Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or you’re scheduling a month-long 10-city tour, there are some things that really are best done before you lock the apartment door behind you. Don’t be caught off guard on your next well-deserved vacay—follow these tips for a stress-free trip.
1. Choose the road less travelled
Yes, you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but it’s true. Whether this means simply trying a hole-in-the wall restaurant outside the travel books, or switching your annual reservation at one ocean-side hotel for a house at the quieter town two beaches over, you’ll be expanding your mind and come home with a story your friends will actually want to hear.
2. When possible, travel in the off-peak season
Almost everyone has their moments when they want to witness a white Christmas in New York, or revel in a debaucherous Floridian spring break, but these splurges are not only hard on the wallet, they mean that most people you meet there will be other tourists. Instead, explore Vail’s mountainside long after the skiing snow, has melted or brave the freezing chill of Chicago in February for a true taste of the Windy City.
3. Figure out transportation in advance (and an alternative)
Understand how people get around the place you're going. It may be tempting to rent a car, but if you're going to a bustling city you might have to worry about where to park. Likewise, a bus pass or Uber account might not even get you from your lodging to the nearest attraction. Brush up on the best ways to get from point A to B, and then look into a backup in case the subway line is down for repairs, or the rental agency sticks you with a Monster Truck.
4. Pack Wisely
In almost every case, less is better—if luggage can be consolidated to a carry on then there’s little worry about lost baggage, and you’ll be on and off that plane a lot faster. There is one item you shouldn’t skimp on—not to sound too much like your mother, but always pack an extra pair of undies.
5. Check the weather
This might sound like a no-brainer, but often when we imagine ourselves using up our paid time off we forget that Mother Nature isn’t always on our side. Every place has an occasional streak of unseasonal cold weather, but the more you know before you leave, the more time you have to alter your activities, wardrobe and expectations.
6. Snap away
Be sure to document your trip by taking photos (not just selfies) of your adventures winging it and share with other friends and family back at home who haven't yet tried spontaneous travel.
7. Consult a local
Whenever possible, seek out recommendations from friends (and friends of friends) who have lived in or frequented the area. This is also a tip that can be applied after your arrival—be friendly to those around you and they’ll be inclined to tell you what you want to know so that their hometown gets seen in the best light.
8. Stash some cash
In today’s world, when it’s so easy to pay for nearly anything with a swipe of the credit card or a tap on the phone, the virtues of paper currency can seem slight. Yet, cash in a secret pocket will never get frozen by your bank due to “suspicious activity” and doesn’t rely on the merchant’s flaky Internet connection. A couple hundred hidden in a sock might make all the difference to your time there.
9. Bring all the proper forms and identification
Of course you know this already, but did you consider everything? When travelling internationally there are plenty of places that need special visas, vaccines and paperwork that must be remembered to get that new stamp in the passport. Even if you’re staying domestic, having quick access to multiple forms of identification and your health insurance card will come in handy if an emergency should occur.
10. Use Booking.com
When it comes to finding the best accommodations—at the best price—don’t just blindly reserve at the first hotel you hear mention of. As one of the largest online booking website in the world and with over 750,000 reservations made each night, this website, no matter where you’re going, will fulfill all your hotel or apartment and house vacation rental needs without the usual hassle.