I am finally getting the hang of traveling. Or, at the very least, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I do love to travel. *Insert all the sappy travel cliches.* But traveling can stress me out. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been somewhere a million times before or I’m going somewhere new, chances are I am going to stress about the trip. I have been traveling a lot (for me) recently, and the trips get slightly easier the more I adjust my mindset and, most importantly, prepare.
1. Know how long to make the trip: This is the one thing I think I’m still mastering. But the closer I get, the better the trips end up being. There is absolutely a thing about being somewhere for too long and being somewhere for not enough time. Too much time and I end up hitting a wall and burning out. Too little time and I feel rushed to see it all.
Each trip is different, too. It’s tricky to nail it down, but it helps if you know how big the city is and how many places you’ll be going. Think thoughtfully about this and try to make it the best trip by choosing the right amount of time! Look back on trips you’ve gone on and try to remember how you were feeling. Did you wish you had two extra days abroad to adjust to the time change? Or did you get travel fatigued by day seven and wish you had packed everything in in five or six days?
2. Make a real plan: Okay I think this one kind of goes hand in hand with the first tip. This is where I either drop the ball big time or nail it as a wannabe travel agent. Sometimes I get too busy to do a proper plan, especially for a short trip, but I always regret it if I don’t.
Depending on the trip, I’ll either map out each day perfectly (with restaurants, travel routes, the works) or I’ll just write down every place I’d like to go, in order of priority ON a map. Add. The. Points. To. A. Map. Either a printed out map or Google Map, but having labeled places will come in handy. If you find yourself in one neighborhood, you can check to make sure you’re not missing something you wanted to see, or if you’re hungry, you can check the map to find a nearby restaurant you’ve already vetted.
Take the time to come up with a plan. Unless you’re the spontaneous type– I am absolutely not. I like to have things squared away before I get there. Because if I don’t, like in New Orleans, the first day typically feels like a scramble as I come up with a plan late in the game.
3. Pack well: A good amount of my stress comes from packing. I recommend packing for function and practicality. Whenever I don’t do this (or can’t for blog reasons), I regret it. Comfortable shoes. Great bag to carry everything. A warm enough coat. Boots that keep your feet dry. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Trust me; you are going to look like a tourist whether or not you think you do. (And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always feel like people stand out more when they try not to look like tourists?! You’re not fooling anyone!)
Packing well for me means packing everything I need to feel comfortable (including a steamer and hair tools), but leaving behind the unnecessary (like three extra pairs of shoes). I do typically over pack, but I’ve been trying to get better. Again, planning your trip (#2) will help you determine just what you need. Fancy dress for a nice night out? Hiking boots for an outdoor adventure?
While some people are all about packing the least amount of stuff, I’m more about packing the right stuff, even if it’s a few additional items. Being prepared reduces my travel anxiety for sure. (The one time I didn’t overpack, I ended up getting hit by a wave and had to dry my jeans with a hair dryer….)
I try to pack simple, wearable clothes in one color. I stick to navy or black as that helps me cut down on the number of things I bring– everything matches! When I have a well-packed bag with everything I need for a successful trip, I feel better.
4. Pick your priorities: This is the hard part. Another source of my stress around traveling is feeling like I need to do EVERYTHING when I get there. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. I have to prioritize what’s important for the trip. Maybe it’s restaurants (like New Orleans haha) or maybe it’s destinations (like Ireland). If you’re traveling with other people, make sure you know what everyone else wants to prioritize! Sometimes you have to eliminate a few things and make a plan for coming back 😉
Beyond just places to go and people to see, you can also prioritize how you’ll treat the trip. You may want to prioritize a slow pace or pack it all in. In Ireland, for example, we prioritized seeing as much as we could which meant lots of driving and very little (aka no) downtime, but it was exactly the trip we wanted to have and came back happy (albeit tired).
5. Eat often: I always, always recommend eating as often as possible while traveling. It’s especially true when you’re traveling with friends (trust me!!!), but it’s just as important even if you’re traveling alone. Food. Often. I always like to start my travel day with coffee and a good breakfast. I’ll make sure everyone knows upfront that I will not start the day without coffee and breakfast. Even though I sound like the diva, it’s really in everyone’s best interests. It gets everyone out the door, gets energy levels up right from the get-go, and makes sure everyone is in a good mood for a long day of exploring!
6. Then unpack well: After a trip, long or short, I like to unpack immediately when I return. One of the worst parts of traveling is having to get back into a routine. The first thing I want to do is take a shower, put on pajamas, and get into bed. But unpacking helps get the post-trip ball back rolling. Start the first load of laundry, put your toiletries back in their place, hang up your coats, return your shoes, and store that suitcase back away. There’s nothing worse than having a suitcase and its contents lingering around for days.