As Mark Twain famously said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." So of course, we at the House Party Blog love to stretch our wings and experience all the world has to offer. And whether we've been to 1 destination or 100, we all have travel tips to share about heading out of town.
Favorite city ever traveled to: Sydney, Australia (specifically, Darling Harbour) Number of Countries visited: 13
- When I visited Europe, restaurant service was definitely slower than I'm used to in the states, especially the time is takes to get your check, so plan accordingly.
- Google maps is your friend. While you're connected to the internet (at your hotel hotspot, or pop into a coffee shop for some quick wi-fi), load Google maps and the general areas you plan to visit that day. Then, even when you're not connected, you'll be able to see the map as well as your location, making navigating the cities rather easy.
- I love bike tours. It's such a fun way to see a new city and all the tour guides I've had are knowledgeable, fun and helpful. Another option if you're not into biking is a hop on/hop off bus. They have these in all major cities and it's also a great way to travel around the city if nothing else.
- Bring your vitamins, especially b12. You don't want to be getting sick while you're on vacation, and if you're somewhere far away, chances are you're trying to cram a lot in to the day. Get your energy by keeping up with the same vitamin routine you do at home and add some extra b12 for energy - you're going to need it!
Favorite city ever traveled to: Vilafames, Spain Number of countries visited: 9
- I studied abroad in Northern Ireland during college and on Spring Break my friend and I backpacked through Europe for three weeks. If you're taking multiple flights, pack light and I'd recommend bringing only a carry-on backpack everywhere. This way, you don't have to worry about the airline losing your luggage and you won't have to wait outside the terminal for your suitcase! Usually I'm an over-packer so it was difficult, but trust me on this one, it'll make your life a lot easier. I used this backpack; it fit in the overhead compartment of every airplane I took and was extremely light, considering the amount I packed!
- Dress appropriately. Make sure you cover all your bases depending on where you're traveling. It may be difficult if you're hopping all over, but check the weather. I went from Spain where it was sunny and hot, to Sweden where it was snowing! I wasn't prepared for that. Be sure you bring a jacket, comfortable shoes, warm socks, and shorts.
- It may seem like common sense, but don't forget adapters if you're leaving the country! It can be a pain to go look for these in a foreign country. And if you can before you go, buy a pre-paid phone card or phone you can add minutes to. Or call your carrier and find out about converting to an international calling plan. Just be sure this covers any roaming, calling and texting!
Favorite city ever traveled to: Florence, Italy Number of countries visited: 13
- Download local city apps for the places you plan to visit. Whether you use the Trip Advisor city guides or any other app, there are plenty which allow you to download in advance and even use offline if you want to find things to do in the city you are traveling.
- Buy things online in advance. Research your train tickets, museum tickets, site excursions and subway or bus tickets ahead of time. In many cases you can even get a city pass which allows you to travel and hit all the museums for one price. But oftentimes these are hard to locate once you've landed, so purchase before you go.
- Layer! Just like Shana mentioned about packing light, layering is your best friend. Bring jeans, tees and cardigans so you can simply put on or take off as the temperature rises and dips throughout the day.
Favorite city ever traveled to: Lake Como, Italy Number of countries visited: 12
- Try to give yourself some flexibility in your plans, whether that means travel insurance or simply working with sites to make hotel and excursion reservations where you'll be more able to reschedule if need be. There's no telling when you'll arrive somewhere where your itinerary has allotted you two days and you know you'll beat yourself up if you do any less than four. Find ways to still allow yourself and your travel companions to be spontaneous. My wife and I built-in some flexible days and reservations on our honeymoon and we were SO glad we did when we found hidden gems!
- This may be obvious to many, but making simple efforts to communicate on a local's terms is one of the easiest ways to win friends, tips and smiles on your travels. (Yes, that means brushing-up on the phrase book of the local language!) It goes a long way to win people over by being humble, polite and not brashly expecting that everyone happens to know English (or - worse yet - that speaking more loudly will somehow help. Eesh.). I've come to love the free Duolingo site and mobile apps, since it takes fun, methodical and casual-conversation-oriented approach to rapidly teaching language basics. There are a plethora out there, so check them out, plan ahead and quiz yourself. It'll add a whole other layer to your trip!
- If you're like me when traveling, you may start out at 8am and not really settle-down until late that night. So, be sure to wear footwear that is comfortable, durable and breathe.
- Be sure to also snack periodically during a day when you're particularly active - there's nothing worse than getting a headache, woozy or 'hunger-grumpy' when you're half-way around the world, time's short and there's so much to see and experience. This also gives you more reason and opportunity to sample local flavors, too!
So there's a smattering of our best travel tips. We hope they come in handy. Now it's your turn - what tips do you live by when living out of a suitcase or backpack? We want to hear 'em!