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How to make the most out of travel

Updated on January 8, 2016
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Fun places and new faces

Many people look forward to vacation time. They get to go somewhere, outside of their home area, and unwind. Sometimes it is nice to just get away from the same old familiar things. Seeing new places and faces can refresh the mind, body and spirit.

It is nice to do things you don't normally get to do like relax in a hot tub or walk along the beach. Maybe go sightseeing and try out the local flavor at a restaurant. Even a hike and/or bike ride be relaxing in a way. One piece of advice I have is to see some sights on foot when safely possible. You don't realize just how much you miss out on when you are whizzing by in a vehicle.

Safety is always the number one rule when traveling. However, it is a good idea to try to talk to some of the locals during your trip. It's nice to meet people and maybe learn a little bit about the area that might not be published online or in travel brochures.

An area's Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Center are good places to go to for information. You can also try your luck talking with patrons of a cafe or casual eatery. I learned some very interesting information about the history of Manitou Springs, Colorado by talking with the owners of a great little coffee shop there some years ago.

The whole idea behind going on a pleasure trip is to have fun seeing and experiencing your chosen destination.


Planning the trip

Trip planning often consists of reserving accommodations, flight/train tickets (if applicable), reserving a rental car (if applicable) and of course packing. The planning stage of a trip can become somewhat overwhelming and stressful.

Sometimes people are forced to try and make reservations at the last minute for transportation or accommodations. This can be harder than it sounds, especially if it is a busy time of year for traveling to a given area. You can also run into problems by booking too far in advance.

I found this out the hard way a couple of years ago. I booked a nice cabin in a beautiful little mountain town in Arkansas. I booked the cabin about three months in advance and kept the confirmation email and receipt. Close to my trip time, I called back to verify my reservation, and they had no record! I panicked, to say the least. I spent good money on that cabin. I emailed them a copy of my reservation confirmation and payment receipt. To their credit, they made it right and I had a lovely cabin waiting for me when I arrived. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

It may be impossible to plan for every little thing that could go wrong while traveling. However, you can try to eliminate as many issues as possible.

Travel planning tips

Destination

This is your first step in planning a trip: figure out where you want to go. Yes, this may take the thrill out of jumping in the car and going wherever the road takes you. It will also take out the stress of possibly getting stranded in no man's land. Choose a destination that intrigues you, why settle for a place that has nothing to offer you?

Next is researching your chosen destination. Find out about the history of the area, the type of food available and what activities and events are hosted there. Learn a bit about local customs as it is a good idea not to say or do something to offend local residents. If planning a trip to a foreign country, it is advisable to learn at least some key phrases in the native language.

Reservations

Once you have completed your research, finding desirable accommodations should not be too much of a problem. Budget is a concern for most travelers, but do keep in mind you get what you pay for. Super cheap lodging may not offer the amenities you need or want. It is sometimes worth it to invest just a little bit more for accommodations and budget elsewhere on the trip. Reserve ahead of time to ensure you won't be sleeping on a park bench when you arrive!

If you are going to fly, take a train or ride the bus, then it is good to reserve your seat in advance as well. Some companies charge extra if you do not reserve enough days in advance. Once you have your tickets, guard them well! It is too easy to misplace something that won't be used for a month or more.

Itinerary

Okay, I can already tell you are groaning and rolling your eyes. It may not sound like much fun to vacation according to what is listed on a piece of paper. Part of the fun of a vacation is to let loose and just enjoy the days and nights as they come. This is a fact. It is also a great way to end up wasting time and possibly money, wandering around not sure what to see or do.

You don't have to necessarily make an official schedule of times and events. Instead, write down the places you would like to visit including possible restaurants and events or activities you want to do. This way, you won't miss out on the things that interested you about the destination in the first place! Besides, who knows what you might see on your way to do something on your list.

Pack

It is absolutely unnecessary to pack like you are moving away. Ladies, you probably do not need ten pairs of shoes and your entire cosmetic drawer for a week long vacation. Guys, you probably do not need every loud button up shirt you can stuff into your suitcase. Sorry to somewhat stereotype, but I have witnessed enough vacationers to know that these scenarios happen quite often. People tend to think they need to pack their homes for a week or two vacation. Ludicrous, essentials only. Luggage can be stolen or misplaced and then you are out way too much.

It is always good to pack for possible weather like surprise thunderstorms. Pack clothing according to the climate you are going to, but also pack a few things for the unexpected cool/hot day. Pack at least one light jacket or heavy coat, depending on the destination climate. And please, pack appropriate footwear! Sandals are worthless on a hiking trail, boots are silly on the beach.

Toiletries go without say, not every hotel/lodging outfit supplies soap and shampoo. I learned that one the hard way too. I went on a weekend holiday to a neighboring city and the room we got was simple but adequate for sleeping. No shampoo, soap or wash cloths provided. Luckily there was a convenience store next door and we could get all of those things and only (insert sarcasm here) spent thirty bucks. Lesson learned.

Pack an atlas or at least a map of the area you will be in. Smart phones are awesome with their GPS and fancy apps, but if you lose signal, you lose the fancy apps. Old school paper maps are a good backup. Pack bottled water and snacks. This will save you money while you are out sight seeing.

Back up plan

Always, always have a backup plan. For example if your luggage magically vanishes within the transportation system (planes, trains or buses) then make sure you have enough money to get yourself the bare essentials. Who wants to be stuck in the same outfit for a week while they are trying to locate your runaway luggage? Do you know how hard it is to hand wash clothing in a hotel room? I do. Not fun by any stretch of the imagination. Lesson learned here too.

Have a list of area hotels and lodging outfits just in case something goes wrong with your reservation. Locate the nearest branch, or at least an affiliate of your bank. Have a handwritten list of important phone numbers in the event that your cell phone gets stolen or stops working.

Let someone you trust know where you will be vacationing and the dates. Agree on an acceptable length of time of no communication before that person starts trying to locate you. It may sound morbid, but this could save your life. Accidents happen, crime happens, it is better to be prepared for it.

These are some of the things people don't really think of while planning their vacation. Lack of planning can result in the worst "vacation" ever.

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Have a good time

After all of that planning, backup planning, and packing you are probably wondering when you actually get to enjoy this much anticipated vacation. The answer is as soon as you have covered all of your bases. It is much easier to relax and enjoy when you know you have virtually nothing to worry about.

The last bit of advice I can give as a somewhat seasoned traveler, is to have a positive attitude. Everything can go off without a hitch or have some bumps along the way. Either way, if you have a positive attitude you can have an awesome trip. Take lots of photos and enjoy your travels.

© 2014 Tammy Cramblett

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    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 3 years ago from United States

      Thank you stereomike83! I do enjoy traveling and sharing any tips or information I learn along the way.

    • stereomike83 profile image

      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      Some sound advice there and we'll worth remembering even for the seasoned traveller