7 Basic Travel Tips for Beginners

Planning your first trip and trying to figure out pre-trip precautions? There’s nothing better than feeling fully prepared for a trip. Things happen, which is why its good to be as surprise proof as possible. Here are some of my basic travel preparation tips I’ve gathered along the way. For anyone just starting out with travel, whether it be domestic or international.

1. Call all banks and inform them of travel plans.

This is to make sure that your credit/debit cards have full functionality while you’re traveling. Most people do this when they travel internationally, but I have had my transaction denied while attempting to pay for gas in California. Highly inconvenient.

2. Write down all contact phone numbers of credit/debit cards in case of loss or theft.

This way you will be able to contact the institutions immediately if you suspect your cards have been lost or stolen. I try to keep a physical copy or store in my phone.

3. Send all trip itineraries and hotel information to a family member or friend.

I always send my flight and hotel information to my mom. If I’m going on a highly adventurous trip, I try to send her a round about summary of activities I plan to do, along with the times and days I plan to do them. Of course, this more so applies to short trips rather than extended stays.

4. Scan copies of driver’s license/passport.

This really comes in handy in case of theft or losing your wallet. Passports are kind of a big deal, and it can be a headache getting them replaced. So having a photocopy will give you a head start on the process. I either send the copies to my mom or save it somewhere I know I can have easy access to (Dropbox is cool because of the verification process in retrieving documents).

5. Purchase reusable toiletry containers.

This mainly applies if you only plan to use carry on luggage. Because I have naturally curly hair and because most of the products I use don’t come in travel sizes, this helps me maintain my mane. I simply pour my fave products into the containers and voila! Beats having to spend money on travel size toiletries.

6. Know before you go how much cash you’re going to withdraw.

This is why its a good idea to develop a trip budget! This mainly applies to foreign travel, just because of the international transaction fees charged by your bank. You don’t want to pay fees for multiple transactions because it adds up to a significant amount. So its good to take out money in one go, if possible. If you are traveling some place where most credit cards are accepted, keep in mind fares and tips for cab rides. Also, small local shops may not accept plastic.

7. Double-check hotel front desk hours.

The last thing you want is to have a delayed flight and show up to your hotel 3 hours later than planned, only to find out there is no one there to help you. Always check front desk hours and keep the hotel number handy to notify them in advance of any potential delays should you arrive after business hours.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful. Some I learned after the fact. But luckily you won’t have to worry about that:)

Music Mood Monday

This song pretty much describes my love affair with life, with travel, just everything. It reminds me just how much purpose we all have on this earth. We all have our stories to tell. Dear KING, can I hire you to soundtrack my life? Please?

On that note, coming down from one of life’s many highs, I got my first tattoo. Small chat (and drinks) over tacos led to a firm decision. I’ve been wanting the tattoo for ages, I was just too chicken shit to go through with it. Fairly simple but a subtly powerful testament. I am here and I’ve weathered many storms. And I’m still in the business of living. 28 years and counting.

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Working to Live: Juggling Debt and Travel Ambitions

My new journal. Because anything is possible. All you need is a little hope...
My new journal. Because anything is possible. All you need is a little hope…

Far too often we spend more time convincing ourselves why we can’t do something instead of planning for a way to make it happen. I’m totally guilty of this. I held myself back from satisfying my wanderlust with the usual ” you can’t afford it” or “in a year when you pay off ALL your debt”. And then one day, while scrolling through plane fares, a voice in my head said ” just buy the damn ticket!”. And so I did.

With two degrees under my belt, I love the fact that I am working in a career using the education that I worked so hard to obtain. And the reality is, I have bills, just like everyone else. Plus, I like the security of having health insurance (if you’ve never been without it, its the worst). I’ve lurked around travel blogs for years looking for answers on dealing with debt while maximizing travel and working full time, state-side. The only things that ever came up were:

a) Develop a skill that you could use in any country to earn a living.

b) Teach English in another country.

c) Work really hard to save and quit my job to travel the world.

These are all good choices, no doubt. I admire those people who can religiously pinch pennies to pay off all their debts or save up enough to quit their jobs and travel the world. I could get to that point, but I’m not there yet, nor do I want to be right now. Seriously, that takes a ton of will power, so kudos to them. I guess I fall somewhere in between.You see the thing that I have come to realize is this; I could spend all of my time and money on paying off every single debt I owed and die at any given moment during the process. There goes my travel wish list!

So I plan and set realistic goals. For example, I know that this year I want to pay off at least 1 credit card out of 2. I also know that given my vacation days and relevant monthly expenses, I can set a goal of 2-3 domestic trips (I take full advantage of 3 day weekends) and 2 international (Tulum in 2 weeks!!) for a total of 4-5 trips this year. This works for me. It satisfies my need for travel while not making me feel like a slacker in paying off my debt. It just goes back to what I’ve said in previous posts.You don’t have to be rich to travel. I’ve also noticed that some people don’t consider domestic travel real travel, which is definitely not true. I once priced a plane ticket to Bermuda and it was the same price for a ticket to Portland. So based on that, domestic travel IS travel. Travel is travel, period.

To those of you in a similar situation as me, I say, know your limits and whether or not you are comfortable with them. If not, come up with feasible goals and ways to change them. To reach my debt and travel goals, I find the money. What am I saying? I have a tax refund coming up. There goes the credit card I want paid off. Two months out of this year I’ll get an extra paycheck. There goes money towards my travel funds. Again, you know your situation better than I would. But don’t put off your passions for something that will still be there if you died tomorrow.

