21 tips from Ireland's savviest travellers - make a real difference to your next trip!
The world seems smaller than ever, but how can you get the most out of travel - before, during and after your trip? We asked three of Ireland's top travel bloggers, Janet Newenham, Tara Povey and Nadia El Ferdaoussi, for their insights
Before you go
1. Pack like a pro
"Never bring a towel, they take up too much space!" Tara says. "Towels are provided in hotels, resorts and Airbnbs and you can rent them in hostels. Pack a couple of changes of clothes and all essential items into your carry-on, in case your check-in bag gets lost. To save space, roll your clothes into packing cubes. They're especially helpful if you're packing for different climates, as you can have one cube for each climate. It makes it much easier to unpack and repack quickly while travelling. I always pack an array of clear ziplock bags too. I use them to stop dirty shoes from staining anything, as extra cosmetic bags and to protect valuables from wet weather."
2. Make a checklist
"Before I go anywhere, I get all my vaccinations, visas, credit cards and documents in order," says Janet. "There's nothing worse than an expired passport or bank card, or not having an electronic copy of your passport saved in your email. Make sure your passport will have at least six months left on it when you travel, as certain countries won't let you in otherwise.
"Even if you are going on a long trip and are unsure how long you're travelling, it's always a good idea to have a return flight - a safety net in case you run out of money but also important as some airlines won't let you on-board without a return ticket.
"Check which countries you need visas for (some may surprise you!) and apply online or at the closest embassy. Also be sure to let your bank know that you'll be travelling, providing them with a list of countries you're going to, to avoid cancelled cards."
3. What's the weather forecast?
"Check the weather for your trip before packing and make your checklist based on the different climates for the duration of your stay," Nadia advises. "You'll be surprised how the weather can vary wildly in some places from day to night or as a result of changing altitudes or wind chill."
"Couple this with a list of special events or activities on your trip and you'll find it much easier to create the perfect packing list. Since multi-destination trips are becoming so popular, it's important to be covered for every eventuality without overpacking. Check the weather right up until the day you depart and you can decide if you're going to need that umbrella for keeping dry, protected from the sun, or both!"
4. Join a Facebook Group
"Travelettes, Girl Crew and Girls Love Travel are great for women travelling solo that would like to find travel buddies or just get insider tips from local ladies," Tara says. These groups are a great space for asking questions and will make you feel more prepared for your trip.
"There are plenty of destination specific ones out there too. When I spent five weeks in Edmonton, Canada, I joined a group called 'Irish in Edmonton' and got great tips on local markets and places to eat.
"Another great tool is secretflying.com. This website has incredible flight deals, not to mention error fares. If you have no set destination in mind for your trip it's a super source of inspiration."
5. Are you insured?
"I don't go anywhere without purchasing travel insurance, both for myself and for my gadgets," Janet reveals. "I used to pick the cheapest option but have learned from my mistakes (I fell and broke my tooth in Thailand and had to get five stitches to the back of my head, before getting robbed in Mexico a few months later!). Now, I read the small print very carefully to make sure dental will be covered, cash will be covered, and all my gadgets can be replaced if stolen or damaged.
"I always print out a copy of my travel insurance and send a second copy to whoever I am travelling with and my parents - just in case anything bad should happen."
6. Sort out your travel tech
"My absolute essential for air travel is noise reducing headphones," Nadia says. "Whether you splash out a few hundred on a wireless, over-ear noise cancelling headset, or pick up a pair of in-ear buds for €50 at the airport, it's a purchase you won't regret.
"A digital luggage scales will save you the stress of worrying about overweight luggage (not to mention the fees), and the Tile Mate device is perfect for forgetful travellers to keep track of their belongings. An external battery pack should be part of every traveller's pre-holiday tech haul to keep gadgets charged on the go. Make sure you choose one that delivers multiple full charges, though."
7. Refer a friend
"For accommodation I use Airbnb most of the time," Janet says. "I love being able to have my own place for a few nights - especially nice if you've already been on the road for a long time.
"Did you know everyone has a personal referral code, and each time a friend signs up using your code you get €30 free credit off your next stay?" she adds.
"The same goes for booking.com - you can refer friends to use the site and each time they sign up, you get free travel credit to book hotels with.
"If I'm on a tight budget, or keen to meet locals, I will often go couch surfing - even if I don't stay with them, it's fun to go to the parties or meet up during the day."
On the road
8. Stay healthy
"The number one way to keep feeling good while travelling is to drink lots of water, especially if you're in a hot country, drinking more alcohol than usual or being very active," Nadia advises. "It sounds simple, but staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough."
