If you’re contemplating a solo adventure, volunteering or a once in a lifetime venture with friends and family, here are my Top 10 Travel Tips…….so far.
1. Don’t be afraid to take the leap
My number 1 travel tip for those thinking of taking the plunge is……DO IT. Don’t spend too much time worrying or over analysing anything and everything. We all have second thoughts about things we are not comfortable with. It seems to be our defence mechanism kicking in, something we are all ingrained with. Many people I know spend too much time waiting for friends to join them and they end up missing out on the experience altogether. You can do this alone. If someone is with you great, if not, that’s equally as great. Don’t let fear make your decisions.
2. Be prepared to try anything.
This is a travel tip I first encountered in Africa. There were plenty of activities that were outside of my comfort zone and I made sure I said yes to every one of them. Sometimes we need to get our hands dirty to get the greatest rewards.
A long time ago I made a resolution to myself that I will start to live outside of my comfort zone. Since then I have been skydiving, bungee jumping, travelled alone, pole danced, joined various workout classes, increased my confidence and started to follow my dreams.
Make sure you get stuck in. Take up opportunities, days out, extra work, listen to other people’s stories, learn as much as you can because one day you could wake up and regret that you didn’t.
“Your life is a story filled with experiences – make your story as big as possible”
3. Get your vaccinations & bring medical supplies.
This is an incredibly important travel tip and I am surprised at the amount of people that do not take their health seriously. Make sure you go to the doctor well in advance of your trip. Ask them what vaccinations you require for the areas you will be visiting. Don’t leave this until last minute. Some vaccinations such as rabies can be hard to attain and need to be administered over the course of a month. Others to consider are Yellow Fever, Hep A & B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Malaria.
Ask your doctor for a printed copy of your medical records and keep digital copies in case they get misplaced. Visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk for further advice.
Read reviews on the places you will be going so you know what to take:
- Mosquito spray/net
- First aid kit
- Hardwearing gloves
- Hiking boots
- Suntan lotion – seriously, even if you think you can handle the sun.
Make sure you are in good health (I even had a check-up at the dentist beforehand). Fully read your travel insurance. Highlight any important information. Make sure you know exactly what you are covered for and the action you need to take should an accident occur.
4. Travel Insurance
Speaking of Travel Insurance, you MUST have some. Each insurance policy is different and there are multiple questions to consider:
- Where will you be going?
- How long for?
- What activities will you be undertaking?
- How much are you medically covered for?
- Will it pay for you to get home for treatment?
- Do you want it to cover you for missed or cancelled flights?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you are covered. I would have made this my number 1 Travel Tip, but I needed to make sure you would take the plunge first. Some insurance companies ask you to confirm you are up to date with your vaccinations also. We like to think the worst will never happen to us, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Fully read what you are covered for, we all know how sneaky insurance companies can be. Sometimes they can be expensive, but it could be your lifeline (quite literally) if anything goes wrong.
5. Bring printouts
I always carry a folder of various printouts including copies of my passport and insurance documents. It is a great idea to store everything electronically now, but paper copies are just another back up. It’s a good idea to have flight details, addresses of where you will be staying and important phone numbers handy. Be prepared for every outcome.
Another good travel tip is to think about how you will be paying for things while you are away. I always bring a small amount of money for airports, taxis and tipping. But the bulk of my spending is now done on Credit Cards. However, I do make sure I pay the balance before accruing any interest. I currently have a dedicated travel card, with no overseas charges, ATM withdrawal charges or non-sterling transaction fees. You are also more financially protected when you buy things with your credit card, for example flight cancellations etc.
It is a good idea to inform your bank if you will be using your card abroad.
Another good reason for bringing a credit card is for those once in a lifetime moments. A girl that was on one of my trips had to miss out on some amazing experiences because she didn’t come prepared.
If you will be taking currency make sure you get it changed before you go, and shop around for the best deal. You will pay higher rates if you decide to change your money at the airports.
7. Take plenty of photos and keep a journal
You will be doing so much, and time will be going so quick, you are going to want to keep a diary of all your experiences each day. Even if you took 10 minutes before you went to bed. Write down any activates you did and what your highlight of the day was. You’ll be surprised at the minor details you begin to forget and what better way to end the night.
If you have a hard drive/pen drive/cloud account, make sure you back up your photos every night. I once had an amazing holiday to Florida and kept all photos safely on my phone. Then it crashed. There was nothing the shop could do, and they had to send it away for repairs. Due to privacy laws they had to wipe all my data first, including all my photos.
Another good idea is to have a Google account set up on your phone and set it to back up all your photos each day. You will need an internet connection for this however.
8. Do a bit of research on the Country
Another travel tip that gets overlooked is researching the country you are going to:
- Do you need a Visa to enter?
- Will it cost you anything to enter?
- How long are you allowed to stay in the country?
- Is there anything you cannot take in or out of the country?
- Are there any specific rules or laws that you need to consider?
- What language do they speak – could you learn a few phrases?
- Is it a religious country, should you be covering up?
Many places will accept a UK passport without having to apply for a separate Visa as long as you are only staying for a certain period of time. Places like USA have the ESTA waiver programme that you must apply for. There are 18-30 Visa’s available for places like Australia and Canada if you are intending to work. For Africa I didn’t need a Visa and when filling out my form at the airport I was advised to say I was going for a holiday instead of ‘volunteering’ as this could also mean being paid for work. It’s best not to complicate things.
9. Don’t be afraid of hostels
If you are looking for a cheaper experience then I would highly recommend staying in a hostel.
Do the same amount of research as you would a regular hotel but don’t dismiss it because you have to share a bathroom. I would highly recommend hostels as a cheap alternative to hotels. If you are travelling alone, even better. This is an easy way to meet like minded people to share your journey with. There are various room set ups to choose from: female only, mixed dormitory style, 3-person only room etc. Choose what you are comfortable with. Bear in mind that the smaller rooms you go for the higher the cost will be.
We have booked a lot of our accommodation through Booking.com as this will lock the price in (not taking into account any currency conversion changes) and most rooms offer deals with no prepayment. This then gives you chance to keep your eye out for any promotional offers that may come up in the meantime.
10. Leave important details
It’s a good idea to leave addresses, flight information, phone numbers, company names etc for those back home. This way you and those closest to you know you will easily be in contact. Internet is not always available in the more secluded locations. The world is a much smaller place than it used to be and there are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your loved ones.
Above all, stay safe and enjoy every minute of it. Life is for living!
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