Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tips & Tricks

I've been traveling solo for about four and a half years now, and as a result I've picked up on a couple of things. Here are just some of my little tips and tricks!

1. Pack a snack: high cal, high protein granola bars, pop tarts, and trail mix have seen me through the first night in many new territories. I never expect to arrive exactly when the itinerary says we will, and often I'm too jet lagged and disoriented to buy food before lunch the following day. This is a tip I've learned through two starved days in Ireland and France.

2. If you find yourself in a pinch and need to purchase a one way ticket that seems incredibly expensive, purchase a round trip ticket for about a week's length. (Wednesday to the following Tuesday, or Saturday to Wednesday if it's international.) There's no penalty for not showing up for the return trip, and often the cost is lower. Once in a pickle in London I had to purchase a ticket for Seattle day-of and opted for the roundtrip fare because it wound up being 400$ less than if I had purchased the one way fare.

3. To avoid looking like a tourist, find detailed maps of the host city (before you leave or using the wifi at the airport). You want one with street names, landmarks, everything. Save them as photos (save image, screenshot, whatever you have to do.) When you're lost, pull up the picture. With high resolution images you can zoom incredibly close, and you don't need WIFI to access them once they're saved. This sounds a bit silly, but a tourist with a big map is a bigger target for theft than an Average Joe with their face in their phone.

4. Research before you go. I highly recommend checking your phone plan to make sure you won't be charged insane amounts of overages and, frankly, to make sure your network is operable in other countries. Currently, Japan and the US are the only countries NOT operating under CDMA. iPhones can work if you've got a SIM card, so it's important to get one before you go. On the same token, check for hotels and nearby cafes with WIFI before you leave. There's no point in paying for something you could get for free!

5. Learn basic phrases in the native language of the land you're traveling to. This might seem like a no brainer. It should be. Natives are much nicer if you at least attempt to absorb their culture. I found in France, as long as I started speaking in French, most people would cringe and tell me they would prefer speaking in English. But hey, they seemed to appreciate my efforts!