My trip to Morocco this past summer gave me a whole lot of knowledge about how good travel works. I’m not a travel expert, but my exploration of Northern Africa was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t without, however, some good planning and a lot of involvement, it’s a trip that I’ll never forget.
There was virtually no stress on that trip. Waking up every morning to the warm Moroccan sun with no cares in the world was absolutely perfect. For me, 15 years old at the time, it was the adventure of a lifetime. So, building on that trip, here are some tips to help ensure that your trip is as stress-free and all-encompassing as it can be.
1. Make a budget
No one wants to spend more than they have to on travel, and the key to that is keeping track of all your expenses. Pay for as much as you can in advance – hotels, airfare, day trips, et cetera. Build in a healthy allowance for incidentals, and have the cash to back it up – you never know what’s going to come up. Plus, if you go home with cash still in your pocket, it feels better than dipping into your bank account while being halfway across the world.
2. Expect the unexpected
Sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Take, for example, the time when we paid nearly $200 for a taxi ride from Brussels Airport to Brussels-South Charleroi Airport instead of paying $15 to take a shuttle (that we didn’t know existed). Prepare for the possibility that something might go wrong, and make sure you have a strategy to get out of a possible jam. Make sure you have plenty of cash and perhaps a working cell phone, which brings us to tip number three …
3. Have a working cell phone
Even if you’re not planning on doing a whole lot of Instagramming/Tweeting/Foursquaring, make sure your phone will work overseas. This usually involves calling your carrier and asking to activate international roaming for your phone. There aren’t any charges involved, and all it does is ensures that you will have the physical capability to make calls or use data if you need them. That said, make sure you turn off international data roaming, or things will get expensive in a hurry.
4. Get trip insurance (sometimes)
Naturally, this depends on the situation. When my aunt and I were planning our trip to Morocco last year, it was primetime in the Arab Spring uprising. While Morocco itself was not generally volatile, the nations around it were, and the Morocco had the potential to implode at any moment. For less than the cost of a night at our riad, around $130, we were able to secure complete peace of mind. Not only would we be fully covered should we have to cancel the trip beforehand, but we were also covered if we had to make a hasty exit from Morocco back to more peaceful domain.
Now, for your everyday trip to Chicago, Dallas, or other domestic (and usually docile) destination, travel insurance probably isn’t a must. In fact, some domestic travel insurances can account for nearly a quarter of the cost of your entire fare, depending on how good of a deal you got. It’s a complete judgement call. Passing up travel insurance on a relatively cheap, run of the mill getaway probably won’t hurt you. But on a big trip with many thousands of dollars invested, the $100 that you will spend will not only reduce stress but could help avoid a major hassle later on.
5. Know the destination
Research is vital. Don’t just go into a trip with your eyes closed and fingers crossed. Research best practices for the nation, including accepted forms of payment, potentially offensive (and/or immoral) gestures, and maybe even learn the emergency phone numbers and some choice phrases in the local language.
6. Bring a journal
So you’re planning on flying round the world and not even so much take a note? Imagine how great it’ll feel to pull out your travel journal in 2054 (assuming we’re still around then) and see travel notes from forty years ago. Moleskines work great, but, alternatively, Leighton O’Connor makes some great Volvo Ocean Race journals as well.
Photos by Taylor Michie for the Racing Winds Blog. Taken with Instagram.