It’s officially holiday time! Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of the semester! The holidays are the perfect time to pack your bags and explore some of the amazing destinations the world has to offer – I’m heading off to Japan over New Years and I cannot wait! Travelling can be a little stressful at times and I’m sure we all have a horror story or two, but I think with a little bit of prior preparation and planning, a whole lot of hassle is definitely avoidable. So the aim of this post is to provide a few handy tips so that your amazing trip runs as smoothly as possible.
Tip 1: Make sure you’re covered
Booking your holiday is super exciting but it’s also important to think about the more serious side of travelling – check the visa requirements for the country you’ll be visiting and be sure to look into travel insurance to cover you in the event of any unexpected delays or injuries. If you’re an Australian citizen you can also register your trip with the Smartraveller website, that way the government can contact you or your family in the unlikely event of any emergencies. It’s also a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary, contact details and passport information with a family member or trusted friend to ensure you can be reached in the event of any unforeseen circumstances back home.
Tip 2: Check that list!
Before zipping up your suitcase make a list of all the essential items you’ll need and check them off to ensure they’re packed – because let’s face it, no one wants to arrive at their hotel after a long flight only to realise they’ve forgotten their snuggly pajamas. Seriously though, a checklist is a simple way to help you remember all the important items, like your passport, travel documents, any tour tickets and, of course, cash! Intrepid travel has an excellent and comprehensive list accessible here.
Tip 3: A little planning goes a long way
While a little bit of spontaneity and a sense of adventure are great qualities to take on a trip abroad, your holiday is sure to run a whole lot smoother if you take the time to think about the direction of your trip before you leave, even if you don’t plan every place you’ll visit. When I travel I generally cater for one to two essential activities per day – these are the events I really want to attend and the places that I can’t leave without visiting. Then, I have an additional list of activities that I’d like to fit in if I have the time. By planning my day around a couple of activities I try and make the most of each trip and soak up as much of a country as I can.
Tip 4: Minimise the language barrier
For me, one of the big thrills of travelling to another nation is the opportunity to learn about that country’s culture and language, which are often quite different to my own. Of course these differences also have the potential to result in misunderstandings, which is why a little bit of research before departing never goes astray. It’s a great idea to learn a few key phrases in the language – the locals will appreciate the effort you make to converse with them and it will help you feel a little more comfortable in your new surroundings. I would suggest acquiring some basic greetings such as ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye,’ learning how to say ‘thank you,’ how to ask for basic directions and how to use basic numbers (very useful for prices). If you have any allergies or medical conditions, it’s also good to know how to communicate this in case of any medical issues (if you’re not confident in your verbal language skills carry a written copy with you). I would definitely recommend purchasing a pocket sized language phrasebook as an easy and relatively cheap way for you to look up any key words or phrases you may need on the go. Many countries also have cultural expectations and local laws that are worth knowing as well – for example, in Japan the legal age for alcohol consumption is 20, compared to 18 in Australia. Most guidebooks include a section about cultural etiquette and laws, and the Smartraveller website has excellent information and resources for a range of countries with specific advice for Australian travellers.
Tip 5: Know where you’re going
Before I leave on a big adventure I always print off directions and a map from the airport to my accommodation, because there is nothing worse than arriving in a foreign country with a serious case of jetlag and trying to figure out where to go. Google Maps is a lifesaver for this! Just type in the name of the airport you’ll be flying into, hit directions, enter the address of your accommodation, choose the mode of transport you’ll be using to get there and let Google do the rest – its as easy as that! If you’re moving between cities on your trip, you can also use Google Maps to plan your route and get a rough idea about transit times.
Tip 6: Keep a list of accommodation
If you’re anything like me and like to have all of your accommodation booked before you leave home, then it’s an excellent idea to keep a list of all the places you’ll be staying – I like to create a table with the name of the accommodation venue, the dates I’ll be there, the address and contact details. Not only does this allow me to easily check where I’m heading next, it’s great if I ever get lost – I can approach an information desk, tell the attendant where I’m staying and ask them to guide me back. A list is also super helpful if you encounter a language barrier when using public transport services such as taxis – even if you cannot verbally communicate, you’ll be able to point out the name of your accommodation from the list, and the driver can input the information straight into a GPS – crisis avoided!
Travelling really should be all about enjoying yourself and learning new things, so hopefully these tips will help minimise and prevent any stressful situations you run into. For more great ideas about packing your luggage head to Janine’s post, and take a look at Sapph’s post for some tips about combatting jet lag. Happy travels!