First of all, if you are traveling, you are probably on vacation, which is already something good. Taking a break from the chaotic world and all its responsibilities is something everyone should do.
There are all kind of travelers. There are people who like to plan every single thing ahead of time and there are others who like to go with the flow.
For starters, you should think about money. Let’s be honest, we all want to enjoy traveling, but not all of us have enough money not to worry about it.
So, even if you are someone who does not like planning too much, I would say: plan.
Danni Redding Lapuz, Dean of Social Science/Creative Arts, believes in planning too.
“When traveling domestically or abroad my advice is to plan well, be open and patient, and build room for flexibility in your schedule,” Redding Lapuz said through an interview via email.
First things first:
Choose a place.
You want to travel, leave all the craziness behind and enjoy yourself for a couple of days. Where do you want to do it? Do you want a warm place? Do you enjoy being in a cold weather? This is very important.
Choose a place and check the weather. Depending on when you are going and the season, it may be hot or cold. Once you have that settled, you can move forward.
If there is a language you are learning, you could get in touch with it by traveling. If there is a landmark you always wanted to see up close, traveling could make that happen.
Decide if you are going by yourself or not.
Sometimes it is hard to adjust you schedule to fit with your friends or family and there is no one to travel with you. That is okay. Traveling by yourself can be an amazing experience. You get to decide what you will do, when you will do it and you do not hear any complaints about it.
Of course traveling with someone may be cheaper if you are splitting a hostel, renting a car or using ride-booking apps, but you can also try to go to hostels with other people and end up making friends. You can try to use public transportation so it is not so expensive. You can make it work and you will figure it out.
Do some research about the place.
Even if you know a lot about the place, or if you are going because you want to see a specific landmark, by doing some research you can always find more things to see in the city you will stay in. You may be able to enjoy local food. By getting to know the place’s culture, you learn and get a deeper experience once you are there.
Monica Malamud, a Spanish professor at Cañada College, advised through an interview via email.
“Be open-minded. Expect the unexpected. Appreciate what’s new and different for you,” Malamud said sharing the thought she had while on a train from Barcelona to France. “Interact with local people and try to understand their context and points of view by putting yourself in their shoes.”
Franciele de Novais Gomes, who is 26 years old, recommended learning a few words and sentences in the native language if the language is not the one you speak. I could not agree more. Sometimes you will find people who speak your language, but the locals usually appreciate when you try to speak their language.
Decide how you are going to get there.
If you are traveling further away, you may want to go by plane. It is good to buy tickets ahead of time so they are not so expensive. Some people say the tickets get cheaper on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. If you have enough time, you can keep checking and comparing until you see a good deal. Sometimes there are buses or trains that can go to the same place and the tickets may be cheaper, you will just take longer to get there.
If you are going by car, it is good to see which route is the best. Maybe you can stop on the way and get to see more things than you expected.
Decide where you are staying and how you are going to get around.
The place where you will stay is an important decision, first of all, because of location. If you are in a city that has all the things you want to see downtown, you may want to try to get a hostel in downtown. You can always check how the public transportation works in that place. Sometimes when you are farther away from the city center, it might be harder to get around. Some cities have passes where you can ride the buses and trains for days in a row. You should consider all of that if you are on a budget.
You can stay in shared rooms, which are usually cheaper, and end up getting to know amazing people that may even go sightseeing with you, that may even become your friends for life. If you are with friends, you may choose to get a private room, since you will all share the cost.
Sometimes, if you are in a group and you get a hostel or hotel that is a little bit further away from the places you want to go, you could rent a car. If there are enough people, it may not get expensive. That way you can all be a little bit more comfortable.
If you drove to this place, then you just need to worry about where you are staying. And also about parking. It can be hard parking in so many places, so it is good to do some research on public parking places nearby where you are staying and also near the places you want to visit.
Download some apps.
You can check flight prices through apps like Kayak and Skyscanner. You can even use them to book your flights, but some people say it is cheaper if you book through the airlines website or apps. You can always keep track of prices through all the options and see what is better when you decide to actually buy the ticket.
For trains, you could use Amtrak. For buses, you could use Wanderu, that even shows options with trains too.
When looking for hostels, you can download Booking or Hostelworld.
Once you are there, wherever you are, you can always use Yelp to help you find places that are near you; you can even order a delivery from the app.
It is a good idea to check and download the app from the public transportation so that you can see at what time the buses are coming, for example.
It never hurts to have Google Maps. In fact, you can even get all the places you want to go and add on Google Maps, so it can show you the route; you can move the order around to be able to put the closest places near each other. You can also plan your trip on Roadtrippers, you can put up to 7 points with the free version. With Roadtrippers you can also check accommodations near the points you chose, among other really interesting and helpful things.
If you are driving, you could use Waze. This app is also a good idea to check the gas price, in case you are driving. It shows how far the gas station is and how much the gas costs.
You have different choices when you want to see what direction you are going, but the good thing is you can also search for the nearest public restroom.
Have a budget.
If you are traveling, you should consider how much you are going to spend. Think about it, do some research on the things you want to do, so you know if you need to pay for any of them. Check the prices for food in the city, decide if you want to cook something at your hostel or if you want to go out to eat something. Deciding if you are renting a car or using the public transportation also adds to the budget. It is good to have an idea so you do not spend all your money on the first two days. You can also bring some extra money for any emergency. Even though almost everyone uses their credit or debit cards, always bring cash. You never know if you are going to a place that is only accepting cash.
You are supposed to have a good time while traveling and that is why you do not want run out of money. Plan this ahead and just enjoy later.
You already decided where to go, how you are going, where you are staying and how you are going to get around the city. Now you just need to pack. If you are flying to your destination and you do not want to spend any money on checked bags, you can always try to fit everything in a carry-on and a personal item. You do not need to bring your entire wardrobe with you. Check the weather again and see what you will need and what you will actually wear. Save some time to pack so you do not get desperate on the day before you are going to leave because you have not packed yet.
Once you have everything done, you should not worry too much. You already booked everything, you have your bag packed, you just need to go. Even if you do not see all those places you researched about and even if you do not eat every local food, the most important thing is: relax and have some fun.
You may probably think that this is too much. Too much worrying in order to travel, but that is the thing: once you are traveling, you do not need to worry about anything, because you planned ahead. You can choose when you are at your destination if you want to do all those things, or if you just want lay in a park and read a book. It is totally up to you. But in case you decide to do everything, you already know the easiest way.
Anyhow, it is important to take some time for yourself. You should get to explore the city and also get some rest. Traveling is also about renewing your energy before returning to your routine.
“Do not let the fear of the unknown stop you from getting to know new, uncertain and passionate things,” said Stella Rodrigues da Paixao Almeida, who is 25 years old.
Do not forget to connect with people and enjoy the most once you are there!
“I have lived, studied, traveled, and worked abroad in over 45 countries and my most memorable experiences have been with people,” Redding Lapuz said.
She points out how the landmarks and the sightseeing is incredible, but how the most remarkable moments are the ones she got to experience with local people.
“Sharing a home-cooked meal with friends in Morocco, celebrating New Year’s with coworkers in a pub in London, or sitting with a group of mothers after the birth of a child in Bunaken – these are the memories that stay with you and change you,” she said. “I travel to learn and we can all learn by sharing our lives with others.”