11 Planning tips every traveler should know: Get caught without these travel tips and you’ll be sorry

It seems like every marriage has the planner and the free spirited blended together. We are taking a challenge to be both of these. We want to have the planning down to where we feel comfortable if things weren’t to pan out well, but at the same time we want to make decisions upon arriving to some of our destinations. We may be able to find some great deals this way as well. Sometimes, however, things just don’t go your way, so it’s important to have your ducks in a row. Below are 11 planning tips that every traveler should know and have applied. If you get caught without them, you may just be sorry. Some of these may be old, but a few of these may be brand new concepts to you:

1. Make a list of countries you want to visit:

Planning your round the world trip (RTW) is key to having a successful adventure.  We are not personally going to make a set-in-stone plan as far as which places we will visit. We will certainly have an idea of where we want to go, but the idea of having a flexible travel plan is so appealing to us! We don’t want to get to a country, fall in love with it and have to leave after a month because we over planned. We are compiling a list of about 20-25 places we are interested in visiting around the world and our plan is to go to at least 12 of them for a month each, but again, we want the flexibility to change our minds. We recommend that you make your list and research from there. What are your must sees in each country? Bucket list items? Is it really worth going there?

2. Research different types of accommodations:

Don’t limit yourself to hotel stays only. Hotels are pricey and you may not get an authentic in-country experience if you’re only staying in hotels that are in your comfort zone. By thinking outside of the box you will save money while enjoying different experiences that you may not normally have. Ideas include: couch surfing, house or pet-sitting, monthly rentals, and hostels. Also keep in mind any contacts you may have. We have been pleasantly surprised at the list of people we know around the world. Staying a week or two with a friend is a great way to save money. Be sure to keep in mind ways that you can be a good house guest!

#3 Have a print out with important information for each place you consider visiting.

If you arrive to a foreign country that doesn’t speak much English and the fast-paced environment is overwhelming, this is when you’ll greatly appreciate the work that goes in to this. Print a paper in the country’s native language that you can hand to taxi drivers, concierge, even random people on the street that has addresses and names of places that you know you will need to get to. If you don’t speak the language (and odds are you don’t) you need to be prepared to be able to communicate important information. Write down the place you’ll need to get keys for lodging, tourist welcome centers, any friends’ houses you may have the address for, and the address to the country’s American Embassy. This will help in any event that you are completely stuck without any help, internet, or phones.

#4 Know where the American Embassy is.

This is very important for your safety. In the event of a country emergency or imminent danger, you must know where to go should you have to flee the country. Also, if you have any issues with your passport, you’ll have to make the exciting trip to wherever it is! This is not a very fun thought, but you would be very grateful that you were prepared!

#5 Always tell someone your travel itinerary

This may seem like a no-brainer but for people like us who are choosing to keep our destinations a surprise to everybody, but it’s very important that we tell at least one trustworthy friend or family member our travel plans. This is another safety step that you can take to ensure that you’re safe while traveling abroad. Use wisdom!

#6 Research alternative transportation

Think outside of the box when it comes to transportation. Taking a taxi is the easy way and requires virtually no thought, and you’ll pay for it. You can save a lot of money by choosing an alternative way of transportation. Biking is not only cheap but you get a great workout in the process which is a win-win! Taking a tut-tut is a great way to see a city and immerse yourself in the country’s culture.  Renting a scooter is another great option if you want to be a little adventurous and get around in a spiffy! Taking rail is usually a very effective and affordable way to get around, but make sure to have researched the train routes and stops thoroughly so you don’t end up spending more money or time. Prior to going to your destination, you should consider calling a welcome center or airport to see if they know of any free or discounted transportation available to and from the airport. Sometimes there are free airport shuttles that could get you closer to your destination while saving you money. It never hurts to ask!

#7 Find a “Welcome Center”

Most countries will have some type of “welcome center,” even if it’s a little stand at the airport. By talking to locals who may enjoy practicing their English, you’ll be able to find out  information about your destination the internet may not have provided and get a more personal account. You may be able to get some discounts as well since vendors like to advertise through organizations like these. Most importantly speak to a local about where NOT to go. There are some places where foreigners are  simply not welcome. It is a good idea to learn about those places and avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Do not be naive, and educate yourself. Knowledge is power!

#8 Buy bottled water at the airport upon your arrival in a foreign country.

It’s always a great idea to purchase 2-3 bottled waters per person. The first reason is that most people do not realize how dehydrated they are after long flights. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sip on a water as you wait for your luggage before going outside. The other reason is that you don’t know how long it is going to take to get to your destination. Between waiting on a taxi, getting through traffic, getting settled in your room, it could be a few hours before you even think to grab and refuel. You also don’t always know how long it will be until you have access to safe bottled water. By paying airport prices, you will know you got a good product while securing your health for the afternoon.

#9 Don’t be afraid to pack what others say not to.

In our own travels and also hearing from other RTW travelers, we have come to the conclusion of not being afraid to pack things that may not seem “necessary”. Many sites tell you not to travel with Jeans because they don’t dry very quickly, but they can actually be very great due to being able to re-wear them over and over. Jeans allow you to fit in. Khaki pants scream tourist, and we’re already white and American. We don’t need anything else, thank you.  If you don’t want to stick out, don’t dress like a tourist! Dress like you would at home. Accessorizing is another great way to dress like a normal person. Remember, you’re going to have these photos for years to come, so don’t look like a cheesy tourist in athletic pants and a hooddie. Simply don’t limit yourself to only packing what you should pack. Have fun and be yourself!

#10 Get an ID Bracelet.

This bracelet may very well save your life. It sounds lame, but the great thing about it is that you can wear it under your jeans on your ankles or under your sleeves on your wrist. By purchasing a Road ID bracelet and putting your emergency contacts’ names and numbers on it, you can make sure anyone back home will be able to help you as much as they can from afar.

#11 Research vaccinations. 

When you travel abroad, there is always a chance for sickness in your body as you are around new bacteria and types of dirt. You will be coming into contact with many people and things that could carry diseases, so it’s a smart idea to look up each country you plan on visiting and what the suggested or required vaccinations are. Getting sick on your trip is a quick way to ruin an opportunity of a lifetime. You may also want to look for alternative natural remedies as well. We have seen many of our friends get Malaria after spending hundreds on Malaria pills. You can find a certain remedy for Malaria at Whole Foods for about $14. Keep your options open.

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