"The other is a balanced diet. I know only too well how hard this can be while on the go, when you want to try absolutely everything. But choosing fresh fruit and veg instead of processed and fried food for at least some of your meals will do wonders for your overall mood and wellness. A travellers' probiotic is also a good idea for natural immunity.
"Avoid wearing make up on your flight (or remove once on board), and lather on a beauty oil such as Trilogy CoQ10 Booster Oil, found in health food stores, which will nourish and protect your skin."
9. Don't forget to rest!
"Travel burn out is real!" Tara says. "Trying to do too much can lead to exhaustion, homesickness and physical illness. It is important to give yourself a decent amount of time in each location. If you have to hop from location to location I recommend taking at least one "duvet day". Then you'll be fully refreshed and ready for the next day of exploring.
"Recently I had two trips back to back with jam-packed itineraries, lots of travel and not much time to chill. Because I didn't take time to rest I ended up sick and on antibiotics when I got home. This is exactly what you want to avoid!"
10. Leave space for things to happen
"I try not to plan too far ahead, so if a fun opportunity to sail around some islands in Indonesia or travel by bike across Thailand with new friends arises, I can always change my plans and embrace the adventure," Janet tells us.
"I usually book accommodation a few days in advance, but try to stay flexible. I can't count the amount of times I've made friends in a hostel and next thing I know I'm on a flight to a new country with a fun, new travel buddy. Last year I met a guy in a hostel in Thailand and we ended up doing a five-month overland trip from Ireland to South Africa; we've now travelled to 19 countries together.
"Flexibility is key if you're looking for an adventure!"
11. Meet and greet
"If you're travelling alone, but don't like the idea of staying in a hostel, there are other ways to meet like minded people," Nadia advises. "Sign up for a walking tour or bar crawl for a safe way to connect with other solo travellers. Food tours are another great idea as they allow a little more time to develop a rapport; bonding over a love of food is always a winner, plus you'll gain some local insights from the guides and can organise to revisit some of the best spots with your new friends."
12. Stay safe!
"It seems obvious, but there are lots of things you can do to protect yourself and your belongings while away," Tara suggests. "If you change your travel plans make sure to let people at home know. Depending on where you're travelling, only use ATMs inside bank buildings to avoid card skimming. Try to use cash where possible to avoid banks fees, or get a travel cash card that doesn't charge you for card transactions overseas (I use the STA cashcard). I always recommend taking a business card from the hotel/hostel lobby. That way if there's a language barrier or you get lost then you can just show the card to a taxi driver or passerby."
13. Hit up a hostel
"I still think hostels are the best place to meet new friends when travelling," Janet says. "If people in my hostel have signed up for an activity or tour, I always try to join. It's a great way to push yourself outside your comfort zone, meet new people and try new experiences.
"There's a cool app called 'With Locals' that can help you have local experiences in new cities - meet up with pro surfers in Cape Town to take you out surfing, for example, or with foodies in Paris who will take you on a food tour to places most tourists don't know about."
14. Make back-ups!
"Damage, theft and loss of tech is always a possibility while travelling," Tara says. "We need to make sure that our photos, files and memories are being backed up as we go. If you have a smartphone you can change the settings to save all your photos to the Cloud, DropBox or GoogleDrive. The same can be done with a laptop and certain cameras.
"I had my laptop stolen in a hostel in London years ago and luckily I had emailed myself a copy of my otherwise unbacked-up thesis. Now I use Google Docs to create documents because I know they will always be available online no matter what happens. Uploading photos to social media, of course, is another great way to prevent against loss."
When you get home
15. Prepare for jetlag
"Jetlag happens when you travel through time zones faster than your body can adjust," Nadia explains. "Trick your brain by changing the time on your phone and watch as soon as you've boarded a long haul flight, and try to limit referring to the time at home.
"Avoid stimulants and depressants - that means no coffee, alcohol or sleeping tablets, opting for plenty of water to stay hydrated instead. Choose flights that arrive during the day, as sunlight can help, and if possible travel on a modern aircraft like the Airbus A350 or Boeing Dreamliner 787. The planes have lower cabin pressure and higher humidity, helping reduce the effects of jet lag.
"As much as you want to sleep, it'll only prolong the process of adjusting. If you absolutely must, take a short nap upon arrival, but remember to set an alarm and get into the new time zone ASAP by eating meals and sleeping at normal times on the new schedule."
