My Top 25 Travel Tips: Packing, Planning and Enhancing Your Experience

“Explore the world with an open mind, a sturdy carry on, and clothes that don’t wrinkle.”

-Madeleine Albright-

TIPS FOR PLANNING:

 

1.  Don’t Overplan:  When planning exploration of an exiting new destination, it is a knee-jerk reaction to jam in as may cities, attractions and excursions as humanly possible, but this type of travel will leave you feeling rushed, exhausted and under appreciating the actual worth of the sights before you.  Narrow down the list to the areas or highlights that are most important to you and focus on spending quality time in each.

2.  DO Plan for Downtime. With rich culture and history, stunning architecture or world famous art, some destinations make it impossible to envision wasting even a single moment on such a mundane task as sleep.  If you are traveling as a couple, and especially as a family with children, it is vital to yourself and your little people that you leave plenty of time to breathe, relax and recoup. Downtime allows room for an adjustment or addition to plans, and you will find you actually bond best in those quieter moments as you take time to breathe, listen, smile and soak it all in.

3.  Set a Realistic Budget:  Travel costs can quickly add up, so to avoid blowing the budget, factor in costs that will be above and beyond airfare and accommodations.  Items including food, alcohol, tipping, airport transfers and rental cars, excursions and entry fees, cleaning, parking, resort/hotel fees and taxes are common additions.  This is a reason all-inclusive resorts are a great budget option to consider.

4.  Keep a Running List:  Packing and To-Do lists are an excellent way to ensure piece of mind.  By keeping a running list, you can add or delete items as the date draws near.  Saving the lists to a spreadshseet for future use is a great way to remove those excess items that come with the experience of travel.

5.  Check Your Passport:  I cannot state this strongly enough!  Know the expiration date, be aware of the amount of time it must be valid for during travel, and renew well in advance.  Take a photocopy (and even additional passport photos) with you, and leave another copy at home or work with your emergency contact.  You can also take a photo to place in virtual storage.

6.  Create a Virtual Storage Box:  Virtual storage clouds are a perfect backup for the safety of items such as mobile photos, photos of passports and even all of your email or social media login access information.  Should your mobile phone be lost or stolen, those irreplaceable images and necessary information can still be recovered.

7:  Alert The Bank/Credit Card Company of Travel:  To avoid having your travel spending appear as suspicious activity and your account thus frozen, alert your card holder that you will be traveling.

8:  Secure That Which You Leave Behind:  As difficult as it is, social media is not the place to advertise that you will be away and your home is empty.  Have someone check on your home (this is often required for insurance purposes).  Have someone clear snow or cut the lawn, and bring in the paper.  Do not leave valuables visible in the windows.  Removing the telltale signs that the home is empty is a simple way to improve safety.

9.  Line Up Pet Care Well in Advance:  If you require a pet sitter or kennel care for your furry family members, ensure this is booked well in advance (especially over peak holidays) to avoid disappointment and panic.

10. Renting a Car?:  In order to rent a car in a foreign country, you may require an international drivers permit.  If your are from Canada, you can find more information HERE.  ‘The IDP provides you with additional photo identification and includes a multilingual translation of your valid Canadian driver’s licence.’

11.  Beware of ‘Free Public Wifi’:  In order to avoid hefty roaming charges, it is convenient to plan hopping onto free public ‘hot-spots’, but you should always use with caution to avoid being hacked.  This includes internet cafes, airports and even hotels, where you should look for encrypted channels with the website prefix https.  You should not perform any personal banking, ensure you use long, strong passwords and switch off your wireless connection when not in use.  Consider purchasing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) contract prior to departing.

TIPS FOR PACKING:

12.  Don’t Put All Your ‘Eggs’ in One Suitcase:  In order to avoid panic should a piece of luggage fail to appear at the arrival carousel, ensure you divide clothing up between suitcases.

13.  Carry a Set of Essentials in the Carry-On:  Lost luggage happens.  Spills happen.  Kids happen.  Keeping items such as a swimsuit, toothbrush, deodorant, underwear and change of clothes in your carry-on assures you can handle an unexpected event such as a flight delay or bag that is MIA.

14.  Carry a Pen:  If you are taking an international flight, you will often have paperwork such as customs forms to fill out enroute.  By carrying a pen, you can ensure this is done in a timely manner.

