Even though our Disney sing-along days are likely far behind us, most of us are familiar with Olaf, the huggable little snowman from “Frozen” who was so (naively) excited to see his first summer. I’m with him — there’s just something about summer that gets me excited. The warm weather means it’s time to break out the sunscreen, the flip-flops, and for many of us, the suitcases and maybe even a passport.
I love traveling. Seeing new sights, smelling new smells, tasting new tastes. The diversity of the world and the people in it is fascinating, and traveling can be valuable when it reminds us how small our piece of the puzzle is.
So whether you’re taking a road trip in your own state or hopping on a plane for an international adventure or boarding a cruise ship with some friends, here are some tips for keeping your vacation fun and safe.
Plan, plan, plan.
Even if you simply want to explore your destination without an itinerary, know where you’ll stay, especially if traveling alone. Also, make sure you know how you’re going to get where you need to go. On one trip, I needed to get from one city to another (about an hour apart) and didn’t want to get a rental car or hire an Uber for that kind of distance. A little research led me to a commuter train that was perfect. And I loved seeing the countryside from my train window.
Allow for a balance of scheduled and spontaneous.
Decide on both touristy activities and down time options. You won’t be able to see all your destination has to offer, so don’t stress yourself out trying to fit it all in. And don’t forget: this is vacation.
I know, I know – it would be nice to take a vacation from your budget, too. By all means, give yourself some spending money for the trip, but don’t go overboard. Money spent on souvenirs is still money spent, and it adds up. Also, hold some of your money aside for surprise expenses. Something will not go as planned and you will need to be able to buy another ticket or pay an unexpected fee.
Always keep your safety in mind, especially if traveling alone.
Make sure someone knows where you will be staying and how to reach you, and try to avoid wandering around after dark or in less-crowded areas. Keep your phone charged at all times – you may want to pack a power bank or two with this in mind.
Well in advance of your trip, start making a list of what you need to pack. Keep coming back to your list and adding items you think of later (like a power bank). If possible, take along some snacks and, if you can, maybe even a simple meal. It will be much cheaper and you can still eat out for a different meal. Don’t forget to pack: motion sickness meds (if you’re flying or cruising), postcard stamps if you want to send postcards, sturdy walking shoes if you think you’ll be doing a lot of walking, cash (including coins), any ID you’ll need, and any tickets you bought ahead of time. If flying, check in online as early as possible (usually 24 hours before your flight) so you’ll be the first to know of any flight changes or cancellations.
Put your phone to work.
Download apps for any airlines you’ll be using as well as Lyft, Uber, or Airbnb. Double-check to make sure you have any e-tickets, boarding passes or other important information accessible on your phone before you leave.
Keep the important stuff together.
Put your ID, some cash, and any boarding passes or tickets you’re carrying in the same small pocket in your luggage. Always keep your luggage close to you.
Double-check your alarm.
Only once in my life have I goofed on my alarm and set it wrong, accidentally compromising my wake-up call for the next morning. Unfortunately, that was the time my oversleeping caused me to miss an international flight. Yes, it was an expensive mistake. No, I don’t want to talk about it.
Once you’re on vacation, have fun! As they say, enjoy the journey – even if it doesn’t all go according to your plans (like my missed international flight). Be willing to change plans and try not to feel too down about any disappointments. You’re still on vacation, and even if it rains or your plans are otherwise ruined, you’ll have more fun if you try to have fun. Sometimes those details are just out of our control, so it’s no use stressing over them.
Prepare for readjusting to normal life.
Vacation is unquestionably an emotional high. Returning from vacation can sometimes feel disappointing as we trade our days of sightseeing and new experiences for work, responsibilities and chores. Add exhaustion from our travels and jet lag or time zone adjustment and we can be downright grumpy when we get back. Expect these adjustments and prepare yourself to be kind even when you don’t feel like it. Try to plan your return so you have a lighter workload on your first day back, or keep your first couple of evenings open so you can go to bed early and unwind a little extra after work.
Bon voyage! Where are you going this summer?
Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.