When I started traveling independently, I was a lost teen navigating her way in a foreign country trying to find a friend’s home. Fast forward to the future, I am now able to plan a trip within a couple of days, do multiple research before and after reaching the destination and plan out my itinerary according to my preference. I’ve also helped out my circle of friends with their itineraries and research, almost to that point of considering starting out a career as a trip planner. Okay, I was just joking about the latter but I’m sure most people who have been traveling independently for years have figured out their own way to get their trips going – from organising the bookings, budgeting their expenses, up to building their communication skills with other people (and in other languages too!). Here are some traits I’ve noticed that I learned throughout the years, and also within other travelers who I look up to, and of course some travel apps that would help you improve your traveling skills.
1. Organization Skills
All those times when you prepare your schedule – which places to stay nearest to the train, sorting the documents you need to enter a country together all the way to making sure you have everything you need on the trip builds up your organising skills. Building a successful itinerary takes time. To start, take itineraries available from other websites or tour companies and adapt it to your own preference.
Useful App: TripIt
Travel Tip: If you’re a paper and pen kind of person like me, get a little notebook that fits in your bag or pocket to write all your information down. Break it down day by day per page and put information according to day. This way you can keep track of things you want to do vs what you have done. Think of it as a grocery shopping checklist.
2. Research Skills
Travelers makes the best researchers. They’re able to gather data, compile them and assess for the best results. Backpackers are often searching for the best and lowest deals, adventurers are always in search for off the beaten paths and luxury travelers are always looking out for the best services they can spend on. In any way, independent travelers are good at researching things online or offline.
Useful App: Kayak
Travel Tip: When doing your research, always try out multiple key words on search engines. Blogs are usually the best source of first-hand information and do not settle down on the first five sources you get. Always go for above ten, and combine them for the best result.
3. Money Management Skills
Most travelers have to stick to a budget while traveling, and this discipline ensures them to be cautious with spendings as they maximise their experience. Travelers are always dealing with money while they are traveling, so having this experience will somehow bring out their skill in managing expenses and keeping money.
Useful App: Expensify
Travel Tip: Separate your cash in zip lock bags according to categories – number of days or the usage (food, hotel etc). Place a piece of paper inside the bags, and each time you take out some cash you must record it on that piece of paper. If you’re more of a pre-planning person, you could separate the cash according to the amount you already know, use a paperclip to separate them with a note on the purpose of the cash. Only take it out when you’re paying.
4. Time Management Skills
Sometimes you party the night away before you leave a country, and end up hungover and late to the airport. I have to be honest that I’ve also had my fair share of arriving late and denied entry at the boarding gate. However, this happens once in a blue moon. Flight tickets are costly for us frugal travelers so missing a plane will take a chunk out of the budget. Travelers usually have a short period of time to spend in a place, so managing their time better helps them maximise their days. Seasoned travelers are able to estimate their time according to activity and distance, so they usually have the best skills of managing their time.
Useful App: GateGuru
Travel Tip: Do not try to cram in too many activities in a day. Managing your time better means being able to estimate the amount of time you’re willing to spend in one spot before you leave for another, making sure you’re not exhausted in the end and rush throughout your day.
5. Being Resourceful Skills
A real traveler is not someone who is spoonfed from the point of arrival to the point of departure. That, is called a tourist. A traveler usually are the most resourceful people I’ve met. They somehow could manage everything and figure out travel-hacks to work to their benefit. They look up for information, and are willing to ask strangers for help. They are not stingy with information and generally have a positive attitude.
Useful App: WikiTude
Travel Tip: Most cities have a tourist information centre and usually they offer free maps, brochures and guides to explore the city. For non-English speaking countries, the tourist centre is your best bet to find a person that could help you out as most of them are trained to speak English.
6. Communication and People Skills
Communication and people skills improve with time so don’t worry if you’re finding it a little bit difficult to communicate with others when you travel independently. Talking to strangers might not come naturally for a lot of people but once you get over past this, you will realise that there are plenty of pleasant people that could help you out through your journey. The biggest challenge travelers face in a different country is conversing in a language they are not familiar with, hence becoming a small hurdle. Seasoned travelers have usually figured out their own way to overcome this – learning basic phrases, bringing a dictionary, electronic translator and much more. Last resort, there’s always the option to use sign language and it will be the most interesting conversation you’ve had in your life!
Useful App: SpeechTrans
Travel Tip: One thing that helped me while traveling to non-English speaking countries was to have set of questions of basic things on my notebook, and remembering important words in the language. Ask the concierge/host of where you stay to write down the hotel/guesthouse address in their native language or writing if you need directions in case of emergencies. My father’s tip? Grab the matchbox or namecard at the hotel and keep it in your wallet or bag and just show it to a cab driver.
7. Idea Generating and Creative Writing Skills
Some travelers love sharing their stories and incredible finds, most of them become travel bloggers and some write for established publications. It all starts with getting inspirations in everyday journey, and getting information from others. Don’t be afraid to write down your thoughts, as this could be a start to something – taking inspirations from local businesses, people and nature. You could also find interesting ideas you’d like to do in the future from traveling, like opening a business based on a chain restaurant you ate in, food trucks, cuisine, retail stores, hobbies and much more. All it takes is to observe, ask and note it down.
Useful App: Travel Diaries
Travel Tip: Get a tiny notebook for each place, write down your day-to-day experiences – what you do, eat and meet. It is like writing in a diary, only that you’re having one for each destination. After a while you’ll get the hang of writing, and could even start your own travelog!
8. Adapting to New Environment Skills
Seasoned travelers are used to being away from home, and in new environments. This is a skill that takes a while to build – the more you travel the easier it gets. Once you know how to get around a place, it’s easier to actually expect outcome from places, people and their local culture and customs.
Useful App: MTrip Travel Guides
Travel Tip: Adapting to new environments takes experience. The more you travel, the easier it gets. However it also helps to learn about the local culture of the place you’re traveling to before you start, so you know the customs, do’s and don’ts. Staying at hostels or guesthouses are a plus, where you get to meet other travelers and share stories, if not the concierge are always open to help you with your needs. Don’t be shy to ask around for tips, directions or anything.
Do you agree with this list? What other skills do you think travelers have and do you have any tips or apps that you found useful while traveling? Share with us in the comment box below.