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There’s been a lot of talk about the “traveler vs. tourist” and who does it better. Truth is, though, no matter what you call yourself or where you go, what’s important is you took the time and trouble to get there: it’s all about the experience. But whether you travel for work, for play, full time, or just escape every once in a while, there are a few things (of many!) you might want to keep in mind to make the most of your getaway.

1. Eat like a local

It doesn’t have to be for every meal—especially if you’ve booked an all-inclusive resort or are traveling by cruise ship—but food is one of the best ways to get to know the local culture. Look for places that have lots of patrons (the food will be fresh) or if you’d rather not be too adventurous ask your hotel concierge to recommend a couple of places he or she knows about.

2. Ask permission when taking a pic

People aren’t sightseeing attractions, unless they’re posing as one. It’s polite to ask and you might want to consider a tip or buy a trinket from them.

3. Take care of your tech

This means not only keeping your phone tucked away and being aware of your surroundings when you’re taking a pic, but also making sure everything you take is in a sturdy case (read: waterproof). This includes making sure you have the right chargers and the right electrical adapters for the country you’ll be visiting.

4. Protect your online self

You’ll be able to connect far and wide—and cyber-thieves will connect with you if you’re not careful. The best way to secure your data is using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) every time you connect. This extends a private network across a public one and lets you send and receive data as if you were connected to a private network. Sign up for one before you leave!

5. Back your stuff up

You online stuff, that is. External hard drives and sticks are great, but definitely consider a cloud-based service to make sure you lose nothing!

6. Read up a little on your destination

Some customs in Asia and Arabic countries for example, are incredibly different from ours: it really pays to do some research to avoid offending someone (or getting arrested!) Ask your travel advisor for tips on what to read—many times they’ve already been where you’re headed and can help you out.

7. Make sure your luggage isn’t anonymous

Baggage claim is a sea of black suitcases: make yours stand out! Even if you buy a hot pink bag or a purple trunk, mark it as your own with stickers, duct tape, colorful ribbons—anything you can do to it so there’s no mistaking who it belongs to.

8. Don’t get dehydrated

Between the flight and the excitement of travel it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Do your part for the environment and take along a collapsible, refillable bottle so you’re not adding to the massive trash heap of plastic.

9. Keep TP in your backpack

Whether it’s a bunch of tissues in a baggie or an actual squished (half) roll of TP, you’ll be happy you have it when the tour bus stops in a tiny, charming town… with a tiny, not-so-charming public bathroom and zero paper. While we’re on the subject, take a stash of anti-diarrheal medication with you. Just. In. Case.

10. Take digital copies of all your important documents and identification

Scan them or photograph them (clearly) and email them to yourself and someone you trust back home. That includes your credit cards. If everything gets stolen, you’ll have something to take to the embassy and/or purchase what you might need to get home (or continue on your trip).

11. Be the early bird

As tempting as it may be to loll about in bed, if you want to see popular attractions the earlier you get there the better. Unless, of course, you enjoy taking pictures of the tops of people’s heads.

12. But do visit them

Those attractions are popular for a reason: they may or may not be what you’re expecting, but you won’t want to leave without seeing them.  

13. Take notes

You can take an actual travel journal (and a glue stick) and create an amazing handwritten record of your trip, or you can download one of the many cool smartphone journal apps out there for android and iPhone and create a digital one. Also: consider creating a playlist that will forever remind you of your journey!

14. Less cities, more experiences

Jam-packed itineraries might look good on paper, but they don’t leave room for exploration or actual experiences. You don’t want to be scheduled within an inch of your life—half the fun is being able to stay longer if you’re enjoying yourself or leave earlier if you’re not. Also, take into account travel time, especially if you’re going far (add one extra day on either end).

15. Advise your bank of your travel plans

Or you could be left standing with a blocked credit/debit card and zero cash. You don’t even have to call the bank anymore: sign into your account online or use the bank’s app. Easy as pie and will save you a LOT of headaches.

16. Bonus: sign up for a SkyMed/Global ETS membership before you go!

Find your best plan at www.skymed.com!

Lydia Gregory (250 Posts)

With a background that includes stints on the mastheads of an eclectic collection of Spanish- and English-language magazines, Lydia continues to indulge her love of writing and travel as Strategic Content/Social Media Manager for SkyMed International.



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