Travel tips

“TRAVEL…THE BEST WAY TO BE LOST AND FOUND AT THE SAME TIME.” ~BRENNA SMITH

While most of us look forward to taking the well-deserved vacations we work so hard for, a lot of us can get stressed out through the process of planning, packing and actually traveling. The choices can be overwhelming and by the time you return from one vacation, you may need another just to recover from the exhaustion of having overdone it.

Well, stop fretting! We have curated for you the most basic and useful tips to help you travel like a pro.

Finances

Organizing your finances can be the most daunting part of planning a vacation but it doesn’t need to be.  Here are a few pointers to get the basics right and ensure your worries are kept at bay while you enjoy that much-needed holiday.

  1. Once you pick a destination for your getaway, the first thing to do is to check out the best time to visit.
  • Do some initial research on peak and low seasons and the pros and cons of both. If your dates are flexible and the cons don’t outweigh the pros, traveling during the low season could save you a considerable amount of money.
  • Flights are the next order of business. Always browse in the Incognito tab of your browser and find the lowest fares on websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, Momondo, etc. You could set price alerts for flights that interest you and try to be slightly flexible with the timing and layovers. This may also give you the opportunity to explore a new city for a day or two before heading to your destination. Book well in advance to have access to cheaper rates and if the difference between refundable and non-refundable tickets is not much, pick the refundable option. You never know what could be in store!

Pro tip: before booking budget airlines, find out all the hidden charges. These add up quickly and could sometimes exceed even the price of your ticket.

 

  1. With your flights booked and your dates finalized, the trip starts to take shape. You probably have a rough idea of why you chose the destination you did, what you absolutely must see, and what you might want to explore if time permits. With these aspects in mind, it could help to prepare an itinerary and tentative budget. This would ensure you do the necessary research prior to your travel and don’t run out of funds on your trip. We have also found that it helps to have this budget readily accessible on email in case you lose track of your expenses in a foreign destination.

Pro tip: Always pack 20% more money than you budgeted for. This could serve you well in emergency situations or even if you happen to discover an experience you believe might be unforgettable.

  1. Travel Insurance is an absolute must when you are planning a vacation, especially for longer holidays in foreign countries. Don’t skip this step even if it means compromising on something else.
  2. With your budget sorted out, you can now plan how to distribute the money you intend to carry, for instance, how much are you comfortable carrying in cash, is the country card-friendly or online-payment-friendly, where you can find the best exchange rates for your currency etc. Never wait to exchange currency at the airport, the rates are the highest and you will get the least value for your hard-earned money. Something that has worked well for our team in most places is to keep around 35% of your budgeted spends in cash, 50% in your cards, and the other 15% in your own currency if your currency is more powerful than that of the country you are visiting. If this is not the case, then you could keep 15% in your cards or in your account if online payment is widely used in the destination location.

Pro tip: When choosing a credit card, pick a couple that provide lounge access and travel rewards points. This may not seem important but it makes your travel more comfortable while also increasing the chances of upgrades with your points. Also divide up your cash and cards across bags to ensure you are never left without any money if a bag gets misplaced or routed to the wrong location.

 

  1. With the major financial planning out of the way, you can now focus on the fun part and book your stay. Choose from a range of options to suit your budget and expectations. Sites like msafiri and other online aggregators display a plethora of stay options, be it upscale luxury hotels, lifestyle hotels, boutique hotels, private villas and apartments, homestays, student hostels, etc. You can even choose multiple properties for different days, for instance spend the first and last nights of your trip in a luxury or boutique property while picking a homestay or an apartment for the other nights. Thus, every aspect of your stay can be customized to your own needs and wants.
  2. Just a couple of days before you leave behind the hustle and bustle of your daily life and embark on the adventure you planned out so well, make a call to your bank and card companies and let them know your travel dates and destination.
  3. This last piece of financial advice before we move on to more interesting things is something extremely personal. While planning and budgeting, don’t lose sight of what is most important to you. For some of us, it’s living in the lap of luxury while for others it’s living like the locals; For some, it’s a gourmet dining experience presented by a renowned Chef while for others it’s eating all the street food available; For some, it’s rejuvenating luxurious spa treatments while for others it’s a high-octane adventure. What’s key to having the best time, is identifying what YOU would cherish most and splurging on that one aspect of your trip.

Packing

Your vacation is fast approaching and you’re counting down the days to get away from your routine and finally relax. The all-important task of packing presents itself a few days before you embark on your adventure and with the internet flooded with packing hacks, it can be overwhelming and just a tad bit tempting to throw in everything in sight. While this is the quickest way to pack, it sure isn’t the best one.

To make your life easier, we’ve waded through the sea of hacks on the internet and tapped into our experiences to give you just the ones you’ll need most.

