In four days, I’m heading out to Porto, Portugal for a much needed solo trip. This is my second “big” trip of the summer, the first one being Berlin in June.
Planning a trip is always one of the most exciting things, it's also psychologically proven that the anticipation of a trip can make you happier than the trip itself. We're talking, the affect of vacation anticipation boosts happiness for up to eight weeks. Get planning y'all.
I've decided to share some of my trip planning tips that have allowed me to have some unforgettable experiences in the past year.
It doesn’t hurt to ask
Okay, so I’ll let you in on a little secret. The past three big trips that I’ve taken (Barcelona, Berlin and now Porto), I’ve stayed in top-notch, five-star accommodation and I’ve done it all for free. Never in a million years did I think I’d be one of those “travel bloggers” that jets off and stays in luxury places but sometimes, life works itself out and here we are.
More often than not, establishments are willing to give you an exchange, where they allow you accommodation (or services) if you give them press by sharing your experience with your audience. Now technically, it’s not ‘free’ because you are working (creating content, photo and video footage for them) but the experiences are often so enjoyable that, it doesn’t seem like a hard job at all.
If you have outlets or an engaged (not necessarily large) social media following, where you can highlight companies, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Quite often, individuals are more open to collaboration than you would think.
To be noted: This also sometimes works for restaurants and tours as well. I'll also be experiencing Wine Quay Bar on Rio Douro in a few days.
Social media is your friend
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it for so many reasons but sometimes I dislike how much time I spend on the web and on my phone. But, one of the fantastic things is that social media connects you to people from literally anywhere all over the world! Whether it’s through travel Facebook groups, expat groups or Instagram accounts; I’ve been able to find local spots and link up with people in the cities that I visit.
My trip next week to Portugal is actually (surprisingly enough) my first solo trip and I couldn’t be more excited for the chance to meet new people and find local spots on my own.
Here's a tip: Instagram (we all know I’m a junkie) has a ton of wonderful new features where you can explore the 'gram by location. So of course, I spent all of last night checking out photos taken Porto to see different things from what people were wearing because of the weather (it’s 30 degrees cooler than Murcia right now and I don't remember the last time I had to wear a sweater) to what foodie photos I liked so that I could check out those restaurants.
This is something that I continuously have to work on. I’m known to be an over-packer but little-by-little I’m realizing the benefits of light packing. One trick I’ve been using is only bringing my favorites but also packing things that can be worn in more than one way. Your favorite romper can turn into a completely different outfit if you throw a cute button up over it, it's been proven. And don't worry, odds are, you aren’t going to need that third pair of shoes you’re planning on bringing.
Another issue that normally comes up is that when I travel, it's not necessarily a kick your feet up type of vacation. In other words, even though I'm on the road, I'm often doing work at some point during the trip which means... so. many. electronics. When it comes to bringing gadgets along, it's about packing smart.
As you might know, I recently received the Mod Laptop II from This Is Ground which I’m continuously in love with. While packing for this upcoming trip, I was overfilled with joy when all of my major electronics and travel necessities fit inside (read: laptop, iPad, cell phone, external hard drive, pens, travel journal, work notebook, credit cards, passport, chargers and keys) AND it fit into my normal travel purse with tons of room left over to accommodate my camera, tripod, travel sweaters and scarves.
Learning to pack light is really helpful and will eliminate hassle, especially if you’re flying RyanAir. Less is more.
Don’t plan too much
I’ll be honest. I’m a planner. I’m the kind of girl that writes at least three to-do lists, has three year goals planned out… we could go on forever. Although I'm a planner, when it comes to traveling and seeing new places, I like to keep a relaxed schedule. No one likes feeling rushed on vacation. I thrive on the concept of slow travel (a piece on that is coming soon) where I fully explore a city for at least 3 days before feeling satisfied. The best experiences I’ve had haven't come paired with tourist locations or big historical buildings but instead while strolling back streets and getting to know locals.
In each city that I go to, one of the most important things is trying the cuisine and getting a real feel for the people of the town. Don’t be afraid to have conversations with strangers (sorry, mom). Find the hole in the wall restaurants, sit at the bar and chat with the locals. Stumble upon cultural events and see what excites others.
We see different places and long for different cultures to truly experience life and learn about ourselves. One of the joys of a new trip is not just getting out of the city you live in but it’s about opening yourself up to new worlds and new parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. Start planning your next trip and don’t let fear or hesitation hold you back.