This post explores how to make the most out of a trip given the time limitations part time travelers face.
Travel takes us out of our comfort zone, opens our minds and teaches us invaluable lessons.
If you are like me, you are probably planning your next getaway. Travel has an addictive quality that makes us to want it more and more.
In my case, my love for travel is limited by time. I have a full-time job and plenty of responsibilities. That is why I cherish my travel moments so much.
Given those limitations, I have given a lot of thought to the actual ways in which I can make the most out of a trip.
Hey, if I can only take two or three trips a year, they better be the most super duper, freaking awesome trips I can experience.
If you love to travel (and I know you do) and have time limitations, here are some suggestions on how to make the most out of a trip.
- Pre-book as much as possible
Before leaving home, I book accommodations, transportation between cities and entrance to popular attractions.
I do this because of the following reasons:
- Save money by booking early
- Opportunity to choose dates and times that work the best for my itinerary
- Avoid making lines
- Ability to understand terms and conditions of purchases
- Avoid bad decisions made under pressure
- Give my trip some structure
- The most important reason: do not want to spend time figuring out things that I can figure out while chilling at home
Bottom line: I do not want to spend time of my precious trip on things I could have done at an earlier moment. If we have the technology to make things happens, let’s use it to our advantage.
- Get in shape
You are not going to transition from couch potato to travel ninja in one day. Not going to happen.
If you have a sedentary life and are planning a trip that involves lots of walking and moving around, start some sort of exercise routine before the trip. One month before my trips, I start to walk two or three miles around the neighborhood. During the weekends, I try to do more.
In that way, I am acclimatizing my body for what is coming.
I do not want to sound like a broken record but I think this is an aspect that should be taken with care. For awareness (and curiosity) purposes, I measured the number of daily steps I took on recent trips to New York and Germany. I ended up walking 10-12 miles daily. That is a lot! Just to remind you of how drained your body will feel if you do not tackle this beforehand.
- Do not cram loads of work and tasks before your trip
I am a bit guilty of this. Sometimes, I procrastinate and when I look at the calendar, bam, I am leaving on trip in less of a week.
I recommend making the necessary work arrangements with time. If you need to leave somebody in charge, start training several weeks in advance. If you need to accumulate some time, spread it over a decent amount of time. You want to start your trip with a clear mind and a rested body.
In the same way, make sure you are organizing your house and belongings in the proper way. Wash clothes, clean the fridge, distribute responsibilities, hold mail and pack 15 to 7 days before the actual trip date.
- Hit the ground running
I tend to arrive at a destination between 8:00 a.m. and noon. For international trips, I take a red eye flight and arrive early. For local gateways, I arrive midday after several hours spent in the car.
These modes of transportation can leave you dead tired. The first thing you want to do is hit that hotel bed hard. But, hold on! I will need you to use some willpower in here.
After settling in your accommodation, refresh a little bit and start exploring. Sounds like I am a little bit cuckoo but this is a great way to make proper use of your first day at a destination.
What is more important, I have noticed this technique helps me to beat jetlag. You will go to bed at the local time, sleep like a rock and wake up with a desire to see the sights.
- Have some idea of what you want to see and do
I am not an advocate of planning every single aspect of a trip but having a comprehensive idea of what you want to see can help to manage your time.
I start by making a list of all the places I want to visit at a destination. Then, I proceed to group them by neighborhood or area. This helps me to move in an intelligent way around the city.
- Wake up early
No, I am not crazy. Vacations and getting out of bed early are not a match made in heaven. Ahh, but if you want to stretch your sightseeing hours, you need consider this option.
To facilitate things, let me give you an example. Say you wake up at 10:00 a.m., are ready to go at 11:00 and finish eating at around noon. Sounds nice but you just lost three or four viable hours.
Waking up early is a good option when you want to visit markets, beat up others at attractions, take photos or have plans for a day trip (you can nap while on transit).
