Whether you’re hiking the Inca Trail or biking around Paris in search of the flakiest croissant, employ these rad travel hacks from MEC staffers and Ambassadors to make the most of your time on the road.
1. Go light. Pack everything you need (nothing you “might” wear), then remove half – you’ll be surprised how freeing it is to go with less. Bonus tip: fast-drying, no-iron shirts are a saving grace on hot days (wear them damp and still look good at dinner), and merino wool is naturally odour-fighting for long stretches on the road.
2. Kiss your comfort zone goodbye. Embrace curiosity and ditch your traditional notions of time and schedule. In fact, leave your watch at home.
3. Say yes. Yes is the password to awesome – dining with locals, moonlit skinny-dips in lakes or trail runs through the rainforest.
4. Don’t bring t-shirts. Instead, buy them at your destination. Once you’re home, they’re wearable souvenirs.
5. Watch your back(pack). If you’re travelling with a checked backpack, get a cover – like this handy Skyway Airline tote – to protect the straps and buckles from overzealous luggage handlers and rollers at airports. Some bags even have straps that tuck away.
6. Two words: ear plugs. ‘Nuff said.
7. Embrace the pause. Bad weather and indoor days happen. Lift your spirits with playlists, an e-reader, podcasts or a sketchbook.
8. Keep a record. Write it all down – from the epic hiking sandwich to the time your only dinner companion was a street cat – take photos or videos, and collect ticket stubs or brochures. Don’t want to carry paper memories along? Mail them home as you go.
9. Be grateful. “Being rude to a customer service agent will never get you to your destination faster,” says MEC Ambassador Roz Groenewoud. “If your travel plans get screwed up, take a deep breath and remember how lucky you are to be able to travel in the first place.”
10. Little things make a big difference. Use SeatGuru.com to stake out a comfy airline seat, bring a packable travel pillow and wear comfortable shoes. Pack a squishy water bottle to stay hydrated through security.
11. Roll with it. Don’t be afraid to wait until you’re at your destination to book any local tours or excursions. You’ll often find better deals and recommendations from fellow travellers.
12. Speak up. Learn “hello,” “thank you,” and “coffee, please” in the local language. When all else fails, Pictionary your way through.
13. Depart in good health. Before you take off, make sure you’re set for dental work, prescriptions and vaccinations. Be sure to leave space between your appointments and your departure date in case anything needs a follow-up. And always get travel insurance.
14. Don’t be afraid to travel solo. You’ll be surprised how savvy you truly are when left to your own devices, plus it’s easier to meet locals and other travellers.
15. Think beyond your hotel safe. Scan and email a copy of all your important documents and IDs either to yourself or a friend or family member in case anything goes missing.
16. Travel isn’t a competition. The point of leaving isn’t to launch a new career as an Instagram star. Go for you. See what you came to see, be open and maybe don’t even take a photo. Nobody needs picture proof that you’re #blessed.