Going for a vacation to a foreign country on your own has plenty of advantages but also one big disadvantage: everything is on you! If something bad happens, no travel agency would help. Your perfect vacation can be easily changed into a stressful and frustrating nightmare. However, if you expect the unexpected and you are well prepared for the worst case scenario, you should be safe. Read my useful tips and then if troubles come, just stay calm and find a solution without panicking. But if all your plans come together, I still have some tips to make your journey more relaxing and enjoyable!
1. Copy your documents… several times!
It is very important to make a copy of your passport or other ID before you go. If you lose them it would be much easier to identify yourself to the police. More importantly, it should fasten the process of getting a new ID in your embassy. But what if your luggage is lost or stolen with both the original document and a copy inside?
Scan it or take a picture and keep it in both your phone and in the cloud (or use your email to send it to yourself). If the phone is also lost or damaged, then you can log in to your cloud or email account on every computer and download it. Just make sure you remember the login details.
2. Get a travel insurance and do not forget to save the details
Purchasing travel insurance is no brainer. It is usually not very expensive so get the best option for every possible accident, health issue, delay, missed or cancelled flight or lost property. Check if the excess is not too big, which is often a catch. Your wallet may not like it, but if something unexpected happens it would eventually thank you a lot!
Once you have the insurance, write down the emergency phone number (not the general enquiry phone number!) and your policy number. Keep it in a safe place. Write down other important numbers, too (your embassy, family members, bank…) for peace of mind if something happens to your phone.
3. Avoid common mistakes with car rental companies
If you rent a car, always take additional insurance to cover windscreen, wheels and towing. Do not take shortcuts here; it is not much more money compared to the whole renting price and a flat tire or broken glass are much more likely to happen than anything else!
I always buy the insurance online, along with renting a car, to have more time and carefully read the policy at home. There is also an option to get it in the rental office, but keep in mind that they are a selling experts and will try to give you everything. But in that case the insurance usually pays for everything straight away (if you buy online you often need to pay for the damage by yourself and after that the insurer refunds it).
Additionally, make sure that the car rental company would accept your payment card. In most of the countries they accept only credit cards and refuse to accept debit cards or prepaid cards such as Revolut. They could make an exception, but if not, your must-see list may be destroyed.
Last but not least, before you drive off it is wise to ask them about rules on the roads. They may vary from rules you know but more importantly, you definitely want to know in advance how to pay tolls, where to park in cities and what is the speed limit in different areas. Police are usually understanding towards tourists, but it is not a rule.
4. Take a good care of your finances
Some of the banks monitor customer’s card activity very carefully. It may happen that your card is suddenly blocked if the bank considers a purchase of something thousands miles from home as suspicious. Contact your bank before you go to avoid calling its helpline from abroad.
It is a good idea to have another card just in case. I recommend Revolut as you can exchange your currency for local currency with a very competitive rate and you have plenty of extra options there.
If you are visiting a country where paying with cash is the only option, be extra careful. Do not withdraw all the money at once. If you have to (or if you bring cash from your country) keep rather smaller amounts in many different places around your luggage and clothes than everything together. It is always better to lose some of the money than the whole budget.
5. Download all travel apps in advance
If it is necessary to use a number of travel apps on your phone, download and test them at home. Then make them work offline if possible. Do not waste time on your getaway for that kind of things; this may be frustrating in case of weak Internet connection or lack of free Wi-Fi.
6. Travel First Aid kit is a must!
This is a piece of excessive baggage that you usually have no room to, right? Well that is the one way to look at it. You will find the other once you will suddenly get sick or injured.
I always take a small First Aid kit with me with regular painkillers in case of headache or stomach ache, something stronger for unexpected teeth problems and medications for food poisoning, dehydration and sunstroke. Plus a sun lotion, moisturizer, small bandages and plasters, antiseptic cream, caffeine in tablets if I plan to drive a lot. You know your body best, take everything that is useful to you and do not think twice.
7. Have a back-up plan just in case
Some people are very strict about their itineraries, while others prefer spontaneous trips full of surprises. But every getaway needs some preparation and basic ideas about places to see and to avoid.
It is a good idea to find more attractions that you can actually see or experience. Not priorities, but still worth visiting. Natural disasters, accidents, very bad weather and other unexpected events happen. Of course in that case you can sit down for a few hours and do your research on location. But is it worth wasting your time and nerves then? What if it is late and you must decide quickly about what bus to catch? What if internet connection is slow? Once you have your “Plan B” already, you can decide where to go within minutes and then simply work on details at the moment more comfortable to you.
8. Talk with your children before the departure
If you think that going for a vacation with small children would be stressful, leave them at home! No, but more seriously, good preparation and communication with them will most likely make the journey enjoyable for both parties.
Therefore it is important to explain that the vacation is supposed to please not only your children, but all of you. Tell them that there will be some attractions that everyone likes, but also compromises must be found. For example kids must be patient when you are visiting a weird museum or wandering around streets of some boring town, but then you will go to play on the fanciest playground, nicest beach or swimming pool. They may not like traditional local cuisine and want pizza every day, but they probably will love the biggest ice cream for dessert if they are more considerable.
If you like active and adventurous trips, make them used to it very early. Do not wait for kids to be older; it is not easy to change their habits once they are used to having nothing but all day fun everyday.
Children are children so challenging moments of boredom and bad mood will happen, anyway. You can choose an easy way by giving them phones or tablets. It is a vacation, you are supposed to get a break too, so nobody will blame you. But think as well about more interesting ways of killing time that would include the whole family.
I am not going to pretend that I’m an expert on that topic. Instead I recommend searching for websites only about travelling with children. There are really plenty of them (websites, not children haha).
9. Consider a digital detox on vacation
Do not check your smartphone every hour every day; you are on a vacation after all! Instead consider switching it into a muted mode.
Obviously you may need to use your phone for navigation, booking purposes or to contact your relatives. But you do not need to check what is on Facebook or who is trending on Twitter during your trip. No need to check the latest news and being upset about tragedies of people that you do not even know. Neither being angry because of stupid things some politician just said. The last results of your favourite team can wait; believe me, it will be still there once you come back home.
Why don’t you forget, at least for few days, about everything that happens online? Enjoy the weather, food, all other attractions and look around you, not at screens. This may be the only chance during a year to have a digital detox! Honestly, it will boost your vacation mood, make you feel more relaxed and less anxious or stressed.
10. Take an extra day off afterwards
It is a huge and common mistake to come back home and go straight to work on the very same or even the next day. Take at least one full day off to deal with the jet lag, unpack and wash your stuff, download all the pictures from your camera and contact your mates to tell them some exciting stories!
Otherwise you may find yourself thinking about your job already during the last day of your travel. Then you will find switching back to normal life very hard. You may feel rushed, stressed and eventually struggle with falling asleep. What is the point of having a good time on vacation if you come back to work exhausted?
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