Are you traveling beyond the borders of your country for the very first time? Do not fret, my fellow beginner travelers, because here is some newbie travel advice just for you – the to-dos, the not-to-dos, and the must-dos all condensed into a single list that can fit right into your pocket. So, take it with you to your vacation destination!
1. Be comfy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing your pajamas or your mom’s jeans. You don’t have to look good when you’re riding shotgun in your friend’s camper van or when you’re lounging around the boarding gate at the airport. You can always change into something nice after you’ve reached your destination. So, for now just kick back and relax in your sweatpants and flip-flops.
2. Never overpack.
Never bring too many clothes with you. Lighten your load by casting off unnecessary accessories and garments. You’re going on a trip, you’re not attending a fashion show. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should wear the same outfit throughout the trip. Try mixing and matching. If you’re traveling during winter or to a colder region, your luggage is bound to be heavy. You can pack multiple sweaters but try to stick to just one winter coat.
3. Always listen to the weatherman.
The weather determines most aspects of a trip. It determines where you can or can’t go, it determines what you should or shouldn’t wear. So, it’s crucial to keep yourself updated with the weather of your travel destination. Bring a jacket or a coat if you know the weather is going to be chilly. Bring an umbrella if rain is forecasted. If you’re worried that an umbrella would take up too much space in your suitcase, get a traveler-friendly compact umbrella or a raincoat.
4. Set a budget and (try to) stick to it.
It is essential to have a budget whenever you’re traveling, because you wouldn’t want to end up overspending. Do reasonable research and estimate the costs for transport, food, entertainment, souvenirs, etc. You don’t have to firmly adhere to the budget. Rather, see it as a guideline.
5. It’s all about compromise, guys.
There can only have two outcomes when you travel with friends – either you become closer friends, or you lose them as friends. Different people value different things and have different interests. Some are willing to spend money on 5-star-restaurant dishes, others don’t care if they have McDonald’s every day. Some want to visit art museums, others just want to sightsee and have drinks at local bars. Therefore, it’s important to plan accordingly and make reasonable compromises. If one of your friends can’t afford an expensive meal, then go for more economical options. Avoid monetary disputes at all costs.
6. Meet the locals.
Strike up a conversation with the souvenir shop owner. Talk to the security guards at the museum. Ask your waiter or waitress about the traffic hours. Get to know their daily routines. When you talk to the locals, you connect yourself to the place and become more than a mere tourist. You get to see the hidden gems, the corners concealed from the tourists’ eyes; you get to see the place from the locals’ perspective. The locals usually give better food recommendations than Yelp does anyway.
7. Take your time!
I don’t think I can emphasize this enough, but it is really important for you not to rush through your itinerary. You can’t just hurry through each gallery in The Louvre, you need to stop to admire every deliberate brush stroke and every accidental splatter of paint. You can’t just take a quick walk by one of the canals in Amsterdam, you need to sit on a bench by the water and take the view in. You can’t just stroll down a street in Tokyo, you need to walk into a karaoke bar, order a sake cocktail and sing your heart out. In order to fully experience a place, you need to slow down. Remember, traveling does not fill your pockets, but it fills your soul. So, don’t waste it. Don’t give yourself an overly tight schedule. Instead of going to five different venues in a day, why not just keep two on your list? This way, you won’t feel obligated to follow a set timeframe and exhaust yourself in the process.
8. Not picture perfect? That’s okay!
I know how our generation tends to obsess over travel pictures. Is this Instagram-worthy? Does my outfit go with the background? Did you get a shot of the landscape with my face in it? We spend so much time trying to find the right angle to capture a moment that we actually miss the moment. We waste so much time perfecting our pictures on our phones that we actually miss the bigger picture. Literally. I know this because I’ve actually been one of those tourists. Sometimes, it’s okay not to take a picture of something you really like. Because if you really like it, you should take the time to savor it. So, put down those lenses, and just enjoy the moment.
9. Better safe than sorry.
Fun is important, but safety is key. Don’t ever hitchhike. I know we’ve all seen it in movies, and it looks adventurous, but no, not in real life. You also need to do some research on “safe” and “unsafe” areas of your intended destination before booking accommodations. Furthermore, try to blend in with the locals and avoid looking or acting like a tourist.
10. Hope for the best but expect the worst.
Last but not least, bear in mind that not everything will go as planned. There will be mishaps, there will be accidents. Don’t expect everything to be perfect, because it won’t be. You might miss a show or performance because of unpredicted traffic. You might be late for an attraction because your friend decides to relieve himself after dinner. Anything can happen, and you can’t do anything about it. Just try not to be in control of every single aspect of the trip. Loosen the reigns. Have fun!
Guest Author: Jing Xi Lau
I’m a photographer and an adventurer at heart. I seek beauty in the most commonplace of objects, the most marginalized of individuals and the most unlikely of places, and present it to the world in its rawest and most authentic form. Check out Jing Xi Lau’s portfolio website.