Start a trip with these tips, so you can hit the ground running!
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a new place for a vacation and realizing you don’t know what to do or how to get there. And what if you don’t speak the language, have the right money, or know what to eat? You could seriously miss out on some fun! Thankfully, you don’t have to be that rookie traveler—just don’t leave home without doing some pre-trip research.
Every travel destination is different, but there are some tested-true ways to prepare in advance. Follow this list of pre-trip planning tips, so you can dive in with confidence as soon as you arrive.
- Get a lay of the land
One of the best ways to prepare for a trip is to look at maps. Knowing the layout of where you’ll be staying, eating, and exploring allows you to set a schedule that works. Understanding the landscape and distances you’ll travel also lets you know what types of shoes to bring! Steep cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico demand good sneakers, but the beaches of Half Moon Cay call for sandals. And if walking isn’t your thing, location research will help you figure out taxis, parking, and travel times to everywhere you want to see in paradise.
- A little language goes a long way
Sure, it’d be ideal to become fluent in the local language before visiting a foreign place, but who’s got that kind of time?! Navigating a new place is much easier when you can communicate using the local dialect, so every new word added to your second-language vocabulary helps! Start with the greetings and goodbyes—ciao, hasta luego, wagwan, ni hao—then expand into the basics of asking for directions or ordering food—and look up some possible answers to your questions. Download a language learning app and practice before you go on your trip, and a translation app for when you’re there.
- Consider the calendar (and weather)
You may have planned your vacation around a break or when friends and family have time off, but you should check the local calendar and forecast while you pack. For example, are there going to be any can’t-miss celebrations in your destination? You’d hate to be in Barbados during their Crop Over festival without at least one sequined outfit! And the seasons in Australia are opposite of North America’s, and many countries have “rainy seasons”—know before you go!
- Cash, credit, or exchange
It’s always a good idea to show up to a place with enough local currency for a couple days while you get your bearings. Before departing, figure out the preferred currency you’ll need and know the exchange rate, so you know how much dinero you’re shelling out and avoid the “tourist price”. Also, keep small change handy (and larger bills and credit cards secured) for tipping or quickly picking up a souvenir or snack! Another key pre-trip tip is to call your bank and tell them where you’re going and when. Nobody wants their card declined when buying a round of mai tais for new friends at the pool!
- Let everyone know where you’re going
This pre-travel tip is half about safety; you want at least a few of your family and friends to know where you’re going, for how long, and how you’re getting there—just in case anything unexpected happens. The other half is about the fact that you’re going on an awesome, exotic vacation and everyone from your childhood neighbor to Paul at the office should know about it! So don’t be shy about mentioning your trip to friends, and of course, to share your vacation photos when you’re back.