So here you are, getting ready for your first big trip. If you’re anything like me and struggle with packing for a one week stay at Grandma’s then your head may be ready to pop off. To ensure that nothing goes overlooked, I’ve spent weeks doing research to find out exactly how to prepare. Don’t worry, you can take a deep breath now that the information you need has been summarized into an easy read for you.
First things first - packing. Now you may have been blessed with the ability to take a couple of trunks full of your wardrobe with you, but for some reason, my senses are telling me you’re also packing light to save on checked baggage fees, etc. My upcoming trip will be the first time backpacking in another country. As a woman who loves her heels, hiking boots, and every opportunity to change my outfit, I have struggled with what on earth I will choose to go with me on this adventure.
However you identify, I would suggest ditching your fancy shoes and opting for a pair that will provide you the utmost comfort. On your travels, you’ll be trying to get the most of your days by walking throughout the new regions. If you can squeeze in a pair for your more luxurious nights then, by all means, go for it bro. All I’m saying here is be prepared for sore feet, leave your expectations of being ‘able to handle it’, and save room in your bags for the more important stuff.
With a limited amount of space in your bag, you’ll be needing to choose your outfits wisely. Make sure to do your research on the weather of your destination at the particular time of year you’ll be going. Stay updated by checking a couple of days before to make adjustments for any foreseeable rain storms or heat waves. Try to go with neutral colors so that you’ll have an easier time matching up different pieces. If you’re taking photos the neutral colors will draw the eyes to your surroundings and take the focus away from the pants you’ll be wearing for eight out of the twelve days.
I was tipped off that pick-pocketers/robbers in high trafficked touristy locations tend to go after the ones in flashy clothing for obvious reasons. Tourists tend to carry more cash and have valuables such as cameras, etc., and are unexpecting while taking in their surroundings. If you’re carrying equipment or a purse with you go with a crossbody strap while keeping the item towards the front of your body.
Make sure to take into account some additional toiletries that may come in handy. Bug spray is a major one for me - those little suckers eat me alive. To limit that glorious lobster red sunglass outline on your face be sure to bring some heavy-duty sunscreen, for not only your body but face too. Even in a not so sweltering environment, while spending long hours outside the sun will definitely be able to leave its mark.
Another thing to research is what events will be going on in the places you’ll be visiting. To my surprise, there will be multiple celebrations and festivals relatively near where I will be staying that I wouldn't have had any clue about. Finding events becomes more difficult when you have spotty service and struggle with a language barrier. The lines for events can take you hours to wait through so buying tickets in advance and online saves you the headache and optimizes your time.
Going in the peak travel season may seem like a great idea (hey that’s why everyone else is going then, right?) but in reality adjusting your dates not too far on the other side of them can bring you a lot of benefits. First of all - you’ll be receiving better prices in hotels, restaurants, tickets, etc. because there is less of a demand. When you look at travel photos online you often find great shots without a lot of bystanders. Unfourtunently that will not be the case unless you plan on waking up at 3am to get there at the crack of dawn to beat the rush. If you’re a morning person then maybe this is the option for you, but with jet lag, time differences, and the amount of extra energy you’ll be spending, plenty of sleep may very quickly become a top priority on your list.
Assuming that you’ll just be able to hop into a cab and pay with a wave of your ApplePay enabled device will get you into some trouble. Make sure to look up the best ways of transportation before flying out. Find out typical cab fares so you don’t get taken advantage of, check if you’ll need to purchase a pass ahead of time, and have a general sense of how you’ll be getting from place to place.
If you are going to a place where you will encounter a language barrier make sure to practice some simple phrases you know you’ll have to use. Don’t worry about having everything down and ready for a full paced conversation, but foreigners will appreciate the fact that you’re at least trying. Respect can go a long way, and walking up to someone shouting in a language you’re assuming they know is extremely rude. After your attempt, they’ll be happier to help you with broken questions and going back and forth on a cell phone translation app. Make sure to download an app to help you translate words or bring a small book of translations with you. This will come in very handy.
Make sure to call your cell phone carrier ahead of time to find out exactly how your service will work while overseas. My sister just sent me an update to let me know if we use our phones AT ALL while on a plane we will be charged $700 - YIKES. Another very important one to let know of your travels is your bank card company. You don’t want to get to another country and realize you can't access your money there or your bank flag you for fraud.
To wrap this up - I would suggest having a general itinerary for your trip to ensure you’re making the most out of your time. You can receive discounted deals when paying ahead of time, get in before they’ve reached capacity, and skip the lines at the door. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time between activities so that you limit the risk of running late due to getting lost or underestimating travel time. Take your time soaking in the rich culture of your destination and maybe even journal about it while you’re still there. The world is a beautiful, magnificent place.