Travel is a tremendous privilege, eye-opener, and expander of personal worlds. Those who are able to do it also know that sometimes it doesn’t always go smoothly. You can miss a connecting flight, luggage can be lost, you could get food poisoning — any number of things can go mildly or teeth-grindingly awry. As with many situations, there are still things that you can control. Here are a few reminders and travel tips to put into practice whenever you’re taking on another city.
Plan out your day.
If the coordinating open/closing and applicable transportation schedules allow, do your best to schedule sites and activities by region. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes your traveling eyes get too big for your schedule’s stomach. Next thing you know, you’re lugging an over-packed day bag from one side of the city to an outlying area on the other side, trying to make a 4pm last-entry time. If you can avoid überplanning at all, that’s even less daily stress you’re putting on yourself and any travel companions you may have with you.
Leave some open time.
Plan a part of a day or a whole day where you don’t have anything micro-managed to the last minute. Some amazing discoveries are made just by meandering around. It also helps you learn your surroundings more intimately and tune up your sense of direction via landmarks. Be sure that it’s an area where you feel safe and that you let someone know where you’re going.
Pack some snacks.
Being stranded between meals or being stricken with hunger or low blood sugar can cause your sense of wonder to tank with neck-wrenching speed and make a day less than fun. Sandwiches, fruit, veggies, jerky, trail mix — anything that will travel relatively compact and can keep your body from digesting itself as you traipse around parts unknown. Non perishables and dry foods tend to work best and don’t forget the water.
Pack a travel book and a map or two.
You may not have a cell phone or the area you’re going may not have adequate service if you do. Having a secondary or even tertiary map provides the ability to cross-reference in case you’re having difficulty with scale or in case the legend is unclear or a location isn’t included on the map. This especially helps if you’re wanting to reduce the amount of time you’re plugged in.
Remember why you’re there.
It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to see everything because you don’t know if or when you’ll get another chance to come back and you don’t want to miss or forget anything and you only have a few days and AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! Breathe. Take it in. Take your eye away from the camera viewfinder from time to time. Sit at a table and just look, smell, and listen. Give yourself the chances to experience the similarities and differences between this place and your regular surroundings. You travel to experience something new, so be mindful to remain open to it.
Like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.” Be careful not to focus so much on getting the experience that you miss the experience.