Every trip, no matter how long or short, requires a good amount of preparation and research in order to make the most of it. And while many people spend a lot of time getting informed about the best flights, accommodation, or tourist places to visit, they often forget about other stuff that will leave lasting memories. After all, traveling is so much more than jamming as many stops into a short period and crossing off as many sights off your bucket list as possible.
For that reason, we have compiled a list with all the essential considerations to take in order to get the best overall experience. Whether you are a first-time traveler or an experienced globetrotter, we hope that you will get some food for thought. Simply go through item by item when planning your next trip. We assure you that you will experience the world in a different way and create memories that don’t just look good on Instagram. Even though, many of them also make for better photo scenes than crammed tourist sights.
Acquire Basic Language Skills
It may be a bit much to ask from you to be fluent in each language wherever you go. Especially, if you travel to places like the Middle East or China, for example, it would take years to get to a level where you can have a full on conversation. After all, you might think that you will be fine getting along with English. This might be true, but it shouldn’t stop you from getting basic knowledge of the local language anyway. And this is not for a practical reason to facilitate getting around or something alike. It is much more for qualitative reasons. Showing interest and respect for a culture by attempting to use the language – even in the most basic way – will make you connect with the locals.
If you are going on a shorter trip or don’t have much time on hand to prepare, at least look up very common and frequently used words. Just greeting somebody or showing gratefulness in their own language can sometimes move mountains!
Search on Google for:
– Essential travel phrases in [language]
– [language] for beginners
– [language] for travelers
To facilitate further interaction with the locals, we suggest using language apps. Options like Babbel or Rosetta Stone promise a fun way of learning a language with quick results. It is something you can incorporate into your everyday life, even when you don’t have much time. Simply start using it a couple of weeks in advance and you will be good to go.
Get Background Info On A Country’s History
Probably the best way to get a quick and comprehensive summary on the history of a country is by simply checking Wikipedia. It may not be the most entertaining editing but it will help you to get a good understanding of what happened over the last centuries.
It may be less of interest who the 15th president of the country was. But knowing about the main political eras, colonial influences or the economic history will open your eyes for many details that you will otherwise not grasp during your trip. After all, the historical happenings can explain many things that you will be able to see in a culture today. From foods to music, from clothing to architecture – all have their roots and influences in the past.
Get Familiar With Local Customs & Traditions
“When in Rome do as the Romans do” – we have all heard this saying and there are good reasons to live by it. On the one hand, it is a matter of respect. When traveling to a different country, there are two types of tourists. The horrible ones that behave like they own the place and can do whatever they want. And the nice and subtle ones who try to blend in an be respectful of the rules and culture. We highly encourage you to be the latter! And to do so, it is important that you learn about dos and don’ts beforehand.
On the other hand, learning about customs and traditions is its own experience. They are a huge part of what defines a culture. Thus, taking part in everyday rituals or annual processions can create unforgettable memories. You will rather feel like a part of it than just a short-term visitor and get to know a culture and its people in a more profound way. Many aspects of a culture, no matter how modern they are, are often based on century-old customs and traditions. Knowing them will help you understand much more how and why a country works in a certain way today.
Search on Google for:
– Dos and don’ts in [name of country, region or city]
– Local customs and traditions in [name of country, region or city]
– Special traditions on [event, festival, holiday] in [name of country, region or city]
Get To Know The Local Cuisine
What would traveling be without food? Exactly! And not only because food is delicious but also because you will miss out on a huge part of a country’s culture if you only eat pizza or at McDonald’s wherever you go. Of course you can just go to any local restaurant or street food stand and point at whatever looks good. But finding the real deal – traditional foods and drinks that you have to try at least once – isn’t always that easy. Especially when you visit countries where you aren’t familiar with the language on the menu, you will easily miss out on the most typical foods and drinks. If you haven’t heard about it before, you will hardly recognize something as a must-try specialty. Thus, it is important to do some research on what you desperately need to try.
Start off by looking for general insights on what the local cuisine is known for. What are main ingredients or typical, recurring components? What do people eat for breakfast? Which traditional desserts satisfy locals’ sweet tooth? What are typical drinks? Once you have some general knowledge, also look for regional or local specialties of the places you intend to visit. Now take your list of dishes or drinks you are desperate to try and look for the best restaurants or areas to get them. But be sure not only to look for hipster restaurants. Many times, the small, no-frills joints are the best. And don’t forget to search for the best areas to get your dose of local street food. After all, this is where you get the real authentic taste of the country.
