Buy a Better Trip – 6 Ways to Enhance Your Travel Experience

For many, the purchase of an extended multi-stop or round-the-world ticket is the moment of a lifetime. So much is wrapped up in the preparation and execution of the thing it nearly brings one to tears to think about it.

Which is why it’s important to get as much out of is as possible. Today, I’ve listed a number of ways (yes, 6) to help in getting the most from what may be the tipping point to the next phase of your life.

Limit your distance

Okay, imagine a giant Whac-a-Mole game. Now, mentally Photoshop a map of the world onto the game’s tabletop. Put virtual cities over the holes and start smashing. There’s Stockholm, whack. Sydney, whack, whack. Buenos Aires, whack! Hong Kong, whack whack whack. Muscat, um… whack!

Now, how’s that shoulder feeling? Think of your RTW trip in this way: trying to hit moles in every corner of the world will just not get you that giant pink stuffed panda, a stiff shoulder maybe, and a lot fewer quarters. But if you limit yourself to just a few moles, you’ll rule that game, guaranteed.

We know it’s tough not to try to seize your definitive travel moment, but unless you’re going away indefinitely you have to resist the temptation to try and do it all at once. Depending on the length of the trip, AirTreks normally suggests no more than 3 new countries per month. Regardless of its anti-logic, doing less actually gives you more experience, and for less of an investment. Once you get comfortable in new surroundings, which may take a few days, interesting things start to happen. When you get a little restless is when you start searching for experiences you can call adventures.

Here’s a good table:

0 – 1 month 1 – 3 countries
1 – 3 months up to  6 countries
3 – 7 months up to 10 countries
7+ months up to 12 countries

* Note: It’s simply not a good idea to try to visit more than a dozen countries on any given trip.

The AirTreks Golden Rule: let the world to catch up to you as you move across it.

Add somewhere unexpected

There are a ton of opportunities to add a place you never thought you’d be when you started planning your trip, and it’s these very places that will quite likely come to be the most cherished of them all, simply because your preconceptions didn’t taint your eventual impressions.

When tweaking your route, ask your Personal Travel Consultant where additional stopovers might be possible and take advantage, even if you might only have a few days to spend there. Thirty-six hours may be all the time you need to broaden the spine of your trip journal.

Or else travel overland and maximize what you get to see in one “stop”.

Be the boss

The world is full of brainiacs, smarty-pants and know-it-alls telling you where you should be going and how far off the beaten path you should be straying. But while it may please you to drift along the river of their mumbo-jumbo, ultimately it’s you that will have to live with the decisions you make. And you just may not be interested in Papua New Guinea, no matter what they say.

Some people may disagree with your choice to hang out in tourist haunts and not to always be seeking unbeaten paths. I’m here to tell you that that’s okay.

My recommendation is to find a voice you trust, take a few hints and blend them in with a destination list of your own creation. On the AirTreks website we’ve outlined a method for choosing the right places to visit bearing in mind the world’s most important person: you.

Get a good price

Fine, this goes without saying. But I’m not talking about overall savings, not how little you can spend on your round-the-world ticket, but how much value you can bring to the table. Because no matter how much you pay, you’re still going to run into a backpacker somewhere who will have spent half of what you did for your ticket and end up making you feel terrible. But that guy travels by donkey, freight train and catapult and you’re simply not willing to be hucked into the air to save a couple hundred dollars. The trick is to spend the extra money wisely.

Our travel consultants know the weight of a couple extra hundred dollars, and how it can keep you from having to bivouac on a dirty airport floor, cab between Heathrow and Gatwick at rush hour, or miss your connection in Lagos at 2 o’clock in the morning. We help you get the most from the money you spend. And remember, that extra whatever hundred dollars makes you no less a traveler than the catapult guy, I assure you, and by raising the get-what-you-pay-for quotient you’ll be able to dismiss that pretentious lout faster than you can say “dirty dreadlocks”.

Pack the right stuff

One of the most essential facets of smart travel is having a great inventory. I can tell you from experience, packing a heavy two-hundred dollar tripod and not using it kinda sucks. Fortunately there’s a ton of places to turn for packing advice. As far as I’m concerned the last word comes from One Bag. Doug Dyment has been refining his packing technique for nearly 15 years and has it down to a science.

Also, you can glean a lot of honest hints from travel bloggers currently putting their packing list to the test. If you do a little reading you can find out how their choices have specifically not driven them up a wall. Check out the lists of Never Ending Voyage, Traveling Savage, A Little Adrift and Adventurous Kate and compare them to your own. I’ll bet you’ll think twice about that sink you’re taking.

Let it go

Some of you are experienced travelers. Some of you aren’t. Some have had their Zen-addled philosophy tested in the fires of zero tolerance, zero sympathy and zero patience. If there’s one piece of information I’ve learned from my own fleet-footed meandering is that many seemingly mountainous problems just aren’t that important when you come right down to it.

Take the lack of a good night’s sleep. Or an upset stomach. A cranky reservationist. No reliable internet service. A stuck bank machine, and no cash. Impacted traffic. Shipwrecks. A room with no view. Blank stares of incomprehension. Playing the rube. Paying the full price. Making poor decisions. Being the spectacle. Feeling forgotten. Forgetting your iPod. And the list goes on and on. So long as you attach a this-too-shall-pass philosophy and consider that in two hours you very well might be laughing hysterically, you’ll find your stress level bottoming out, unconditionally.

As for me, amidst the most chaotic mess, looking up at the sky and seeing the colors at my peripheral vision swirl into a Jackson Pollack prototype, tears condensing on the rims of my eyelids, I found myself thinking, just relax, Nico. This too shall pass. And you know, eventually, it actually did.

Do you have any tips on how to raise the quality of your travel experience? Tell me in the comments section. Otherwise go ahead and start planning your own round-the-world journey here.

*Photos by the author and Caitlin Crisafulli