[wp_ad_camp_1]Once you book your ticket or travel, you get to move on to the exciting phase of planning your trip! You'll want to familiarize yourself with your destination so you can move and change directions quickly as you go. So whether you're planning a road trip across the states or an international adventure, the best thing you can do to utilize your time and plan the best itinerary, is do your research and spend a good amount of time in preparation.
Get familiar with your travel guide
This is the first, most important part of your trip preparation. Grab a highlighter and scan for, not just the areas you plan to go, but places of interest within the broader scope of your destination. If you arrive to unfavorable circumstances and need to change gears or if you have an unexpected window for a day-trip, you’ll already be familiar with what’s around and save valuable time not having to start your research from scratch. Also get familiar with the maps laid out in the guide. Having a general idea of the surrounding cities and districts will save you time reading maps on the spot or explaining where you want to go to the cab driver. Earmark pages in your guide that you’ll want to reference frequently like transportation options and hostels or hotels (I recommend highlighting the ones in your price range in advance to save time reading the descriptions and deciding on the spot).
Know Your History
You will get far more out of the sites you visit if you know their history. Beautiful buildings and paintings are worthy of appreciation for their mere aesthetic value of course, but you’ll have a better understanding of the architecture and art if you know the historical significance of it. Often, travel guides will have tidbits of history for famous sites and cities; another reason to get out your highlighter and read yours thoroughly.
Outline Must See Spots
Create a list of the places and sites you would like to see in order of priority. Read traveler reviews so you know if something you plan to see is overrated or actually worth seeing. Likely, you won’t be able to see everything on your list, but with it handy, at least the ones you really don’t want to miss will be up front in your mind. Don’t be afraid to break away from your travel partner if certain items on your list don’t appeal to both of you. This will ensure you both get the most out of your experience.
Know Before You Go
Familiarize yourself with hotel, sightseeing and transportation options before you travel. WiFi can be unpredictable and can hold you up significantly if you try to do this research on the ground.
Prepare Your Travel Journal
Your journal has the potential to be a very valuable tool if you prepare it properly. Pick a journal that is small with a hard cover that you can fit in your purse or camera case. Lay out the first several pages like this:
- Draw out a trip calendar with dates of travel, including days of the week, with loose destination itineraries marked in pencil so they can be changed or moved.
- Make a list of people you want to buy gifts for and the kinds of souvenirs you want for yourself so you don't over-shop. Check them off as you go and make a list of what item you buy for each person so you remember who gets what when you return home.
- Lay out your trip budget and daily allowance amount in USD as well as local currency based on your initial exchange rate in country.
- Create a list of exchange amounts starting with $1.00 all the way up in increments of $5 to $500. This will come in handy when booking hotel rooms, transportation or when negotiating in local markets.
- Keep a page dedicated to notes about sightseeing opportunities mentioned by other travelers. Get specifics from them and write them in your journal.
- Keep a list of emergency contacts including the US embassy in the country you’re visiting, the passport agency at home and friends or connections in your destination city or country.
- Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses for family and friends for emergencies or for sending postcards.
- List your hotel information, including the address and phone number of each place you intend to stay and each place you actually stay on what nights.
- Check in daily with your progress and budget. Each night, make an itinerary for the next day with a spending allowance.
- Use your journal to collect contact information from people you meet along the way.
- Set some meaningful intentions for your trip.
Sort Your Spending
Creating the budget for your trip is just the beginning. You’ll want to have a certain amount of cash or credit card allowance for the entire trip, then divide it among the number of days you’re traveling for a daily allowance amount. It’s not as important to stick to that daily amount as it is to regularly keep track of where you stand. You will likely spend more at the beginning of your trip as you find your rhythm and your spending will even out and as time goes on. Here are some other tips for managing your money to save time and frustration on the road:
- Do your currency exchanges in large sums. Seeking out trustworthy exchange kiosks can take up a lot of time and they never seem to be close by when you run out of cash. There are also fee discounts for exchanging larger bills and denominations.
- Don’t rely on international ATMs. Always be prepared with plenty of cash in case you run into a problem. I’ve seen this happen over and over again and it’s one of the most frustrating and time consuming problems you can have.
- Use Travelers checks only as back up or emergency funds. Depending on your destination, they are not always practical or accepted. You should plan to travel home with your travelers checks, using them only them if you go over budget or have an emergency situation. Also, keep them in a separate place from your other money with a copy of your passport. This is what you’ll use if you “get separated” from your purse or wallet.
- Travel light. Lots of bags and heavy luggage will cost you time and energy.
- Pack for your itinerary and destination.
- Bask in your adventure by staying off social media. This departure from your electronic devices can be a welcome reprieve. You can upload enjoy your photos while you’re killing time at the airport before your return flight.
- Get as much work done as possible before you travel so you're not spending vacation time on it.
- Fortify your health before you travel by boosting your immune system and eating a healthy diet before your trip. Avoiding excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol while traveling to your destination as they disrupt your natural sleep patterns. There is nothing worse than being sick or exhausted on vacation and you’ll save a lot of time on the road if you can combat the jetlag this way.
- Place priority on sleep during your trip so you have energy to see all the sights.
- Utilize your hotel’s concierge service for recommendations on markets, restaurants and transportation.
- Keep an eye out for posters, fliers and local newspapers for events that are popular with the locals.
- Before you leave, find out if you have any friends or connections that can show you around.
- Take your yoga mat with you and practice on the road to create space, maintain focus and stay relaxed while you travel.
Kristin Daemon is a yoga teacher, freelance writer and owner of Seaside Yoga, the first yoga studio in the small town of Seaside, Oregon on the rugged, Pacific Northwest coast. You can find and friend her on Facebook or check out and follow her blog, kristindaemon.com.