Needless to say, many of us are a bit on edge when it comes to the pandemic and travel. Travel can always prove to be a bit stressful, especially as security lines have grown longer and overtourism has taken hold of many of the world’s most popular destinations.
With the added restrictions and travel requirements enacted by nations around the world due to COVID, it’s now more important than ever to find ways to make travel as enjoyable as possible.
As the travel industry begins to hopefully get moving again this year, many of us are eager to start planning trips again. After many of us have been forced to remain locked down within our home states or countries the past year, a satisfying vacation is long overdue.
To ensure your first holiday post-COVID lockdown lives up to your expectations, I have outlined some of the top ways you make traveling more rewarding and successful. Whether it’s choosing the right destination, knowing when the best time to travel is, or who you should travel with, there are many things you can personally do to make your next vacation more fun.
8 Ways to Make Your Vacation More Fun
Stay At Home Staycation
Travel doesn’t always have to entail journeying to the other side of the world. If you look hard enough, there are often plenty of fun things to do in your own state or country.
I myself had fallen into the trap of always thinking I had to travel abroad in order to enjoy the best travel experiences and realized after many years I had seen very few of the incredible places right here in my home country of Australia.
Right now may be the best time to plan a staycation, a vacation that involves staying at home and taking day trips to nearby sights and attractions.
Not only does taking a staycation avoid having to potentially quarantine due to COVID travel regulations, but they are also much more economical and can be planned without taking much time off from other commitments like work or school.
Many of us have been financially impacted by the pandemic, so finding ways to travel economically have become important. Planning a staycation close to home may be the perfect answer and will allow you to experience all the wonders you have missed right in your own backyard.
Do Your Research
Before you book any travel, it’s important to really do your research. This is especially true in the current travel climate where the pandemic has forced cities into lockdown, forced popular attractions and businesses to close, and made many destinations a risk to your health due to ongoing COVID outbreaks.
The more you know about a destination the better. This is true when it comes to choosing a safe destination and one that actually suits your personal travel style and interests.
In addition to choosing a destination that truly aligns with what you personally have always wanted to experience, you also need to make sure to sort out the logistics of the trip to make sure it is really something you will enjoy.
We often see beautiful images of waterfalls or lookouts, not realizing that it requires a 4-hour drive detour followed by an all-day hike to reach the spot.
Similarly, a place like Antarctica is often labeled as magical and a once in a lifetime experience, but it often involves getting really seasick crossing the Drake Passage, and setting foot on the continent or seeing specific wildlife is never guaranteed.
You want to make sure to go into any trip having the right expectations so as to not be left upset when something wasn’t as it was sold to be. Thorough research will prove to be one of the greatest tools to making sure your trip is as enjoyable as possible.
Picking the Right Time
Sometimes you can pick the perfect destination for you or your family, but still be disappointed as you happened to choose an unideal time in which to travel. It’s important to note that the perfect time to travel to a specific destination for one traveler can prove to be just the opposite for another.
Travel destinations often have a peak tourist season and an off-season. Peak season times are often popular for a reason. It usually means the best weather, availability of top attractions or annual festivals, or the chance to book certain experiences like seeing the northern lights or East Africa’s Great Migration.
While peak season may present you with more experiences or more ideal weather, it also often comes with huge crowds and a much higher price tag.
Choosing to travel during a destination’s off-peak times can save you a great deal of cash on flights, hotels, and activities while also allowing you to enjoy a much more rewarding experience due to the lack of tourists overrunning popular spots.
You need to ask yourself what factors are most important to you before selecting a time to travel. It needs to be a time that will impact your responsibilities back home as little as possible, will fit within your budget, and will allow you to enjoy the type of travel and experiences you are most looking forward to.
Some travelers absolutely cannot stand waiting in crowded lines while others will see no point in traveling to a destination if nothing grand is happening. You need to decide what type of traveler you are.
Interact with Locals
Many travelers sadly never interact with the locals in the destinations they visit beyond speaking with hotel receptionists and taxi drivers. Some even book tours led by nationals of their own home country who are running businesses abroad as expats.
While I am not saying you can’t enjoy a place without interacting with locals, it becomes so much more rewarding when you do.
One of the greatest benefits of traveling is opening your mind to new ideas and ways of life so as to grow as a person and better understand other points of view. The only way to do this is by talking with locals.