- Rest in between
I used to rush like a lightning bolt around a city. When I used to do that, I felt burned out early during the day. I ended up dragging myself (and being kind of in a bad mood) for as long as possible.
Well, I missed the mark during several years. Taking breaks during the day has proven to be more effective in terms of stamina. Now, I take a mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon break. Sometimes, I go to the hotel, rest for a while and go out later.
My breaks are simple. I sit down (café, restaurant, park), people watch or have a small drink. This unassuming technique has changed the way I travel.
- Eat well
The truth is you need a lot of energy to do a multi-city, multi-day trip. This is not the time to skip meals or load on junk food.
Most of us are into saving money but choosing to do so by cutting a healthy calorie count will take a toll on you. It is possible to eat nutritious and delicious meals at a good price. Take care of yourself!
- Plan how to move within the city
Do not get me wrong, I love to discover a city by walking its streets. Now, this is the deal, as I mentioned early, you can walk 10 to 12 miles on any given day. People will not even believe you walked that much!
Save your legs by using public transportation in a strategic way. In addition, consider taking a tram or bus on hilly areas.
- Book accommodation near the attractions
Even if it is a bit more expensive, I prefer to book accommodation near the city center or close to the main attractions. I do not want to spend my time in transit (during rush hour, ugh).
This may be a challenge in popular destinations, so, book way up in advance. It feels great to be able to walk from your hotel or Airbnb to the places you want to see.
- Move between destinations early morning or late evening
If you are visiting multiple cities on a trip, make the most of transit days by traveling early morning or late evening.
When traveling early, you can nap or rest while in transit and still see a good chunk of your destination because you are expected to arrive early.
On the other hand, late evening travel allows you a full (or almost a full) day of sightseeing. Make sure you check out early and leave your luggage stored (you will pick it up early).
- Pack light
I need to include this in here. Packing light will make your travel life much easier. For real!
Many years ago, we decided to travel with carry-on luggage only. Even in that way, we started to notice our luggage was limiting our movement ability. Turns out we were cramming our small luggage with tons of stuff. Once my husband offered to carry my backpack and he didn’t last ten minutes. He had no idea how I was carrying that “elephant” around.
After assessing the situation, we made a list of what we really needed during the trip. On the last two years, we have experienced the freedom of minimum luggage.
We said bye to battling with small elevators, battling with stairs, luggage not fitting on plane / train compartments, luggage falling all over the place and the exhaustion of rolling a heavy load.
I encourage you to adjust your relationship with luggage (if needed).
- Avoid scams and time-consuming activities
If you want to use your time wisely, I encourage you to research about scams in the area you are going to visit. Sometimes, it is not a matter of research but of common sense. Be aware of shady or sketchy characters. If things looks too good, too cheap or too tempting, something fishy may be going on.
Once, I was scammed in Bangkok and ended up wasting half a day because I was taken to a certain place and left stranded there. You can end up wasting time (and money) if you are not aware of what is going on around you.
Also, in my experience, offerings of free sightseeing, tickets to shows or money in exchange of you vising a property or doing this or that, is not worth it. Listen, the time commitment is going to be greater than what it is advertised. Plus, you may find yourself on high pressure selling environment.
- Minimize the use of electronics
I know a lot of us want to document our trip or load what we are doing into our social media channels. But, I urge you to evaluate if your electronics are taking away from your travel experience.
Are you really channeling the experience? Are you interacting with your travel companion or locals? You are going to have tons of time to share your experiences at a later moment. However, the moment you have in a specific city with certain person doing a particular thing may be unique in your life. Thing about that.
So, here you have it. These are ways I use to make the most out of a trip. I know they may not apply to everybody (we all have different travel styles) but I am sure you can make good use of a couple of these. I encourage you to develop your own ways of making the most out of a trip.
Because, I am sure you want to make your trip super duper, freaking awesome!
Anything else to add? How do you make the most out of a trip?
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