My husband and I love traveling. We love new experiences and enjoy exploring new destinations. But not everyone feels the same way. If you haven’t traveled much or don’t find travel enjoyable or refreshing, you may feel like you’re missing something or that travel just isn’t for you. I’d like to share my travel philosophy and a few tips to help you enjoy traveling, whether you’re traveling alone or with someone else.
In case you’re wondering what makes me an authority on travel, I’ve been traveling internationally since I was 16, when I moved to Ukraine for medical school. Since then, I’ve traveled solo to the UK, multiple US cities, and multiple Caribbean countries.
I’ve also traveled with my husband to several countries in Africa where we live. Like everything else you practice, with more travel, you get more efficient and better overall at traveling.
How to Enjoy Traveling: Becoming a Happier Traveler
These five tips have helped me enjoy every trip more than the last one:
Know what kind of traveler you are
Everyone travels differently. Some people like active trips where they camp and hike and rack up 25,000 steps exploring a city, while others just want to be at a resort the entire time. Some people like a mix of both options, while others just want to eat their way through the city.
The first step to happier traveling is knowing what makes you happy when you travel. Do you prefer to travel only to visit friends and family? Or do you love going to places where you know exactly zero people? If you have a demanding job, you might only want travel that involves rest, casual strolls, and tanning on the beach.
Your travel preferences are valid, and you should keep them in mind. If you take trips to please the person you hope to be, you might be disappointed. Choose trips you know you’ll enjoy. I mostly travel for rest and relaxation, so even when I plan for a bit of exploration, I always reserve a few days for doing nothing or lounging by a pool.
Set goals for the trip
If, like me, you like several kinds of experiences when you travel, it is worth setting specific goals for each kind of trip. When I travel, my favorite experiences are love relaxation, exploration, shopping, food, and a teeny bit of local culture and history.
However, I can rarely get all these from one trip. So, I set a goal for each trip. For our honeymoon, for example, the main goal was relaxation. So, although we did a bit of shopping, we came for beach strolls, a few restaurants, and lots of sleeping in. Our safari trip to Kenya was a mix of exploring and resting, so we split time between the bush and the beach in Diani.
Decide why you’re making the trip and what you hope to accomplish. Remember that a full-on explorer trip will leave you returning TIRED from the trip if you don’t make time to relax.
In the world of travel bloggers and creators, it’s tempting to compare your destinations and experiences with other travelers. This is only going to detract from your experience.
Instead, focus on you and your travel experience. I create my itinerary weeks before I travel so that I’m not hunting for ideas on social media while I’m at my destination and trying to cram too many things in at the last minute.
Your budget, energy levels, and travel preferences are unique to you and will largely determine which experiences you choose. So, enjoy where you are right now and go where you can, whether you’re doing staycations in your city or traveling to another state within your country. Don’t be scared to start small.
Have reasonable expectations
Travel is fun and exciting, but it’s also tedious and energy-demanding. Airport queues, long flights, confusing transport systems, disappointing tours, and even illness can change your plans or frustrate you while you travel.
Being a happier traveler involves learning to roll with the punches. Prepare for potential inconveniences and build your reserve of patience. I like to pack comfort items like my own snacks, socks, a neck pillow, and even a small blanket to feel more comfortable during long flights. We bring medication, a water bottle, downloaded movies, and books to stay entertained and hydrated on long travel days.
Knowing that things don’t always go as planned (even for type-A planners like me) will make your travel experience more pleasant and make you more resilient when you encounter challenges.
Try new things
Remember how I said you need to know what you like? It’s also important that you try something outside your comfort zone every time you travel. Whether it’s a new breakfast buffet item, a new experience, or a different kind of hotel, trying new things when you travel can open the door to finding new favorites.
True, sometimes your new experience might flop, but now you don’t have to wonder if it’s for you. You can confidently write it off and try something else (or stick to what you know) next time.
✈️ Tip: Keep the stakes low, especially if you’re hesitant about doing something new. Don’t blow a whole lot of cash on an experience you feel very unsure about. If you have a sensitive stomach, try new foods with plenty of caution: nothing raw or too spicy!
How to enjoy traveling alone
Solo travel is a whole other beast on its own, but if you’re desperate to start seeing the world–with or without a travel companion–here are some tips to help you make the best of it.
Choose safe destinations
Safety can mean different things depending on your demographic. As a Black woman, during my solo travel days, I often chose less remote destinations, favoring big cities unless I was staying with family or friends. If you decide on more remote trips like hikes or safaris, choose a good tour company like the one we used. They’ll lodge you with a good group of people.
Use public transportation where possible
I always felt more vulnerable as a solo traveler using Uber or Lyft, especially in the US. Both of those services are perfectly safe, but I felt safer in the New York subway or taking the NOLA RTA. There were often other people there, and I could ask questions if I lost my way. Most big cities have great public transport systems, but if you’re in a taxi-friendly city, always share your trips with a trusted contact.
Choose solo-friendly activities
People often wonder what they can do alone when they travel. Some of my favorite solo activities while traveling are:
- Eating out (bring a book or listen to a podcast if you feel awkward being out alone)
- Visiting museums
- Going to bookstores
- Taking walks in the city
- Doing guided tours
- Lounging on the beach
- Seeing a movie
Also, be friendly! Strike up conversations with people around you. Smile at people you admire from afar, comment on their outfits or what they’re reading. You’ll be surprised how many new friends you make in every city.
Traveling solo can be scary, and it’s tempting to move through the trip feeling overly cautious, anxious, and awkward, but try to be present and feel free. For me, it’s always so freeing to feel invisible and unknown by anyone as a solo traveler. No one cares what I’m doing, so I can just be me.
How to have fun traveling with others
If you still can’t get into the idea of traveling alone, consider using a travel group like Gojolley. You can also travel with friends and family. Here are my favorite tips for enjoying your trips with others.
Choose compatible travel companions
You’re not going to travel well with everyone–even if they’re your parents or besties. Choose people who like to do the same or complimentary things when they travel. If you love active trips, you’ll likely butt heads with people who love to sleep in on vacation.
Set expectations early
Discuss everything. Know who’s paying for what, what the itinerary is, and what the goals of the trip are. Even with my husband, I always ask, “What are you excited about for this trip?” and take note of his answers before we travel. Sometimes he wants downtime, other times, he has friends and family to visit in the area. Having an idea of what your days will be like helps everyone to prepare accordingly.
Schedule solo time
I recommend having one day at least for each person to do their own thing–whether it’s going shopping, browsing bookstores, or eating at a restaurant they really like. Even if it’s just sleeping in! This relieves the feeling of being boxed in by other people’s plans that can come up after traveling as part of a group.
Be a good travel companion
No one enjoys complainers, people who try to control everything, or those who borrow money and never repay on trips. Don’t be a frustrating travel companion. Make the best of things, be willing to compromise, and bring serious good vibes. Focus on the positives of your fellow travelers and be determined to make the most of your trip.
What things help you enjoy traveling? If you’re not a travel person, what are your roadblocks? I’d love to hear!