My first solo trip overseas was to India. On reflection, I couldn’t have picked anywhere more exotic and yet more troublesome for a westerner. Having landed in the parallel universe that was Delhi and after grappling with the chaos for a month, my departure too was anything but ordinary. With my seat not confirmed, I spent the early hours of a cold January morning with scarcely a rupee to my name, waiting to see if the airline would give this weary hippy chic a ride home. Over the years, with all our miles of travelling, we’ve collected some valuable tips that help make travel as peachy as it is meant to be.

Prep your passport make sure your passport has the minimum 6-month validity on it required to get a visa at 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.

Best seat in the house getting a great spot on your fight is not a lottery, you can decide by looking at a seating chart online and choosing the seats that work best for you. Opt for the seats with greater legroom near the emergency exit if you can. On short haul flights, aisle seats are best but for long haul, select the window where available.

Early bird booking in advance will get a better deal and most hotels as well as airlines, allow you to be flexible. For a small fee, most airlines will change your ticket no matter the type you’ve purchased. The same goes for hotels.

Your best accessory will always be a smile. When you can’t speak like the locals, a smile speaks volumes. Carry it along with an open mind and a willingness to go out of your comfort zone. 

Nom nom! Ever wondered why some meals on a flight seem to arrive ahead of everyone else and look just that little bit better? Pre-selecting a “special” meal widens your menu enormously and gives you a delicious sample of the country you’re heading to.

Checked! Check in online within 24 hours of your scheduled flight and your time at the airport will be better spent than waiting in a queue. You can simply drop off your luggage as you’ll already have your boarding pass. Most airlines will allow you to prioritise your luggage for a nominal charge, so it comes out first making your post-flight smoother too.

Loyalty pays It’s worth having a loyalty card with your preferred airline and don’t forget to consider accommodation that gives you points toward that card. Sometimes it can also be cheaper to buy more points to subsidise your airfare rather than paying full price.

There’s an app for that don’t forget to download important apps like Uber, maps, zomato, yelp, XE Currency, accuweather and itranslate to help you stay informed and give you access to the relevant information at the tap of a finger.

Make small talk ask locals as well as hotel staff where they like to hang out, how to find the best coffee spot and where to get the best local food. 

Stay connected being online while you travel gives you huge access to an otherwise unknown world. Sites like tripadvisor and expedia will give you access to favourite local tourist attractions and the reviews can be really helpful.

Walk the talk joining a 3 or 4-hour walking tour is an interesting way to feed your curiosity. You’ll get a view of the city’s past, present and future, hear some great stories and find out some of the best hideaways. 

The way to everyone’s heart when you sample local flavours and eat the produce of the area, you have to be a little adventurous to enjoy the authentic experience of where you are in the world. Watching how the local favourites are cooked up and learning the region’s spices, gives you some take-home treats too.

Pack smart sunscreen, a notepad and pen, a torch, extra socks, a spare lock, some clear plastic bags, portable phone charger, medicines, extra credit card, a hat and a list of all your emergency numbers might seem like a random assemblage, but they all have a good use.

Grab a guidebook even on a short getaway make the most of your time by researching ahead some of the local sightseeing and tourist spots. Carry a guidebook for the times that 4G doesn’t work. If you’re travelling to a non-English speaking country, hiring a local guide can be a great go-to point and you often get to see so even more than the guidebooks show you.

Grab a history book it helps to know a little more about the place you’re visiting if you know about its past too. Especially when you’re visiting temples and palaces, a little bit of familiarity can go a long way.

Get familiar as one of the first stops, visit the local Tourism / Info centre. Not only will you gather some of the best seasonal tourist attraction ideas but you’ll get to know the character of the city and what to watch out for.

Back it up take copies of all of your important travel documents, tickets and ID. Give a copy to someone back home also.