Monday, May 05, 2008

Stress-Free Travel Tips

We’ve reached the point where we want our travels to be fun, enlightening, relaxing, invigorating, and EASY. Stress is not on our list – in life or in travel. We want our travel adventures to be ones we plan, not ones that result when rural bus schedules change in third-world countries. Sure, things out of our control will happen – they always do. But we can do things to minimize the challenges of travel. Here are our ideas for reducing travel stress.

Plan Ahead
Make as many reservations in advance as possible. Especially for your first night or two of lodging, and for any car-rental, train, air, or other major transportation. Keep copies of all reservations and receipts.

Travel Light
We’ve said it, other commentators have said it, but few of us travel light enough. If any time on your last few trips you found yourself wishing for less crap to lug around, make a vow to travel only with a 20-pound carry-on next trip. Try it.

Be Flexible
If something doesn’t work out as planned, let it go. If your train schedule changes, call ahead to change your hotel reservation – but don’t worry about it. Aside from losing a passport or credit card, or having a major injury, most challenges aren’t worth worrying about.

Get Exercise & Get Rest
Don’t rush from place to place – take time to smell the croissants. Conversely, exercise every day – walk, swim, hit the hotel gym. But not obsessively. Mostly just walk as much as possible – walking is stress-relieving, as well as a great way to see and interact with locals.

Eat, Drink, and Enjoy
Life is meant to be lived. Linger over dinner and wine. Get up late. Take a picnic to a park and sit and read. Don’t become obsessed with capturing the sunset photo or making the 8 o’clock performance. Have another glass of that wonderful digestif instead.

Money Matters
Don’t be so cheap that you feel you’re depriving yourself. You’ve spent probably thousands on just getting where you are – allow yourself a few hundred for treasures. Don’t worry about bargaining a vendor down from 25 cents to 20 cents. As for money itself, rely on credit cards as much as possible, and use ATMs for local currency.

Mobile Communications
Take that international cell phone so you can call ahead to change reservations. And consider not giving the number to your friends at home. If something happens while you’re traveling, there isn’t much you can do about it from 3,000 miles away. Life works itself out. Use that cell phone for your convenience, not someone else’s. Likewise, stay off the internet as much as possible. Ditch the email, your blog, and web surfing as entertainment.

Leave Lots of Time Between Connections
Nothing, absolutely nothing, stresses your composure more than running across a train platform while towing a large suitcase behind you and having another two bags smacking you on the back.

Don’t Rely on (Probably Outdated) Guidebooks
Use those guidebooks mostly before you travel, to get general ideas about the “How To” of travel to a destination. At your destination, avoid the places listed in the guidebooks (especially lodging and dining), except for the “big stuff” you just have to see (Angkor Wat, the Tower of London, the Great Wall, the Eiffel Tower).