We all have our own idea of what time well spent looks like. And because everyone chooses to travel differently, one person’s idea of a dream adventure can be the next person’s perfectly concocted nightmare. However, I think we can all mostly agree with the idea that travel is treasured time, and for that reason I’ve put together my own list of things that work for me time and time again when I’m looking to maximize my minutes.
Plan your meals
Probably one of the most important things I try to do before I travel is research restaurants and cafes ahead of time, especially since I have dietary restrictions (and admittedly, a pickier palette than usually ever convenient). As a vegetarian, eating out is usually a grand nightmare for me, but it becomes especially problematic in places where vegetarianism isn’t widely embraced and, therefore, options are severely limited.
So, in order to alleviate the ordeal at least a little, I always find it to be a smart idea to at least have a few eateries up my sleeve that are near my hotel and any other predetermined destinations so that I don’t have to scour for hours when hovering very close to hangry territory. I do this for my own sake but also for the benefit of any loved ones involved, since it means fewer hurt feelings and less apologizing on my part…
In addition to averting any minor meltdowns, pre-planning can also spring up some gems that I may not otherwise have been aware of by simply wandering around on my own. It also allows me to familiarize myself with the particular cuisine of the area, which I then make it a point to experience during my stay.
Befriend the locals
I make sure to talk to locals as often as convenient when I’m somewhere new simply since they oftentimes can provide the most up-to-date and “real” information on things.
Understandably in the age of social media, with Google and Siri playing sergeant in our lives, it’s too easy to become shy in asking for perfect strangers’ opinions or advice. We worry ourselves by asking ‘what if they just tell me to google it??’ or in thinking ‘I don’t want to inconvenience them!’
But I personally think we ought to let go of these fears of judgment and just allow ourselves to have these very human interactions. We should remember that people tend to like talking about themselves. It’s the big egocentric in all of us that has us loving the attention in playing a hand in contributing to memories that will likely last a lifetime.
Let technology help
But with that said, I also do take advantage of the incredible technology we have only too accessible at our fingertips.
Google Maps, Google Translate, Uber, Roadttripper, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Airbnb, Citymapper…
The list literally goes on and on with new travel focused technology – including apps, maps and reviews – that are truly cropping up at a faster rate than even possible to properly learn their full range of functionality.
With the wide array of travel oriented technology out there, we live in a time where we have the luxury of selectively choosing how we want it to work for us – whether that means mapping out our days, giving us reviews or even meeting locals that share our own niche interests.
A good rule of thumb I try to abide by is to plan more things than fewer, since I think it’s better to dream big, since you can later scale down if necessary.
At first, the idea of not checking off everything from your list may appear disappointing, but by having created it you already learned more than you would have otherwise, and the more knowledge the better since it may come in handy when you overhear others talking about something around town, or even mean less planning for you for your next trip. I know I always love a good excuse to come back to a city again!
Give yourself wiggle room
Always allow yourself time for spontaneity, since although I more than advocate the importance of planning – and as I just mentioned, over planning – you also never want to so closely to the minute pencil in your days that you find yourself scrambling for some free time. Not only is that way of traveling extremely stressful, but you’re also thereby depriving yourself of time to just do whatever and relax.
I always ask myself, if I’m just running around everywhere then am I really experiencing anything?
My go-to example of this happening is at a visit to the Vatican where I recall the sheer amount of people attempting to compensate for the overwhelmingly large museum’s size by walking sideways with their iPhones filming what there was – not for a second actually looking at the sights through their own eyes.
I don’t see the point of going somewhere when you’re only for the first time seeing something through a lens, because I always then question ‘Can’t I see it through someone else’s lens via YouTube or a higher quality documentary with the added perk of informational commentary and lack of crowds and high museum fees?!’
With these above ideas in mind, do remember that above all else, really think to yourself how you want to be able to look back on your time traveling. This is key, because although we cannot – and probably more appropriately, should not – hold inordinately high expectations for our adventures in advance, I do believe it’s only natural we want to come back home from our time away with certain stories we wish to tell – and if we should be so lucky, stories of time well spent.