After many years of traveling I have experienced my fair share of vacation stress. Vacation stress is super frustrating because who wants to use up their money and vacation time on a stressful trip, right? Over time I realized the biggest cause of that stress was really the type of traveler I was, and the way I had approached traveling. While I have loads of other tips I would love to share, I feel that these 6 tips are without a doubt, THE most important. Here are my 6 travel tips for having a stress-free vacation abroad:
6 Travel Tips for Having a Stress-Free Vacation Abroad
1 | Pack light.
I used to be the kind of person who over packs. You know the type – the extra-large suitcase, the large carry on, AND a giant “under seat” tote bag. I’m embarrassed to even think about it. LOL! Here’s what I learned: The more luggage, the less mobile you are. You will be miserable, and you will be annoying to travel with.
If any part of your trip involves a train/tram/bus, there is no guarantee that you will have anywhere to put your suitcases. In addition, you will make a lot of people angry if your suitcases eat up all the available seats on a full train.
You will be hating life if you have to wheel your luggage across cobblestones for several blocks. By the way, if you’re needing help from your traveling companions at this point, you’re not likely to get it (unless you offer to buy them a drink). No one likes wheeling luggage across cobblestones.
My first trip to Europe was as a college student years ago. I remember being so proud of my packing. After all, I was ready for any circumstance and any occasion! No so. I managed to overlook one important thing – how to handle all of that darn luggage! Everywhere I went, I literally held people up, and annoyed taxi and bus drivers. On many trains and metro lines there wasn’t hardly enough room for a carry on, let alone my entire closet. People were literally glaring. I never made that mistake again.
2 | Be a savvy traveler, not a tacky tourist.
A tacky tourist makes no effort to understand the local culture because they don’t think that there is any better culture than their own. They are seeing the sights and don’t care what the locals think of them. They give the rest of us travelers a bad name.
A savvy traveler is armed with information. They have made an effort to learn about where they are going to. They’ve done their homework and try to understand the culture of where they are visiting.
The savvy traveler knows that every country they visit has a difference in their etiquette, how to tip, how to hold utensils, ways to greet people, dress code in churches, use of credit card vs cash, etc.). Each country has their own language and distinct personality. They also might even have their own currency.
A savvy traveler also knows that their own personal views, and cultural background, are not necessarily important to others from different countries.
Just like they are back home, savvy travelers always try to be polite and courteous. Tacky tourists, on the other hand, are usually in a big hurry, and often quite rude and pushy. They are busy taking as many pictures as possible without regard to those around them.
A traveler makes an effort to learn some local phrases and attempts to connect with the locals. They know that this is all part of the adventure, so they make it fun! It’s much more courteous and polite to say hello and ask if they speak English in their local language then it is to just start speaking English. Trust me, it makes locals happy that you would try and use their language. A tacky tourist assumes that everyone speaks their language.
3 | Stay organized and one step ahead of your itinerary.
At the end of every day, usually over dinner and wine or beer, we do a recap of the day. We also review our itinerary and plan for the next day to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything and understand any logistics involved.
This is where some of our best memories have been made. Sitting around talking and laughing and sharing stories and pictures of the day. This is a great time to write some of these stories down in a travel journal.
By the way, this is also a great time to start quizzing yourself on your phrases if you’re moving to a new country the following day! I cannot tell you how much fun our family has had trying to work through various foreign phrases! 😊
4 | Make it meaningful.
Meaningful trips are not necessarily the ones where you go from site to site. In my experience that can be a little boring.
Engage your senses and you’ll come away with a fantastic experience. Try some local foods while taking a cooking class. Smell the flowers (or the fish stalls, LOL) at a local market. See the beauty in all both architecture and nature.
Do something different. Instead of a walking tour, maybe try a bike tour. It is a super fun way to see more sights in less time (because you are moving faster). One additional benefit of a bike tour? You’ll give your aching feet a break.
While we fondly remember seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame in Paris, our favorite part was wandering from shop to shop to assemble a picnic. It was like a scavenger hunt for adults. We bought bread from a baker, chose wine from a wine shop, cheese from a fromagerie, fresh fruit from a market, and flowers from a pretty stall. We had the most perfect picnic along the Seine at dusk, in full view of the Eiffel Tower lit up. Fantastic memory.
5 | Be flexible.
Be flexible. Not everything is going to go as planned. Perhaps you may be more tired than you think, your flight is delayed, or a major site you wanted to see is under construction. Regardless, make sure to build alternative options into your itinerary.
A great rule of thumb is to always tackle your important must-see sights first. This way, if you run out of energy later in the day you won’t feel guilty or that you’re missing out.
A side note about jet lag, for years I assumed that jet lag would hit me the first days. It doesn’t. For me, jet lag usually occurs around day three. No matter what I do, I continue to struggle with it. Regardless, it seems that every trip I still manage to overestimate my energy level. I always think I can do more than I actually can.
6 | Stay healthy.
Staying healthy is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you enjoy your trip. As a result, if you aren’t feeling good, your trip may, quite literally, be ruined.
Many people feel that because they’ve paid a lot of money for their trip they need to squeeze in every single sight and activity. Please don’t make this mistake overdue it. Balance your sightseeing with down time, and higher activity days with lower activity days. Make sure to squeeze in some rest, it’s super important.
Dehydration is another cause of problems for travelers. For most people, dehydration will most likely start on the plane ride over, and won’t stop until they’ve returned home. Because of this, make sure to carry a refillable water bottle with you. Fill it when you leave your room, and again when you see a drinking fountain. It’s so important to keep drinking, people!
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