Congratulations–the hard work is over and your long-awaited journey has begun! Now all that you need to focus on is enjoying your trip and staying safe.
Step Seven–The Trip
These are just a smattering of personal observations and suggestions to help make your trip go as smoothly as possible. It’s never going to be perfect 100% of the time, but there’s plenty you can do to get close.
- Leave your itinerary with loved ones back home: Someone should always know where you’re supposed to be and when so the alarm can be sounded as soon as possible in case something does go wrong.
- Register for STEP: If you’re an American citizen travelling abroad, I highly encourage you to register your itinerary with STEP, the Department of State’s program for helping US citizens overseas in case of emergencies. If you aren’t an American citizen, try and find out if your country’s government has a similar program.
- Research common scams and cons: Even if you’re going somewhere relatively safe, you should still inform yourself about the kind of scams that visitors can be targeted with. Taxi scams seem especially prevalent across the globe, so familiarize yourself with basic taxi rates and what legitimate taxi cabs look like before you arrive.
- Emergency protocol: No matter if you’re at home or traveling, you should ALWAYS know what to do in case of emergency. Where do you meet if you get separated from your group? Where is the nearest evacuation zone from where you’re staying? What kinds of natural disasters are common in the area you’re visiting, and what steps do you need to take to keep yourself safe if disaster strikes? Find out the answers to these and other questions as soon as you can, preferably before arriving.
- Get vaccinated: Nothing is worse than going to the destination of your dream only to be struck down by a horrible case of dengue fever for the whole trip. Chances are, if you aren’t going to the deepest of jungles or underdeveloped, remote areas, you won’t need to worry about inoculations as long as you’re up to date with your boosters. Some countries do require proof of certain shots before they allow you entry, though, so make sure you get those!
- Safe zones: Know where it is and isn’t safe for visitors to go, especially after dark, and exercise caution in those areas. If you aren’t sure, ask your host when you arrive and get settled in.
- Common sense: Chances are the same precautions you use at home to keep yourself safe are what you will need to keep yourself safe on the road. Don’t suddenly stop locking your doors, checking your change, or drinking responsibly because you’re on a trip. And remember to listen to your gut–if something feels off, it probably is.
Party Like a Rockstar….or Don’t!
- Remember your reasons: Sometimes arriving can be a little underwhelming, disappointing, and even anti-climactic. Hold on to your original motivations and do your best to engage in activities, eat foods, and see the sights that are in line with your big “why.”
- Be spontaneous: You remember that itinerary you worked so hard to come up with earlier? Well, you’re going to need to be okay with it if things change–and things will definitely change. Unexpected plans can often leave you with unforgettable memories and add extra joy to a trip, so remember to leave yourself open to opportunities as they present themselves.
- Take a break: Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to be constantly going from seven in the morning till midnight, and if you are, more power to you. If you’re like me, though, and need a nap in the afternoon or some quiet time with a book or a cup of tea or something to recharge, be sure you get that. This means you have to be okay not seeing it all, doing it all, or eating it all. It’s unfortunate and unfair, but it’s better to have one great experience in a day that you’ll remember for the rest of your life rather than to cram in ten to-do items checked off in such a blur that you won’t remember them even when you look at the pictures.
- Splurge: This is especially invaluable if you’re on an extended trip. Travel can start to grind on you like anything else. If you start to feel like you’re breaking down, it’s probably time to splurge. Splurges can be anything from a lazy day in to a super nice dinner to staying a night in a fancy hotel–anything to pamper yourself a bit so you can feel rested and refreshed and ready to take on the road again.
- Listen to yourself: This might seem like a no-brainer, but ultimately this is your trip, and you get to decide how to shape it. If you’re traveling with a partner or even a small group, it can be hard since the need for compromise is so high–but it’s okay to split off on your own for a while if you find you need to. Just be sure you have a meeting time and place arranged beforehand so you can regroup easily later on.
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