As I have mentioned before, I used to dream of traveling. Being so broke in my 20s didn’t allow me a lot of extras. After a canceled trip with friends, I decided to finally make my dream into a reality in 2013 by booking a plane ticket to New York City. I had a friend who (still) lives in Brooklyn, so she not only hosted me but also played tour guide (thanks, Leslie!). I unlocked a love that I had no idea even existed and ran with it. Soon after, I broke up with my ex-boyfriend and started renting a room from a friend. Renting a room, and now being smart with my current apartment setup, has allowed me the flexibility, both financially and physically, to travel.
Even though I have an insane passion for traveling, I have decided to scale back my trips this year to work on my goals, mainly my business and health. It’s hard for me to fully commit to these two things if I am not in a consistent environment. But even with scaling back, I’ll still be spending time in the friendly skies. And I want to share my travel tips to help you can enjoy your vacation too!
Set The Intent For Your Trip
As much as I love a good plan, I’ve realized you need to be honest with yourself. So, before you plan any trip, ask yourself two questions:
- What is the purpose of my trip?
- What kind of traveler do I want to be?
Over the years, I’ve realized no two trips are the same, even if it’s the same destination. I’ve been to Orlando twice for work and each time I had a different experience, because of what traveler I had decided to be. One trip felt frazzled because I insisted on cramming everything in and one trip felt relaxing because I stayed in more, ate on site and got more quality sleep.
By asking yourself the questions above, you can be more precise about how you would like to plan your trip. If your trip is to sightsee and you want to be relaxed, maybe only schedule one thing a day instead of cramming five. There is no right or wrong way to travel; it’s about following the intent you set and having fun.
Do your research
Once you have set your intent for your trip, start doing some research! Look up your destination on your phone and see what there is to do. Make a list of everything that seems excited, then look further into logistics and pricing. Once you have a list of possible sights, start stacking them up against the intent of your trip and timeline.
It’s important to note hours of location and days it will be closed. Check to see if it’s accessible via your mode of transportation and if they take cash or credit. It’s assumed that everyone accepts a card these days, but that’s not always the case. In fact, plenty of vendors do not want to pay a transaction fee so they will happily accept only cash or provide an onsite ATM that charges you even more money.
It’s also essential to research possible admission and wait times. Last year when I went to San Francisco, Alcatraz Island was sold out for weeks in advance. Alcatraz Island is also very time consuming and if I hadn’t known that in advance, I would have attempted to squeeze in another activity.
After you’ve set the intent for your trip and a general plan, be sure to save adequately. I can’t stress this enough for so many reasons. Stuff happens in life so you can expect it to happen when traveling.
While traveling, I’ve needed medical care, lost items that needed to be replaced, broken things by accident and have had to figure out alternative transportation. I’ve also decided that I was going to have that extra Malibu & Pineapple drink, eat that dessert or buy that cute trinket I didn’t need.
It’s important to not only save for what you plan on doing but to save a bit extra just in case. Nobody likes to feel stressed out when traveling. Money doesn’t make you a happier person but it can definitely make things easier. A good rule of thumb I follow is to save an additional fifty dollars per day I’m away. I almost always bring home extra cash that just goes towards my next adventure!
Keep a bag of essentials on you when traveling
While I pack as much as I can in the suitcase I check (I have a bad back), there are some items I refuse to part with when traveling and keep them in my backpack at all times. Think about it. Are there some items that you would have a hard time replacing or are irreplaceable? Yeah, don’t check them. While the worst thing that happened to me was someone had gone through my luggage at the Philadelphia Airport baggage claim, I consider myself lucky. I’ve heard worse experiences such as people’s items get stolen or their entire bag goes missing. Someone in my study abroad program didn’t have his suitcase for five days.
My carry on consists of everything I need to keep me going for a few days in case something happened to my luggage. Any electronics with their respectable chargers are kept in my bag along with headphones, a book and any other source of entertainment. I also keep my makeup bag with a few toiletries and all of my prescription meds on hand. Where you are traveling to may not have your pharmacy, or your copays may just be outrageous like mine. As a bonus, I keep a sweater, snacks, an eye mask and earplugs for some additional comforts. I can’t nap very often on planes anymore, but I do enjoy resting while listening to a podcast. And snacks ensure I am never hungry when traveling due to being a Celiac.
Be realistic & safe
Traveling is exciting and is also full of unknowns. No one expects to be caught in an uncomfortable situation or get sick. But things happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially as female travelers.
If you are traveling alone or with a group of friends, make sure someone knows of your location at all times. Human trafficking is real and so is rape. To help prevent this, do not leave your drink unattended for any amount of time. If someone offers to buy you a drink, ask the bartender if you can watch them make it. Do not get into a strangers car if they offer you a ride or offer to go to their hotel room if you have just met them. I know I probably sound like a buzz kill if you are intent on having fun, but I’m okay with that. As a criminal justice major, and social justice warrior, I’ve heard horror stories, especially involving women of color.
It’s also important when traveling to have emergency contact information ready to go in case something happens to you or you get sick. When studying abroad in Israel, the stomach flu ran through our class like wildfire. Two people were hospitalized and one didn’t have any emergency contact information. You may not get the flu but there are other accidents and ailments that could harm you. Make sure your emergency contacts are accessible and ready to go. If you have a serious health condition, it may be worth it to invest in a medical I.D bracelet.
Enjoy The Present
The last piece of advice I’ll share is to try to enjoy the present. In today’s world, it’s so easy to be glued to your phone checking in everywhere and taking photos. I am so guilty of this myself! I now try to make a conscious effort to put my phone away and enjoy my experience. I’m not perfect, and my phone comes out way more than it should, but I’m trying.
Two things I’ve done to help me enjoy the present is to journal at night for a few minutes and accept that my day will not 100% go as planned. By journaling, I’m taking time to write things down that I would like to remember as well as time to reflect. I love visiting museums when I’m traveling, and sometimes, the material is deep. Journaling helps me process any residual feelings I may have.
Accepting my day for what it is has helped me be in the present by relieving frustration. I have a lot of health issues and I get frustrated when I can’t do any activity It’s usually because I need to rest or my body just can’t physically handle it. When I feel anguish, my coping mechanism is to usually cry. Now, I try to be kind to myself and instead, look for things to be grateful for. Last December, my back went out while visiting my boyfriend. I literally laid on his bed and cried.
But being kind allowed me to not dwell on this setback and instead, be grateful. The previous day I walked all over New York City and even saw Hamilton on Broadway with absolutely no pain. Yes, I was currently in a lot of pain but I could take this time to just be. And because I didn’t stress and make my back worse, I felt ready to go the next day!
Traveling as a Latina, or anyone can be a lot of fun! Every time I travel, I am filled with excitement and wonder. Even if it’s someplace I’ve been to a dozen times, like New York City, there is always something that makes me happy to be there.
I hope by sharing my tips above, I have inspired you to go on your own journey. By setting an intention for your trip and doing your research, you will be able to save adequately. Having a great flight can help you feel refreshed when you arrive at your destination and ready to go when you land. Have fun Latinas!