As is evident from my slightly more scenic, slightly more aesthetically pleasing Instagram profile, I just returned from 2 months abroad. Being the mildly chaotic, extremely nervous, human embodiment of anxiety that I am, the weeks leading up to my Summer 2k17 Adventure (name trademarked by me) were anything but relaxing. When I wasn’t stressing about how I was going to fit 2 months worth of clothes into a 35cm x 56cm suitcase, I was stressing about how I would have enough money to comfortably (and fun-ly) travel for 2 months. And, when I sorted through those two, very real, stressors my lovely brain went full speed down a worry spiral. What if my phone breaks mid-trip (lol this actually did happen)? What if I accidentally booked a flight to Romania instead of Paris? What if…. What if…. What if….
I am happy to report that all my stressing was for naught and I ended up having the most magical and transformative 2 months of my life. Although much of my stress was due to my worry-wartness, I overcame a huge chunk of my travel unease by planning like a fiend. Here are 8 tips to travel plan like a pro (even if you are an underqualified nineteen-year-old traveling alone).
1. Make a cheat sheet
The night before I left on my trip I channeled all my nervous energy into creating a Pinterest-inspired travel cheat sheet. On this sheet, I included a monthly overview – where I would be and when, a list of all my flight times and numbers, an exchange rate guide, a budget chart and a bucket list section. I referenced this sheet a bajillion (accurate number) times during my trip and used the budget guide every day to stay on track.
2. Handwrite important info
It’s 2017, and by now we are all pretty reliant on technology. From boarding passes to maps to calendars to credit cards, our phones can easily take us anywhere. That is, until your phone breaks! Obviously, traveling without a phone is a huge risk and I would not recommend it (see tip 5) but, in the off chance that your phone breaks and you have no way of getting a backup, having your information handwritten could be a lifesaver. Write down directions to your hotel, your flight information (the flight number, ticket number and times!) and any important numbers you may need once you reach your destination.
3. Have an important docs folder
Make sure that all your essential documents (including that trusty cheat-sheet) are together in a folder. This folder will become your travel bible. Keep everything but your passport in it – flight info, rental car info, hotel confirmation, packing lists. Having this folder will make you much more organized and will ensure that you never miss a thing.
4. Set a realistic budget BEFORE you go
I am the first to admit that budgeting is not my thing… or at least it wasn’t my thing. But now, I’m a self-proclaimed budget addict. What do I mean by this? I set a strict budget for myself for the first month of my trip. At first, I was frustrated with my frugalness and annoyed that I couldn’t buy trinkets and food at every interesting place I went. But, budgeting my days became a daily ritual and a way for me to experience my travels in a new light. I felt that every experience I had was intensified by the fact that I made a conscious effort to spend my daily stipend on it. And trust me, although you may be dying for those flowy, bohemian, elephant pants in the Shuk, you’ll be way happier spending your money on good food or an experience that will create a memory that long outlives those cheaply made, glorified sweatpants.
5. Prepare for the worst and bring an extra “_____”
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan, and sometimes it REALLY doesn’t go according to plan. For example, the morning of my departure to Paris, my phone stopped working. Completely and totally dead phone. Panicking, I ran around Tel Aviv with my broken phone begging every techie I saw to fix my phone so I wouldn’t “get murdered in Paris” (yes, I’m irrational but not having a phone is scary). No one was able to fix my phone and I was mentally preparing to travel phone-less and off the grid. Thankfully, an employee at iTech saved me. After seeing the look of utter desperation in my eyes as he handed me back my phone unfixed, he sold me a phone for only $115 and set it up for me as I waited. If I hadn’t walked into iTech and gotten a replacement phone, my experience in Paris would have been a lot different and way more stressful. So this tip I highly recommend – bring an extra phone/device that has wifi connectivity!
6. Mentally Convert Your Currency
This will be a lifesaver if you’re trying to stick to your budget. Knowing a rough estimate of how your currency compares to the currency of the place you are visiting will make it easy for you to determine what you can and can not afford while you are shopping/ looking for places to eat. For example, I knew that $5 CDN was roughly €3.25 and $10 was roughly 25nis, which made it easy for me to quickly calculate which items I could order from a menu, when I was being overcharged and when I was getting a good deal.
7. Pack Light
When packing for a vacation we all have the tendency to persuade ourselves that we will definitely wear that (insert article of clothing that you have never, ever worn in your life) and cram it into our suitcase. Here’s my tip – only pack clothes you have worn 6 times or more. If you pack articles of clothing you already know you like, you’ll always have an outfit to wear and you’ll never waste precious luggage space.
8. Don’t Stress Too Much
Remember this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and supposed to be fun! So just sit back, relax and know that you’re in for a crazy adventure!