, don’t carry all your valuables on you if possible and try to keep a humble attitude. No need to get paranoid; most travellers go around the world without any incidents!
- Learn some basics about the culture of the country you are visiting. Some basics in the language can already help you but unspoken tips might also make a huge difference. Talk with locals, read some books, ask fellow tourists or expats who have been here longer… what you want to avoid is to offend people by inappropriate behaviour. And what seems completely fine in your country can be really rude in the country you are visiting.
- Last but not least, know that the first cause of mortality among the expatriate community is caused by… road accidents! Indeed, driving rules are not necessarily the same, road habits might differ too and you can also add the fact that vehicles and roads might not be in the best conditions everywhere. All in all, try to keep safe by taking care of your personal safety when you can (wear a helmet, put that seat belt on…) and choosing recommended transportation companies or drivers when you have a choice. Also, if you hear that a road is quite dangerous (e.g. mountain roads), avoid doing it by night or during bad weather even though it would save you some time and money. Your life is worth more than a few extra-bucks, no?
These are, in a nutshell, the 5 tips that I believe are essential to plan the trip of your life! But the most important might still be: