Spring Travel Tips
by Megan Horsman, Director of Rock Falls Tourism
Spring is upon us! Regardless of what the temperature might be right now, warmer weather is on the way and we can’t help but turn our minds to wanting to get out of the house and out on the road or hopping that plane. As a traveler and avid fan of exploring our country and the world, I put together a list of things that can help when trying to plan that family vacation, spring break (woohoo!), a bucket list dream destination trip, or just a trip to see friends or family across the country.
Before you go:
Plan outfits to save space….for more things to buy on your trip…. Also plan outfits that are appropriate for the activities you will be doing. That sounds like a given but autopilot packing is a common symptom of travelers distracted with excitement for their trip.
Plan your destinations and try to go to attractions at off-peak times (check hours of operation). You can also get to know a lot about the destination and the culture or community by planning to volunteer somewhere. In fact, in recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of trips taken by people that center their trips solely on looking to get involved with a cause.
Leave a little time for unplanned activities also. At least 1 day of your trip should be left unplanned. You never know what you might find when you get to your destination.
Be prepared! First aid kit, paper towels, toilet paper, wet wipes, etc. It also never hurts to pack extra socks and underwear.
Prepare for the unexpected. A little food for thought I picked up from my friend and Travel Channel host, Josh Gates: You will always remember the trip where something goes wrong, even just a little bit. You will always remember the trip if something goes unexpectedly right in a really great way. Do something unexpected. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. That’s where all that being prepared comes in handy so you can feel more comfortable getting uncomfortable.
Start packing at least 3 days before your departure date and pack an item as soon as you think of it if you’re able. If you’re going abroad, start planning at least a week before your departure date.
That being said, plan to purchase items along the way because inevitably you will forget something. Just make sure it isn’t your wallet or passport that you forget.
Always, always bring extra cash.
Pack clothing you can layer and plan for all types of weather. Goes without saying, right? Even as an experienced traveler, I’ve been without a hat, t-shirt, or a jacket when I’ve needed it.
Always pack a hat. Sun, snow, wind, rain. Hats will help with all of that.
Bring multiple forms of ID and make backup copies of your identification, especially if you need your passport. Scan and email yourself a copy as well. Students, bring your school ID. You never know where you might find a discount.
Make a list of electronics complete with serial numbers. Photos might help also in the case of stolen or lost items.
You would think it goes without saying, but always make sure you know your airline’s and TSA’s luggage rules. This will save everyone massive amounts of frustration.
When you get there:
Talk to the locals if you really want to get to know your destination and avoid tourist traps. When traveling abroad or to any larger U.S. city, make sure you know the safe areas to go to.
Slow down! Take a minute to enjoy your surroundings. Take your time to relax and truly appreciate where you are and what you’re doing.
Always try to shop and eat local. You could be seriously missing out on some really great dining experiences if you opt for the same old food chains.
Resign to being in unfamiliar settings. The bed is going to feel different, the sounds, sites, and smells will be unfamiliar, and the people will be those you have never met before. This is ok. Most people have a great willingness to help and could be truly interesting.
Take pics but don’t live through your Instagram or Snapchat lens. Actually take time to take in the sites you want to remember, firsthand.
If you are going somewhere new or to another country, never go places alone. The last thing you want is to get into a sticky situation or get lost without anyone to help you.
Never write your credit card number down on anything. If they cannot scan it like normal, don’t use it. Which brings me to my next point…
Always, always bring extra cash.
Keep valuables in pockets or in purses or packs in front of your body. If you have the money to spend and need something larger, find a backpack that is theft-proof, especially if you are traveling with small children and will have the need for more items with you when you’re out and about. This is mainly important for overseas travel and high traffic tourist destinations abroad and within the U.S.
Keep a travel journal. No matter how far you’re traveling, these memories and experiences are the whole reason you’re going, right? Why not make sure you get it all down on paper so you can remember it all when you get back.
Truly, getting to the airport early will save you, especially if it is a new country or an unfamiliar airport. Customs are different in different countries. Plan your transportation ahead of time. If you’re driving, pay extra attention to the weather on your route and be sure to keep in mind where there are hotels or travel/rest stops along the way.
Those are just some of the travel trips from lessons experienced firsthand, and some picked up from travel experts and inspirational individuals. But there is just one left….
HAVE FUN!! That’s the whole point, right? Being prepared is essential to making sure you get to enjoy the trip you worked so hard to be able to take.