Avoid these common mistakes to make your trip the best it can be.
Travel during high-season
Good luck contemplating the Mona Lisa while hundreds of people jostle and push to get a selfie with her coy smile. There is always an off-season. Use it. You don’t have to visit during the dead of winter to enjoy the off-season. Mid-fall and mid-spring are often low-tourist times with temperate weather, making them perfect travel times.
Eat at places with an English menu
Nothing is more of a dead-give away for “we cater to tourists” than all English menus. Get away from the restaurants that are next to major tourist attractions. They charge more and the food is usually sub-par. Restaurants with a menu in the local language as well as an English menu are probably a good choice, especially if you’re in an international city.
Restaurants with menus only in the local language are the restaurants you want to go to. Get ready to eat like a local.
Don’t learn the language
You’re going to another country. You can’t expect them to know your language. Even if your trusted friend assures you that “they all speak English over there even if you try to speak their language to them,” you should still learn a few basic phrases. Not everyone speaks English and it’s surprising where you won’t find English, even in international cities. Being able to stumble through and recognize a few foreign phrases is a huge leg up and, it’s just damn nice.
Remember Barney? That big purple dinosaur always taught the importance of “please” and “thank you,” and that does not change when you grow up, become an adult and visit another country.
Learn how to say and understand: “please,” “thank you,” “yes,” “no,” “I would like,” and “help.” You memorized every episode of The Office. You can memorize those six phrases. And with the help of the internet, you can learn those phrases for free.
If you’re feeling crazy, it’s also helpful to memorize: “how much,” “where is,” and how to recognize numbers in relation to money. Don’t forget to write down or memorize the local emergency number(s) (no, it’s not 911) and your lodging address.
Try to do everything
A whirlwind tour of all the major sites sounds cool, but after the fifth monument or so, all the facts and dates and history will start to blur together. Don’t make your trip do too much. Plan time to do nothing. Leave breathing room to wander your destination aimlessly. Take in the little things and try to get to know the local pattern of life.
Anxiety over “seeing it all while we’re here” will get in the way of enjoying the moment. Accept you can’t truly ever see it all and enjoy doing nothing.
Rely on technology
Yeah, your phone company might say that you have data, but you don’t want to rely on that when you’re trying to catch a train, or a bus, or even just make it back to your lodging from, well, wherever you are.
Wi-Fi will be spotty. Chargers explode (even with the proper adapters.) Phones suddenly loose service. Always have a backup plan that doesn’t include electronics.
Overspend on the little things
It’s easy to nickel and dime yourself, especially when an exchange rate is involved. Find a way that works for you to keep track of your spending. You don’t want to blow the budget early on.
Don’t bring a backpack
You’ll want a backpack or a bag of some kind. A trusty bag makes day-trips and tours much easier. You can focus on the sites and not trying to hold everything you need.
We all know someone who wants to travel but just hasn’t found the time or money. Maybe that’s you right now. It’s no secret that Americans want to be travelers, but not everyone takes the leap.
Make it a priority. Travelers don’t stumble into another country– they plan for it. You can’t be a traveler “one day,” if you don’t start now.