3 Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once

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I wouldn’t call myself a travel expert by any means. But I’ve traveled enough to know and understand why I enjoy solo travel. It never fails, no matter where I go, when people realize that I am traveling alone they always say “Good for you!”.  I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel some sense of accomplishment from it.

The media and all of your aunts and uncles can put a damper on solo travel plans. Of course they mean well, but at the end of the day its your life. And here’s another word of unsolicited advice: The world isn’t as big and scary as they would have you believe. Not saying it is free from crime, obviously. Some of us hold on to this idea that we’re safer in America than anywhere else, which is false. This theory crashed and burned after my house was broken into AND I was living alone. Just because terrible things are happening in one part of a country, we start thinking it’s happening all over said country. Think about it. Would you not go to Denver because of crimes going on in certain parts of Chicago?  I mean they’re both in the United States. See where I’m going here? But now for the top 3.

1. See what its like to step out of your comfort zone.

Best part of doing so? No one will likely recognize you because you are in unfamiliar territory. When I was in Turks and Caicos, the front desk attendant at my hotel told me I should change my name for the rest of the week and do something I had never done before. I passed on the name change, but I did swim with a barracuda. This divorcee I met said her friends had challenged her to have a one night stand. A bit too rich for my blood, but I’m no judge! My point? Do what you want! Do a little jig looking at your reflection while window shopping. Dance on top of a table. Become the astronaut you said you would become as a kid. Well, I mean not literally. But the people you are meeting for the first time don’t know it isn’t true (unless you really like the new people you meet and intend to keep in touch, then be honest). You catch my drift?

2. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to make up their mind.

We all have that ONE friend. God love them, but they are one of the most indecisive creatures on the planet. From guided tours to dining options, they are super picky. But that’s one less thing you have to worry about with solo travel. Your time is YOUR time. If you want to lounge at the beach or go sight-seeing ALL day, you can. There’s no one there to give their input on what they would rather do. It’s all you baby!

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3. Get a chance to discover or re-discover yourself.

This is your alone time with you. Maybe you need to re-charge from the monotony of your everyday life. Now you can. Find a place and meditate. Enjoy the silence. Actually take time to thoroughly hear your thoughts without distraction. You may recognize answers you’ve been looking for. Enjoy these intimate moments with you. There’s only one of you and you deserve it. You may find that there are things you didn’t know you could appreciate about yourself. I never knew how sociable I was until I traveled by myself for the first time. Conversations with strangers came so easily to me. I opened up.

Quit hoarding away those vacation days. Stop relying on the crew to answer your emails about the payment plan for Jamaica. Go…. Just go. Trust me on this one, ok?

Facing My Fears and The List

I don’t know about you, but every time I think I may have put the finishing touches on my “list of things to do before whenever”, something else always catches my eye. I think my list consists of more destinations than anything. There’s this trend among some of my friends, where it seems like the lists are broken down by milestones. Like birthdays. 30 concerts before 30, 40 trips before 40 and so on. Seems pretty reasonable to me.The sky’s the limit, right?

Every time I think about my bucket list in its entirety, I start to get the feeling that I’ll run out of time because it’s so much stuff. Since my mom’s passing when I was 8, I’ve always felt this huge sense of urgency to do things (my family will tell you that I am the most impatient person you will ever meet). She was 37 when she received her cancer diagnosis and she passed 3 years later, which is far too soon. It took years of therapy for me to understand that I wasn’t destined for the same fate and that everything didn’t need to be so rushed. I was missing out on life.

Traveling has become sort of an outlet for me to channel that anxiety and fear. I haven’t completely rid myself of it, but its good to know that after all these years, I’ve finally found a way to cope with it that actually works. Solo travel was the catalyst. It was my first real risk I ever took, which was scary in itself, especially if you’re not used to doing anything alone. It taught me that I was stronger than I thought. I also grasped the concept of how time really does fly when you’re having fun doing things that are meaningful to you. You notice everything but the time and how much of it you have spent enjoying yourself. Most importantly, it taught me that you don’t need to be rich to travel. So I’m taking on my list one day at a time with realistic expectations. Of course, nothing is impossible, but then you don’t want to run yourself ragged planning for something that is supposed to be exhilarating.

What’s the one thing on your list (if you have one) you just have to do before your number’s up, or any other relevant milestone?

Drifting Through the Valley

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Happy New Year friends! Its been such a long time since my last post. 2014 was definitely a year of reflection, tears, joy, and all things in between. November was magical, as I took a much-needed trip to the Napa Valley again. I love it there. Something about the air just calms me. Or it could be the smell of the vineyards in the air. Who knows.

I’ve seriously been debating all year about how I wanted to re-structure my blog. Traveling and art are my true passions. I want my blog to definitely reflect that. But more than anything, my aim is to inspire. If you get nothing else from my posts, I want you to leave away feeling inspired. Inspired to think deeply or enjoy the simple things. Whatever blows up your skirt.

Napa Valley really is an amazing place. Despite what some perceive to be a pretentious, uppity playground for wine snobs, I have never felt that type of energy. Not saying it doesn’t exist, because it could. But I’ve never felt more comfortable somewhere.

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The courtyard of the castle at Castello di Amorosa
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One of the ga-zillion vineyards throughout the valley…
From my hike at Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, CA
From my hike at Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, CA

I definitely needed this trip to sort some shit out in my life. Add a little fuel to my travel bug fire. I think Napa will most likely be one of those places I continually visit for life. I think everyone should have an “old faithful” place they repeatedly visit ( I actually did visit the Old Faithful Geyser of California while I was in the area. Let’s just say it left much to be desired for $14). What’s your old faithful?