You may have some holiday travel plans in the weeks ahead. It seems that although I travel often and have been to many places, I learn new lessons every time. You never know what kind of problems you’ll encounter during your trip (oh, and maybe a cancelled flight and having to stay overnight in a random city), so I put together a list of tips based on my personal experiences that will make your trip just a bit easier and more enjoyable.
1. Ask friends for recommendations. Many people browse online reviews and tips for places to stay, eat, and visit. That is a great last resort, but it’s always best to get advice from your friends (or friends of friends) who have either lived or been to the city you’re visiting and have similar taste as you. It’ll also help you find some of those more local spots that you won’t find on any tourist site.
2. Pick luggage you can actually carry and pack light. This is a mistake I’ve made far too many times. There is nothing more painful than dragging a huge piece of luggage around the airport or up the stairs of a hotel (which is common in foreign countries!) Pack only a few comfortable pairs of shoes, 1 or 2 warm jackets (depending on the weather), and clothes that you can layer.
3. Write a detailed packing list and individually check off items as you pack. This may seem like a tedious detail, but no matter how detail oriented you are, WRITE A LIST. Include everything from the type of chargers you need to toiletries to underwear. Oh, and your passport. Just this past week, I ended up in Aspen with my camera but no battery. That’s just one level more of detail I will need to include on my next packing list.
4. Always pack a swimsuit, regardless of weather. Many hotels have heated pools which can be nice in cold weather. Or you may want to get into the hot tub or hit the spa. A swimsuit takes up close to no room so just pack it in case anything comes up.
5. Pack an easy outfit change (including underwear) and basic toiletries in your carryon. Our flight and all the remaining flights from Denver to Aspen were cancelled and we were stuck in Denver overnight without our checked bags. A pair of clean underwear goes a long way in this type of situation… just saying.
6. A couple of days before the trip, call the hotel to confirm your reservation and arrival time. Merely taking a reservation doesn’t implying holding the reservation (a good lesson from Seinfeld). This is especially important when traveling abroad! Just this summer, I got to my hotel in Paris with my reservation printed just to find out that they “forgot” to allocate a room for me. I had a similar situation arriving late night to a W hotel in NYC a few years back. The rule is: always call to confirm reservations when traveling abroad or to boutique hotels in the US, AND always call to confirm when arriving at the hotel late night. It simply sucks to arrive at your hotel tired with nowhere to stay.
7. Take out cash. You just always want some cash on hand when traveling, regardless of location. Sometimes credit card companies (even when called ahead) decline transactions due to fraud protection, or you may end up somewhere that is cash only. It’s always best to be prepared.
8. When traveling internationally, don’t make assumptions and do the proper research when it comes to nearly everything. Sorry for the long list, but you’ll appreciate it later.
- Check if you need a VISA and double check that your passport is valid! (Seems obvious but you would be surprised)
- Print out all your reservations (hotel, transportation, etc). Many people do not speak English and it’s always best to have your information printed to hand someone if needed.
- Try to learn a few words in the local language (hello, goodbye, thank you). It’s polite.
- Make copies of all your documents (passport, credit cards) JUST IN CASE.
- Check the fees for credit cards and call them ahead of time to let them know you’re traveling abroad (otherwise you will be declined for fraud protection!)
- Check your international cell phone plan and turn off your data if you don’t buy one.
- Carry a small purse with a zipper and be cautious of theft.
- Get the proper adapters for your electronics. Leave the hot tools for your hair at home if you’re traveling to somewhere with different voltage. Trust me on this one.
- Familiarize yourself the local transportation system (and how you’ll be getting from the airport to the hotel). Be prepared to walk.
9. Have fun! Things come up when traveling. Even if things go wrong, try to not let it get to you and enjoy your trip!