Traveling is one of my most favourite things in the world. Visiting new places, eating new food, meeting new people and much more. Since I stopped working full time last April, I’ve been lucky enough to get to go on quite a few amazing trips…..Paris, London, Austin, Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle and Mexico. All that traveling has been amazing and it has had quite a few positive impacts on me as a person.
You see, even though I traveled before, I almost always had a long time to plan my trips and decide what I wanted to do where we were going. This past year hasn’t quite been that way. More often than not, my husband found out he needed to go to a meeting and asked “Wanna go?”. Two days later we would be on a plane.
If you know me at all, you know that spontaneity is NOT my strong suit. I am a Polly Planner. However, since dealing with my anxiety, I have found that I have also become a better traveller. Yep. I have let go of the incessant need to plan. It is an amazing feeling and I am starting to enjoy travel so much more.
Here are a few of my tips for fun and stress free travel:
- Assume you will return to your destination. While this might not be true, it will give you an out. There is no way to see EVERYTHING at any given destination. Don’t even try. You will end up grumpy, tired and fighting with fellow travellers. It is just not worth it.
- Bring comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes are a must but don’t necessarily grab your favourite pair of tennis shoes/runners (unless that is what you normally wear). I used to do this because I thought they would be more comfortable. However, since I don’t wear runners, I felt out of place and schlubby. Now I bring my favourite pair of low heeled boots. I look put together and I can walk all day without worry.
- Pick a hotel in a great location. Sometimes hotels in a crappy location by the airport seem like SUCH a good deal. Often they are not. A hotel far away from the sites you want to see will leave you annoyed and spending much of your trip getting where you would like to be. In my experience, a smaller, less nice room in a great location is the better deal over a larger, nicer room in a crappy location.
- Be open minded. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones and only want what we are used to. Unfortunately, being TOO stuck in a rut can lead to a miserable trip. You just can’t get the same food you are used to at home everywhere….and that is ok. Honestly, eating new foods is one of my favourite parts of travel. I’m not saying you have to eat eyeballs….just try something that you might not normally. You never know, you might love it!
- Know the drill at the airport. Don’t fly much? Take a look at the airport and/or airline website to figure out what you can/cannot bring on the plane with you, how many bags you can check, how much those bags can weigh, what documentation you need, etc. A few minutes of research can help you feel confident at the airport.
- Book a tour. I love walking around by myself exploring a city but we’ve had great luck with walking tours through Viatour. The foodie walking tour that we did in Paris was amazing. Led by a local woman, we saw parts of Paris that we would have never gone to otherwise. Sometimes it is nice to have someone to ask all those questions you have floating around in your head. I do recommend small tours, though. Being one of 60 can make you feel like part of a cattle herd!
- Take time to stop and smell the roses. Some of my favourite times on all my trips have been the times that we stopped and had coffee at an outdoor cafe. People stream by as you sip and you get a glimpse in to the every day lives of the people of the city you are visiting.
- Bring a camera but don’t see your entire trip through a lens. Pictures are lovely but so is living the moment.
- If you know locals, email them and ask for their recommendations for what to do, where to eat, etc. They will often have insights on little known gems that you would never find in a guide book.
- Use the metro/subway/tram. If the city you are in has a subway, take a bit of time before you go to figure out the basic layout of it. It seems overwhelming at first but they are generally pretty easy to use. We used the subways almost exclusively in London and Paris. Traffic is just too hectic to rent a car (plus there is now where to park) so don’t even go there. Also, if there is an app for the metro system, download it before you go and use it a few times. Many can be used without using data on your phone.
- Know your cell phone plan or just turn it off. Don’t come home from your amazing trip to a $1500 phone bill. If you have an iPhone, they use data even when you don’t DO anything. The safest way to deal with it is to turn off cellular data roaming before you leave home. Then you don’t get any nasty surprises. If you HAVE to use data while you are gone, call your phone company to set up a plan before you leave.
If you can keep these in mind, it will help you chill out and ENJOY…or at least it helps me. What are your tips for a stress free and enjoyable trip?