What's the first thing you do when you plan a trip somewhere? If all you're doing is making a giant list of major attractions to see and restaurants to visit, you might want to rethink your traveling routine. No matter where you're going, you can learn a lot about your destination by doing these things that many travelers don't consider—and that includes slowing down and stepping out of your comfort zone.
Keep Your Schedule Light
When you travel, do you have a tendency to overplan and jam-pack your schedule with everything you want to see and do? You're not alone, but doing so can actually make your trip more stressful—and aren't vacations supposed to be relaxing? Make your travels the most refreshing experience by keeping your schedule light. Give yourself time to chill out, and try not to come up with a rigid agenda of things to do each day—the more flexible your days are, the better.
Take a Day to Wander
Speaking of not overdoing it on the whole scheduling thing, you should make sure you set aside a full day where you don't have any plans. Allow yourself to wander around some of the less touristy places your destination has to offer. Explore without the pressure of a schedule, and you'll thank yourself later. Wandering days are especially great if you make them happen the last half of your trip—they give you a chance to re-visit places you really liked, or circle back around to things you might have missed on your planned days.
Talk to Locals
If you really want to get a feel for the city you're visiting—whether you're in the States or abroad—you should talk to people who live there and ask them for recommendations. If all you do is visit major tourist attractions, you'll miss out on experiencing what your destination is really like. Don't feel comfortable talking to strangers? Do your research before you go, and you're sure to find tips online.
Use Public Transportation
The temptation to rent a car or hail a taxi every time you need to get somewhere more than a few blocks away is real, but if you're traveling somewhere that has a solid public transportation system, you should try taking that instead. Doing so will let you experience even more of your destination, and could even help you meet new people. And if the city you're visiting is walkable, you can forego transit altogether, unless you're traveling a long distance to get somewhere.
Keep a Journal
Traveling can be overwhelming, and sure, you take the time to take photos, but that doesn't always mean you'll remember everything that happened and all the things you did on your trip. Take some time before bed each night to write down some highlights from your day, so when your trip is over, your notes can jog your memory—it'll make it easier to answer all those excited questions from friends and family about your travels, too.
Try Something that Scares You
Wherever you go, you're sure to find tons of fun things that you'll want to do, and it's easy to just plan to do all of them, but if you can, take a step outside of your comfort zone when you travel and do something that scares you a little. It doesn't have to be anything too crazy—don't force yourself to go bungee jumping if you're desperately afraid of heights (unless you want to), but challenge yourself to do something you might not otherwise do at home. Now's your chance to take that risk—enjoy it!