For some inspiration, check out our compilation of traditional foods and drinks from around the world. Or if you rather have a physical book to flick through, we highly recommend Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Eatlist ranking the 500 best traditional dishes on the planet.
Search on Google for:
– Typical characteristics of [name of country or region] cuisine
– Traditional dishes from [name of country, region or city]
– Typical food/sweets and desserts/drinks/breakfast from [name of country, region or city]
– Where to get the best street food in [name of city]
– Local specialties in [name of country, region or city]
– Best restaurants to eat/drink [name of dish or drink] in [name of country, region or city]
Search For Cultural Events During Your Visit
There is hardly a better way of getting a full roundup of a country and its culture than when it celebrates itself. During festivities like national holidays, religious rituals or cultural festivals, you will experience all different aspects a culture has to offer. Just think of the food and drinks that people traditionally consume during these days. Streets and homes are going to be decorated with typical objects, symbols and art while locals dress up in their beautiful national costumes. You will experience traditions, rituals and processions with which locals celebrate their believes, achievements, history and pride.
All of this together presents unforgettable experiences like no other. So make sure you don’t miss out on these cultural highlights wherever you go! To get an impression of what we are talking about, check out the most extraordinary festivals from around the world.
Search on Google for:
– (Traditional/cultural) festivals in [name of country, region or city]
– National holidays in [name of country, region or city]
– How to celebrate [Christmas/New Year/name of event] in [name of country, region or city]
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Look “Off The Beaten Path”
When getting inspiration for a trip, most people probably first type something like “Top 10 places to visit in …” or “Must see… ” into Google. While this is great to get a first idea, the search will simply spit out hundreds of articles with exactly the same sights to see. And all of these are where the thousands of other tourists will flock to as well.
Of course, we don’t want to tell you to skip all those world-renowned places. There is often a good reasons why they are so famous. However, we also encourage you to question if they are actually worth it or if you might end up at Disneyland-like tourist traps. Take into consideration that other less known, but more authentic alternatives may be worthwhile. Don’t just follow the masses, but also explore the less frequented parts. You might also be surprised that visiting seemingly ordinary places like markets, getting lost in the side streets of cool neighborhoods, or simply browsing a local supermarket can be more enjoyable than staring at a famous monument.
Search on Google for:
– [name of country, region or city] off the beaten path
– [name of country, region or city] off the beaten track
– Weekly markets [name of city]
– Sports events/concerts/theater/art shows in [name of region or city]
– Unique adventures/experiences in [name of country, region or city]
– Animal encounters in [name of country, region or city]
Find Entertaining & Educational Classes
A fun way of learning about a culture, its traditional arts and crafts, its delicious cuisine or colorful sounds and dancing is to take classes or workshops. Instead of just witnessing things, you could even take home a new skill. Having done the research we suggested previously, you will probably have a good idea about what a culture has to offer. This will help you to specifically look for educational experiences at your destination.
On Cookly, for example, you can find cooking classes all over the world, where you can learn how to make all the mouthwatering dishes of local cuisines. Like this you will not only enjoy all the delicious food during your trip, but you can make it a part of your everyday dining at home.
Apart form cooking there are so many possible workshops you could consider. Some are a bit more useful for your everyday life while others are for plain education and entertainment during your trip. You could impress your friends with your newly acquired dancing skills. Or why not learn how to build a hut with traditional construction methods? The possibilities are endless!
Search on Google for:
– [name of dance] lessons in [name of country, region or city]
– Cooking classes in [name of city]
– Where to learn playing [name of instrument/sport/etc.] in [name of country, region or city]
– Learn how to build a [name of traditional item]
Be Prepared For The Weather
Visiting a place with bright blue skies, with no clouds or rain in sight and moderate temperatures is probably the ideal for most of us. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. And being surprised by thunderstorms or temperature drops can be a real downer. But don’t let the weather ruin your trip. As a German saying goes: “There is no bad weather. There is just the wrong kind of clothing”. So come prepared and you will have a good time, no matter what.
As you plan, first check how the general climate is in the region you are intending to visit. Take into consideration that some countries have extremely varying weather conditions. Temperatures and humidity can change dramatically between different altitudes. Different coasts might experience monsoon or other circumstances in different seasons. Some destinations stretch from colder regions in the north to tropical conditions in the south, and vice versa. Also keep in mind that some places might be extremely hot during the day but cool down dramatically at night. These are all aspects that you need to account for when planning your route, activities and suitcase.
