Travel is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, but what can you do to maximize your travel experiences? To make travel the mind-blowing experience it should be, you don’t want to simply set the goal to see as much as possible in as little time as possible. To make truly lasting memories and to get under the skin of the destinations you visit, you need more than a packed itinerary to maximize your travel experiences.
1. Breathe It in
Maximize your travel experiences from the start. Don’t just keep your head in your guide book or transfixed on getting to your hotel. Take a look around and breathe it in. Your journey from the airport, first walk around the streets or grabbing your first bite of food, the buildings, the architecture – they all say a lot about a place and its people. Then, once you're more settled, make sure you see all the attractions you want to see – take a city tour, visit museums and shops, don’t be afraid to be a tourist!
2. Don’t Bypass Your Hotel’s Info
Hotel paraphernalia often gets overlooked, but it’s free and worth a glance as local content tends to have more detail than your guide book brought from home. The literature can help you get the most from traveling as it usually has some different, alternative sights, attractions and advice, as well as timely special events or seasonal celebrations that you could enjoy during your stay. You also might find discounts for some attractions hidden in leaflets and free guides.
3. Follow up on That Request
Once friends and family know you’re heading off, there are usually some requests for must-haves. It could be a silk shawl from India, Tim Tams from Australia or Twinkies from the States. It’s always a good way to seek out different areas and shops you might not have ventured to – and it can be an interesting journey along the way, talking with shop owners, foraging through market stalls and practicing your bartering skills if that’s the norm.
4. Go to a Show
Take in an opera, musical, play, a sports game or even go to the movies. All are an amazing experience in a different country, even if it’s not in your language! Body language, subtitles and just the experience can give you an insight into local culture, the people and will maximize your travel experiences wherever you are.
5. Use Local Transport
Even if you don’t need to get somewhere, jumping on a bus and seeing where it goes whilst taking the sights in along the way is a footloose and fancy-free way to see a destination and put a magnifying glass on the locals. Ok, so you might want to ask the bus driver or the locals first, but someone will give you a recommendation about which to jump on. The bonus is getting to ride with the locals; you’ll see everyone from young kids to workers to the elderly all going about their day and you’ll add a little local flavor invaluable for your aim to get the most out of traveling.
6. Check out Local News
Grabbing a local newspaper, whether in English or the local language, is a great way to get an insight and feel for where you are. Look at the pictures, the language and if it’s in English, seeing how the international news is reported in that country is an interesting insight into local opinion, culture and society. You also might come across local events and short courses you might want to take advantage of during your stay.
7. Get the Local Lowdown
Don’t ever be too shy or proud to ask the locals where to go, what to do or how to get somewhere. Nine times out of 10 any local will be interested and helpful, especially in non-Western countries – the locals in general are overwhelmingly excited to be able to help and point you in the right direction, as well as giving some interesting tips and advice on top of that! You might even get invited round for food if you’re lucky!
It is so easy to “waste” (or at least not see) some of the incredible opportunities that travel can present. Most times we might only get to be in a place once in our lifetime so it’s important to maximize your travel experiences and squeeze out every last drop it can give. You’d certainly never complain about a lackluster vacation ever again and you’d become a true citizen of the world. I’d love to hear some of your must-dos for your travels. Is there something you always do, wherever you are?