There are some places you travel to again and again. Perhaps it’s your local beach, or the amusement park a few hours away. Because of proximity and convenience, you don’t take as many pictures as you should, or you fail to pick up any souvenirs while you’re there. Yet, there are other locales that are more exotic. They’re farther away, take longer to plan around, and require more of a time commitment to visit. Once you get there, though, you want to soak up as much of the experience as possible. Before you know it, you’ve drained your camera battery taking pictures of everything in sight, spent hours looking at maps and consulting travel guides and second-guessed to the hilt whether or not you’re truly doing everything you should be while you’re there.
To help ensure that you walk away from your travel adventure satisfied that you saw, tasted, and experienced everything valuable it has to offer, it helps to be prepared. That’s where this guide comes in. Whether you’re halfway around the world or just a few states away, it’s important to do your research before you leave. Here are a few tips for making the most of your journey and your time there.
1. Get a great ticket.
Does your travel adventure revolve around a specific event? For instance, did you manage to nab tickets to the Winter Olympics, or are you incorporating a concert by your favorite musical artist into your itinerary? If this is the case, go ahead and spend the extra money it takes to upfit your seats. It would be a waste of both time and money to invest so deeply in a vacation only to sit way up high in the nosebleed section when you arrive.
You don’t have to splurge for the front row (unless you want to, of course). Yet, try to get as great of seats as you can for what your budget will allow.
2. Think ahead as you pack.
There’s nothing like arriving at your destination only to find that you forgot to pack your favorite piece of clothing, toiletry kit, proper footwear or any other essential. As you pack, go through both a physical and a mental checklist and be sure to prepare yourself for a sudden change in weather.
To save space in your luggage, seek to pack items that can double up and work for more than one occasion. For instance, a structured collared shirt can look formal with a pair of slacks for a nice dinner out, or you can roll up the sleeves and pair it with jeans for a day of sightseeing. The key isn’t to pack your entire closet, but to be strategic with what you do pack so you don’t end up empty-handed down the road.
3. Plan your departure and arrival strategically.
Jet lag is a very real thing and can affect you in a powerful way, especially if you’re not used to traveling long distances for a long stretch of time. To help you bounce into or out of your vacation mode as smoothly as possible, aim to give yourself a little bit of time before resuming any activity.
This means that if you have a big day of hiking or sightseeing planned for Monday, you should ideally be arriving at your destination on Saturday, so you can have all day Sunday to reorient yourself. The same goes for the trip back. If you’re skipping across time zones, try not to arrive home late on Sunday and expect to bounce back and be at work by 8 a.m. the following Monday.
4. Be present, not just behind the lens.
It’s tempting to stay behind your camera or your smartphone when you’re traveling to a beautiful location with tons of stunning vistas. Whether you’re whale watching in Hawaii or taking in the Northern Lights, you naturally want to capture every second so you can remember and relive it later! Yet, resist the urge to spend all of your time behind the screen. Remember, you want to experience the vacation for yourself and you can’t fully do that with one eye behind the lens.
Instead, take a few photos that show where you were, and be sure to get into as many of those pictures as possible so you can show everyone where you went! Fifteen panoramic shots of the same overlook, however? Put the camera down after one or two and go enjoy the rest of your trip.
5. Learn from others.
There is a reason the travel guide industry is so booming. People want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but don’t necessarily know what hotspots to frequent, the best times of day to visit certain places, how to pack appropriately, which sections to skip and more. Thus, it’s helpful to read a few books or online articles from experts who have been in your shoes and can offer professional advice on the very best way to experience your locale.
For instance, if you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos or Ecuador, this travel guide would be a must-read on your nightstand. Or, if you’re planning a trip to California’s Highway 1 West Coast, you could search online forums or blogs written by people who have made the trek and can tell you how to best navigate it.
Enjoying Your Time Away and Maximizing Your Memories
While everyone loves to get away, there are those certain vacations that bring the ideal to an entirely new level. When you get the opportunity to indulge in one of those moments, you don’t want to let it slip past you. Instead, grab adventure by the reigns, live in the moment, and truly enjoy the experience by planning ahead, thinking strategically and splurging in just the right areas. At the end of the day, when you’re looking back through your memory album, you’ll be glad you took the chance.