Weekly, I have people ask me tips about travel. It's definitely one of my huge passions in life and I want to be able to help others who enjoy exploration in making it a little more enjoy.
Travel can be overwhelming for a lot of us. What to do? Where to go? Where to eat? How do I create a budget? What should I pack? Often, these questions can cause someone to miss out on a lot of amazing things because it all just seems so overwhelming. My goal is to start sharing some of my insights and experiences to help you make your travel life the best it can be.
Last week, I shared how I pack in one bag - my favorite tip of all time! Traveling light leaves you with a lot less stress and way more time to enjoy wandering. If you haven't checked that post out, you can find it here.
In this post, I'm sharing three of my MUST KNOW travel tips. I have more than three, but this is a good place to start and are at the very top of my hacks!
1) Make Reservations... everywhere
This might seem like a no brainer post 2020, but making reservations is key to having a memorable trip anywhere you go. Most all places accept reservations but often people don't take advantage of making them. Or, they make the mistake of waiting too long to make them.
When? Book reservations for dinners/drinks/experiences at least 3 months in advance, if you can. I know, I know. You're like "WHAT?!" But, like they say "the early bird gets the worm." If you are hoping to get in at a super swanky, highly sought after place, book even further in advance. The earlier you book, you secure your preferred time and can even get an early bird discount when booking certain experiences.
If you wait until a month before, your chances are much slimmer of optimal preferences and if you don't make a reservation at all, you risk missed opportunities and a possible stressful situation.
Tell them Why! If you don't remember anything else I tell you, remember this one. If you are celebrating an anniversary/birthday, put it in your reservation. If you are celebrating a job promotion, put it in your reservation. If you just found out you're pregnant and celebrating, put it in your reservation. I book through OpenTable and Resy frequently and they both have spaces to tell them why you are celebrating. Be specific.
If you are booking a hotel or resort, the same applies. Talk to someone and let them know why you are staying with them. I cannot tell you the amount of complimentary things/extra special treatment we have received over the years when we simply let the establishment know why we are there. Places want your repeat business and they want to celebrate you choosing to eat or stay with them for your special event. It makes celebrating your occasion even more special.
2) Stay local
When planning a trip, skip the tourist traps. Part of traveling is soaking up another city and culture. It gives you a unique experience and, often, a much less crowded time away. Most tourist driven restaurants, activities don't really hold the charm that a local place would. It can feel intimidating to seek out the local joints because often, the first places listed on a public search are the tourist stops. It can be overwhelming and maybe we don't want to get out of our comfort zone. But, that's the best part of travel - getting out of your comfort zone! A few of my favorite ways to plan local only activities:
Ask a local - if you have a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is local to the area or has connections, ask. I have always found people to be so helpful and excited when sharing about a place they love. Sometimes this can open doors to other experiences maybe not provided to all visitors if your connection has an in at a restaurant or experience.
Know where to search - your basic Google search isn't my favorite way to scour your resources for local haunts. I like to hit up hashtags on Instagram to check out local spots. You can try ones such as "local(city)" and see what pulls up. Sometimes these can lead you to local bloggers, foodies, and tours that are off the beaten path. Condé Nast is another go-to for me, especially in bigger cities. CN will provide more resources on hot, new stops so it's a great resource to try unknown spots. They also usually have old, faithful stops that are steeped in the culture of your visit.
Lastly, read reviews from other travelers! Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor - all of these resources can help you get inside details of a place or restaurant you want to visit.
3) Plan the "must dos" but leave room for "maybe dos". Have a backup plan!
I fall somewhere between having an open palm and being a planner when we travel. For the best experiences, you have to be okay with plans being changed due to unforeseen circumstances (hello 2020!), traffic, or just wanting to change things up. The best way I've found to do this is plan the "must do" activities. If it's a restaurant you booked 6 months ago and you've been dying to try, it's a must do. If it's a 2 hour drive away from your hotel to a special site you have always wanted to see, it's a must do. But, if it's wanting to hit up a fancy beach one afternoon but a viscous rainstorm rolls in, it's an opportunity to pivot.
Have a backup plan for each day of travel... have a list of places you'd like to go, if time allows. A museum? A local book store? A quaint coffee shop? Just walking around downtown? These aren't must dos, but they make pretty sweet backup plans if something else falls through. Allowing yourself room to pivot keeps your trip flowing and you making memories without allowing changes to put a damper on your adventures.
None of these tips cost money - but they can add value to your trip! Do you have some favorite travel tips you've learned over the years? Share them with me and I would love to try them!