  1. Organize. Organize. If there is just one hack you want to follow, this should be it.
  • First, order some document organizers, packing cubes, shoe bags, handy pouches for medicines, make-up, toiletries, jewellery, stationery and most importantly an electronics organizer. Packing cubes help organize your clothes and make unpacking or even living out of your suitcase, a breeze. Your electronics organizer will ensure you don’t find yourself without your charging wire or essential gadgets when you get back home. If you’re taking a beach vacation or visiting a country in the rainy months, also get yourself a good dry-bag.
  • With your organizers ordered, you can move on to making a list of the things you will need on your trip. Make sure you email yourself a copy to make packing easier at the end of your trip and ensure you don’t leave behind any of your belongings.

Pro tip: Roll up your clothes before packing them to optimize the limited space you have. Make sure most of the stuff you pack coordinates well with the majority of clothing items. This makes picking out outfits much quicker and also has you looking great in all your travel photos.

We cannot stress enough on the importance of having a couple pairs of comfortable footwear in your bag especially for locales where you can explore the city on foot.

 

  1. Your trusty backpack or cabin luggage- We’ve all faced the dilemma of needing something urgently and not being able to locate it.

Your carry-on must include a few essentials-

  • Your key documents like your passport, visas etc as well as a few passport sized photos in a waterproof document folder
  • At least one of your credit cards and around 50% of the cash you’re carrying
  • Hand sanitizer gel
  • A charged (no-brainer but a common mistake) portable phone charger
  • An empty compact water bottle
  • A lightweight, quick-drying travel towel
  • Your most essential medicines
  • Half a roll of toilet paper
  • Noise cancelling earphones and a sleep mask for long flights
  • Moisturiser, lip balm, and sunscreen
  • An extra set of clothes and underwear
  • Tissues
  • A few energy bars or filling snacks like nuts, seeds, cookies or fruit

Pro tip: It could be a good idea to lock the compartment of your bag in which your documents and money or other valuables are placed after you board the flight. For liquids, follow the standard procedure and place all liquids (each being less than 100 ml and the total being a maximum of 1 L) in a clear zip pouch or waterproof bag. Marking your luggage in a distinct way and having luggage tags, be it your carry on or your check-in bag is always helpful as it instantly helps you identify your bags.

Planning

“Those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it.” – Rick Watson

This couldn’t be any truer and if you refer to point 7. you’ll know why we believe your vacation should be planned around YOUR preferences. It’s quite normal to get caught up in all the Instagrammable locales, Tourist must-do’s and innumerable blog posts on the internet but while these could serve as inspiration, only you know your preferences and so we suggest you find your own mix. Figure out your ideal ratio of touristy and lesser known local places, figure out whether you would be okay spending half a day waiting in queue for that perfect photo or whether you would rather explore less crowded sites and discover your own Instagrammable backdrop. Planning beforehand goes a long way in letting you make the most of your trip with the least amount of stress so we’re going to share our favourite hacks with you!

  1. Finding the balance- While charting out your itinerary, understand and accept that you will not be able to see everything that destination has to offer. Narrow down your options and plan keeping your preferences in mind while also leaving a day or two unplanned for spontaneous activities and experiences based on the locals’ recommendations. These could end up being the most memorable moments of your trip!

 

  1. Embrace the Local Culture- It’s paramount while traveling that you respect and embrace the local culture.
  • Do your research and familiarise yourself with what is acceptable and what isn’t…the last thing you would want on holiday is to disrespect the locals’ sensibilities and traditions
  • Keep an open mind and experiment with the local cuisine and street food
  • Learn something new by enjoying a spontaneous or pre booked local experience, for instance you could take a dance class or cooking lesson
  • Familiarise yourself with a few important phrases in the local language
  • Hire a local guide and support the economy
  • Request permission before clicking pictures of the locals or their families and homes

 

  1. Keep the address of your accommodation written down on a piece of paper in case your phone dies and you need directions.

 

  1. Share your itinerary and whereabouts with friends or family back home in the event that they need to reach you or vice versa.

 

  1. Download offline maps prior to your travel.

 

 

  1. While using public WiFi networks, try to use a VPN. Getting a local SIM card can be very helpful in some places. Not only does this save you money, it also makes communication seamless.

 

  1. The Google Translate camera works exceptionally well most of the time and can be useful while ordering at local establishments.

 

  1. While charting out your itinerary, take into account jetlag and travel-fatigue. Don’t pack your days with too much and instead immerse yourself in every experience you enjoy. An itinerary is only a guideline and being flexible makes all the difference.
  2. It’s easy to overdo souvenir shopping but be mindful and set aside a fixed budget for this. Even the most frugal of us get carried away but try to make it a practice to put experiences over items.
  3. Pre-booking experiential day tours is a good idea for sites you don’t want to miss out on even though they are usually packed. Free walking tours are a great and inexpensive way to explore a town or city on foot while taking in all the sights and learning a little about the history and culture.

 

Lastly, step out of your comfort zone but rely on your instincts. If you believe a place or person is unsafe, stay away. It’s important to know how to politely decline invitations you aren’t comfortable accepting. Travel and socialise at your own pace and don’t give in to pressure. After all, you’re taking this vacation to relax and rejuvenate and that’s precisely what you should do!