- plan, plan, plan- I know some people like to fly by the seat of their pants and that is great but in some cases you need to plan. If you are not on a budget then you might have a little more room to play with this but if you are on a budget, as I always am, planning is your best friend. Also if you only have a limited amount of time planning ahead can save you hours of wasted time standing in line.
- research- Groupon is international if you didn’t know. For most places if you do a little research you can find inexpensive skip the line passes, semi-guided tours, activities and so much more at reduced costs and it definitely saves you on those hours in line.
- planning and research also help you squeeze in as much as possible in a short time period. For example we are packing Venice into a day and a half then on our last day in Venice which would have been a 3/4 day anyways we are instead taking the train and spending a few hours each in Verona, Florence and Pisa before laying our heads down in our AirBnB accommodations in Rome.
- Think outside the box when it comes to lodging- you don’t have to stay in a nice hotel to feel luxurious when traveling. If you once again research you can find nice places for a lot less expensive. I have stayed in some seriously nice hostels and and used AirBnB several times when I have travelled. If you are traveling with friends AirBnB is a great choice. We have accommodations in the heart of Venice, Rome and Barcelona through AirBnB that are less than $150/night, whole apartment in each place, split the cost between everyone and you are looking at $20-30/night for each person in a nice place. and having and entire apartment means you have a kitchen so you can hit the market and make a few meals to save some money. You are still eating locally!!!
- Do a few things that aren’t overrun by tourists- on my first morning in Venice after some coffee and a pastry I plan on walking the opposite direction of the crowds and will continue to do this. That is how I will explore Venice, going the opposite direction of the crowds (obviously do a little research on places you should avoid and use common sense, if you turn down a street and it feels sketchy, backtrack quickly).
- Safety!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- Be safe, research the places you are going, know the areas to avoid, know the laws and customs. Pay attention to the dress code. If something or someone doesn’t feel right get out of that situation and place ASAP. Think before you act. If you are alone, don’t get so drunk that you are impaired. That movie TAKEN with Liam Neeson is a fun thriller but it is also real, people are kidnapped and murdered every day, enjoy your vacation but be smart and be aware.
- common sense should see you through-if you wouldn’t do it at home don’t do it abroad. Again take 10 minutes and learn about the place that your are going, I would sunbath topless in Ibiza, I would cover all tattoos and most skin in the middle east, different place different experience.
- Check in. Give someone at least a vague itinerary of where you will be and when you will be there and when you will be home so someone will know if you don’t arrive. Try and check in at least ever 72 hours (I tend to check in at least once every 24 hours) you can find a free or very cheap internet café almost anywhere. And most cell phones have international coverage if you check. It will cost me $.55 every day to send 1 text message to my mom and get one back from her both acknowledging we know I am alive. $.55/day is not much to ensure piece of mind.
- Be a dork. Take selfies and make stupid faces and journal and take videos. Who cares what the people around you think, in 5, 10, 15 years you are going to be so glad you can look back on those memories.
- Be respectful. It may not be your culture, religion or favorite food but it is theirs. You wouldn’t want someone to bad mouth your way of life so don’t do that to anyone else. You don’t have to believe in it or even accept it but don’t be mean about it. Step to the side, quietly leave the church, discreetly bow out of the ceremony, say thank you and try the tiniest bite you can manage.
- lastly HAVE FUN!!!!! You may never be back, you may never experience something like this again so drink it all in. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and truly live this experience.
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