16 Beat the post-holiday blues
"They're a very real thing," Tara says. "The post-holiday blues can present themselves in many ways - sadness, crying, dread, the need to book another holiday. It's normal to feel like this after a trip. I have cried in way too many departure lounges to count!
"When I was 20 I spent a summer in New Zealand, and after I came home I was a mess. I missed the new friends I had made and the way of life I had while I was away. It took me weeks to get over it. In the end, however, I found that exercise, booking short staycations and keeping myself as busy as possible helped me to feel better.
"The key is understanding that the feeling is normal and it will pass."
17. Organise your photos
"As travelling is my job, it's very important for me to keep all my photographs and videos organised," Janet says. "I try to edit my photos as soon as I get home and share them on social media and my blog over the next few weeks. Same goes for my travel videos - if too much time passes, I find people have already lost interest.
"The best photo editing apps are Adobe Lightroom, which you can either use on your desktop or your phone, or a fun and easy-to-use phone app called Snapseed, which pretty much everyone I know on Instagram uses. I use iMovie to edit my videos but am trying to learn Premiere Pro as it is more professional for editing.
"I'd also recommend anyone who loves travel to start up a blog on Wordpress, or even just an Instagram account, so they can start sharing their travel photography and adventures. You never know where it might lead you…"
18. Take notes!
"Keeping on top of work while on the go can be tricky," Nadia admits. "I find that the best way to keep track and save time is to keep a journal or, even better, notes on your phone. Within the notes app you can even add images, so when it comes to writing a blog post you'll have everything to hand and it'll be as easy as clicking 'copy and paste'. The Wordpress smartphone app is great for creating drafts on the go, but do the same for social media too, scheduling to go live when the time is right."
19. Check your cards
"Check your bank statements to make sure you weren't charged extra or had your card skimmed," Tara recommends. "If you find a transaction you're not sure of, you can call your card provider (the number is normally on the back of the card) and ask them to clarify. If it's something that you're sure wasn't you, then ask them to cancel your card and send you out a new one. If it's a duplicate transaction, ask to dispute the transaction. If it's a credit card, they should be able to cancel the transaction and refund you pretty quickly; with debit cards, it can take slightly longer."
20. Post-holiday health and beauty
"Travelling and in particular flying can wreak havoc on your skin," Nadia says. "Start the process on the journey home to give you a head start, but keep up a routine nightly for the best results. Prolong your tan by eating beta carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes and carrots or taking supplements. The red-orange pigment is actually where flamingos get their colour! Remember, the most important thing is to keep hydrated, both by drinking water and applying moisturiser to your skin. A tip I learned from Tara is that smells can trigger memories, so wearing your holiday perfume at home can boost your mood!"
21 Plan your next trip!
"I usually start planning my next trip as soon as I get home," Janet says. "That's when I am most motivated to get into saving mode, and it's also the time when friends that didn't join my last trip start asking if they can join the next one! Wanderlust works in wonderful ways. I jump on Skyscanner and start looking for cheap flights, and if the money is in my account and I think I've found a good deal, I'll book it. Last Christmas, I was only home from South Africa for 48 hours before booking a one-way ticket to Mexico - seems winter weather doesn't suit me.
"Once I've booked my flights back out, that's when I unpack, and pack again!"
Meet Ireland's top travel bloggers...
Nadia El Ferdaoussi
As a beauty-editor-turned-freelance-travel-journalist, now blogger and digital content creator, Nadia thrives on sharing insider information via her first-hand experience of travelling both solo and as part of groups. She has a passion for food and wine, meeting new people and photography, all of which she says make her job seem much more like a hobby, "meaning I'm incredibly lucky to call this my career". Follow her adventures on thedailyself.me or @nadia_dailyself on Instagram.
Tara is a New Zealand-born, Dublin-raised ex-pharmacist who has been travel-blogging for three years. Inspired by Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, she's all about "facing my fears and searching for the next big adventure". Named Ireland's top travel Instagrammer in 2017 and known for her colourful travel photography, Tara's blog is sure to fuel your wanderlust. Follow her on whereistara.com and @whereistarablog on Instagram.
Janet is an award-winning travel blogger and freelance writer hailing from Cork. A qualified journalist, she decided to quit her full-time job in favour of a happier, healthier and more adventurous life two years ago. Since then, she's been on the road non-stop, taking nothing but her backpack, camera and trusty drone. Her 'Journalist on the Run', is an adventure travel blog she describes as "sort of like a bucket list for life". Follow her on journalistontherun.com, and @janetnewenham on Instagram.