May 26, 2016

Alexa's Top Ten Travel Tips

While I don't get to do it as often as I'd like to (translation: I'd go every month if I could), I love travel. It doesn't matter whether it's going to be a visit to someplace familiar or to a new locale; I just love the adventure, love being transported out of my daily grind and into an entirely different place. It's one of my personal passions in life, and there are so many places I would still love to visit (and chief among them is the UK, at least at this particular time). 

That being said, I've learned a lot in the years I've spent traveling, and I thought it'd be a fitting offshoot (after sharing about my Europe adventure yesterday) to share my top twelve travel tips today. I've divided the tips into three sections - before the trip, during the trip and after the trip - and I sincerely hope that you find them useful!


my check-in suitcase (and slippers)
1) Plan out your itinerary. I cannot stress enough how helpful it was for us to hammer out all the things we'd like to do and see, as well as booking tickets for certain sites and tours. It might have been a little crazy, considering how we all had different opinions when we were plotting. But having the entire schedule set out for us (with ample space for spontaneous decisions) really helped make sure we got to do majority of what we wanted and not have to wait too long in lines either. Plus, it guaranteed us spots for some of the tours and lines!

2) Pack smart. If there’s one thing I’m pretty proud of when it comes to traveling, it’s my packing skills. (Macky and Mel both like asking me to help them pack, because I’m really good at making sure their things fit into a limited amount of space.) I can’t take all the credit for that, because I got it from my mama. She taught me everything I know, including the use of packing cubes (or gigantic plastics) to separate your clothing, as well as making the best use of space. (Note: If you want more excellent packing tips, Kelly did a great post!)

Personally, here are a few things I always keep in mind when I pack, no matter how long or short a trip is:
  • Packing cubes: I’ve said it already in Kelly’s post, and in the paragraph before this one, but seriously, these are a lifesaver. They’re reusable cloth/nylon containers that I can use to separate my various clothing items, and even my electronics in my suitcase. They keep it neat and make it easy to find things.
  • Laundry bag: It seems logical to make sure that your dirty clothes stay separate from the clean ones. Not only will this make it easier for you to do laundry while you are on your trip (if you get the chance to and/or need to), it will also make it super easy to dump all your clothes into the laundry basket when you get home.
  • Ziplocs: You don’t actually need to use Ziploc brand plastics; you can use any! But they happen to be the brand I prefer. Even though you might not think you need them, trust me, it’s always smart to carry a couple with you in different sizes ranging from small to large. I usually just fold them in half and slip them in the front pocket of my suitcase! They make for a great way to separate smaller souvenirs you might pick up, and snacks that might remain unfinished, and so on and so forth.
  • Toiletries: Just a random golden rule I’d like to share, for the record. If you’re traveling with other people, make it so you guys just share the toiletries. It’ll be easier for everyone involved, and will make extra space in some people’s suitcases. (I should have done this for Europe, but alas, it did not occur to me.)
  • Photocopies of all documents: One of the best things we did for our Europe trip was to make sure there were at least three copies of all our stuff – tickets, itineraries, official documents, reservations, etc. My mom carried one, I had the other and Macky had the third when he joined us. It proved to be extremely useful!
copies on copies on copies
3) Put together your personal budget. Whenever you travel, apart from all the stuff you can (and should) book beforehand, you’ve got to plan on how much money (or how much credit) you want to bring. This will really depend on your itinerary, how much you’d like to spend on food and personal shopping (for souvenirs or otherwise). Not only should you prepare it, you should prepare to stick to it.

4) Prepare your personal affairs. Aside from readying all the stuff you’ll need for the trip, you should also make sure to take care of anything that will be left behind in your absence. Have a friend come and check in on your house, your pet, your plants. Make sure to set your out of office message. Let someone you trust know your itinerary and keep copies of your trip stuff just in case you need them faxed to you. These are really simple things to take care of, but nevertheless, they can sometimes get overlooked.


restaurant rec behind us! (so yummy!)
5) Do keep in mind the three P’s: patience, politeness and practicality. It’s always important to keep your temper and tongue in check, whether around the people you’re traveling with or the people you come into contact with during the trip. People are likelier to help you out (and maybe even offer you bonus tips and discounts) if you’re nice. It’s also important to be practical when making decisions, whether it’s choosing where to eat or whether to buy something. You don’t want your time or energy going to waste if you can help it! And, obviously, this will help a lot when things go wrong during your trip, whether it's illness, injury, robbery or getting lost (and all of these things happened to us.)

6) Do ask for local recommendations. If you do get the chance to chat with a local, and they seem willing to share tips, get their recommendations for places to eat or things to see. We were particularly blessed with very helpful ladies in Lucerne who recommended the best restaurants, and gave us ideas for things we could do! But in general, getting local recommendations means you get really good experiences and sometimes even get to go off the beaten path!

behind the scenes laughter
7) Do take photos (and videos). If you’re anything like me and my family, you love documenting the experiences you get to have. We made sure to have full coverage of our trip, with photos and videos and journal entries (my sister and I both had notebooks where we wrote about everything we did, saw, ate and went through). It’s just nice to have these things to look back on when you’re back from your trip, and it would be really cool to share it someday with the future generations of your family.

8) Don’t forget to disconnect. Don’t get me wrong – the internet is really great when you’re on trips, particularly when it comes to travel recommendations and finding places to eat. But the point of you being on a trip is to experience the place you’re in. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly on your phone! While I’m not saying you shouldn’t Snapchat cool things, or share fun photos on your Instagram, I’m saying that you have to also make a conscious decision to put the phone in your bag at some point and just really embrace your entire experience. It’s something that deserves all of your attention!


9) Allow yourself time to recover. If it’s at all possible for you, I’d recommend taking an extra day between your trip and going back to work (or school). It will give you some time to readjust to your timezone (if that’s necessary), get some extra rest and take care of some post-trip chores. (Sadly, this was not a possibility for me after Europe. I actually went straight to work the day after we got back!)

10) Arrange your souvenirs. Whether it’s the bazillion photos you took during your trip or the little knickknacks you picked up or the postcards you sent to yourself, make sure to organize all of this stuff within a week of your trip. That way the memories are as fresh as your enthusiasm, and you don’t wind up just setting it all aside because you’re no longer in the mood to do this.

And there you have it, a few of my tried and tested travel tips! I hope you found them helpful. If you have any further questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment or to tweet me or to email me - I’d be more than happy to answer them. Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite travel tip?


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