Hello hello! So today I really wanted to write a post with my top travelling tips. I have wanted to talk to you about travel tips for quite some time now and figured now was a good time to do it as so many people are trying to organise travels etc at the moment. I get numerous emails and tweets from people asking me all about travelling, how I did it, where I went, why I go so often and for tips so I thought I would write a post for you with some of my top tips for people wanting to travel now or in the future or maybe even in a few years time!
I only discovered my love for travelling in 2012 really, firstly, moving away for university made me see the world differently, but then going away with my boyfriend and exploring winding streets and just getting lost I guess, really made me appreciate different cultures and different places, I think once I moved away from the touristy side of things I realised just how much there is to see in the world. It's like once I started to travel, I became hooked - wanderlust most certainly is an actual thing. Since then, I have visited Canada, Jamaica, America, Vietnam, Spain, France, Greece, Mexico, Cuba and many more (I still want to grow that list massively so hopefully 2015 is going to be the year of travel!). Here are some of my top tips and I really hope they help anyone who wants to travel out.
- Face Your Fears - First and foremost, getting on a plane alone is the most daunting, scariest but life changing experiences. It's one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life but I just needed to do it for myself really. I am so happy that I did it last year and I haven't looked back since. Leaving all my loved ones behind and stepping into the unknown is petrifying but sometimes, you just have to take a chance and scare yourself - it completely made me stronger, more independent and actually happier, I am so proud of myself for doing that. For some people, getting on a plane alone may mean nothing, but for me, a 20 year old girl who'd only ever visited Europe really, it was a huge challenge. It was seriously hard, I cried my eyes out the whole way (and gripped onto my favourite teddy bear like a massive child) - I honestly thought I wasn't going to go through with it but for me, it changed me as a person, the minute you step on that plane, you've taken a huge life jump and really faced a fear - travelling alone isn't easy so I would always recommend going with a friend - from a safety point of view too but seriously, jumping on a plane alone is a crazy and very good feeling once you get there. I literally smiled as soon as I arrived, I was full of nerves and fear but even if I turned round and went home there and then, I'd done the hardest bit, getting on that plane alone!
- Do Your Research - Google is your friend and word of mouth is your friend too, if you're going somewhere, set a simple tweet or a Facebook status and see if anyone has any must-dos or recommendations! I did this when I went to New York and found some absolutely amazing hidden gems. I personally love finding hidden gems so I tend to do lots of research online first before I go somewhere, I love going to touristy places when I get to somewhere new to begin with as it's nice to get a feel for the touristy side of things too (for example, you can't go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower - there are certain touristy things you kind of need to do) but it's also nice to find those secret gems. Pinterest (you can find me here) is one of my favourite places for travel advice too (and stunning photos, it's a good way to visualise places) as is Lonely Planet - you can get so much information on there about pretty much any destination. You also cannot beat TripAdvisor when it comes to finding top places to eat and top places to visit in that area. I am forever Googling 'top things to do in blahblah' and I make myself a huge list and then look for photos of all those places on Pinterest! I also love Yelp at the moment, you can find restaurants really close to your location and they're ranked with honest reviews - I always try to go to all the best, top ranked restaurants when travelling as I hate wasting money on bad food. I am such a foodie so I am always looking for amazing places to eat. When I went to New York, I did a food tour around all the hidden gems and I have to say, it was one of the best foodie experiences of my life!
- Plan Plan Plan! - Okay you don't always need a plan, sometimes the best trips are those un-planned ones (I randomly went to Boston with zero expectations and zero plans and had the time of my life) but if you have a tight schedule, planning will help you a lot. I am currently trying to plan Western Canada and the West Coast of America, oh and Bali too (I really want to visit Bali!). You really need to have a look at some maps, transport systems and also ask people and find out which direction you should go, where you should stay etc. The world is so big, it's really hard to know what to see, particularly if you don't have much time. In Vietnam, we booked most of our hotels before we arrived but we did have a few nights with nothing booked, I don't like hostels (personal opinion) as they scare me a little bit but we did wander around one day thinking we wouldn't be able to get a hotel as they were all full. Panic completely set in and I honestly thought we would be homeless for the night - people always say 'oh in Thailand and Vietnam you can always just get a hotel on the day' but personally, I would always book ahead. If you are going to be in a situation like that, try and wander around and book something the day before or the morning of your stay so you can actually enjoy yourself that day without worrying about accommodation - do get your accommodation sorted as soon as possible, it will give you peace of mind. It's pretty scary walking around a foreign country with no where to rest your head. It completely depends on what kind of trip you are wanting, if you're wanting the affordable, hostel experience, that's okay but I personally adore luxury travel, I just like nice hotels so if you are looking for hotels like this, Original Travel have some great luxury tailor made trips. If you are wanting to book hostels, a friend of mine used to work for Hostelling International and said that's really good for hostels which are properly vetted etc. Basically, just be safe.
