“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
I thought I was quite a good traveller; prepared, organised, packed light and knew not to carry oversized hand cream, but when I flew overseas last year on a passport that was short 5 days of its 6-month validity, well, it was time to rethink. It’s very easy to overlook the little things in the anticipation of travelling, so we’ve put together our top tips for making the most of your well deserved holiday.
1. Pack your patience
It all started when I arrived for a 2.30am flight out of Delhi that was overbooked; I sat on the cold dusty floor for hours, with no rupees to save me and not even a local sim to call anyone. That was some years ago and the world of international travel has come a long way, but it taught me something; whether you’re caught in transit for hours on end, struggling to be understood or make sense of where you are, the weird and wonderful can happen anytime when you travel. Having some entertainment on hand like books, iPad or movies on your laptop are a great time filler too when patience is running a little low.
2. Make a list
Even experienced travellers can overlook packing all the essentials. No matter how often you get away, making a list of what to pack a couple of weeks before you leave might save you. Our list of travel essentials includes packing any medicines you might need (including something for tummy upsets) plus sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, slippers, comfy walking shoes, swimwear (even in a cooler climate), eye mask, ear plugs + all your tech gadgets, chargers and local power adaptors.
3. Fly smart
Checking in online within 24 hours of your scheduled flight makes your time at the airport a lot smoother. You can simply drop off your luggage as you’ll already have your boarding pass. For a very small fee, many airlines will allow you to prioritise your luggage so it comes out first making your post-flight smoother too. It’s also a good idea to ask your travel agent or the airline to book your preferred seats well in advance. No one needs to wait until the last minute to see where they’re sitting, you can decide that by looking at a seating chart online and choosing the seats that work best for you. Booking your tickets through a travel agency will give you an option to hold your booking in advance and you can then pay once the ticket is issued. And if you’re ok with early morning flights you’ll often find they’re cheaper too.
4. Travel on a valid passport
We have some experience with this one and funnily enough, I’ve since learnt that this is a common mistake many people make; so, ensure your passport has the minimum 6-month validity on it required to get a visa to your travel destination. Even if you’re a day or two short, some airlines won’t permit you to fly though you’ll have your ticket ready to go.
5. Book ahead
Sometimes we think that we don’t know what will be happening in 6 months so we hesitate to confirm travel plans. In reality, booking in advance will get you a better deal and most hotels, as well as airlines, allow flexibility if it’s required. Again for a small fee, most airlines will change your ticket no matter the type of ticket you’ve purchased. When you book your hotel online through accommodation metadata websites, you’ll get some of the best deals. In some cases, the difference between booking your hotel online vs directly can save you a significant amount. Also, check that your hotel offers you the ability to change and cancel your booking if need be, many are surprisingly flexible about their cancellation policy.
6. Get with the program
It’s definitely worth joining a loyalty program with your preferred airline and don’t forget to consider accommodation options that give you points toward the program. Sometimes it can also be cheaper to buy more points to subsidise your airfare rather than paying full price. Plus there are plenty of other benefits like flight upgrades or redeeming points for shopping, dining and accommodation.
7. Keep an open mind
Some say that people who travel frequently are open-minded, creative and worldly. I think you get that way when you travel. There are new cultures, customs and experiences to absorb and gradually they shape your thinking. Being exposed to new perspectives, ideologies and different ways of life help us to understand and respect our differences, at the very least. But none of this “travel alchemy” as I call it will happen unless you embark on the journey with an open mind willing to explore and discover your destination in a spontaneous and sometimes unpredictable way. We love the saying that “if you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
8. Go local
Even if your getaway is short, make the most of your time by researching ahead the local sightseeing and tourist spots. If you’re travelling overseas to a non-English speaking country, getting a local guide with transport will be worth their weight in gold. We’ve done it many times and seen plenty of hidden gems and off the beaten track places that we didn’t expect to see. You’ll learn so much more about local customs and see a great deal more than the guidebooks outline.
9. Stay online
Being online while you travel gives you huge access to an otherwise unknown world. We’ve been in the back of rickshaws googling local restaurants and found some fabulous little out of the way cafes. And don’t forget to download important apps like Uber, maps, zomato, yelp, XE Currency, accuweather and itranslate to help you stay connected and informed.
10. Back it all up
These days everything is online somewhere; tickets, itineraries, contact details and even the hundreds of once in a lifetime pictures we click. Make sure all this is regularly backed up and in some cases back it up with physical as well as digital copies too. Copies of your passport, drivers license, emergency and insurance contacts can also be given to your family for extra security.