Any traveler will tell you that travel is stressful. Visiting somewhere new is always an adventure, and flight delays, language difficulties, and cultural misunderstandings are inevitable challenges that every traveler must overcome. And while most travelers will also tell you that the stress is nearly always worth it, it’s still something most of us could do without — especially when we’re at a foreign airport, waiting for our bags at 2:00 AM. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can avoid, or at very least minimize, stress on your travels in 2019. Here are our top seven tips to help make your life on the road easier this year.
1. Travel as lightly as possible (but don’t forget some comforts!)
Before a trip, it’s tempting to pack as much as you can carry. But you don’t need three sweaters for a weekend beach break in July. Unless you’re going on a seriously long trip (two weeks or more) or an adventure holiday you need equipment for (skiing, hiking, etc.), then you’ll probably be able to manage perfectly well with just hand luggage.
It may sound like a sacrifice, but traveling light means you can skip queues at airports, get around easier without a large suitcase in tow, and it’ll force you to pack only what you need. Traveling with only hand luggage doesn’t need to mean slumming it, though. Invest in some good quality travel-size toiletries, like this toner from Aussie skincare brand Sukin, and not only will you arrive at your destination feeling fresh, but you won’t have to rely on bad quality, unsustainable hotel miniatures during your stay.
2. Have a plan for at least the first day at your destination.
With more and more travelers deciding to rock up at their destination and “go with the flow,” planning has become less and less popular. But don’t be fooled. There is nothing worse than landing at a foreign airport after an eight-hour flight, having no idea how to get into the city, and having no place to stay.
Obviously, being flexible is important when traveling — you don’t want to miss out on a once in a lifetime experience because you were determined to visit the British Lawnmower Museum — but some organization is important too. To avoid having a nervous breakdown in a foreign city, at a minimum, make sure you have a room booked for your first night, that you know how to get there, and that you have a small amount of the local currency in case you need to pay for a taxi.
3. Use apps to make stressful travel tasks easier.
These days, you can check into a flight from LA to New York on an airline app. When you arrive, you can use Citymapper to find your way to the apartment you booked using Airbnb. Then, you can go out to dinner at a restaurant you found using OpenTable, and, when you’re done, go home by using Uber to book yourself a car — and these are just some of the most popular apps that people use every day.
To make the most of apps in your chosen destination, do a bit of research before you leave. You might discover some useful travel apps specific to the place, find that some don’t work where you’re going, or learn that others are more popular (for example, in Southeast Asia, Grab has merged with Uber). If you don’t have an international SIM card, it may also be worth purchasing one for the country you’re visiting.
4. Don’t be a slave to social media.
Social media is great for travelers. It helps us discover destinations we otherwise might not have heard of, and it enables us to share our adventures with friends and family all over the world. But it also means that when we visit some of the planet’s most incredible destinations, we’re more likely to spend most of our time trying to take the perfect photo, rather than enjoying it in real time. The result is countless identical photos, as the comical Instagram account insta_repeat brilliantly showcases.
At the end of the day, travel should be something you do for you — not to show off to however many followers you have online. That’s not to say you should immediately delete all of your social media accounts, but just ask whether they’re changing the way you travel. For example, are you more concerned with getting the right photo than actually enjoying yourself? If the answer is yes, then make 2019 the year you change your relationship with your online travel persona.
5. Use long journeys as an opportunity to recharge.
Whether it’s by road, air, or rail, long journeys are the bane of all travelers. Nobody likes the prospect of hours with little more to do than look out of a window. Yet while long journeys undeniably suck, try to see them as an opportunity to get some much-needed rest. Wear your favorite, most comfortable travel clothes, pack a good book, download some podcasts, and, if you have a tablet, charge it and download movies or a TV series. Make the most of having the time to recharge without the distractions of everyday life.
6. Pay attention to other travelers’ advice.
The best way to avoid making mistakes on the road is to learn from other travelers; they’ve been there, done that, and they probably have the stories of food poisoning, motorbike crashes, and run-ins with local authorities to prove it. They’re also likely to be a fountain of good advice on everything from where to go for the best street food to how to get from A to B without spending 17 hours on a bus without air conditioning.
7. Set realistic goals for the duration of your trip.
Social media has also made it normal for us to see travelers up at the crack of dawn to hike mountains, or visiting every tourist destination it’s possible to visit within an unfeasibly short amount of time. If these are your thing, then great. Hike that mountain, and enjoy all that sightseeing. But if neither of these sound fun to you, then that’s okay too.
Unless you’re a professional travel blogger, you should be free to discover your destination in your own time and to do the things you want to do. If you know you want to get a lot of sightseeing done, make a list and prioritize. If you don’t manage to see it all, you’ve got an excellent excuse to go back.