The trick to a successful journey is to make the rest of your experience as easy as possible. Control the controllables. These 6 tips will make life much easier.
1. Read the fine print
This particularly applies to anyone flying for the first time with a budget airline. What are their rules? Do you need to check in online? Do you have to print your own boarding pass? Do you need to be at the airport by a certain time? Are they strict with baggage rules? Know all of this and you’ve already gone a long way to making your journey easier – and cheaper.
2. Book airport transfers
You’re at your most vulnerable when you first arrive in a foreign country. You’re tired from a long flight, probably jet-lagged, you have no idea how taxis work in this country, where you’re supposed to catch them, how much they should cost or whether the drivers are likely to use a meter. People are hassling you. You haven’t got any local currency. The solution to all of this, although it might cost a little extra, is to have a transfer to your hotel or hostel pre-booked.
3. Pack light; use wheels
Ultimately, you won’t even have to check a bag – you’ll be able to travel light enough to only take carry-on, meaning you’ll never have to worry about lost luggage. On longer trips, however, you’ll probably need to carry more. Still, the fewer things you take, the fewer things you’ll have to worry about losing, and the fewer things you’ll have to cart up staircases and around train stations. A bag with wheels, of course, will also make life even easier.
4. Learn the language
Obviously you’re not going to become fluent in Thai before a long weekend in Phuket, but for longer-term travellers, or those going to places where English isn’t widely spoken, a basic knowledge of the local language will put you a huge step ahead. All of a sudden you can read menus, you can ask for directions, you can haggle over prices, you can order a drink. Language skills may not be strictly necessary, but they’re definitely useful.
5. Make your phone your friend
This doesn’t mean checking Facebook all day. It means buying a local SIM card and making use of Google Maps to find your way around. It means loading all of your guidebooks onto a gadget that fits in your pocket; it means having translator apps at your fingertips; it means access to a whole internet full of tips and reviews from fellow travellers.
6. Eat local
I’ve seen plenty of travellers who spend a crazy amount of time wandering around foreign cities looking for “safe” food – the stuff they deem up to the hygiene and cuisine standards of Australia. Don’t bother. All you need to do is find where the locals are eating – if the restaurant or street vendor seems popular, that’s probably for a reason.