As I get older and travel more I keep finding new ways to fine-tune the experience to make it more efficient and ultimately fun. Being a good traveler is an evolution and absolutely no one does it perfectly, but here are some ways I’ve improved my travel abilities to make the most out of my trips.
1. Packing – This is an area where I’ve seen the most improvement over recent years mostly because of how much I pack. I’m a much more efficient packer than I used to be and by that I mean I take less crap. It started last year when I worked with the travel clothing company Scottevest on a light bag challenge. The idea was to survive a week in New Zealand with only my Scottevest and a small, very small, duffel. Even though I was doubtful it would go well at first, by the end of the trip my entire outlook on packing had changed. Not only did I survive with less stuff, I didn’t want for anything. It taught me that my over packing was a type of emotional travel crutch and most of the stuff I usually drag with me is completely unnecessary. Have I fallen off the wagon once or twice since then? You bet, but on the whole I am a much better packer and the fact that I no longer lug around a virtual steamer trunk of STUFF has made life on the road a lot more enjoyable.
2. Different style of research – A big apology to all my guide book friends, but I find myself relying on them less and less. Instead, before I go on a trip I tend to consult friends and travel blogs. I know, this sounds self-serving but it’s true. Many travel bloggers try to write about creative ways to visit new destinations and cover sites that often times don’t make it into guidebooks. That doesn’t mean I ignore the popular tourist sites, but I combine them with new and interesting ways to sightsee for a more well-rounded experience. As a personal side note, I firmly believe that this is the future of how people will look for travel advice – socially.
3. More spontaneity – This personally has been a tough habit to break and I struggle with it every time I travel, but the ability to not over plan a trip is the key to having an amazing time. Believe me, I well understand the desire to make sure every trip is perfect and logically one assumes that the best way to accomplish this Sisyphean feat is to plan every minute of every day thereby excluding the possibility of disaster. Sadly, this presumption is a fallacy. Over planning tends to make everyone miserable and you exclude any possibility of genuine, random moments. It is these moments of travel incertitude that will always be the most memorable. Whether it is chatting with someone at a cafe or discovering a secret spot no one else knows about, random travel moments are ultimately the reason why we all travel.
4. Trusting my instincts – I’m a tourist when I travel, as most of us are. There’s no shame in this instead there should be pride. We get out there and we discover the world around us! Sadly though I find myself trusting other people’s instincts more than my own. What does this mean? Well it usually means I fall into the trap of being a travel lemming, following the droves to sites I know won’t interest me but which I feel I must see. Instead I’ve had to make a conscious effort to say no to the guide books and travel experts, admit I don’t want to see my 1,000th cathedral and instead do and see what truly interests me. Life is too short and so are our trips to be anything but entirely true to ourselves when we travel.
5. Local experts – This may shock your but I don’t know everything, and neither do you. After researching a new destination we may even feel like we have an intimate knowledge of the new locale, but we do not. That’s why I always try to seek out local experts whenever possible, usually in the form of unique and fun day tours. I always learn much more on a three-hour guided walk than I could ever have learned on my own. One of the best walking tours I’ve ever been on was the Lanes and Arcades Hidden Secrets tour in Melbourne. The tour itself is unique, customizable and a lot of fun. Our tour guide led us through little laneways and arcades we may never have found otherwise and we had a blast doing it. That’s the beauty of a well done day tour, discovering a side to a destination you’d never find on your own.
These are just a few ways I’ve improved my travel skills lately, what are some of yours?
19 thoughts on “Five Ways I’ve Improved My Travel Experience”
I really have to work on the light packing as well. I get so tired of having a 20 pounds suitcase, and having to carry it around myself really sucks!
These things have all helped improve my experience as well. I also try to give myself as much time as possible in a destination. I prefer to see fewer places and get a little deeper into each place.
Age makes us smarter in all aspects of our lives, travel is no different and I’d have to agree with all of these plus adding a “no stress” one. Life is too short to stress, going with the flow is key when traveling otherwise you can spend your whole trip trying to control things that can’t be controlled!
I especially like the (3) More spontaneity part because I tend to overplan during my travels and worry when it doesn’t tale place. This helps a lot in improving my plans now. Must learn to just live in the travel moment!
Have to agree with these points. Spontaneity is a key part of a great experience to me – so many of my best adventures have been of the unplanned “what the hell lets give that a go” variety :)
Thanks for a great article. I agree that as I have gotten older my travel style has changed. One key thing which I do better these days is to reduce the number of things I pan to do or see.
When I was younger my trips were packed to an exhausting level, but now I believe I have a better balance between activities and just soaking in the atmosphere.
Great travel tips for all of us, from the novice to the professional. We recently got a Scottevest too and look forward to trying it out.
I faced the packing dilemma very early in my gap year (as a solo travelling woman in my fifties). I had a rucksack – and so had to be able to lift it.
And learned a lot about planning – I do use travel guides, but then put them to one side and talk to other travellers. I know I can’t manage the anxiety of arriving somewhere in the late afternoon and not knowing where I’m going to sleep, so always have hotels booked. But am quite happy just knowing where I’ll be for the next night or two and then work out where to go from there.
Plus – the trusting one’s instincts is vital, especially as a woman travelling alone. Most people are wonderful, so there is no point in putting yourself in the path of those few who aren’t.
And then – contradicting all that – the best things often happen when you are lost. You meet the best people, see the most surprising things, eat – who knows what!
LOL, I agree with you on instincts and also being lost. That’s why I say travel is both an art and a science.
Great post, Matt. It’s funny, but I’ve improved my trips using these things, too, and I give age and experience most of the credit for that. It’s important to me to analyze each trip afterward in hopes of maximizing the next one.
All great tips for sure. We’ve definitely perfected the packing thing over the years.
Love this post. I think travel, like lilfe in general, is a process of constant evolution, and we need to constantly assess how we do it, what we have learned and how to apply it, even though we may have been doing it a certain way for years.
i agree right packing can save you from many tensions. as i do a lot of shopping i need more and more space while going back.so i try to carry least possible weight at the start.
as you said travel blogs , i love to visit them and mostly plan a trip after reading something on them.
My skills in all of these departments are slowly developing too, especially trusting my instincts. The packing one is difficult because I hardly ever know the length of my trips or what kind of climate they might eventually take me to! Also, I definitely agree with using guidebooks less and less, haven’t flicked through one for months now, I go off recommendations from locals instead. Thanks for sharing!
This is a very interesting list and I totally agree with number 2. Different styles of research. I believe that Blogging is changing the way that we travel. It has certainly made me much more adventurous. Thank you for sharing this list.
I have started planning more stays with locals like bed and breakfast etc. Its such a wonderful experience and you get to experience the lifestyle of the area and also learn so many interesting facts and stories.
My favorite sites to find non-traditional hotel lodging: AirBNB, TripAdvisor, Flipkey….saves so much money and allows you to really experience where you are traveling
Really nice tips indeed
Comments are closed.