The excitement and anxiety wash over you. Finally! That long overdue trip. It’s a place you have always wanted to go but have never been. Adventure awaits, but what next? Here are a dozen tips to make your trip more memorable.
“I have to pack this pair of shoes. I can’t live without four hats. How will I manage with one coat?” Stop! Whenever traveling to a new place the temptation is to over pack. Unless you are going to a remote area- don’t do it! You can always add to your suitcase, if needed, and a way to clean your clothes is usually available. Toting heavy luggage to the train station is awful as I found out in Paris recently. Pack the bare minimum and learn to work with it. Your back will thank you.
Get your bearings
Do your research before and during your trip. Excellent guidebooks, websites galore and experienced travelers can all help you understand the lay of the land and how to get the most out of your visit. Here’s one good place to start.
Do what you’re good at first.
In a new place you need confidence and I suggest that you start with an activity you enjoy. Love to shop? Hit the Market. Serious foodie? Grab a bite. Fitness fanatic? Go work out. These activities will start you out on the right foot and help you to tackle your new environment with gusto.
Be a chameleon
Unless you want to be seen as the ultimate tourist during your visit, you should try to match the local scene whenever possible. Learn the local language, pronunciation and expressions. You don’t need to be fluent, just make the effort and you’ll see magical results. Dress in the local fashion as much as possible. Pay attention to colors, styles and accessories, especially footwear. Be polite. A smile goes a long way. Learn the local customs. When do people usually eat? How late do they stay out? What matters to them?
Become a citizen of the planet and you’ll always be welcome.
Learn about transportation
Every destination has good, better, best transportation options based on time and budget. Decide how much you’re willing to pay and how long you’re willing to wait to get where you want to go. It’s a tradeoff. Study your chosen method to understand how it works so that you don’t get lost or ripped off. Nothing is more frustrating than being late or in the wrong place. Be prepared.
Develop a meal plan
A gazillion options exist for eating so explore them all. From cooking yourself or eating with friends to grabbing a quick bite on the street or sitting at the Chef’s table you shouldn’t limit yourself. One of the best ways to learn about a place is through its eating, drinking and gathering places. Take advantage of the lesson.
Organize the sites
So much to do, so little time. You really don’t need to see and do everything. Just the good stuff. Again, research helps. Choosing less and spending more time there can be very rewarding. Running through the Louvre is not. Also, you may want to skip the Empire State Building if you’re afraid of heights. I know it sounds obvious, but lots of folks force themselves to visit popular Tourist Attractions when they shouldn’t. Know your limits.
Consider land, air and sea options
When looking at activities, broaden your choices by considering all the options. Trolleys, buses, trains, airplanes, helicopters, horses, camels, boats, hydraterras, submarines, fire engines, balloons and more are being used for tourism now. Be adventurous.
Meet the locals…carefully.
Sigh…we want to meet the locals and enjoy authentic experiences but do your homework first. Try to stick to public places with people you know or trust. Open yourself up to local experiences in a safe way, please. You often have to venture off the tourist route to enjoy the local scene but be careful. Not everyone is glad to see you or honest in their intentions. ‘nuff said.
Prepare plan B
It rains. The tour bus is broken. Your restaurant is closed today. I guarantee that something will not go as planned. Cheer up! It gives you a chance to be creative, not sulk. Look around you and find a new adventure. Spend some time catching up with yourself. It’s free time, so use it.
Be aware of your surroundings. Protect your valuables all the time. Avoid dicey areas especially at night. Don’t drink too much. Let people know where you are and when you’ll be back. Pay attention. Relax and enjoy yourself.
Plan to return
The best thing about a first visit is the opportunity to return to a more familiar place the next time. Take lots of pictures and video. Write down your experience with detail because memory is fleeting. Make contacts there and keep in touch with them back at home. Start planning.