Just got a passport? Never been to that part of the world before? Here are some simple but useful tips that we have used to save us stress on our recent trips abroad.
Plan a strategy, not your trip.
What I mean by this is don’t try to plan every single moment of every day. Sure, this works for some people but in reality, things will change, and a rigid timeline will only serve to stress you out and negatively impact what wouldn’t be a big deal if you were playing on home turf.
One way we recently implemented this strategy pertained to possible restaurants to visit in Amsterdam. While we did make a booking one night, the other cafes and establishments were set as bookmarks on Google Maps so if we found ourselves near one at the end of a day’s touring we already knew where to go.
Figuring out where to stay? Look for the attractions before you look for a bed.
We recently made the mistake of booking our accommodation before we booked our touristy activities. The result was that while we had a nice apartment for our stay, we were nowhere near the common sights to see for newcomers to London. Don’t be us. Instead, figure out what you want to do and where those places are and then book a room nearby. It may not be the cheapest but when you factor in the cost of transportation and your time to get all over the place in a cab or public transit it starts to make sense.
Arm your phone or know how to get online once you arrive.
The last thing you want to do is arrive and have to hunt down a SIM card or WIFI dongle. I highly recommend purchasing one before you leave (ex. I bought a three SIM card off Amazon before our trip to Europe) so that when you land you can boot right up. Alternatively look for a sim card machine before you leave the airport. I’ve done this in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Manila, and a few others with no issue.
*NOTE* Make sure your phone is unlocked before you swap in another carriers SIM!
Get cash early.
A lot of places accept credit cards nowadays, a lot of places don’t. This is an easily avoidable headache. However, I don’t recommend using a currency change stand to do this. The best ranks are either a) via ordering foreign currency from your bank or 2) if you have a no ATM fee debit card, an ATM at your destination.
Don’t mess around with transportation to your hotel/AirBnB.
One of the last things you want to do when you land is worry about transportation from the airport. With that, I HIGHLY recommend pre-booking some kind of transportation either via a reputable third party or via your accommodation. This can be very optional in places where the locals are more trustworthy and your flight isn't very long, but trust me when I say that it’s beyond helpful to see your name on a sign when you get through customs in a wholly unfamiliar country with a matching wholly unfamiliar culture.
Day 1 – Walking/Bus Tour
Walking/Bus tours sound cheesy and to an extent they are. But believe me, no amount of prep work will prepare you for what you actually find at your destination. Use one of these tours to a) acclimate yourself to your new reality b) push yourself to be active and not give into jet lag with an afternoon nap and c) find places and neighbourhoods that you want revisit later.
Make a list, check it twice.
This goes without saying – make a packing list. And guys – plan outfits. Without this list you may forget something simple like sunglasses or your portable battery. It’s cheap insurance against a headache once you arrive and unpack only to find that you forgot a key part of the ensemble due to the chaos that was the packing process.
Buy a luggage scale.
Seriously, make the $10 investment on Amazon. And TAKE IT WITH YOU!
Prepare to waste some money.
Last but not least, prepare to spend money on stupid things that either get lost or that you end up not needing. As frugal travelers this hurts us the most (well, maybe me more than my wife) but we’ve come to accept that we may misplace a bus ticket or forget a charging cable. It happens, and in the grand scheme of the vacation it’s not even worth a second thought.