After eight flights, three countries, and one week I finally landed back in Chiang Mai international; marking the end of my fall break travels.  My time traveling wasn’t so much relaxing as it was comically hellish; think Murphy’s Law—if it could go wrong, it did.  I came back with a couple souvenirs and a couple dozen stories of us slipping up that soon led to us cracking up.  So I’ll save you some trouble and give you my top 5 tips for not sucking at travel.

1. Leave room for error. A LOT of room

When booking multiple flights for something like fall break, you’ll probably be using a couple different airlines.  This means that your connecting flight times could be alarmingly close together. You were so excited when you were booking them that the idea of marathon sprinting across an airport to make your flight seemed totally doable.  Include time for unexpected terminal changes, emergency bathroom breaks, and that whole language barrier thing you might have entirely forgotten about. But if you happen to miss your flight out of Kuala Lumpur like me, Baskin Robbins is a great way to forget about that rebooking fee.


2. Know your Airports

If your day visit turns into more of a lengthy layover, it pays to know what your airport/prison has to offer beforehand.  After a flight delay had me starting my single day in Singapore much later than expected, it turns out I would have to settle for touring the airport rather than the city; which, from what I gathered, is really a never ending mall.  What I did not know at the time was that I was apparently in the best airport in the world, equipped with not only a movie theatre but also A POOL.  So it turns out ignorance isn’t always bliss, sometimes ignorance is messing around with the airport’s touch screen bathroom surveys instead of checking out the arcade or interactive art museum that you didn’t know existed. Go figure.

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3. Check the Weather Forecast

Please remember that while the photos of the white sandy beaches you have been drooling over all include impeccable sunny weather—the real version may not.  The first leg of my trip was supposed to revolve entirely around me lounging on the Malaysian coast, but monsoon season said otherwise. A three day sleepover was just as good (hostel bunk beds are perfect for blanket forts!).

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4. Plan Ahead to Relieve Some Stress  

Now you shouldn’t limit yourself to only the plans you lay out beforehand, flexibility is key; but actually having a plan is a very, very good idea.  Navigating the streets of Ho Chi Minh City is essentially a rapid succession of darting into heavy traffic; and doing this with only a vague idea of where I was going quickly left me a bit flustered. Side effects of poor planning may include: confusion, frustration, and a mild mutual breakdown that sends both you and your travel buddy straight to the western comfort of the nearest Starbucks for the day.  So go with the flow; just know the general direction in which you’d like to, um, flow.


5. You do You

If a place sounds “meh” to you, it probably is.  Sometimes going with your gut is better than going with your guide.  But if a trip turns sour, a sense of humor and a pack of cards can legitimately create a good time just about anywhere.

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So sometimes wanderlust doesn’t quite fit the image of all those hipster posters it’s scrawled across out there; but traveling for travel’s sake is never something you regret—even if you do get jipped out of $10 by a very aggressive purveyor of coconuts. Don’t ask.

Lizzy Southard is a student at The University of Kentucky and a TEAN Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand