I believe everyone has their own travel style. We all like different things. Some of us like museums and art, others want to eat and drink their way through a city, some want a happy medium in between all that and some crazy people just like to go with the flow and let a city uncover itself organically, without a plan.
In the past few years I have finally figured out my travel style. I like to plan. In fact, I fucking love to plan. I like reading reviews and figuring out which hike I’m going to attempt or where I’m going to drink a beer afterwards. But mostly, I’m just gathering knowledge. I don’t map out my days. I don’t plan down to the minute. I like a little bit of a rough outline that lets me efficiently explore a place while knowing the best places to grab a beer or a taco or a plate of nachos.
Part of learning my travel style has included implementing some changes and that’s what I’ve listed below, the things that have made travel easier and better, in both big and small ways.
I’ve always been a list-maker. It’s a thing that I do. And I’ve always made lists when traveling, but they’ve changed over time.
When I went to Paris for my 27th birthday, I wrote a list of more than ten things I wanted to see and do and experience while I was there. The trip was short – just a few days – but I gave zero fucks and slammed as much as I possibly could into my itinerary. I ran from place to place checking each spot off my list and then, when it was over, I was exhausted.
I don’t do that anymore. I still compile a big list because, no matter where I go, there’s always a lot to see and do and eat and drink. The difference is that now I take that big list and use it to make a master list of just three to five things. Those are my no-shit, absolutely must-do items, the nonnegotiable sights and experiences that I’d absolutely regret not doing. I still have the first list – the big list – but I don’t use it to guide my trip. Instead, everything I see from that big list counts as a bonus adventure.
The way I pack has definitely changed over the years. I’ve always been well-organized in my packing, but then, I’d get to where I was going and it would all go to shit.
In planning my trip to Italy, I knew packing was going to be a significant life event and that staying organized would be difficult since we were going to switch cities every few days. I scoured the internet for packing tips and ended up buying some travel cubes.
After a few test runs, I fell in love. I usually use one for shirts, one for my running gear (including shoes), one for my smaller clothing items, like bras and underwear, and then one more for dirty laundry. I usually leave jackets and pants outside of a cube, since they’re easy to find in a small suitcase on their own.
In addition to keeping my suitcase organized, the travel cubes also make unpacking easier and less tedious. There’s a bag for dirty laundry and then I just put away anything I didn’t wear or that got washed along the way.
PLAN YOUR FIRST MEAL.
When I am tired and hungry, I am an asshole. That is a true fact. I don’t even like to be around myself. Because of this, I have started picking where I’m going to have my first meal whenever I travel somewhere new. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, I’m doing the research in my living room instead of doing a frenzied google or yelp search while hungry and driving or walking around a new city.
(Also, hey, if you have a breakfast suggestion for Tucson, please let me know so I can avoid an early morning, pre-hike rage-fest.)
When I went to Europe the first time, I took the biggest suitcase I owned and stuffed it full of clothes and shoes. It was heavy and cumbersome and by the end of the trip, I fucking hated that suitcase. It took me some time – years, actually – to get to the point where I could travel with just a carry-on, but it’s the only way I travel now.
What helped was realizing that I only really wear my favorite items when I travel and that no, I’m not going to wear that super cute shirt that’s been hanging in my closet unworn for the past five years just because I’m in a new city. I also started looking at what consistently went unworn on my trips and started eliminating those items, realized that laundry can be done outside of my basement and that I was definitely taking too many pairs of shoes.
EAT A LITTLE AT A LOT OF PLACES.
Food is one of my favorite things and one of the things my mostly-ex and I got right was our ability to eat all the things while on vacation. We decided early in our time together that we’d prefer to share a small plate or an entree at a few places rather than commit to a full meal at just one place. Ultimately, we spent about the same amount of money, but we spread our money and our eating out across multiple establishments. This always made us feel like we got an actual taste of a city and it proved especially efficient when we were only in a place for a few days or a short weekend.
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