Six Things To Do Before Your Vacation

Friends! I know I must have some, I’m only 120 votes behind first place in my silly contest.
Please vote I’m the retard in a pink cat suit
If I win, I get a free trip with a person of my choosing to go anywhere there is a Anytime Fitness facility.  This includes New Zealand (why WordPress just gave me a squiggly red line for misspelling for Zealand, I don’t know) and Australia !! Places I’m too cheap at this point to fly on my own.  Anyways I will now resume my purpose of this post besides self pimping.

How to Prep for a Short -Term International Trip

The worst part about traveling is the planning.  I hate it.  I hate researching, organizing, and obsessing over every detail.  With each trip I try to outsource some of the research to my travel companions like my mother (for Spain) or to Tony (for Costa Rica) or even a sample itinerary from a guidebook but in the end my type A personal takes over and I become the itinerary Nazi.

I know that usually I only have a few hours to a few days in each place I visit and I want to make the most out of every place I can for the moment.  I like to be prepared for each trip and no matter how hectic I am the weeks leading up to travel due to work and life these are the things I do.  It doesn’t mean I walk around with a check-off list of things to do for every minute (maybe just every hour) but I like to have an idea of what I want to experience with each new adventure and whatever will be will be.

1. Book my flight –… that’s important… can’t go overseas if you have no flight or means of getting there.

2. Research weather – Dry heat is different from humid heat, as is 40 degrees with no wind vs 40 degrees with 31 MPH winds.  Is the city you’re visiting prone to spontaneous flash thunderstorms before it turns bright and sunny a few minutes later. These are things you want to know before you pick your outfits and stuff your suitcase(s).  I like to walk around when I travel so being weather appropriate is more of a priority vs. showing off my new cute top (although if I can combine the two, I am truly happy).

3. Research essential packing items.  This is partially related to knowing the weather but applies to other things.  For example for Iceland I goggled “things to pack for Iceland.” This reminded me that I needed to purchase a new all in one outlet adapter (My POS laptop is a 3 prong pain) and rain pants.  I learned while looking up packing lists that Iceland is known for having random rain storms in between 31 MPH winds.  I figured I can pack these lightweight rain shell pants in my purse and be kinda prepared to die a little (less.) Now you don’t always need to run out and spend your hard earned $$$ on all the gear that’s fit to sell but you can weight the benefits vs. costs.  I like doing trekking/hiking travel and I assume my rain pants will come in handy later on.

4. Research Transportation – This is essential when traveling short term.  You don’t always have the luxury of booking the cheapest last minute option when you are on a short trip.  Look up if there is mass transit where you are going, is it buses, trains, or trams and how those systems work.  For example, with a simple search I learned that if I buy a 10 trip pass in Barcelona for the train I only pay about 1 Euro per trip vs. 2 Euro per trip if I buy individual passes.  I also recommend checking when the last train runs, as many places during the weekday the last train might stop at midnight and a cab ride back home can be a costly thing.

If traveling between cities like I did in Spain, sometimes booking in advance will earn you huge savings.  I paid half as much as Tony for the same train because I booked mined two weeks before while he stayed lame and booked last minute.  I also recommend looking at all options, often times buses can be faster than trains and can get you to a town center much closer than the train that requires a pricey taxi just to get you downtown (life lesson for Segovia).  When Tony and I were in Costa Rica we traveled from La Fortuna to Monteverde by Jeep Boat Jeep because it was cheaper and took half the time that a normal bus or shuttle bus would have taken us.  These are just some of the travel things I like to be slightly prepared for when I travel to a foreign place when my language skills are highly poor at best.

I would also look up if renting a car is worth the trouble.  Do the buses from city to city run rarely to never?  Are the roads well built and established?  Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico had a surprisingly great and easy highway to drive on.  Are you traveling with more than one person to split the cost? Is there parking?  Parking is a nightmare in most urban areas, especially if you’re not used to congested parking situations such as NYC.

5.  Look up what needs to be booked in advance – High season or low season you may need to book things in advance.  For example if you want to hike the Inca Trail in Peru, you need to book that specific trek two months in advance.  Yes, you can book alternative treks, but if you want the Inca Trail you’ll have to plan due to government limits on how many people can walk on it per day.  Even in Spain, to visit Alhambra in Granada, I had to book my tickets a month in advance to guarantee entry for 3 at the same time.

This rule also apples to the transportation research mentioned above.  Generally on peak time like weekends in Europe, the high speed rail trains tend to sell out quicker than local trains and if you have your heart set on squeezing in one more city in your trip, don’t lose out on your train seat.  Same rule applies to fancy, trendy, dining experiences. If you want a reservation for 8PM on a Friday or Saturday at a specific place you are dying to go (like Girl & the Goat in Chicago) make a reservation in advance.  The worst that can happen is you’ll have to cancel which usually is at no cost to you.

 6. Read Some Blogs –  Frommers and Lonely Planet can be a great resource but I often find them boring and better bed time reading than anything else.  I love reading travel blogs from other adventurous souls for example like AdventurousKate and my friend’s Steve’s BackpackerReport.  You can also go to WordPress.com and search for country or city you’re going to and read up and get lost in other people’s worlds.

These are generally things I do before every trip, if you have any other great suggestions  please share, I would love to add them to my bag of trips!  

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