Since arriving in Europe as American-Expats, we have been fortunate to have traveled to 26 countries as a family of four with our little ones (4 and 2-years-old), as well as host dozens of visitors and meet up with other family and friends on trips. Additionally, for my blog, I constantly read other travel blogs and forums where I can understand trends and tips. Based on our lessons learned, I compiled 3 essential travel steps to implement.
Enjoying a trip can be a highly personal experience, as different people have different preferences and interests. However, here are some general tips, based on our travel lessons and travel tips and tricks that can help enhance your enjoyment during a trip:
3 Essential Travel Steps
Travel Step 1: Planning and Preparation
Budget Wisely: Financial stress can dampen the enjoyment of a trip. Plan your budget in advance and stick to it as closely as possible.
- Flights: We like to use Google Flights ‘explore’ feature to search destinations that fit our budget. I also set price alerts for flights to the destinations that I would like to visit.
- Travel Hacking: Leverage credit card points and hotel loyalty reward programs to reduce the cost. Our family uses Chase Sapphire Travel Credit Card, and leverages our daily expenditure to accumulate points, which can be transferred to travel partners. Our favorite partners are Marriott Bonvoy, although I have slowly realised that World of Hyatt could be a better deal for the points to dollar value.
- Resources to Learn More: For more knowledge on travel hacking, follow these accounts on Instagram to learn: Travel Hacking Mom and The Points Guy.
Travel Companions: Choose your travel companions wisely. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family, or friends, being with people who share your interests and respect your preferences can greatly enhance your experience. It is important to set expectations on travel styles and desires for the trip.
Do research on the destination before you arrive: Research the history, culture, and local customs of your destination before you go. This can help you better appreciate the significance of the places you’re visiting. This is not always essential, but it can’t hurt to spend a little bit of time reading about your destination before the trip and checking from your network for recommendations for activities or food spots you might enjoy. Leverage websites, blogs, Facebook groups (I love Girls Who Love to Travel and Moms who Love Travel) to accumulate information.
Blend of Flexible Itinerary with 1 or 2 booked activities to guide the schedule: Over-planning can lead to stress if things don’t go exactly as planned.The best itineraries find the balance between having plans and going with the flow. Based on the research accumulated, draft an outline of the itinerary of your trip. At the most, only book 1-2 activities a day, creating some structure for the day but also flexibility to relax and explore leisurely. This is especially important for longer trips to prevent burnout.
- Trip Planner App: Use TripIt to consolidate all the information about your flight, hotel, and booked activities. For example, when visiting Amsterdam, I suggest to book hotels (as prices go up) and key museum visits in advance (as tickets usually sell out) such as Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum, and then planning to stroll around for the rest of the day. Having a rough itinerary can help you make the most of your time, but be open to changes and unexpected opportunities that may arise.
Travel Step 2: Pack the Right Gear
Check weather beforehand and pack accordingly: It is so helpful to be prepared with the right attire and accessories for the weather in a city. For example, for a rain forecast you would want to have a rain jacket and umbrella ready to go or for extreme cold, you would want thermals. Part of enjoying walking around a new place is being comfortable in what you are wearing. In many destinations, there are places where you can get these last minute essentials, but not always the most convenient.
Check luggage metrics: Check your airlines policies on how much you can bring so you don’t get upsold at the airport. When packing, leverage packing cubes and compression bags to save space and stay organized.
Think through the attire and the way to pack. Write out beforehand the things you need to pack, whether it is things in your home or what you need to purchase. If you have children, I have a list of our favorite items to leverage for packing your supplies.
Travel Step 3: Mindset
Set Expectations: Whether you are on a solo trip, traveling with a partner, kids, or a larger group, it is important to set expectations with yourself and/or others (including any hosts) on what you want to get out of the trip. Is it to rest and refresh? Do you want to explore the destination?
Positive Mindset: It sounds like a cliche, but 100% of the time, the people that come in with enthusiasm and maintain a ‘glass half full’ attitude even when things don’t go as planned, are always the happiest ones by the end of the trip. Things will go wrong, and that is okay. Sometimes it makes for funny stories later on. Not every enjoyable experience needs to be grand. A beautiful sunrise, a friendly conversation with a local, or a serene moment by the ocean can be just as memorable. Practice mindfulness by being fully present in each experience. Put away distractions and focus on what’s happening around you.
Stay Healthy: Prioritize your well-being by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a balanced diet. It’s harder to enjoy a trip if you’re not feeling well.
Capture Memories: Take photos, keep a journal, or create videos to capture your experiences. These mementos can help you relive the trip once you’re back home.
Remember, the goal of a trip is to create positive memories and experiences, so tailor your approach to what brings you the most joy and fulfilment. What are some of the key tips you have in maximising enjoying your trip?