Hello. I’m Bobbi-Jo, and I’m a new traveler.
Until this time last year, I had never flown on an airline flight. I had never had the joy of going through customs, or checking my luggage, or trying to fit my carry on in an overhead compartment. I didn’t own a passport. I had never left the continent. But, that changed! I had my “maiden” trip, and it was a doozy! I went to…. CHINA!
My husband’s brother was getting married and we were going there to help him celebrate his wedding with his beautiful new Chinese movie star wife (her name is Yuan Li and she is a famous movie star in China). We would be going for ten days with ALL of our kids and many other members of the family. It was incredibly exciting and scary for me. It was new and I didn’t know a lot about traveling at all. Preparations were made and off we went! Believe me, the trip did NOT disappoint!
We saw some amazing sights:
Ate some amazing food:
Had some amazing experiences:
Enjoyed some amazing company:
And had an amazing trip 🙂
Being a new traveler, I learned a few things about traveling that I didn’t really know before, and I would love to share my thoughts with all of you, should YOU be a new traveler, too! If you are already an experienced traveler, then I’m sure you can relate and perhaps add a few tips of your own! Here are my 10 travel tips from me – a new traveler!
1. Plan and Prepare
I found this to be a huge part of our trip, but being meticulous about our preparations really made for a seamless trip in the end. There are a few areas you might consider pre-planning and preparing ahead:
- Find out what travel documentation you will need and get that in place (passports, visas, birth certificates, travel insurance – whatever).
- Research the basic laws in the country so you can be aware and not have any surprises.
- Do some research on what attractions your destination offers and the costs involved with each – then plan a basic itinerary based on YOUR interests and budget
- Research what the weather will be like where you are going at that time of year – for instance, where I was coming from (Canada) there was still snow on the ground in April, but in Shanghai and Beijing, it was going to be about 25 degrees celsius (77 degrees F) so we needed to put away our parkas in lieu of some shorts and T-shirts!
- Plan ahead with foot wear and break in any shoes you plan to wear ahead of time. A friend of mine who hikes for two-three months straight during the summer months, recommends wearing sturdy running shoes, and avoid wearing hiking boots as they get heavy and can chafe. I believe anything he tells me about footwear when walking a lot!
- Plan to be flexible – once you embark on your trip things will happen, things will change, things will fall through. Plan to be flexible and to enjoy the journey NO MATTER WHAT!
2. Get Immunized
This can take weeks to months to complete, depending on what shots you need, so you’ll need to plan this ahead of time. You don’t want to end up getting ill while you are on vacation. We had to have two sets of immunizations completed before our trip to China, and it took a couple of weeks in between each set, so we are glad we planned ahead for this one, especially since one of the trains we took passed through a part of the country suffering from an outbreak of malaria. Crazy!
3. Be Early
Book your flights and hotels as far in advance as you can for the best deals. We found it helpful to go through a travel agent for this planning. Plan your travel to and from airports, and plan ahead to be there early. Earlier is always better when flying! Leave enough time for you to get through customs and other security checks so that you aren’t doing a mad dash across the airport to make your flight.
4. Pack Less
A lot of people make the mistake of packing things that they don’t need. This just means more work for you, hauling around heavy luggage filled with items you may not even use. Here are a few tips to help you pack less:
- Pack clothing items that can serve several functions and can be used again and again -a piece of jewelry that can be worn with every outfit, one pair of neutral colored shoes, one pair of khakis that match 2 or 3 shirts, etc. For more tips on packing made easy, check out Linsdey’s tips HERE!
- Find out if your hotel offers laundry service, or find a coin operated laundry near where you are staying so you can wash your clothes and re-wear.
- Try rolling your clothes to take up less space in your suitcase – this really works!
- Pack as much as you can in travel sizes, or find out if your hotel offers sample sized shampoos, etc. and leave your large ones at home. Check out Erin’s tips for packing your beauty supplies for travel HERE!
- Try to take an extra, minimalist outfit in your carry-on in the event your luggage gets lost (which happens to everyone at some point.)
- Always carry anything of value in your carry-on. Do NOT check it if you want to see it again.
- Remember to leave a bit of room for souveniers that will inevitably be finding their way back home in your suitcase.
5. Keep Your Money and Documents Safe
My in laws are avid travelers and really know their stuff! Once, while touring in Italy, my father in law had his wallet stolen, and (with it) his passport. He was very careful, but still, it happened. Luckily he had a photocopy of his passport which allowed him to get back home to Canada. It was a poor quality black and white photocopy, and it barely got him through, so – the lesson to remember is this: keep color scans of your passports, birth certificates, travel insurance, drivers licenses etc. with someone back at home, and an extra copy on yourself, somewhere in your luggage. Also, color scan your travel documents and email them to yourself. it is always a good idea to have an electronic copy available to you, should you need it. You can also keep a copy of your passport under the sole of your tennis shoe – thieves won’t steal your shoes usually, so you’ll always have a copy on you (even if it does get a bit stinky – ha!). Also, invest in a money belt for your money/travelers cheques. It is much more difficult to steal from a money belt.
6. Learn the language
Okay, I’m not talking about enrolling in a language course at the university before your trip, but try to learn at least the basics,: “hello, goodbye, thank you, help me, and how much?” will get you a long, long way. There are some great apps for learning the basics of almost any language, and hey, if I can learn some Mandarin, then so can you!
7. Have someone looking after things back home
Having someone taking in mail, checking on the security of the house, watering plants will be such a relief to you while you are away. Hire a youth in your neighborhood to water plants, take in mail, and mow the lawn to let them earn a little money, and learn a few essential skills at the same time.
8. Pre-book your accommodations
Spend a little time before your trip and read customer reviews on potential hotels etc. See if you can score a hotel that offers a free breakfast and save some change on one meal a day! Hotels can book up quickly and you don’t want to be scrambling for a place to stay once you get there. Booking ahead takes so much of the stress out of the situation. We were spoiled because my brother in law and his wife planned out our accommodations. Here is a peek at the places we stayed (all except the two overnight trains):
9. Book a guided tour
This saved me in China. Our guides were awesome in every way. Not only did they give us a lot of information about what we were seeing, but they pre-arranged all of the tickets for admittance into difference places, which saved us a lot of time and headache. They always had fresh water bottles ready for us, and helped us in every way they could. They were life savers and I loved all of their knowledge and insight. Well worth it, especially if you are visiting a location for the first time.
10. Document everything!
I am so grateful to have a ton of photos and videos documenting my time in China. The digital age makes it so easy to take a LOT of pictures and you can cull them later as you please. Take photos of the people, the culture, the sights, everything. I liked to photograph signs that told about the places we were visiting, which helped with recalling those details later on.
I also grabbed business cards from the places we ate at or stayed at, which is great because they often have website addresses on them – yay for visiting those sites once back home and reminiscing about your stay. If you can, bring a small notebook or journal that you can jot down details over the length of your trip which also helps with remembering later on.
Trust me, even if you think to yourself “I will NEVER forget this”…chances are, you will – at least some details of it. Document, document, document and you will continue to live your adventure for years and years afterward!
There are so many more tips I could share, but that will have to wait for another post. I mean, I could talk about jet lag, preparing for air sickness, and so much more, but this isn’t the “3078 Travel Tips” post – it’s 10, so there I’ll leave it. I would love to hear your tried and true travel tips, too! I plan to travel a LOT more in the future – in fact, we have booked a Caribbean Cruise for Jan 2014! Let the traveling continue for this girl! Wahoo!
You can read all about my China adventures and see more photos on my blog: It Works For Bobbi!