Going traveling – especially a solo trip – can be daunting. It’s tempting to organize a lot from home and sort out as much as possible in advance. After all, you only get so many days of paid vacation each year, and you want to make sure that each day lives up to your expectations. Besides, it feels much safer to book accommodation and activities in advance – after careful research of reviews on blogs and travel forums – and make a list of restaurants and bars to visit while you’re gone.
Many people base their bookings on meticulous online research. They read as many reviews as possible and follow other people’s advice and recommendations. That way they already know about the coolest hotels, the most beautiful beaches, the best restaurants or the most reliable tour companies before they leave the comfort of their home. Once at their destination, there really is no need to be too experimental and head off the beaten track any more than necessary.
Admittedly, it sounds like with this sort of planning you could have the smoothest holiday ever! Only, by following other’s advice and recommendations all the time, you miss out on the chance of making your own discoveries along the way!
That’s why I’d like to share with you 10 tips to ensure that you have a unique travel experience like no one else!
1) Read a lot about your destination.
The more you know, the higher are your chances to come across lesser known places to visit! I like to read around a lot: personal travel blogs, travel magazines and more highbrow travel journalism, fiction books set in my dream destination, even traditional travel guides – sometimes the best gems are tucked away in touristy books that many travelers won’t even look at.
I also love watching films about or set in the place I’m planning to visit, although it’s always good to remember that films are often shot in different destinations than where the story is supposed to be set…
2) Consult blogs for inspiration, but don’t follow them blindly.
Tying in with advice #1, read many blogs about your holiday destination, but remember that many writers themselves only visit these places for a short amount of time themselves. They also can’t know everything about a destination, especially if they’ve only spent a weekend, a week or even a month there. It is very likely that they have only scratched the surface themselves.
Admittedly, travel writers have very useful techniques to get deeper insight faster (like these 10 tips I’m sharing here), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to discover!
3) Leave space in your itinerary.
I really encourage you not to plan ahead every single detail of your trip. Instead, set yourself the challenge to figure certain things out once you’ve arrived.
If you’re not comfortable without booking accommodation in advance – or you’re going to a place where you simply can’t rock up without a reservation – try little things first: book tours and activities only the day in advance, find a restaurant for dinner without reading reviews, leave your city map in your hotel room on purpose!
4) Head out without a plan.
Whether you’re on a city trip, a beach vacation or a long-term adventure, make space for days where you leave the house without a plan and explore the unknown.
5) Travel slowly.
The slower you travel, the higher are your chances to come across places, attractions and destinations that other (faster) tourists would walk by in a heartbeat.
6) Ask locals for their favorite things to do.
The best way to find out about hidden gems and truly unusual things to do, is to ask locals for their favorite things to do.
Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to get a satisfying response, as some locals might not think you’re actually interested in their “boring” advice and keep recommending touristy stuff. If this happens, make sure you reassure them about what you’re looking for and keep asking for a truly local experience!
7) Say yes to opportunities.
When someone goes above and beyond and offers to show you around or take you to their favorite place, go for it!
Of course only do this if your gut is OK with it and the person seems reasonable. Safety first!
8) Choose your travel agency wisely.
Some destinations are easier to travel independently than others, and sometimes you won’t have the option to go without a tour agency.
Stay away from tour companies and agencies that seem like they want to sell you a package only to fill up their groups. If you want or have to book certain things in advance (things like safaris, trekking or cruises), make sure that your agent listens to you and does their best to tailor an individual itinerary for you!
9) Join or organise meet-ups with locals.
We’ve made some of our favorite travel experience when meeting with locals who we met through our Facebook group. I for example will always remember going standup paddle boarding in Toronto with Renee from Travelling Chingrita!
10) Try something new.
If you want to have a holiday that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling until the end of times, try something new, something that is so entirely YOU and will forever remind you of this trip!
What do you do to make your travel experiences stand out?