Over the years, through a bit of trial and error, I've built a list of 10 things I always do before and while I travel to have the best trip possible. Here they are...
1. Google maps
I always spend at least 30 minutes before I travel to a new area taking an in depth look at it on google maps. I find all the landmarks, familiarize myself with main streets, and plot in the coordinates of places I plan on going. That way when I arrive I already know the street names and have a general understanding of how everything is laid out. This has especially saved me when internet is not an option.
Another way I familiarize myself with a new spot and see where the locals go is by looking up instagram accounts from the area. Taking a look at popular hashtags also helps.
3. Local coffee shop
One of my favorite places to get good recommendations from are local, tiny coffee shops. They always seem to know the best food spots and sights that aren't on the main tourist trail. One thing I've learned time and again is that locals love to share insight into their city. When asked where to go, their eyes light up and within minutes I have a whole list of places.
4. Go somewhere twice
If you find a spot you really like and have the time, go twice. It's great to see the same people again and try something else on the menu you didn't get before.
5. Get lost
When I worked in London for a summer, one of our favorite things to do on the weekends was to jump on the tube and get off a random station. We found hole-in-the-wall pubs, shops and restaurants we wouldn't have otherwise. Getting lost is all part of the adventure, so put down the map on an afternoon and get wonderfully lost.
6. Stay off the grid
Even if for just a few hours, take the time to unplug. Turn your cell phone off and completely immerse yourself in your new surroundings. It's incredible what you can discover without the constant buzzing and distraction.
7. Walk the line between planned & spontaneous
Being a planner and pretty type A, means I do a ton of research before visiting a new spot. Even though I typically have a long list of places to visit, I make sure to block time for wandering, getting lost, and finding places not on the list.
8. Stay open & humble
Traveling in a new space can push you out of your comfort zone in multiple ways. Whether it's not wanting to be the person asking for directions or worrying about sounding dumb when trying to speak another language, it can definitely mess with our egos a bit. So instead of getting frustrated, just swallow your pride, brush it off and put a smile on. Pushing your boundaries is so good for you.
9. Granola bars
It happens on every trip... the day didn't go as planned, you can't get in anywhere to eat or your reservation is running behind. After a long day on your feet, meltdown mode is sure to ensue. Stop yourself from getting all sorts of hangry and keep a couple granola bars on you. I love kind and lara bars and always keep them within an arms reach when on the road.
10. Talk to someone
Whether it's at a bar, restaurant, coffee shop, on the street... talk to someone from the area. Find out why they live there, what they love about it, what they don't like. People are what make a city.