Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.
10 Essential Products and 10 Points of Advice for Perfect Trip Preparation
1. Pack tactfully.
See my 10 essential items for packing efficiently and effectively above.
Most importantly, don’t overpack. Lugging around too much stuff is one of the least enjoyable things that you can do while traveling. Also, you’ll be glad you left a little room in your bag if you have to take anything out while going through airport security, which is much stricter these days. To avoid over packing, pack your absolute essentials first, and then see how much room you have.
2. Get a good carry-on backpack.
This is one of the best investments you can make towards traveling. Some sellers even offer lifetime warranties for their products, like the maker of mine, Osprey.
Some airlines are stingy with carry-ons, but you’ll usually be able to get the standard size (22x9x14 in., 55x40x20 cm.) onboard. Not only is it cheaper than checking a bag, but it guarantees that your luggage won’t be lost and you won’t have to spend extra time at the airport in baggage claim.
There is nothing that makes you want to burn all your belongings more than having to transport too much stuff. Escalators, groups of people, and walking on sidewalks all provide evidence of the inconvenience of traveling with suitcases. It’s just easier to have something suited on your back and nothing else.
3. Choose your flights and accommodations wisely.
Some of the flight-booking services that I’ve listed HERE offer price alerts to help you spend the least amount of money. I also listed my experiences with different airlines, which may affect which flight you want to choose. Some airlines offer a lower price but are strict with smaller-than-average carry-on size requirements, so you end up paying more than expected and have to check your luggage. You may also not be keen on flying international without entertainment or meal services. Do some research before booking so you get the best value for your money.
Look at a map and at reviews before booking your accommodations. Booking a hotel on the outskirts of the city will probably be cheaper but will result in higher transportation costs and more travel time during your trip.
4. Get familiar with a city map and plan out your excursions well in advance of your trip.
The worst feeling is when you get halfway across the world and you don’t get to do something that you were really excited about because of poor planning. For example, I didn’t realize that the best island in the Philippines would be a 6-hour shuttle from the airport that we were landing in. There wasn’t enough time left to fit it in, and my frustration certainly brought down the vibe of a trip that I should have been amped up to go on. Thankfully, we booked our island hopping cruise a few weeks early and were able to get on the fully-reserved cruise, which ended up being the highlight of the trip.
5. Plan to do unconventional experiences, not just the main tourist attractions.
My best travel memories are the adventures and stories that have nothing to do with temples or sites. Getting to know the beach locals in Sri Lanka, going on walking and biking tours in Europe, bungee jumping in South Korea… those are the reasons why my love for travel has become a passion.
You can’t always plan for a real cultural experience, and you can rarely plan for the best stories, but you can certainly set yourself up for them. Don’t pack your days full with all of the main tourist attractions. Set away some time to hang out outside of the normal tourist zone or anywhere that you’d likely get to interact with locals. Take a cooking class to learn how to make the delicacies of the area, go whitewater rafting, start a conversation with someone random on the beach. Plenty of times, those random conversations have led me to the opportunities that have made for my best stories. Think a little out of the box and be open and flexible during your trip.
6. Plan out how you’re getting to your accommodations from your point of arrival before disembarking on your trip.
Sometimes taxis are just cheap but much less time-consuming as taking a train or bus. On the other hand, sometimes taking the train can save you a glorious amount of money. Every city is different, and it’s worth doing a little research beforehand. It will also shed light on how you should plan on getting around the city during your trip.
I also recommend saving directions to your accommodations in both the local language and English on your phone. I have been stranded in Seoul, one of the most modern Asian cities today, simply because none of the taxi drivers would take English directions. Ever since then, this trick has come handy in multiple areas and countries.
7. Have paper copies and easily-accessible online copies of your e-tickets, boarding passes, visas, accommodations, and other important trip information. Also, have copies of your IDs and emergency contact numbers.
I could not stress this one enough. I have a Dropbox that I can access offline on my phone, and I put all of this information in there before I go anywhere. Offline copies have come in handy when I’ve misplaced my paper copies. Paper copies are important because some airports will only accept paper copies of visas and boarding passes. I almost didn’t get in India or out of Sri Lanka due to my lack of preparation with these paper copies. Lastly, I make sure I have access to these emergency contact numbers at all times:
- International Emergency Bank Phone Numbers
- Talk to the Nearest Embassy (From US & Canada: 1-888-407-4747; From Overseas: +1 202-501-4444)
- Report a Lost or Stolen Passport (From US & Canada:1-888-407-4747; From Overseas: +1 202-501-4444)
- Health Insurance Company
- Contact Information of 2 Relatives (For Others – What if something happens to me?)
8. Download the essential phone apps.
All of these 10 essential phone apps are completely free!
Having a translator is necessary if you're going to a country with a different language. You can take pictures of menus, voice record locals, and simply type in how to say something with Google Translate.
I use Papago over Google Translate in Korea because I've found that its translations for Asian languages are far more accurate. Tip: Double-check your given translation by translating it back to English.
In Korea, the Subway app is super helpful for getting around, especially when you miss a stop, even though the system is pretty simple. Many big cities, like NYC, also have apps for navigating the subways.
9. Set a travel notification with your bank.
This isn’t really a recommendation, it’s a necessity. If you don’t let your bank know that you’ll be going to another country, they’ll likely flag your card and cut you off. Most banks allow you to do this online, by phone, or in-person. It’s much easier to set the notification than it is to fix a situation while abroad.
10. Know about the local currency.
For more on financial tips, go HERE.