- Visas/Money - Make sure you research visas before you go, I needed a visa for Cuba and Vietnam, I needed one for Canada too. I also didn't realise I needed an ESTA to fly through New York and got stopped at the airport because I didn't have one - it's not worth it so make sure you check all of this beforehand. Moneywise, when travelling for a week I don't mind taking cash but when it's longer, I put my money on a Thomas Cook cash card as that seemed to be the cheapest option (they take a little % from you when you sign up I think) and then you just use it like a debit card, it's fully insured too and you can top it up easily. I also opened up a HSBC account in Canada because I knew I had one in the UK - they say they're an international bank but I had so many issues when opening it up and also there aren't many HSBC's in Canada so I used to get charged every single time I withdrew money from other cash machines - do research the best options if you're wanting to open up a bank account abroad.
- Get Lost - If you're going abroad (even if you're just going on holiday) my top tip is to just get lost - (stay safe though, obviously don't do anything dangerous or go anywhere dangerous!) by getting lost I mean, particularly in Europe, throw that map to the side and walk down those winding streets in Barcelona (once you've visited the standard tourist things you shouldn't miss) - I did this in Barcelona and stumbled across some epic places away from the tour buses and away from the maps - I also did this in Greece and found some stunning little local churches and gorgeous houses. Please don't do this in dangerous areas, obviously always have your witts about you but you don't always (in some places) have to stick to the tourist areas.
- Save Up - There's no doubt that going travelling is going to cost you, I saved up quite a substantial amount of money so that I could fund myself to do lots of travels before Christmas and I actually came back with money too. It completely depends what country you're going to, if you're going from the UK to Aus you'll obviously need more due to the exchange rate but places like Thailand and Vietnam are extremely cheap once you get out there. I spent barely anything when I visited Vietnam. In Canada, the exchange rate is great from GBP at the moment and you basically get double your money at the moment! There are so many sites to help you save money though so don't worry. I was recently introduced to Nutmeg*, which is a really simple way to manage savings online - it basically just helps you make the most of your savings based on your information. They basically build and manage a portfolio for you, help you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and you do this with experienced investment teams at no extra cost, basically you get the best return, at low cost. What's really helpful about Nutmeg is that it's aimed at people who aren't finance wizards (me). They allow you to choose how much you want to invest, you can organise your personal goals for saving (round the world trip? Yes please!) and how much risk you're prepared for. There are so many easy (and free) ways to save money (goodbye Starbucks every week for a year) so honestly, it's probably the least of your worries, just be smart about it. For me, I found saving up was all about budgeting, yes that Zara top may be nice but I would much rather be on a beach in Bali - you've just got to be strict. If you're needing some help with saving money, read my top money saving tips post for some inspiration.
- Pack Appropriately! - I am the worlds worst packer and having my pack my life away for 5+ months was pretty hard (particularly because I also had a tripod, my camera equipment and more!) I also needed to pack for two seasons, Summer and Winter (silly Canadian weather!). I do feel like I am getting better now when it comes to packing - I tend to buy plastic little bottles and put my favourite shampoos and moisturisers into those rather than taking the extra large pots, I also put socks inside my shoes to save space and I roll everything up really tightly (there are some great tutorials on YouTube). I do try to take really lightweight clothes away with me too (and as many bikinis as I can find). Packing for me really is about first just shuvving everything in a bag and then sitting and properly going through it and asking myself 'do I really need this?'. The answer is usually no, you need enough essentials to last you (knickers, bras etc - but remember you can hand wash these anyway) and you then just need the basics such as tops, dresses etc - it really does depend where you're going - try and take versatile things e.g., trainers which yo can wear for walking but also on the beach or sandals for the beach that are also comfortable to walk in. Light-weight things are your friends, particularly why I decided to launch easy-travelling, light-weight clothing on LVNDR. Again, it completely depends where you are going. I filmed a packing video here but it's more for Winter breaks - packing for a Winter trip is so hard because you need snow boots, thermals (Helly Hansen do the best thermals!) and I also took so much North Face stuff to keep me warm - I much prefer Summer packing as it's all about light-weight, easy pieces! In terms of beauty products (look out for a top travel beauty products post soon) try and use versatile products for example, ThisWorks In Transit Primer, it's a 3 in 1 primer, moisturiser and face mask! A final packing tip? Remember to take a jumper, even warm places get chilly on an evening!
