I’m stricken with wander-lust. If I can’t get on an airplane and go somewhere different every year for a few weeks or months I start going a little crazy. This means that I’ve taken a lot of flights. Most of the time I’m traveling solo, and I’ve learned a lot out of doing that. I thought it might be nice to write down some lessons I’ve learned over the years. These are for myself so I can remember what to do or not do while I’m planning, at the airport, or exploring the destination, but if you are thinking of traveling I hope they help you as well.
I’ll be adding to this list as I continue to explore the world.
Pack lighter – Chances are you won’t need or use everything you want to take anyway. Having less will mean you are more mobile. You’ll also be less distracted by what you brought and see the beauty of the place and people around you. Also, if you want to bring gifts or souvenirs back home packing lighter will save space for that.
Carry cash – Always carry cash in a major currency like US dollars, Euros, or Pounds Sterling. I would recommend $50-100. You may have trouble using your bank or credit cards overseas and you can’t convert all currencies at the airport. Use it for the unexpected. (I missed a flight because I didn’t have the cash to pay an airport departure tax once.)
Snacks – If you have connections, pack a snack. Especially do this for long ones. Airport food is expensive and chances are you don’t like airline food.
Take a jacket – Even when flying to warm climates, airplanes are cold. A light jacket or long sleeve will keep you warm, or can double as a pillow.
Befriend people – Meet people at the airport. If you are traveling alone, strike up a conversation and make a friend, if only for the duration of your layover: it will be much more pleasant. They may also know something about your destination or pay your taxi fare. (This also goes for hostels. I’ve received a couple free meals from fellow travelers in the past.)
Airport security – Learn how security works at airports. Don’t be that person who holds up the 50 people behind you because you didn’t know about the 3-1-1 rule. Here are a few tips:
Airport attire – Dress practically and comfortable. Normal clothes or dressed up some. Don’t look like you just woke up: no pyjamas. When you travel not only are you in public, but in the public eye of the entire world village as cultures mingle. It’s also been theorized that you are more likely to be treated well and receive upgrades if you look like you belong in an upper class (however, you want to remain comfortable; especially in long flights).
Embrace schedule changes – Double and triple check your ticket times and dates, but remember that the real fun is often outside of your itinerary. I’ve twice mis-booked or mis-read my ticket. The first time I ended up staying an extra day in Bern, Switzerland and befriended a fellow traveler. We spent the extra time together exploring the city rather than being alone in a new place. The other time I was flying to Colorado and the extra couple of days I had allowed me to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in years.
Always have a few bandanas available – Their uses are many! Towel, coffee filter, bandage, hair tie, sun/dust/sweat block, accessory, pouch, gang sign (note: not recommended). These are just a few possibilities. I always try to have at least two and put one in my carry-on and one in my luggage.
Extra clothing – Pack an extra shirt, underwear, and socks in your carry-on just in case your luggage is lost, or you miss a connection. Consider a few toiletries too if you are meeting a special someone at the airport or before you can shower and change.
Cultures – Do your homework on new destinations’ culture, language, and gestures. For example, the British don’t know what an American “wife-beater” is and may be offended (Dear Brits, it’s a white ribbed tank top worn alone or under another shirt). It’s also offensive to give a peace-sign with your palm facing toward yourself in England.
As a side note to cultures, do not talk the local city or country down. That’s rude worldwide. On the flip side, be very careful about talking your city or country up, it’s often seen as the same thing. Embrace, enjoy, and find the beauty in every place and people. You’ll enjoy your trip much more.
Befriend locals – They know where all the best stuff to see, do, and eat are. Plus, you’re on their turf so be excited to be there and respectful of their home. I’ve been fed, housed, and employed by locals.
If you have anything you’ve learned in your travels, please share them! You can comment on the blog post announcing this page.