Search on Google for:
– Best time/month to visit [name of country, region or city]
– Weather in [name of country, region or city] in [month or season]
– Temperatures in [name of country, region or city] in [month or season]
– What clothes to bring for [name of country, region or city] in [month or season]
– Is it worth visiting [name of country, region or city] during rainy season/monsoon/winter/etc.
Look For Authentic Or Special Accommodation
With the rise of Airbnb, more and more young people are swapping hotels for privately owned accommodation. Initially, the great idea was to stay closer to locals and experience real everyday life. However, with the prospects of making good and easy money came the business-driven providers. A huge chunk of the offering now consists of sterile, Ikea-stuffed apartments that have no charm and nothing to do with local culture anymore. Thus, to have an authentic experience, look for apartments that are actually inhabited by locals and not just rent out to tourists. An even better option to get the full-on cultural experience is to look for a room in a shared apartment with locals. Like this you can easily meet great people and get insider tipps on what to see, where to go or what to eat.
Off of Airbnb, you could even think about home stays. This is surely the best way to dive into a culture as deeply as possible. Staying with a local family in their own home will give you the most memorable insights into everyday life. There is simply no other way to make these kind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Just think of staying in traditional huts in remote villages, for example. Or the incredible food that the grandma of a local family will cook for you. You will definitely never forget that!
If this is all a bit too close for you, though, local guest houses can be a great alternative. Especially family-owned operations often provide a warm and authentic atmosphere. You will still have a closer connection to locals that care for you as compared to hotels chains without having to compromise on your privacy and amenities.
Search on Google for:
– Homestays in [name of country, region or city]
– Boutique hotels in [name of country, region or city]
– Bed & breakfasts/Guest houses in [name of country, region or city]
The Journey Is Its Own Reward
Not just the individual places that you will visit on your travels will give you joy and amazing experiences. It is also the way to get there that can be much more than a necessary evil. That is if you intentionally make it its own experience. In most countries the main places of interest are scattered over huge areas and you inevitably have to cover huge distances. As flying is has become incredibly cheap, taking a plane often seems like the best option. And while it most probably is the most comfortable way of getting around, it is definitely not the most authentic or rewarding. Especially in less developed countries, modern airports hardly represent reality. Thus, traveling from city to city by plane will make you miss out on a lot of the everyday aspects of a country. You will not see the outskirts of a city, rural life or breathtaking landscapes. And just the act of taking a certain means of transportation will make you understand the conditions in a certain country a lot better.
For that reason, consider using long-distance buses or trains, depending on the better network in your destination. Oftentimes, you can go over night and safe time as well as money on accommodation – off-setting the advantages of shorter flights. We promise you that moving around that way will instantly make you feel rather like a proper cultural traveller than a tourist.
And also for exploring and getting around in a city, using local transportation is a way bigger adventure. Instead of booked tours that bring you from one to the next stop or taking a taxi everywhere, try means like Tuk Tuks or Rikshaws. It might take a bit more courage at first but it will surely pay off in the end. Keep in mind though to do some proper research beforehand in order to beware of scams and tourist traps!
Search on Google for:
– Getting around [name of country, region or city]
– Best way to get from [name of city] to [name of city]
– Cheapest way to get from [name of city] to [name of city]
– Best way to explore [name of country, region or city]
Create A Lose And Flexible Itinerary
For many people, planning a trip in greatest detail is a matter of comfort and security. After all, we don’t want anything to go wrong and ruin our well-deserved holidays. However, being on a very tight schedule will also prevent you from finding the unexpected treasures out there. Once-in-a-lifetime experience that you cannot plan ahead.
For that reason, only plan and book the most essential things while leaving enough space to go with the flow. Check the following to find out what might be crucial to book ahead and where you can be spontaneous:
– Do certain transportation modes sell out quickly, e.g. overnight trains or flights
– What are the must see places on your bucket list that you don’t want to miss?
– Do you want to book a certain tour or special excursion that needs to be reserved in advance?
– Do you need a fixed date to get advance tickets for a sight, show etc.
– Are certain events like festivals, national holidays etc. happening at a specific date?
– Do you want to stay at a special hotel that needs to be booked in advance?
If you make sure that these are accounted for in order to not miss out on anything, you can easily leave the rest of your itinerary open. It will surely pay off in the end. You will be able to take recommendations from other travelers, or ideally from locals, which may lead to the most amazing and unexpected surprises. Trust us!
We hope that you find these tips helpful for preparing for you next trip. We would love to hear about all your memorable experience. If you think we forgot about something important, we are happy to get your feedback. Please get in touch and let us know!