Finland Booth at WTM London 2014
Colombia, France, or Indonesia? Same Same but Different!!!!!

Destination selection can make the difference between an amazing experience and a nightmare. When selecting your destination be sure to take into account what YOU enjoy. If you’re not a beach person I highly recommend you stay away from Jamaica. If you’re a fan of big cities then Iceland may not be a good choice. Based on your interest, choose a trusted source to help guide your selection.

Too often travelers base their travel plans around another’s recommendations. Although smart, many forget to screen the source. Be sure to consider the likes and motivations of that source. For example, many early 20 something’s love the Full Moon Party in Thailand. Not many 40 something’s will. Always consider the source and find one who caters to your likes. Remember, it’s your vacation. Nothing wrong with doing the things you enjoy at home. Personally, I go to the cinema in every country I visit because I love movies.

 

Are you a Lone Wolf or Pack Animal?

Solo and group travel carry with them benefits and drawbacks. Depending on your personality type and that of your potential companions. I’m a huge advocate for solo travel. Especially internationally. I believe it helps you discover yourself and fully experience different cultures. However, this could mean a bit of loneliness for some. Group Travel has its benefits as well.

Groups provide security and companionship. It’s enjoyable to share experiences with others. Many companies offer group discounts as well. However, groups of travelers tend to be a bit more rigid and conservative. Even when it’s made up of open minded individuals. Deciding what to do can also become a chore as the more people involved, the more complications exist.

Either will have its benefits or drawbacks, but it’s definitely something you must think about. I know many planning their first trip abroad prefer group tours. Some I recommend GAdventures and Intrepid Travel.

For the solo minded I recommend Couchsurfing. Easily the world’s best resource for solo travelers.

 

Don’t follow the Lemmings off a Cliff

Unfortunately, in the hyper-capitalistic west, travel flexibility is easier said than done. With that said, having a bit of travel freedom can not only lead to amazing experiences but save you LOTS of money. Through my travels, I’ve noticed a global climate change of about 45 days. This isn’t scientific by any means but just observation. This shift really affects the best time to travel. Shoulder seasons.

Shoulder season is the time before and after the “High Season”. Depending on the destination it’s usually based around when westerners travel. For example, high season for Paris is usually from May-August. So you would want to travel there in September or October. When prices and crowds are smaller.

Another aspect of flexibility comes when determining flights. Adding a connection or taking a very early flight can save you hundreds. I’m from Austin Texas. Taking a few hours’ drive to Houston or Dallas has saved me thousands over the years.

 

Travel shouldn’t be Work

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen are travelers trying to see everything at once. I understand that travel for some is rare. But rushing through destinations will cause more stress than pleasure and magnify the chance of something bad happening. Travel fatigue is something to avoid at all cost.

Take it slow. A good rule of thumb is allow three days per city and half a day for transit between. If you have two weeks it’s possible to see Madrid, Barcelona, and Ibiza. But it may not be very pleasant if you try to squeeze in Seville. Again, know what you’re interested in. Having a solid plan is important. But that’s only in regards to a very tight time frame. I’ll cover why you shouldn’t plan too much later. 

 

Cut the cords and “Travel Hack”

Once you’ve followed the steps above you should have a good idea on where you want to go and when. This will give you the freedom to start figuring out how to pay for this trip. Let’s start with cutting cost. Here I wrote 5 Tips That Will Pay for Your Vacation. Some of the key points are covered above but the main one, CUT COST. Find a way to cut your day to day cost. Is that $5 a day Starbucks habit worth it. Picture this. You cut $5 a day of pre-work coffee. That equals $100 a month saving. $1200 a year. That’s a plane ticket pretty much anywhere in the world. No it’s not? Well check this out.

One of the biggest cost to travelers is laziness. Simply put, people just don’t check all the options and the US airline industry loves that. I recently wrote pieces on Norwegian Airlines and EVA Airlines. Two discount international carriers with outstanding rates. I also suggest you subscribe to newsletters from Johnny Jet and AirfareWatchDog. Each offers regular updates and cost cutting tips. Johnny Jet is the standard bearer in airline savings.

 

Apple doesn’t make Cameras. They make Phones

So your trip is all planned and paid for. Now what? Time to document your trip. I’m a photographer by trade. I firmly believe that photographically documenting your travels is the best way to motivate yourself and others for your next trip. Here is my Budget Photography Gear List (Affiliate links that cost you nothing). For the new traveler I would say you don’t need professional gear at all. But you do need an actual camera.

Some may think a camera phone is a good travel accessory. It’s not. Camera phones just are great, but too many times I’ve seen them run out of power, shutdown, or simply not work well in photographic situations. Because…..you know…….THEIR PHONES. A camera phone(or tablet) should never be your primary travel documentation source. I recommend one of the many outstanding point and shoot options out there from Nikon, Sony, and Fuji. You really don’t need to spend much more than $500usd on a camera that will last you years.

 

Planning to not Plan!!!

I left this last because I think it’s simultaneously the most and least important aspect of your trip. You know where you’re going and what you want to do. Now how to do it? Well get rid of the Lonely Planet first off. The internet is your top choice starting with bloggers.

Note: Lonely Planet and Frommer’s (although I have great respect and admiration for Pauline and Arthur who recently bought their company back) are SHIT guides now. What happens when you become corporate entities. Rough Guides is what everyone should be using.

Well clearly I’m a bit biased being a blogger. But simply put, we are responsible for every word we write. If something is bullshit we’re a comment, tweet, pm, or email away. We are accessible and are largely here to help travelers. Before I was a blogger I was a blog fan. Following the early adventures of Nomadic Matt and Expert Vagabond. As I’ve grown as a traveler I follow bloggers like Grown Up Travel and Leah Travels. Next is Facebook Groups.

There are Facebook groups for everything these days. Some I recommend are “Travel Advice by Travel Bloggers ” and Nomadness Tribe for travelers of color. In these groups, you can ask anything you want and get instant advice.
With all of that said, don’t plan too much. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is……..nothing. Get lost. Go someplace you didn’t plan on. These are where the real travel stories come from. It’s easy to follow a preplanned itinerary from one monument to the next. But do you want to be part of those sunburned and stressed out drones? Have you ever noticed how tired tour groups look? Not much of a vacation id you ask me. Remember, if you want to sleep until noon on YOUR vacation or rise with the sun. It’s your choice. Everyone else be damned.

CONGRATS on taking this first step into the amazing world of international travel. I hope these tips helped and feel free to comment below or reach out. See you on the Road!!!!

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