Lessons Learned From Traveling in 2015

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

* * *

I traveled a lot less this year than I did the year before, but as with every year, I still learned a lot from my experiences.  My personal preferences have shifted and I’d call myself a smarter traveler after another year of travel under my belt.

lessons learned from travel

Daytime flights are worth the “time cost”

If there’s one thing I wish I knew years ago, it’s that when it comes to long-haul flights, overnight schedules aren’t worth it.  I’ve taken my share of red-eyes to Europe, Asia, and South America in order to maximize vacation time and every single time I ended up acting like a zombie on the day arrival and usually 2-3 days after that until I caught up on sleep.

Guess what?  Jetlag is SO much easier to deal with if you arrive at your destination in the evening so all you have to do is make it to the hotel and go straight to bed.  You wake up the next morning ready to go and actually enjoying everything there is to do!  In my opinion, losing a day of vacation time (since you’re using it flying) is worth it.  In the battle of quality vs. quantity, that’s time well spent.

If it’s simply impossible to find a flight with this schedule, inquire about early check-in at your hotel.  Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it’s a ~$50 charge, but being able to shower and/or nap upon arrival can make a big difference.

Never plan anything on your day of arrival

Something will go wrong when you’re flying.  Maybe it’s a relatively minor delay that has a domino effect on the pre-booked tours, train tickets, or otherwise you have arranged.  Or maybe your entire flight will be cancelled, causing you to arrive a full day later.  Guess what?  There’s no stress if you don’t plan anything on your arrival day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything — it just means, don’t book it in advance and enjoy the serendipity of exploring spontaneously if you end up arriving on time.

(Hint: if you book those flights to arrive in the evening, it might screw up your sleep but it won’t screw up your travel plans.  Two birds, one stone.)

An international cell phone plan is awfully convenient

cell phone

I don’t think traveling with cell phone coverage is necessary based on the widespread availability of Wi-Fi these days (and Wi-Fi enabled calling).  Still, things like always having GPS directions or being able to send photos home can make your travels more pleasant.  Even if you do think a cell phone is necessary, you can still get away with buying local sim cards upon your arrival.

That said, it is so easy to have an international plan so you don’t have to wait in line to buy sim cards, guess how much data to load on it, or struggle with language barriers as you make the purchase.  I have T-Mobile now (free international service with qualifying plans) and have bought sim cards separately in the past.  Guess which one makes my life easier?

It’s okay to pay for a better experience

I used to choose the lowest price for things like flights and hotels, but I’m moving away from those habits.  I think I completed my last-ever hostel dorm stay and I stopped flying United completely since I never had a good experience with them.  I’ll still consider the lowest bidder when there’s a huge price differential or when it otherwise makes sense, but when I can, loyalty and preferences hold perks.

(Want to know my favorite companies?  Check out the travel websites and service providers I actually use.)

The best trip may have nothing to do with travel

I took some great trips this year.  I returned to one of my favorite local destinations (Corning, NY and the Finger Lakes), jetted to Hong Kong and Beijing in style, and rediscovered why Florida is such a great place…with a bunch of other trips inbetween.

That said, my trip from this past week was probably my favorite: I spent a week in Albuquerque with my family.  We did a few local things, like visiting the Biopark and eating great New Mexican cuisine, but mostly this trip was about family and the holidays.  There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it’s not “travel”.

Holiday light display at the Albuquerque Biopark

Here’s to more travel in 2016!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a new year without a resolution.  As far as travel goes, I’m only making one official resolution: go where I want to go.  This isn’t the year of chasing cheap destinations or going somewhere because it sounds like it’ll be a good story or it will add another mark to my checklist.  I’m simply going to travel where I want to.

I’ve got trips to southern California, Cairo, Paris, Munich, Poland, and Stockholm on the agenda.  That looks like a lot, but in actuality, short visits and combining destinations means it’s only three trips collectively.  Other trips are either still in the works or to-be-determined if I find some spare cash (ha!).

Cheers to a wonderful new year and lots more travel.

Happy New Year!
Wishing you a year full of travel, happiness, and new discoveries.

*     *     *

Happy New Year!

Did you learn any travel lessons in 2015?  Share them in the comments for other readers to learn and/or weigh in on the discussion.

Also let me know what your travel resolutions are!  I’d love to hear them 🙂

8 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Traveling in 2015”

  1. I so agree on taking daytime flights. Like you, I always try to maximize my time at my destination, which usually means taking a red eye after work. I always seem to regret it, though, because then I’m a zombie for the next day or two. I know it’s not usually possible to take anything other than a red eye to Europe, but South America is on my list this year, and I’m definitely going to take a daytime flight there. It’ll be worth the “lost” day.

    Also agree on going where you want to go. I need to remind myself of that sometimes. I often have these big travel goals, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I feel like I have to go a particular place or do a particular thing because I set it as a goal, rather than because I really want to go.

    Happy New Year, and here’s to more great travel in 2016!

  2. I agree with most of the above except daytime flight. For me I can sleep for a 3-4 hours on a nighttime flight (on economy and longer on business class), and not at all on day time flights, so I tend to be more refreshed after landing. The most miserable for me would be flying on daytime flight with no sleep, then landing early in the morning at my destination….but I suppose it’s also learning about what is best for you as you travel. And I enjoy travel more now that I get to know myself as a traveler more.

    1. @Kate, How true it is to learn what’s best for you as you travel. 3 hours of sleep on a flight would be a miracle for me, so I try to time it so I can land and go straight to sleep!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *