As the last entry to our travel planning series, we are covering those final moments of planning that take place once you arrive. You can spend months planning for a trip, booking activities, restaurants reservations, you name it, but there’s a certain amount that’s not possible to schedule in advance. In fact, we recommend not booking too much in advance. Instead, we suggest looking for opportunities once you arrive to your destination. As they always say, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in trying to plan out every single detail of a trip that we don’t give ourselves room to breathe, relax, take it all in and just explore. Some of our favorite travel memories have happened that way…when we had no plans, no expectations and just let ourselves wander. Here are some of our top tips on figuring out what to do once you’re there…
Make sure you have Google Maps saved for offline – We’ve talked about it before but we highly recommend you have Google Maps saved for offline so that you don’t run into issues with connectivity preventing you from getting from one spot to another. Especially when you’re traveling internationally.
Hit the ground running – When visiting a new place for the first time, go out and explore, with no particular agenda, as soon as you arrive. Even better if you can do it on foot. This is a great way to get a feel for a new area without the pressure of feeling like you have to hit every site. We find this especially true when traveling on long flights and dealing with new time zones. Your body is thrown off so much that getting out and walking helps you feel refreshed. Chances are you are also starving or at least hungry for something that’s better than airport food. Even if you don’t like planning meals in advance, I’d recommend you at least have one decent place picked out ahead of the trip. That saves you from letting hangry-ness get the best of you. Another thing when traveling internationally is to make sure to stop by an ATM for cash, especially when in another country.
Take a scenic route – I’m all for sticking to GPS to get from point A to point B in the quickest amount of time, but if you’re open to it, try and get ‘lost’. Drive or walk a route that looks more interesting and maybe a little more challenging. Use your eyes and intuition rather than a computer to decide what destinations to visit. If you’re a little scared about taking this approach, remember that you can always use GPS to get you back on track.
Ask for recommendations, but take them with a grain of salt – Locals and travel industry professionals (hotel concierge, travel tour operators, etc.) are often happy to offer suggestions of things to do and places to see and eat at. Instead of jumping straight onboard, take their suggestions as guidance and do more of your own research. Even we’re staying at a really nice hotel and ask the concierge for recommendations, we always look it up and check it out on Instagram. Often times, they’re catered to a specific type of clientele/are very touristy “well known” spots, so it’s best to get your own opinion once you know the name. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone somewhere based on someone’s recommendation, not checking before, only to have majorly regretted it later. We’ve found that the best recommendations come from food bloggers who actually live in the city we’re visiting.
When searching for restaurants and activities use blogs or Instagram– We like to use the time in our hotel after dinner to try and book the rest of our next day. To help do that, we use a mix of Pinterest, Instagram and Blogs. Let Google do the work in helping you find these more reliable sources for information. While Yelp, Google Maps and TripAdvisor can give you a general idea of how something is, you never know who that particular traveler is/what their expectations are and their opinions or pictures might not be a true representation of the experience you will have. Another method of ours for scoping out things to do, see, or eat is through Instagram hashtags and explore pages. Most destinations have a hashtag or Instagram handle where visitors have contributed their outtakes from their trips. For instance when we traveled to Scotland, we researched #exploreScotland in search of the best locations for breathtaking views and specific geotags to help us find the exact spot on the map. You can read countless reviews online, but the visuals from an Instagram discovery feed are much more helpful so you have a better idea of what you’ll be getting yourself into. This has been our #1 way to find amazing spots when traveling. We like Instagram because it’s so visual, but it’s always a bonus when a person we found has a website so we can read up more on their recommendations.