8 things I've learnt as a traveller

Not all trips are created equal. Fact. With this in mind, here are my top tips - honed over a lifetime of travel - for a successful escape...

by Kaye Holland

credit: egumeny

Ditch the all-inclusive

Some people adore all-inclusive breaks, taking full advantage of the free flowing bars and buffets before frying themselves silly on a sun lounger. TNT readers, I suspect, aren’t those people. If I’m correct and you’re not interested in swapping flopping on a sofa for flopping by a pool - what a waste of your annual leave - then say no to all-inclusive packages. They really aren’t worth it.

There’s no such thing as the right time

Want to travel? Just do it. There’s never a right time for anything - and that includes travel. There’s always going to be something - a possible promotion, your cousin’s wedding, your best mate having a baby, a football game, lack of cash or the weather - in the way. Make no mistake: someone or something will always be telling you to wait.

Don’t wait. The right time will never exist. To paraphrase Paul Coehlo “Travel is […] a matter […] of courage.”

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Don't be afraid...credit: MStudioImages

Go solo

Solo travel rocks. Seriously. Travelling with your other half is intense and can make or break the relationship. Going in a group isn’t any easier, either. The worst trip this writer ever had was to Mexico, with two so called ‘friends’. We ended up falling out over food, finance and pretty much everything under the sun.

My message? Don’t be daunted by the prospect of solo travel. Besides - cheese alert - you never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.

Pack lightly

“Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.” So said Rick Steves.

The American travel author and television personality is right. A suitcase stuffed with shoes, clothes et al isn’t going to ‘make’ your trip. Quite the opposite: more stuff, simply equals more stress. Who wants to be lugging a heavy bag about for a fortnight, worried about all your Apple products?

My advice when it comes to packing is this: lay everything you’re thinking of packing out on your bed. Now half it. This is what you should take.

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Try Airbnb credit: OhmZ

A is for Airbnb

As a travel journalist, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some seriously swanky hotels - here’s looking at 45 Park Lane in London and the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna. That being said, I have a soft spot for Airbnb - the San Francisco-based room/house letting website.

My best trips have been those when I have been able to stay with Airbnb hosts in Argentina, Hawaii, Hungary, Colombia, China and Chile - to name but a few countries - most of whom have enjoyed sharing their abodes and hometown with me. From Lily, my host in Bogota, who insisted on taking me out salsa dancing during my stay to Mati and Cande in Buenos Aires who regularly invited me to asados (Argentine barbecues) on the rooftop of their apartment and whom I now count as family.

Practice understanding

It pays to be nice. Or as the late Patrick Swayze put it in the film, Road House:

“Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.”

Remember this when you’re tempted to give airport or hotel employees a piece of your mind. Staff can’t control delays/the weather etc etc so keep your emotions in check. The more understanding and appreciative you are, the more they will go out of their way to upgrade you or send a complimentary bottle of vino or basket of fruit to your room, as a form of compensation.

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Food vendor at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Thailand credit: enviromantic

Be flexible

Leave your Type A behaviour behind, when on the road, and live like a local. Only a philistine would go to Mexico and start the day with soggy cornflakes instead of Huevos rancheros (a classic, not to mention, sensational Mexican breakfast of tortillas, rice, beans, and eggs smothered in a spicy red sauce). Or trek to Thailand only to eat McDonalds most days.

Sure you might not like the local delicacies (the Filipino favourite balut – an 18-day-old fertilised duck egg – certainly made me squirm) but how do you know if you don’t give them a chance? In the words of one James Michener: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”

Learn to love the long-haul flight

Chances are there aren’t many people who use the word ‘love’ and ‘long-haul flights’ in the same sentence. Me? I’m more than happy on a long-haul flight. London to Buenos Aires, London to Sydney, London to Honolulu… I’ve done my fair share of long-haul flights - and I’ve loved them all.

I’m often asked how I cope - with the lack of sleep, the bad food, the layovers, the crossing of several time zones, lost luggage, flight delays, I could continue - but the truth is that I view a long-haul flight as a mini holiday in itself. Long-haulers allow me to turn off technology, read the book that has been sitting on my bedside table since Christmas and watch the films I missed first time around, while being fed and watered. Amen.

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Embrace it...credit: Orla