If you’re anything like me and my friends, you probably create some sort of itinerary weeks before getting to your travel destination. However, as I ran into my own necessary last-minute changes this spring break, I started contemplating what really makes a trip as memorable as it is. The point of traveling isn’t just to take some pictures and say you’ve gone. The point of traveling is to have stories to tell for ages and to enrich your life. Try to make it the best you can! Some of these opportunities only come once in a lifetime. So, without further ado, here are some things I’ve found that can help make every trip the trip of a lifetime.
- Eat Local Foods
Now, I know most places have their own iconic must-haves, like the New York slice or German currywurst. I think these are incredibly important for the travel experience, so please don’t miss out, but I challenge you to take it a step further. Go to local restaurants and eat the way a city native would! It helps immerse you into the culture, even if the food isn’t necessarily traditional, and it can even turn into a little side trip! Lots of these little restaurants have their own charm, fun decor, live music, and they can end up being one of your main points of discussion when recounting your trip later on. Bonus: you totally get brownie points if you can suggest a cute restaurant to a friend who may travel where you did later on. (If you visit Atlanta, hit up the Slutty Vegan and Sublime Donuts. Thank me later!)
- Visit Natural Landmarks
I’ll start this one off by saying that I know it sounds unnecessary if you’re taking a weekend trip to the city. But if you’re taking a week in another state or country, try looking up some parks or natural landmarks around you! Taking time to go hiking at a state park or going somewhere like the Blue Lagoon can be a fun way to expand the scope of your trip, and it’s definitely a serotonin booster. Nature is beautiful, and there’s a reason these places are mostly protected for you to visit. Georgia’s own “mini Grand Canyon” is called Providence State Park, Florida has Devil’s Den, and Yellowstone is famous for a reason.
- Don’t Skip out on the Tourist Attractions
As tacky as it may sound, in the end, you’re a tourist. Tourist attractions are made for a reason and most times they’re the iconic things you should be sure not to miss when visiting a new place. My advice is to make a good list of things you know you have to see, and maybe some that aren’t super, super important! It helps save money and time, and ensures you get the experience you want. (I do fully recommend the London Eye though. Seeing cities from above is killer.)
- Ask Locals for Suggestions
This one is just a bit of a given, especially with some of the other things I’ve already mentioned on this list. But honestly, you can even ask your waitress or waiter for some suggestions on things to do! Even if they don’t tell you about places you don’t already know, you may get some tips out of it. When we asked around, it got us free parking at the neighborhood we were going to visit — which, trust me, we would not have found out about otherwise. Most people are willing to help! You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.
- Try an Airbnb Instead of a Hotel
Or a hostel, a motel, or a friend’s place. Honestly, sometimes hotels just rob you in the first place, and all these other options may be closer to where you want to go! Do your research before choosing a place to stay, but remember that it can never hurt to have other options for new experiences! But also, do your research well. When we went to the UK, our first Airbnb was literally a ROOM that four of us shared.
- Find a Way to Commemorate the Trip
This can be a material object, like a magnet or a postcard, or it can be making a little scrapbook with some memorabilia! It’s a fun way to keep yourself from forgetting the experience, and it adds a bit of nostalgic fun to your place back at home. There’s millions of ways to do this, so be sure to make it your own. Snowglobes are my favorite way to bring a piece of another country home, but make sure you have lots of shelf room if you want to follow in my footsteps!
This little list is one I’ve created after taking time (and money) out to travel, and learning through trial and error. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the world — mostly because I get to see all of it while doing so — and I want everyone to revel in the magic of vacations the way I do. With that, I hope these tips help you have the ultimate trip next time you plan to add a stamp to your passport. Travel safe y’all!