15.  Headphones:  Passenger do not wish to be pelted with sounds coming from a mobile device or laptop.  Airline headphones can be ill fitting or non existent, so in order to fully enjoy movies, games or music without disturbing those around you, bring them….borrow them…beg for them…just use them.

16.  A Re-Usable Travel Mug/Bottle:  A re-usable mug comes in handy for an early morning coffee on the beach or to tote water along for the day.  Many destinations have drinking fountains to refill your bottle, and you will avoid paying the exorbitant prices for disposable along the way.

17.  A Light Scarf:  Scarves offer genius, versatile travel solutions.  Whether it is to keep out the chill of the evening, or to cover bare shoulders upon entering a religious house of worship (many require it), scarves are an easy, light weight option.

18.  Humidity Weighs on You:  When packing, ensure you know your luggage weight allowance as airlines charge hefty fees for exceeding these limits.  If you are traveling to an area that is higher in humidity, the moisture in your clothing can actually cause your bags to weigh heavier.  It is always piece of mind to travel with a portable luggage scale.

TIPS TO ENHANCE YOUR EXPERIENCE:

19. YOU do YOU:  It is a hot debate: Traveler vs. Tourist.  My opinion?  Be both.  Embrace both. Travel how YOU want to travel, it’s your journey.  Never miss out on a touristic epicenter based on someone else’s opinion.  Every diverse corner of the earth is deserving and worthy of you forming your own opinion from experience.  You won’t love everything (and that’s okay!) but you came to your own conclusion.  So take that cheesy photo and splurge on the overpriced cheesecake…heck, eat it for dinner. You do you.

20.   Listen to the Locals:  You will not receive better advice on your destination than from someone who proudly calls it ‘home’.  Locals are a gateway to the unheard of, the incredible ‘hidden gems’.  From quiet beaches to hole-in-the-wall eateries, locals love to share their favorite spots, many of them offering a more authentic experience that is less expensive and nearly tourist free.  Take the time to listen to their stories, to show respect and interest, for in return they will share an opportunity for genuine connection that you cannot duplicate.

21.  Embrace the Unexpected:  No matter how much time and effort you put into planning your travel, there are going to be moments that are out of your control.  From a lengthy flight delay or extreme weather to accommodation conundrums, staying positive is key.  Oftentimes it is those unplanned moments or events that lead into the most memorable stories and experiences.

22.  Show Love for the Language:  Learning a few key phrases such as “please”, “thank you” or “good morning” will go a long way.  It is about making an effort, and locals are always appreciative.

23.  Consider Hiring a Photographer:  One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is a portrait session.  Having a professional capture your entire family in a beautiful, foreign setting is unique and well worth it.

24.  Take Notes:  In between those moments of getting lost and embracing experience, take notes.  Keep a journal to reflect on, and to recall the name of that hike with the incredible view, that restaurant with the amazing tortellini, that secluded beach or the name of the local who shared his table and his wine.  There are great apps so you can do this directly on your mobile while traveling, a popular option is Evernote.

25. You are on an Adventure, so be Adventurous!:  Some of the greatest adventures begin when you lose your map and your rigid-routine self.  Search out the narrow pathways that lead to smiling faces and hidden corners.  Try new foods, especially the ones that look strange but are loved by locals.  Try an activity that pushes your comfort zone such as diving, parasailing or swimming with sharks.  Open your soul to adventure!

Bonus Tip: 

The “Cup” Trick:  This is one of the greatest tips I personally have learned along the way.  Miss Teenage B suffers from severe ear pain upon the descent of an aircraft.  As a youngster, she would go clammy, cry in pain and ultimately be ill (how we also learned to carry a change of clothing in our carry on)  On a flight years ago, a brilliant and sympathetic attendant taught us this trick.  I have no idea how or why it works, but it has been our saving grace for many flights:

  • Prior to descent, take two disposable coffee cups and poke a hole in the bottom of each
  • Wet two pieces of paper towel with hot water (tea water), ensure they are not dripping to avoid scalding
  • Stuff the paper towels into the bottom of the cups
  • Hold cups over the ears
**This is not to be taken as medical advice and is based on positive personal experience.

These are some of my favorite travel tips, a list that grows and evolves, a mixture of experience and exposure.  Have a favorite tip?  Make sure to share it!

Happy Travels,

Amy

**This post has been written in partnership with Days Inn Canada as part of the “DI Travel Tips Contest”.  You can enjoy even more helpful tips from fellow travelers by following the contest hashtag #DITravelTips.