- Keeping Connected - I take a lot of technology with me on my travels, iPad, iphone, laptop, camera, GoPro and more and obviously you want to make sure you stay connected with home wherever that may be - I know I need internet on a daily basis, not only so I can tell my Mum I'm okay but also so I can keep up to date with my emails etc. I am officially that person who runs everywhere to try and find wifi. When I first got to Canada, lots of people around me bought phone contracts; bottom line? Phone contracts (particularly in Canada) are stupidly expensive, with basically no data and it's data that I needed so I ended up not getting one and just using wifi where I could. If you're going to be moving around a lot, it's pretty hard to find a phone contract with data which isn't going to cost you a ridiculous amount - try make use of wifi as much as you can. Don't be afraid to ask for wifi passwords in cafes and Starbucks, McDonalds and most shopping centres are your friends when it comes to wifi. I've got to the stage where I can tell where will have wifi and where won't now, it's pretty sad. It's hard because I could never make calls, we all know how much calls internationally cost, a good way around this, if you are travelling and you know you're going to want to make calls is to either download Viber - a great app which can only be used with wifi but it's great for free calls. You could also pay for WhatsApp for texting, again it can only be used with wifi but it's a lifesaver when you do have wifi and you want to speak to anyone anywhere in the world. Also, if you don't mind risking it, iMessage on iPhones doesn't cost if you're using wifi. If you happen to have a home broadband service with Vonage, you can set up a plan (from £7) and then download the extensions app which allows you to extend your home calling plan to your mobile, it means you can make unlimited international calls from any device. You can find out more here* - that's a pretty good option too if you are someone who likes to make phone calls. I managed to get by just on wifi but really do wish I had unlimited data abroad!
- Breathe - One of my main tips is to just breathe, if you forget something, depending on where you go, you can usually get it there! What matters most is your safety and that you have a good time - make sure you get what you want out of the trip, whether that's swimming with turtles, trekking through a rain forest or just seeing how other people live, embrace it and take it all in. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given when it comes to travel is; 'this is a special journey, enjoy, touch, taste, see buildings, gardens, sky, landscapes, hear sounds, see a different way of life, don't rush, stop and look and stare, don't miss anything, keep it in your head and heart and bring it all home to remember - we will miss you very much, but it isn't forever, laugh and be happy'. I will keep those words with me forever - my Grandma is 100% right, don't rush, don't always have your eyes behind a lens or be tapping away on Instagram, sometimes, it's good to just sit down and take in the world and breathe and enjoy it's beauty!
- Don't Be Afraid - Don't be afraid, don't be afraid to do what you want to do, don't be afraid to be touristy and go to the touristy things! It's your trip and usually your money on that trip so do whatever you wish!
- Be Smart - It sounds silly, but be smart, you are in a foreign country, cultures can be very different, certain things can be highly offensive in different countries without you even realising. Do a little bit of research about things like this to begin with (I remember saying something completely acceptable in England to some Canadians and I really offended them). Don't just be smart with things like this, be smart about your possessions and your safety - watch out for scams, pick pockets etc. I got scammed so badly in Paris, a man tied a bracelet around me and I just thought he was a nice man but then he started demanding an alarming amount of money from me - try not to get yourself into those kind of situations. Friends of mine were scammed really badly in Cuba too and I've heard horror stories about pick pockets in Barcelona - travel is fun but just make sure you're on the ball, danger still exists in other countries.
So there we have it, some of my top travel tips. Where do I want to go back to out of all the places I've visited? Vietnam! Vietnam was the most amazing country ever, I feel like I would love to explore more. I have so many more travels coming up this year (hopefully Bali, Hawaii and more) and you guys know I love sharing it with you - thank you if you read my travel ramblings - I hope you love them. I hope this helps at least one person! Remember, if we were meant to stay in one place for the rest of our lives, we would have roots instead of feet!You can read my travel section here!
*I worked with some companies in this post but it is 100% my honest opinion as always.
Do you have any top travel tips? Do you like travelling? Where do you want to go most?