*By Natalie Taylor*
After having travelled to over 30 countries and backpacked my way solo for three months in Europe, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. Just in time for peak travel season, here are my top 10 travel tips…
1. Make Time For Yourself. When travelling with someone else –no matter how much we love them–spending 24/7 can become exhausting. Take time away for a few hours to do your own thing to avoid resentment and petty fights. This will also give you something to talk about at dinner and enable you to have your own vacation.
2. Protect Your Documents. Email and scan your travel essentials (and send to a trusted family member or close friend) in addition to putting your phone number, social media handles and email address on the back of your passport. This will help the good samaritan who finds your passport to get in contact with you, especially if you lose your phone.
3. Have A Rough Plan, But Be Flexible. It’s hard to not want to do everything when you’re in a new destination or in one that has many iconic activities. The city of Rome is a good example: instead of whisking off to the Colosseum immediately after touring the Vatican, take your time in nearby Trastevere, stumble upon a local cafe or walk down the Tiber River and find that hidden gelato place that’s not in your Lonely Planet guide. When you allow yourself to get lost and release yourself from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), you can truly enjoy where you are. At the same time, you don’t want to arrive in a new place unprepared. At the very least, have your accommodation for your first night booked so you’re not stranded!
4. Think About Your Interests When Trip Planning. Ask yourself: what has been your favourite vacation previously? What do you find yourself doing on the weekend? Those will give you clues about what to do on vacation. One of my best pieces of advice is to create a quest around your trip, even if it’s for a day. For example, that could be finding the best pizza spots in New York City, finding all of the Claude Monet works in Paris or exploring Canada’s best national and provincial parks. When you go on a quest for a specific theme (like my red door quest in the photo below), you’ll never know what you’ll find. Another tip when trip planning: ask your partner or kids to pick an activity. This task gives them a sense of ownership and allows them to experience a destination through their eyes. This also gives the planner some time off to be a follower and relax.
5. Wipes Are Not Just For Babies. Wet Wipes will help when you need to freshen up after a long plane ride (and that lineup to the bathroom is a little too long); when there’s no accessible or unclean water; or if you’re on a long road trip and can’t stop off at a gas station. They’re also great for a quick cleans of your electronic equipment.
6. Talk To The Bartender. If you are a solo traveler or in a couple, the best thing to do is to sit at the bar. Not only do you have a new friend or ally in the bartender (if it’s not too busy), but at a good bar the bartenders also know where the best bars, bartenders and restos are in your destination.
7. Plan Your Own Plane/Train Picnic. One of the best things I did when I was in Montreal before a four hour train ride back to Toronto was go to my favourite sandwich spot and buy a sandwich to go. Not only did I have a delicious dinner, but I saved money on the crappy food that was being served at premium prices in the train. It has now become a travel tradition to do so. I also recommend buying a big bottle of water for the plane ride because they just never give you enough during the flight!
8. Adjust To Time Zones. The best way to get over jet lag is to immediately adjust to the time zone that you’re in. One way to do this is by taking melatonin for a deeper sleep if you have an overnight flight. Another way to do this is to get up and go if you’re arriving in the morning or afternoon at your destination. No naps mean you’ll have a deeper sleep that night and be ready and fresh in your time zone for the next day.
9. Useful Apps: Kayak and Hopper are good for checking flight prices and routes; Waze is good for navigating around traffic jams on a preferred route if you’re driving; Tripit organizes your travel itinerary in one place; Google Maps is your best friend for navigating locally; Gas Buddy reports on gas prices in any province, territory, or state in Canada and the USA; and Snapseed, VSCO, and Lightroom are great photo editing apps.
10. To Travel Like A Local, Do Local Activities. Seeing a place “like a local” has become cliché, but it is another way to understand your destination. See how the local supermarket, library, and laundromat compares to yours. Find something new there. Pick one coffee shop and go there every day so you can meet the same characters (like the coffee shop owner) and get their tips for where to go in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Now tell me, what are your favourite travel tips?! Share them here between May 15th and 19th, 2017 for a chance to win a free night’s stay at the Days Inn Canada location of your choice. Full contest details, including rules and regulations here.