Sunday, 8 September 2013

Five Tips for Travelling Newbies

Good morning, good day, and good evening world!

So we've bought our tickets for our next big excursion: JAPAN! 

In preparation for our trip to the land of the rising sun, we've been reasearching travelling in Japan online. We came across this excellent post offerring up 10 tips for those experiencing Japan for the first time: 

Japan: readers' tips, recommendations and travel advice

Needless to say this post gave us some excellent ideas for our upcoming trip and we've already incorporated some of these tips into our travel plans.
This article also inspired us to post our own top five travel tips that we'd like to share with all you folks out there who may be planning you're very first big trip. Be it backpacking around Europe, driving across North America, or island hopping in the South Pacific, here are some pointers that we wish we had known prior to embarking on our own adventures:

1) Plan ahead 

You can never be too prepared
Travel books are your friend. Sure, they are usually as thick as a bible, with tiny font that can be extremely intimidating, but doing a bit of research ahead of time will not only save you a ton of headaches when you actually arrive, but it can be loads of fun too! By putting together a preliminary list of stops and sights ahead of time, looking at pictures of things to see, learning about the food you'll be tasting, and reading about the experiences that will be offered, your excitement and anticipation will only grow! Our favourite travel books are the Lonely Planet series and Eyewitness Travel's Top Ten series. Lonely Planet's books are perfect for pre-trip planning. They are filled to the brim with details and suggestions, but once you arrive in your destination, they can be a little too bulky to carry around with you during the day. Top Ten's are great for any major city you plan on visiting for longer than 4 days. Their offerings are slightly more limited but if you want to experience the absolute best that major cities have to offer, you can't go wrong! Plus, they are also small enough to carry in your pocket!
2) Don't be a slave to your itinerary

Planning ahead is great (and, as mentioned above, pretty essential) but one of the biggest mistakes you can make during your travels is forcing yourself to leave a city only because your schedule dictates. Sometimes this is unavoidable, if you have a flight pre-booked or a reservation at a hotel, but trust us, if you've fallen in love with a city only to be forced to leave earlier than you'd like, you'll only resent it in your next destination. 
Gorgeous Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo courtesy of

As you meet people on your journey, you'll most certainly get more travel advice from them, suggestions to new places you hadn't originally considered. Some of the best discoveries have come about from these sorts of conversations! Mike discovered one of the most beautiful places in Italy thanks to a casual conversation at a hostel. If you are ever near Pisa, be sure to check out Cinque Terre, you definitely won't regret it!

3) Hop on, Hop off buses

Plus you get to enjoy the open air! Who doesn't love
Double Deckers?
This may come as a surprise to some. If you live in a major city anywhere in the world, you must be familiar with these red eyesores; double-decker buses that block up your downtown city streets. Well you may find them annoying back home, but when you're out of your element, these sightseeing Hop-On, Hop-Off buses are the perfect stepping stone to help ease you into your journey! If you are staying in one city for any real length of time, buying a ticket for these bus tours can really help orient yourself in your new surroundings. We recommend a three-day pass as it instantly helps you get to know the city, what sights you'll want to visit, their historical significance, and they also act as a nice means of transportation for a few days, getting you where you almost certainly want to go.
Check them out here: Hop-On, Hop-Off Tours

4) Buy an app

Smart phones are a fantastic invention, but unless you have a ton of extra cash lying around, roaming cell and data fees can murder your monthly bill. We both own iPhones, which come equipped with google maps, which is great when you get lost back home. But what happens if you thousands of miles away from your cell phone carrier? The answer is simple! The makers of the aforementioned Lonely Planet book series also offer some extremely handy travel apps for iPhone, Android, and Nokia! In our opinion, these apps are ESSENTIAL for modern travel! They come with much of the same content found in their travel guides, such as sights to see, restaurants to check out, and stores to shop. But far and away the absolutely BEST feature about these apps would have to be the maps. Each app comes preloaded with a city map which uses your smart phone's built in GPS to place you on the map, telling you exactly where you are! You'll never get lost again! It also tells you what's around you in terms of hotels, sights, shops and restaurants, it's fantastic! The best part? Since the map is pre-loaded, and GPS is free, it won't cost you a penny! Well, that's not entirely true, the apps typically run you about $3.99 CND, but they are completely worth it.

Be sure to check out Lonely Planet's selection at their website. 

5) Pack light!

Finally, you should not only avoid over packing, but in our experience it's best to under pack! You'll need the space for all the amazing souvenirs you'll be bringing back for yourself, your family, and your friends! Another thing to keep in mind is that more often than not you'll find cheaper or more exotic clothes than what you are used to back home, so you'll certainly be picking something up for yourself. It's better to have to space to buy stuff in your destination and have room for it, than having to make that difficult choice as to what piece of clothing needs to be left behind. This was a hard lesson for us to learn and we've been known to buy an extra suitcase or two on our travels in order to accommodate all the cool souvenirs we wanted to bring home.
One last tip: Travel pillows may look ridiculous,
but trust us, your neck will thank you!
Hope you liked our list and that this advice will prove useful in your own travels. If you have some other useful tips for your fellow traveller, please feel free to add them in the comments! Your input is always appreciated!


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