Five Tips For An Amazing Getaway

First and foremost, bravo for expanding your horizons and venturing abroad! It is arguably one of the most enriching experiences humans can partake in during our short time on this earth. No matter what happens, you are going to return home with priceless memories and a different outlook on life. But not all vacations are equal, and this has much to do with your planning and your choices for your daily agenda while overseas. Fear not, dear traveler, we’ve got you covered. Follow these five tips to have the most awesome trip ever!

1. Open Mind, Open Arms

Before even delving into the preparation and planning for your big trip, take a moment and close your eyes. Breathe, and clear your mind. Try your best to let go of your anticipations, excitement, anxieties, and expectations. Let yourself relax into the notion that you’re going to embrace this trip with an open mind, not knowing what you’ll discover and not minding the uncertain. If you have a million expectations and every minute planned for each day, you’ll end up disappointed or worn out, or a combination of the two. Of course you need to plan for some things, like an incredible event you can’t miss, such as the epic parade on the streets of Hong Kong, or the amazing midnight sailing excursion through the waters of Bali, but do go with the flow as well. Don’t be so stringent with your schedule while at your chosen destination. Remember to open your mind and take it in as it comes.

2. Travel Light

For the ladies out there, I know how tempting it’s going to be to pack up your whole life in your suitcases. You never know where your trip will take you – and if it’s to the hottest night clubs in Tokyo, of course you need your glam club dresses, killer heels and all of your other gear-to-fear to go with it. But traveling on the light side will leave you feeling so much more free and susceptible to the wonders of being abroad. For one thing, your limbs will thank you as you won’t have to trek around with five suitcases busting at the seams with all your stuff. Also remember that you’re likely going to be picking up various souvenirs and trinkets while on your trip, so you need extra room in your luggage to take these treasures back with you. It’s a natural instinct to want to pack everything we own when leaving our home-sweet-home, perhaps it stems from an unconscious fear that we’ll never return, but I’m telling you – resist the urge. You’ll get around more easily and will be able to throw yourself more into your foreign experience without all of your mementos from home crowding you.

3. Learn The Culture (Beforehand)

You’re an American traveling abroad, so it’s not like you’ll be expected to know everything 100% about the society you’re visiting. You may barely be able to speak the language in fact (hopefully you know enough to get around, or are traveling with someone who does.) Yet there are numerous non-verbal gestures and actions that can say a whole lot about you to your foreign peers. For example, did you know in Japan it’s actually considered polite to slurp your soup? It suggests that you appreciate the dish and are enjoying it. Or while dining in a European country, it is appropriate to have your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right, and to keep each in your hand, rather than set them down frequently as Americans often do during the duration of a meal. Subtle actions like this will show your good manners and help you fit in better in your foreign surroundings. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet guide book on the country you’re visiting. It’s a wonderful resource about the culture, language and sites to see at your destination.

4. Know The Way To Pay

Using an ATM overseas is usually the most efficient way to get cash. Regardless of how much cash you’re taking out, all withdrawals are exchanged based on the wholesale exchange rate. This rate is usually significantly cheaper than what you’ll find if you exchange traveller’s checks at a local exchange counter. Before you head on your journey, make sure you know which networks your ATM card and credit cards are linked to by looking at the back of your card. If linked to the PLUS, Cirrus, or Maestro networks, you’ll be able to get cash out of your ATM in hundreds of countries, as these networks each have millions of ATMs. Cirrus and Maestro are linked to MasterCards, and PLUS to Visas. So if your cards have either of these logos, you’re probably good to go. Check out MasterCard/Cirrus/Maestro’s and Visa/PLUS’s online ATM locators to make sure you’ll be able to get cash out where you’re going.
*A note about using your debit cards abroad: many ATMs overseas do not accept PINs longer than four digits. So if yours is, make sure to contact your bank and have it changed before your trip. Also if your PIN contains letters, change your PIN to all numbers, as many ATMs abroad have only numeric keypads.

5. Authentic Accommodations

Booking hotels can be a hassle, a very expensive hassle at that if you don’t know where to look and are going to be arriving during peak travel times or are headed to extremely popular destinations. To avoid this, and enrich your traveling experience times a million, check out Couchsurfing.org, a global network service that lets you find people overseas to stay with. Thousands of “surfers” are part of the network, willing to share their home with you while you stay abroad. This will allow you to have the most authentic experience you could possibly imagine with being able to stay with a local and see how they live, and experience the country through their naturalized way – all for free! You’ll get the inside scoop on the best local secrets, something you’d really never be able to find out any other way, and make friends with these gracious pals at the same time! Now that’s what we call getting cultured.

So now that you’re set with these tools, you’re ready to have the most amazing, informed, and prepared (but not overly prepared – remember an open mind is key!) vacay of your life. Bon voyage!

Kristen Bright is the social media consultant for Instant CheckmateInstant Checkmate is a personal criminal background check provider, and does not perform employment screening of any kind.

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