One of the biggest factors that restricts travelers from engaging with locals is a language barrier, which is why it’s always important to learn a few phrases of the language that is spoken in your chosen travel destination.
Not only will this allow you to more easily ask for directions, order meals, and reduce the chances of getting duped, but it also can help you to better understand why things are they way they are.
Interacting with locals can also introduce you to local hidden secrets not offered up in guidebooks such as little known delicious restaurants, ways to score cheaper transport, and incredible off the beaten path sights.
Embrace the Local Culture
In addition to interacting with locals, be sure to also embrace the local culture. You need to remember that you are the visitor and respecting the local way of life is important.
This is the time to ditch the tourist traps and forego your normal comfortable routines and meals you experience daily back home. It’s about going outside of your comfort zone to discover there isn’t one set way to living.
Try new foods, dress as the locals do so as to not offend, listen to new music, and engage in customs that are very different to the ones you are used to back home.
All too often, I see tourist-type travelers wanting to travel to exotic destinations but then try to replicate as much as possible the conditions they have back home whether it’s drinking at local expat pubs, booking with big international hotel brands, and shying away from the more authentic parts of town.
Minimize Your Luggage
It’s very easy to overpack. I myself have brought way too many belongings with me on a number of trips. We often believe we will have all this free time on our hands, so we bring a bunch of things that will occupy our minds like books and gadgets in case we get bored.
I can honestly say that I have very rarely ever been bored during a trip.
We also tend to think we need to pack a wide range of different outfits just because “what if I need it”. Very few occasions actually require a specific type of dress, shirt, or pants, so unless you’re booking a business trip or wedding, you can usually get away with traveling with a much smaller wardrobe in your suitcase.
The world is now very global, and you can usually find the same brand of toiletries and other items you use back home, or a brand that’s very similar, in countries all around the world. You can pack the essentials, but don’t think that you won’t be able to purchase things during your trip unless you are traveling somewhere quite remote.
The more you pack, the more cumbersome your journey will be.
This is especially true when backpacking. Nothing makes travel more enjoyable than minimizing your belongings and having a well organized suitcase that isn’t busting at the seams. Not only will you keep your accommodation tidier, but you’ll also have room for any souvenirs you decide to bring back with you.
Travel With the Right People
There are many times where we can’t exactly choose who we travel with such as when traveling as a family, but other times, especially when we’re younger, we can decide who we experience our travels with.
While you might think that your best friend would be the ideal candidate, it’s important to note that the stress of travel can quickly alter a person’s personality. What makes a good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a great travel partner.
Many people fear traveling solo, whether it be for safety reasons or simply not wanting to feel alone in a foreign land. But I have traveled all around the world alone and I can tell you that traveling solo as a female was one of the most empowering feelings of my life.
You are also more likely to meet new people when you travel alone, so although you may travel solo, you won’t necessarily be alone during your travels. For example, I just so happen to have met the person that would become my husband while traveling on the other side of the world during my 20s.
And while you may be married, don’t feel that you always have to travel with your spouse. Although some trips can prove to be great bonding experiences where you can strengthen your relationship, other trips can leave one or both of you feeling miserable simply based on the destination or circumstances.
The ideal vacations isn’t the same for everyone, so it pays to take the time to make sure the person you wish to travel with is the right man or woman for the job in terms of the specific trip you are planning. They may not be the right person for one trip but the perfect match for a future trip.
We tend to select a travel destination based on what it can provide “us” with in terms of experiences. While it’s important to think about what will bring you joy, as travel can be a big investment that requires a great deal of saving, it’s also important to remember to give back to the places we visit and ensure they remain alluring for future generations.
It has long been said that “it feels better to give than to receive” and this rings true for travel as well. Some of my most memorable travel experiences were ones where I volunteered with local villages to build structures or assist with conservation efforts.
You don’t necessarily have to book a trip solely devoted to volunteering your time, but take a moment to consider devoting a single day or half day to making a difference wherever you decide to travel.
There are many ways to make a difference, with activities to suit all interests. If you’re short on time, you can always give back by choosing to support locals through eating at family-run restaurants and booking homestays as opposed to with big hotel brands.
Shop local markets and buy items directly from their creators. Choose tours runs by local guides or companies that at least give back to the local communities through employing locals or gifting part of their proceeds to the local community.