If you are an independent traveler, it takes a lot of work to be ready to move to the next destination
If you were on an organized excursion, all this is done for you, but when you are on your own, you are, well…on your own.
Having a consistent routine when making a major move from place to place has its advantages:
- It will keep you focused on schedules and where you need to be—especially when changing planes/trains/buses.
- It will turn you into a confident traveler and make you feel empowered.
- When asked for documentation, like passports, reservations, tickets, etc, you will have them at your fingertips.
- You will be less disoriented when you arrive at your destination.
- You will save money—sometimes, quite a bit of money.
Prepare in Advance
Decide what time to leave your current lodging.
Make a plan for transportation to the airport/bus station, etc. Check metro and bus options. Sometimes you can buy your ticket for an airport express bus on line. In my Dublin hostel, the hostel even sold the tickets! Or, ask your host to arrange a taxi. When they arrange the private transfer for you, you are more likely to get a better rate.
Make sure all your travel documents are loaded onto your mobile device, including boarding tickets, reservation confirmations for transportation and lodging, copy of “onward or return-flight” ticket.
Want to learn the
nitty gritty details of
how I plan my next trip
and create my own
If you don’t have a cell phone connection, download a map of your destination to your phone or tablet. I use Google Maps download option. Here is a sample map:
Plan and purchase food for the trip. Connections don’t always allow for time to purchase food in the airports or bus stations. Travel can be stressful and if you let your blood sugar levels drop because you don’t have food handy, it is hard to make decisions when things are not going smoothly. I try to prepare healthy sandwiches and/or salads, and a variety of snacks in the guesthouse/hostel kitchen. This saves money and I am sure to have some favorite foods during travel.
DON’T forget to have a copy of any required visas or entry permits for your destination. If you are required to have a paper copy of the visa, get one printed several days before departure. If you are unsure…get a hardcopy anyway.
Plan how to get from the airport/train station to your lodging. I usually write down specific directions. (Bus numbers, where to board and disembark the bus, walking directions to my hostel.) I use Google Maps or Rome2Rio.com to make specific plans for my destination. Take a screenshot of the map just in case Google Maps fails to work once you arrive. (I speak from experience!)
The image below shows how I planned my transfer from the Biskek (Kyrgystan) airport to my hostel. When I arrived I could bypass all the taxi drivers in the airport and jumped on the (much cheaper!) bus. You can read the story here.
If you plan to walk from the bus/train station to your lodging, take a screenshot image of the directions from the arrival port or terminal to your lodging before you leave—just in case the off-line version of Google maps decides not to work. This has happened to me and I was glad I had that backup in a strange town.
Do You Have an Early-Morning Flight/Bus/Train?
If you need one, arrange a taxi at the front desk the night before.
Pack as much as possible the evening before—especially if you are staying in a dorm room).
Prepare a simple breakfast. (Muesli stored in the hostel refrigerator is a great day-starter. Pack it in a sealed bowl so you are prepared to eat it on the road in case you are running late in the morning.)
If you plan to pick up food from the guesthouse refrigerator right before you leave, make sure that the kitchen won’t be locked in the early morning.
If you are in a hostel dorm and you are leaving early, be considerate of your sleeping roommates and move all your belongings to the lobby/ common area to finish packing up. I like to have everything completely ready the night before. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I move EVERYTHING to the lobby or hallway. I finish my ablutions, dress in the bathroom, pack the last few things, grab my breakfast, and go.
5 Reasons to Contact Your Next Host In Advance
- Ask about transportation from the airport/train/bus station. But be careful. Often if your host offers an airport transfer, it may cost more than just taking a taxi.
- Try to give your host an idea of the time you are arriving.
- If you have any preferences, let the host know. For example, when staying in a dorm room, I really prefer to have a bottom bunk, so I usually email the hostel as soon as I make my booking and request it. It has worked almost every time.
- If meals are included in your lodging, be sure to tell the host if you have special food requirements.
- If you plan to take a taxi, ask what you should expect to pay. This gives you ammunition for bargaining with taxi drivers at the airport.
One time I was told that the taxi from the bus station to my guesthouse should cost 150 Kyrgyz som, or 200 at the most. I got to the taxi stand and the driver said 500! I offered 200; he came all the way down to 400. I stubbornly said, “I’ll walk.” And he let me! Turned out okay, though—the walk was not so far and it was good to stretch my legs.
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Honing your skills for making your own reservations and travel plans is a core practice for becoming an experience independent traveler.
Look Over My Shoulder Stage 2
Today’s post is quite rambling, following my disparate thoughts from one idea to another. But travel planning—especially a lengthy journey—is rarely straightforward. And in my case, it is usually a pretty messy and disorganized process.
Look Over My Shoulder Stage 4
It is time to do some preliminary research to get a ballpark idea of how much this will cost. If it is beyond my financial means, now is a good time to cut out some venues, before I get my heart set on all of them.