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45 thoughts on “My Top 25 Travel Tips: Packing, Planning and Enhancing Your Experience

    1. It wasn’t until we began traveling to Europe and visiting those stunning basilicas that I completely appreciated their usefulness! When it is blazing hot outdoors, a light scarf is easy to throw over your shoulders so you can be a respectful traveler (who can get inside!)

  1. Planning for downtime is so key especially if you are working whilst out there as a blogger for an article or video content. Awesome article

  2. Really awesome travel tips. We travel often so this is handy to hear. I will have to try that cup trick with my son, he is so young he cannot explain to us if it happens so it is nice to have something we can try

  3. Great tips! Every traveller should apply those when planning his next adventure:) Thanks for sharing !

  4. Wow, what a great list of travel tips. It is really a big help for all the travelers around the World. Among the useful tips you’ve shared with us, I like this one “Don’t Put All Your ‘Eggs’ in One Suitcase”. It is really something everyone should practice. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  5. These are some really good tips! Pinned it for reference. I especially like #2. We always plan for downtime the last day before leaving back home. Helps us come back home rested!

  6. This is a great list of tips. I love ‘plan a realistic budget.’ I always try to scrimp when travelling and of course, end up spending more because things come up. You are on vacation after all! A treat once in a while is a good idea.

  7. I’m guilty of not planning for downtime in my past travels. I once went on a 14 hour overnight bus trip, arrived early morning and went straight for a sunrise shoot. I went out on a tour after eating breakfast and freshening up but I ended up having a headache the entire day. These are all useful tips you have here. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. wow you did amazing job here! I feel like I should print it, hang in my bedroom and read every time I travel 😀 There is always some things I forget like calling a bank or not packing enough to my hand luggage and you put everything together here! wonderful!

  9. So many interesting tips! I think that for me the passport check, the open WiFi networks and the carry-on necessities are the things that people should always keep in mind, be aware of and tend to forget!

  10. Love the bonus tip! I personally don’t have that problem, but I’ll definitely be able to share it to anyone I meet in the future! So glad you found something that works for your daughter.

  11. Great tips! All excellent advice to travellers. Check your passport – that’s a big one and I learn the hard way before a trip to New Caledonia when I was 18. Found out the night before my passport expected in 3 months and it needed to be valid for 6 months to go to NC. Cue internal screaming and secretly dying inside – fortunately I was able to get an emergency passport for around $500 that night and had to live for the next ten years with a passport photo where my eyes were so bloodshot I looked like a stoner. Lesson learnt.

  12. Amazing tips for a traveler, you must have learnt a lot while travelling. Also, if the noise of the airplane disturbs you, you could eat a chewing gum while the plane takes off or lands. The tip with having a careful weight on moisture places is a great one! thanks for sharing the tips 🙂

  13. Excellent tips! I am just looking into getting a VPN for when we travel next – never considered it before! Definitely need some down time when travelling – I try to ensure hotels have pools (we try to go budget) so we can chill after a morning exploring!

  14. Love the tip about not overplanning. Not only will it not leave you feeling rushed and exhausted, it doesn’t allow time to add unknown things to do that you find out about once you get there. Ties in well with listening to locals. They truly are the insiders and can give you ideas you may have never known about.

    1. Agreed….and thank you! It seems like common sense, but I’ve experienced it myself. The first time we went to Rome, we were literally running from one place to the next. The next time, we slowed down, spent quality time at fewer sites, and enjoyed ourselves so much more!

  15. I’m intrigued by the bonus “cup” trick… will have to try it the next time we travel. And also plan for some down time, I have a tendency to pack our schedules 🙂

  16. Great tips!! I used to overplan because I am afraid to miss out on destinations and activities. Now, I try to enjoy some downtown so that I don’t get overwhelmed and stressed!

  17. VPNs are incredibly useful when using public wifi. More than that, they absolutely essential if you’re traveling overseas. I used ExpressVPN during my stint in Shanghai and it was a lifesaver.

  18. These are perfect tips! Such simple things but somehow I always seem to forget so many of them. I love that you’ve included a scarf. There are many times I’ve worn a sleeveless shirt and then realized I can’t get into a temple–a scarf is the perfect remedy. I’m going to print off this list and keep it handy for my next vacation.

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