It's officially summer, everyone! I have a best friend leaving to study abroad soon, and other friends gearing up for vacations. Since I just returned from a vacation, I thought I would share the tips I've gathered from my 20 years of traveling experience. I'm definitely not an expert, and I've had more than my fair share of travel failures, but these small tricks and ideas have definitely helped me the last few years so I want to share them with all of you. So, get that suitcase ready, and let's go!
1. Everyone says it, but you really should pack lightly to make room for even more stuff
I definitely used to overpack with the idea that I needed an outfit or makeup product for every possible situation. However, there's no better time to find new products or styles you like then when you're abroad, so make sure to leave some room for the cute purchases and souvenirs you'll inevitably buy.
2. Even if you're a seasoned traveler, motion sickness pills go a long way
Ten years into traveling at least a few times every couple of years, I started to get really bad motion sickness on planes, cars, and basically every mode of transportation you can think of. It mostly happens during long haul trips, but you can never be too safe and I definitely recommend asking someone to help you pick what pills will help the most on your kind of trip. Bonus: A lot of them help with sleeping or relaxing during your trip too!
3. Avid Spotify users, don't forget to download that music
Gone are the days of iTunes gift cards, and in their place is that amazing student discount at Spotify. I love Spotify for its limitless streaming options, but always remember to download your favorite music and podcasts before you disembark, especially internationally. Not only does music help for the plane ride there, but you'll really miss your favorite songs during long car or train rides or just getting ready for your day.
4. If you love to read, a long trip is the right time to try ebooks if you haven't
Sadly, a carry on full of books is far from practical. If you really want to read on the plane or during your trip, now is the time to get into ebooks! So many libraries now offer ebook borrowing options, so head over to your local one and see what program they have set up. Also, a good idea when using ebook apps is after downloading your books, putting your tablet or phone on airplane mode to see if they'll be set for the plane! Some apps might need to be restarted or the books saved a certain way, so keep this in mind before you head off.
5. Get up and walk around or stretch is my mom's constant advice, and it helps so much
Doesn't matter if it's a cross country road trip or an international flight, you need to stand up and stretch at least once. I used to be one of those people who would only stand up if I really had to, but after getting back pains after every trip, I learned a good stretch is much better than watching another movie on the plane.
6. Whether you're bringing food or trying what they have, make sure you eat
I used to hate airplane food growing up and I would pick the drive-thru over walking in during a road trip any day. But, when you have an insanely long flight and only so many options at the airport, you'll learn like me that airplane food isn't that bad! Not eating on a trip can only make any motion sickness or disembarking worse for you, and you'll definitely need your energy for customs, baggage claim, or whatever fun thing you have planned. So, at the very least, grab a snack of some kind and make sure to fuel your body, so you don't spend the first day of your trip ready to pass out.
7. Expand your horizons beyond the typical tourist attractions
As someone who grew up in a tourist hot spot, I really recommend people try to really experience the culture of where they are more than just the top five places on Google or their guidebooks. Especially during summer, these places can get crowded and you may waste a whole day on one attraction. So, try to expand your horizons and explore the area you're staying in, you might just find a hidden gem if you do.
8. At the same time, don't be afraid to do tourist-y stuff, it's usually really fun!
Without trying to contradict my previous point too much, tourist things are still definitely something you should try. I think a lot of people are embarrassed about coming off as too "touristy" but the thing is you are a tourist, so enjoy it! Guided tours, landmark visits, etc can all be way more informative and fun than just wandering around the whole time aimlessly. Definitely try to make at least a little time for some tourist activities, while trying to avoid those crazy dreaded lines.
9. Take all the pictures and videos you can, you'll regret it if you don't
On the topic of tourist-centric things, make sure to capture all the memories you can! Some of my favorite family photos to look back on are vacation ones, and we still take plenty of pictures to this day. While I don't think a full blown photoshoot everywhere you go is a great idea, I still think photos or videos mean a lot in remembering the memories you made.
10. Respect the culture and the people, even if you don't exactly understand them
Finally, the golden rule of traveling is to respect the culture you're visiting. This is more for international travel, but regardless, many places have different ways of running things or living, and while you may not understand them entirely, the least you can do is respect them. I've had one or two run-ins with disrespectful tourists while I've traveled and nothing gives you more second-hand embarrassment then people berating parts of culture they don't seem to fully understand. So be respectful and kind on your travels, you'll definitely have more fun and create much better memories if you do.
I feel lucky to have had so many opportunities to travel my entire life, and I definitely feel like I've gained a lot from these travels. Even stuff as small as state crossing road trips or visits to see family members in a different city have opened my eyes and taught me lessons on life and the differences we all have within our lives.
Traveling is not always lighthearted fun or something we might look forward to, but when it comes to trips like the ones I described, I think the best advice I can offer is to enjoy them. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or a group of current strangers, you'll make really great memories with them and come to understand them and yourself better if you just go in with an open mind and learn to enjoy yourself.