After a fantastic holiday last summer, I realized Hubs and I have finally managed to get a few things right when it comes to traveling (even if it took us the better part of a decade to get it down).  During the trip to Iceland and Amsterdam, I managed not to think of work (!) and experienced a lot on the trip I previously hadn’t ever thought I would get to do.

I write this in the context of an expat as we tend to travel more often than our domestic counterparts.  Whether it’s by geographic accessibility or a few more days leave, one of my favorite things of being an expatriate is visiting multiple countries in a year.

In no particular order…

  1. Google Maps is your friend

If you don’t plan on paying for a burner phone, a SIM card at the destination, or signing up for expensive roaming, this one requires a bit of homework up front, but the payoff is worth it.  Download a map offline and start pinning various places you want to visit.  Doing this will help you get a feel for the city you’re visiting before you ever arrive and ensure you don’t miss out on any of the places you want to see.  It will also help you plan out routes that make the best use of your time and energy and prevent any last minute stress upon arrival.

  1. Do something for yourself.

Hubs likes getting tattoos and we always make time in our schedule to make this happen. We also like to eat well and usually arrange reservations for at least one nice place.  I think it’s important to remember that vacation is a celebration of not working –- so it’s good to do something special and a reminder that you’re on holiday.

  1. Plan for down time.

Further to above, it’s important to use a vacation to refresh and re-energize – it can be as simple as leaving time for a nap, loading up on a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on, or reading a book you’ve been meaning to.  Yes, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible wherever you’re visiting, but give yourself time to simply relax.  Also, in the case of bad weather, don’t feel too bad – with down time, there won’t be any disappointment of missing out on things.

  1. Make technology work for you.

I love traveling with our Apple TV!  Slingbox is amazing!  Free wifi is everywhere.  There were numerous occasions where we were able to look something up or reference our next stop – resulting in a new bag for Hubs and a bunch of great stops for food and drinks.  Trust your other travelers from whatever platform works for you.

  1. Do something cultural.

There are obvious museums and galleries for most cities you will visit, but with a little research you can find something cool like the Collective Six (free!), the Icelandic Phallological Museum or the Katten Museum.  Broaden your Google search terms and be prepared for some of the most interesting places a city can offer.  Even if it’s your home town or a location you’ve visited numerous times – there is always something new!

6. Always have cash.

We always make sure to have somewhere between 20-50 USD/EUR/GBP (or whatever the local currency is) of where we’re going.  Sure, we live in a mostly cashless society, but there are always going to be time when it’s easier to have cash and you don’t want to use the sketchy ATM machine.

7. Go easy on social media.

Yup, I could do (a lot) better at this one.  I genuinely look at it as being so excited that I want to share my experiences with everyone, but I also have a tendency to overdo it.  On a recent trip to Bali, I forced myself to keeping updates at under 3 per day.  You’ll find your own balance, but we all know someone who goes overboard.  Don’t be that guy.

8. Bring a water bottle.

Hubs and I prefer the Brita Sport Filter Water Bottle.  Actually, if you’re me (and have issues with low blood sugar) bring along a Coke and something easy to eat.

9. Always send postcards.

Who doesn’t love to get mail?  I inherited a love of post from my grandmother and always pre-address postcards for friends and family.  Also, trying to track down stamps can sometimes add an extra

10. Don’t be afraid to be a tourist.

You’re in a city, town or country for a reason – lean in!  Go for it!!

11. Learn the local way to say “thank you” – this will go much further than you think.  Just a few ways we’ve learned:

Thank you

Gracias

Merci

Shukran

Danke

Baiee Danke

Spaceba

Takk

Kom som needa

Salamat

I’m sure I’m missing something here – what do you recommend?

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