The Savvy Traveler - A Few Tips

The Savvy Traveler: Some "Pro Tips"

I have traveled to 46 of the 50 states and to 13 countries spanning 5 continents, so I would generally consider myself well traveled. I think of myself as a savvy, boomer traveler. 

This most recent trip to Portugal and Spain (walking the Galicia section of the Camino Portugues) has taught me several times over that there is still oh so much for me to learn about traveling successfully!

We hiked from Bayona to Santiago.

Here are some of the things I had in place for this trip that worked well and that I would recommend...

First, my cell phone company does not offer a paid European service option, so I bought a SIM card to cover calls and data in Europe, texts, and calls to the US. In the past I have just used WhatsApp while in areas with WiFi, but having the flexibility of using data - especially while out and about - is great. 

I relied on my smart phone a lot, but especially at restaurants and cafes. Most menus now are accessible only through QR codes (which my husband hates!). And current maps via links accommodate changes in plans and prevent getting lost! 

(I also made sure I watched the YouTube on how to change my SIM card prior to leaving home and practiced it before traveling ... Boomer ProTip!)

Unlike what we read and maybe assume, not everyone in the world speaks English. So I always try to learn at least a few words in the language of the countries you will be visiting. Here are some ideas:

First learn the "polite" words that everyone wants to and deserves to hear from you like: good morning, please, thank you, yes, no. 

Other basic phrases that you can fill in at the end with English (or the language if you know the word) is: "where is the ____"; "I would like the ____"; "how much is the ____"; and "the check please".  

These are so helpful and will smooth out your interactions with native speakers. Another tip to go along with this is make sure you download Google Translate in the languages of the country you will be visiting. On occasion we would type in English in Google Translate and show it to the waiter the translation (since our pronunciation was soooooo bad they couldn't understand us!).

Boomer Helps and Hints...

This blog is for everyone, but I'm a Boomer by birth (one of the last!) and definitely have felt that on this trip for probably the first time. Mind you, I'm feeling this NOT from the 130km that we hiked, but more so from just navigating traveling without being on a canned bus trip.

That being said, so happy I decided to bring my MacBook Pro. It was so much easier each night to read emails, check on and make reservations, pay for excursions, edit and post pictures, and make plans for the next day.

Bring something bigger than your phone to do your business on. Others Boomers in the group had iPads as those worked well for them. I will say, those traveling with us that were in their 30s had no problem doing all that I just mentioned on their phones. Don't get me wrong, I could have, but it was just easier on the eyes with something bigger.

So I think those were all good things that I did to prepare, but I certainly could have done more to help the trips be more successful.

Half of our trip was the Portuguese Coastal Camino de Santiago. (See the map above.) It ended up being about 130km hike with some selected variations and getting a little off track on occasion.  

Several people in our group of hikers had the AllTrails Pro subscription. A really good idea!

While in general the Camino was well marked, the challenge was always when you came to a city or town.  The trail would wind all over. You also had to find the trail finish and start for the day from wherever you were staying. These are functions that Google Maps can't do.  

This leads me to comment about the Google Maps App. My two adult children told me to download it and use it, and I didn't listen to them. They were right! I should have downloaded the areas we were going to be in. After you download an area, you can use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your internet connection is slow or absent, your offline maps will guide you to your destination.

My hesitancy was that I couldn't read what it said on the maps. The constant transition from sunglasses to readers to stopping and finding shade or turning up the phone's brightness really was a challenge! It really hinders the experience, plus I think it puts you at somewhat of a risk for pickpocketing as you are continually fumbling around in your purse or backpack for the right type of glasses.

So my friend Dianne's Pro Tip? Invest in bifocal sunglasses! Genius. I'll definitely purchase those for our next trip.

Finally (for now), wherever and however you travel, bring a good dose of patience and flexibility to your adventure. Nothing goes as planned. Most of the time, that's a good thing. We discover new and fun experiences. 

But sometimes when plans go awry, it can really test your character. If you go in to the adventure knowing you'll have to practice patience and being flexible, it'll be a lot easier on your stress levels, let me tell you. (Or maybe Lyndon will tell you in part 2 when we get back and settled. And boy, do we have some mishaps to share!)

Until next time, what are some pro tips for traveling that you rely on? Share them in the comments or drop us a line. We'd love to learn from you!


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