Whether you are traveling for a weekend or a few months always keep in mind some basic rules that will make your life easier and safer.
General Guidelines for travel:
First and most important rule, DONT HESITATE AND DO IT! GO TRAVEL!!!!! – Don’t be afraid, you will be surprised on how many people are doing the exact same thing you are doing. I was impressed with the amount of people I met that where also traveling solo, looking for ideas to continue traveling and having vacations all the time.
Find friends or groups, if you dont want to travel solo – if you are afraid of traveling solo or just rather go with other folks, there are tons of websites dedicated to offer group or guided travel. This is a great way to travel since most of the time is already pre-planned and will hit the highlights without wasting your time.
Pick a place and time – Be realistic, choose dates and places that are convenient for you,within budget and time-frame, and also that are accessible at that particular time of the year. I’ve had to cancel a few trips because the attractions or places I wanted to visit were close due to weather, blackouts, maintenance, or politics. If you are too aggressive, you could create a domino effect if something goes wrong (ex: a flight gets canceled, especially at the beginning of the trip).
Ask friends, do your research – but make sure they like the same things as you. I’ve been misled because the person I asked liked different things. If you are a day time person who likes museums and city attractions, don’t ask someone who likes outdoors and party all night. Also, there are tons of guides, websites, last minute deals and books out there that gives you ideas on travel. USE THEM!
Make a list of possible places you have been dying to go, and start comparing hotel, train, flight prices and make sure its a good time to go. If its too cold or too hot some attractions or venues are closed.
Get your pack ready – based on number of days and location. Understand that going to the beach will require less clothing than going to somewhere extremely cold (coats, boots, warmers, etc takes a lot of space!). Determine if a backpack, carry-on or roller-board works, or a combination works best. Remember the less things you carry, the easier it gets.
Money – Nowadays most places accept credit cards, so you don’t need to carry too much cash since it can be dangerous. Also, more credit cards are adopting a “NO international fees” policy, so its better than ever to travel with your credit cards. Also, check each country for Certified Exchange Moneyhouses to avoid scams.
Size does matter! – I am 6’4″ (1.93m) which means my clothes are bigger, especially shoes. Be realistic about what you can and can’t pack. Which starts with a backpack that can fit what you need. If you are petite, get a small pack, otherwise you will try to stuff as many things as you can in a big bag that you don’t need. Only get what’s necessary. I’ve seen people bragging about packing 100 items in their pack but they are 5’5″ (1.65m) and size 8 shoes, so of course they can fit more stuff. Remember the more stuff you pack, the more you have to carry.
Pack light – you don’t need 5 pairs of shoes. Pack one or two that are multi-purpose One you can wear with jeans, shorts and even khakis, if necessary. Other more sporty, for the gym, beach and comfortable. Pack pants that can be worn with multiple sets (one pair on jeans fits anything, no one will notice and no need to wash everyday), and/or pants that can be converted from short to long. Always have different layers of shirts depending on the weather and at least a nicer one.
Always Carry-on – when possible, always keep your belongings with you in case there are delays at the airport or station, or you need to take a earlier or later flight, avoid loosing it on a connection flight or just because you need it. This will save you lots of trouble. But back to #6, please make sure you are traveling light, otherwise is a nightmare to carry all your stuff.
Toiletries – most hotels, motels, hostels, B&Bs, etc. provide those items, so no need to overload your pack or spend money at the closest convenience store. (If you are backpacking, you might want to save a small soap and toothpaste bottle in case you are not so lucky on your next stop).
Wash clothes! – for a 14 day trip, there is no need for 14 pair or undies and socks; when you shower, take everything with you, some soap and it will be dry by the next day. Depending on your type of trip 3 -5 will be sufficient. After you are done washing, grab a towel, lay it on the floor, place the wet clothes in the middle, wrap around the towel and twist it. This will help dry out your clothes faster. Also, it helps if you pack clothes that are “quick dry” or similar; this helps because those type of clothes are usually less bulky, and obviously dry quicker after wash.
Be Smart – think ahead the trip schedule and activities, and pack items accordingly to the plan (remember those 15 times when you thought you needed “that shirt”, “or shoes” or “makeup” or “accessories” and never wore it?). Remember most of the time you will be at a city or town where they will have what you need.
Don’t rely on technology – always keep a printed copy of your documents (hotel, bus, tour confirmations, flight ticket, train voucher, etc). Not all the time you will be able to find reliable signal or WiFi, or what if you break or lose your phone? Also, when traveling a country where you don’t speak the language, take index cards with important info such as common phrases, addresses, and places of interest; that way you can ask a cab, police or local for help.
Electronics – bring with you the electronic item you will need the most. No need to carry your tablet, computer, 3 cellphones, mp3 player, 4 chargers, etc. This only adds weight to your luggage. If one of the items can do all the functions, then only bring that item. Don’t forget headphones and music, they are really important when flying, waiting at the airport or station, when driving long distances, etc. Try to plug your phone somehow to you car when driving, since you can catch up with a lot of people while driving; or just listen to your whole playlist.
Tell someone where you are going – Even when traveling solo, tell at least one person of your location or pin yourself in social media or any other fitness app. That way if its has been couple of hours or days with no response, at least there is a general area for where to start looking.
Security – go to a government website to check for any security threats in the country you are visiting.
Illnesses/Diseases – orient yourself with any possible health issues prior to making plans.
Check Documentation – make sure you have ALL the required documents from Visas, passports, bookings, reservations, medical and personal among others. Make it electronic if possible in case of any emergency.
Laws and regulations – understand the laws of your destination. This is important because whats “OK” in your country, might not be at the country you are visiting.
Culture – respect the locals and their culture. Remember you are visiting their country, so behave they way you would like visitors to behave at your country. Remember the say “in Rome do as Romans do”.
Don’t be afraid to ask – ask locals for hidden spots to visit, ask hotels for upgrades, ask airlines for better seats, ask tour guides for more and secret places, ask restaurants for the best food, ask the bartender for the premium drinks. You will be surprised on how much you are missing out if you don’t ask.
Find time for you – get a nice hotel, or a massage or anything to help you recover, relax or unwind after many strenous days on the road
Work-out – find a gym, yoga or ways to sweat and keep your body fit.