Just as Liam Neeson has a set of acquired skills if you mess with his family, for a kick-ass vacation, you’ll need to master a number of travel skills before you go.
Traveling like a pro requires many skills sets. From learning how to handle your money, to being able to communicate with strangers (forget what your mother told you!), there’s a lot more involved than just knowing how to pack a suitcase, or being comfortable with traveling alone.
Many people head out on their first trip and find that they’ve jumped in the deep end, learning these skills on the road. But it does pay to know what you need to become a better traveler before you go.
Sharpen your pencil and grab a notepad, because travel school is now in session! The following are 5 travel skills we highly recommend learning before you leave home.
5 Skills to Learn Before You Travel
It goes without saying that you need to have a basic understanding of money matters when it comes to travelling; after-all, travel is far from free, so it’s important you have skills to pay the (travel) bills.
Having a basic knowledge of financial matters allows you to come up with a budget for your travels and will help you squeeze the most out of your hard earned money. This increases the quality of your holidays, and means you can possibly extend the length of your travels.
Learning how to save up for your travels is a crucial step to avoiding large credit bills with high interest charges when you get home. It’s a good idea to create a realistic and personalized travel budget that will allow you to have an enjoyable time, but stop you from spending beyond your means.
Financial Tip #1
Research and decide what forms of payment will work best for you during your travels, and which methods will save you the most in fees.
There are often extra fees associated with international purchases whether you decide to pay with credit cards, exchange currency, or pre-loaded debit style travel cards. These fees can really add up, so it’s important to consider your options before you travel.
When paying by credit card, be sure to use one that doesn’t hit you with international transaction fees. When exchanging currency, you can definitely save a great deal of money by researching what options will offer you the best exchange rate.
Financial Tip #2
Learn the art of travel hacking. This means paying for things like flights and hotels using points, as the most pro travel hackers use points to travel the world for free.
Learn how to apply for credit cards that will gift you with free hotel nights or airline miles that will lower the costs of your travels. Join hotel and airline reward programs that will provide you with further benefits the more you travel.
Signing up for airline frequent flyer programs is free and easy and can be done online in a matter of minutes. Do a bit of research into airline alliances, so you’re booking flights in a strategic way that allows you to maximize your earning potential.
Financial Tip #3
Don’t be afraid to search around for the best prices on hotels and flights, since prices can greatly vary from one website to another. It’s always a great idea to compare third party websites, and it usually even pays to sign up for travel clubs that provide you with access to their discounted rates.
There are travel clubs like Dollar Flight Club that send you notifications of cheap flights when an airline slashes a fare by 50%, and clubs like Club 1 Hotels, which offer massive discounts on over a million hotels if you’re a member.
While you can’t barter with hotels and airlines on prices like you can in a market, travel hacking, and travel clubs are a great way to bring your costs way down.
A big part of the travel experience is about connecting with others from around the world. Though beyond building long lasting friendships, learning how to communicate with others is often crucial for safety, especially when travelling solo.
A smile goes a long way while traveling, and knowing how to communicate with others can open a lot of doors to enriching your experience. Genuine interactions with locals often leads to more authentic travel that isn’t usually found in a guidebook.
Beyond having the skills to communicate with strangers in your own language, it’s even more important when a language barrier comes into play. It definitely doesn’t hurt to try and learn the local language before you travel; you don’t often need to become fluent, but even a little effort often goes a long way.
If you happen to be travelling solo, having the right communication skills means you’ll be able to easily join conversations, and pick up new friends along the way. Fellow travelers can often give you advice on where to go and what to experience. You may even get invited to join others at local events.
If you struggle with communication skills, read this post on how to make friends where-ever you go.
Adaptability and Flexibility
When it comes to flexibility, I’m not talking about being able to do a difficult handstand scorpion pose, unless of course you plan on traveling to a Balinese yoga retreat. No, I’m referring to the skill of adaptability.
Travel is full of surprises, more often than not. Flights get delayed, natural disasters strike, and the sun doesn’t always shine on your tropical beach getaway; even the best planned itinerary gets muddied with unexpected incidents.
As a traveler, learning how to be adaptable will greatly reduce the potential stress that often comes with travel. Learn to be flexible with your itinerary and don’t pack so many activities into a tight schedule that one minor hiccup can throw off your entire travel plans.
Don’t leave yourself too little time between connecting flights and don’t schedule expensive tours the day or two after you arrive or are due to return home. Travel is all about experiencing something new and leaving behind the rigid schedule your work life back at home constrains you to.
Learn to go with the flow while traveling and don’t feel as though you have to tick off everything your travel guide says is a “must do”. When disruptions and unfortunate circumstances strike, you have the choice to let them ruin your vacation or simply brush them off and move forward.
The better you become at being flexible with situations, the less minor inconveniences will get to you.
The most valuable souvenirs you can come away with during your travels are memories. But memories are inclined to fade over time, and one way to make sure they last forever is to take photographs.
Learning how to take good travel photographs is a great way to recall your many unforgettable travel moments. And today’s technology means anyone can snap travel memories quite easily.
The exceptional cameras offered by many smartphones means you may not even need an expensive DSLR. It’s important to remember that even the most expensive photography equipment, and all the Instagram filters in the world can’t turn a poorly taken image into a quality one. That requires skill.
Learn the basics of photography before you travel, knowing how to control things like depth of field, composition, lighting, and color. If you plan on sharing your images with family, friends, and followers on social media, quality images will go a long way to showing off your amazing travels.
A great travel writer is often only as good as the photos that accompany a published piece. A picture really can speak a thousand words, and you want your travel photos to speak in poetic verses that truly capture what you experienced.
Music might not seem like an essential travel skill, but you only have to travel once to understand its value.
Music unites people of all backgrounds and religions across the world, and one of the best ways to socialize while traveling is to learn some music skills yourself.
A great instrument to consider learning for travel is the ukulele. It’s small, highly popular, and very travel-friendly. According to Musician Authority, it’s an easy instrument to learn and is most popular in Hawaii, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
Whether you’re traveling remotely and groups have come together around a campfire, or there’s a piano in the lobby of your hotel, music has an incredible power of expression, without requiring any translation between languages.
Before your next trip, think about picking up a fun and easy to learn instrument like the ukulele, and make a list of your favorite songs to learn. If you need ideas, take a look at this list of easy ukulele songs. Learning essential chords and perhaps even learning how to sing while you play will make for interesting travel experiences.
Whipping out an instrument is one of the biggest icebreakers for building relationships abroad – though just make sure it’s travel friendly – traveling with a ukulele is much easier than traveling with a grand piano!
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