Travelling. The only time when I - a normal human being who hasn’t yet won the lottery - feel totally free. The only time when I can (temporarily) escape the world of deadlines. The only time when I come almost within sniffing distance of my carefree childhood days. I know I am not the only one without a trust fund in my name. Which is why I have drawn up a list of some tried and tested tips. Travel tips that can help us get the most out of our hard-earned holidays.
Research (and more research)
Invest in a good guidebook, of course. But read up on your destination online too. Search for blogs on that particular place. Blogs get updated more often than guidebooks. If you are researching on say, which Greek island to visit, don’t just remain content on reading an article or two about the top 10 Greek islands. Go to the comments section. Seasoned travellers would definitely have a couple of more islands to add to that list. If you have a specific query, post it on a forum on sites like TripAdvisor/Lonely Planet Thorn Tree.
Handling pre-holiday stress
As per Murphy’s Law, the week before you go on vacation will be the busiest one. Your inbox, instead of pinging every 5 minutes now starts pinging every minute. This is when you need to take a deep breath and remind yourself of the fact that you are going on a much-needed holiday. Start daydreaming. Begin this process at least a week or two before your vacation. Otherwise you waste the first couple of days of your vacation. Physically you may be walking down a beautiful cobbled street, but mentally you are still clicking the send/receive button on your Outlook Express.
Things may go according to plan. Or may not. Instead of a 55-minute flight, you might be facing an overnight bus journey. The sea-view room might have transformed into an alley-view room. The promised smooth ferry transfer might have turned into an exercise in keeping your breakfast down. Rather than getting frustrated, face everything with a sense of adventure. And more importantly, humor. Everything falls into place then.
Invest in experiences
There are times we felt 'Oh…this is too pricey…let's skip it.' Invariably, much later, once we are back to the daily grind, that expensive experience didn't look, well, that expensive. In short, go easy on the wallet whenever possible while travelling. Do not tie yourself up in knots converting liras to rupees or dollars to dirhams. Cut down on your Starbucks fix. Skip the sales signs. Forgo a couple of movie nights. But do go for that beautiful souvenir or a meal in an amazing seaside restaurant. This is called investing in experiences.
Wake up early (if possible)
I know this is really hard. But I always make it a point to wake up early whenever I am in a new place. The essence of a place is really felt in the early hours of the morning. Try it. You might experience something totally different.
The art of seeing nothing, yet everything.
Sometimes due to conflicting flight-ferry-bus schedules, you might find yourself stranded in a place for a few hours. Avoid the temptation to quickly head out to explore the city. You could have a better sense of the place by just kicking back for that day and relaxing in a nice waterfront cafe and watch the world go by. You are on holiday, after all.
Strike up a conversation with a local with a friendly ‘Ola’ or ‘Sawatdee’. It might be the shortest of conversations. Or you might end up getting a unique insight into the place. Either way, a warm smile is guaranteed.
Classic hits vs. off-the-beaten-track experiences
One never knows whether one will be back in that particular country. So, it’s tempting to head to the must-see-visit places. But sometimes, it can be very rewarding to ignore the hype and take off in the opposite direction and discover something new. Something that is yet to make it to the guidebooks.
Check into a B&B or a home stay
Next time you travel, consider the more wallet-friendly B&Bs and home stays. You not only enjoy a more intimate experience but also get expert advice about local attractions. A restaurant that serves authentic cuisine, for instance. Staying in B&Bs means you inject funds directly into the local economy too. You also end up meeting hardcore travellers who can point you to your next destination.
Generally you meet nice people. But there are always exceptions. Trust your spidey sense. If it starts tingling, respect it. It's better to head back to your lodge at a decent hour than hang around at a bar till the wee hours of the morning. Remind yourself of the fact that another glorious day of exploration awaits you.