Traveling is an invigorating experience that can revitalize the soul, open the mind, and give you otherwise unattainable knowledge about the world outside your front doorstep. There is never a dull moment, but not all the surprises are welcome or enjoyable. For every new favorite coffee shop or restaurant you find, there are the handful of chargers you left plugged in at your former faves across the globe. No lucky low-priced flight find is without its accompanying refund denial or unplanned overnight layover – often in the most random of airports. Like everything else in life, travel isn’t without its own set of difficulties and headaches and even if you are as obsessed with it as we here at Rucksack Ledger are, you still don’t find these moments much fun to mitigate. While I don’t possess any magic formula that’ll save any of us from encountering any number of the aforementioned issues, I do have some tips and tricks that I have picked up – mostly from numerous mistakes – that might help us all out. Through my failures,may you find success!

So, here are the Top Ten Things to Know/Remember when traveling, at least according to me. I promise that there is something in here for everyone from the casual to pro traveler to save you some time and minimize pains in your ass (from travel, obviously):

1. Unless you love to struggle, PLAN AHEAD! It seems obvious, right? You plan your itinerary carefully and try to secure the best deals on flights and rooms to save money and you map your directions. You make all the most meticulous of inquiries and notations, carefully organized, to ensure your plan is foolproof. Now, I want you to go over all of it and see if you can go even further. The truth is, if you have spare time at any time, read, proofread and revise (if necessary) every detail of your trip. Read up on your travel insurance – hell, read the entire terms and conditions if you have the time – and check on the amenities at your hotels, hostels, or Airbnb lodgings. Make no mistake, no planning will ever be thorough enough to avoid all incidents – se la vie – however, the amount you plan is typically proportionate to how much less you have to deal with once you’re actually in motion.

2. Pack carefully and functionally. You’re an adult – you don’t need a lesson on how to pack… Yeah, you do – I did. Even if you are already an obsessive-compulsive packer with far too much attention to detail, chances your technique could still stand to be tweaked. It will be to your benefit. For instance, Are you maximizing your space or perhaps you’ve be continuously carting around non-essential items. You are going to hear this a lot in this article, but, make a list. Listing out what all you are packing – down to each item of clothing – will allow you to use a mathematical approach to your packing: adding and subtracting where needed. Also, make sure you consider, even in your stowed luggage, what will be closest to that zipper. You never know when you will need a heavier jacket and few things are quite as uniquely tragic as unloading the entire contents of your case in a Starbucks to find it.
3. Have a checklist, so no man is left behind! Again with the lists? Yes, embrace your inner Virgo (especially if you are one) and prepare to make lots and lots of lists. This one is crucial: the checklist you make for packing up to leave for the next destination. Consider an insurance policy so that you don’t go broke buying new toothbrushes and chargers for every electronic device you own at each new location. Trust me, it can get expensive and extremely frustrating. My forgotten item always seems to be my phone charger – so, its definitely on the list. Notably, having back-ups here is also a studious and life-saving move. Inevitably, you will forget something and if it’s a crucial item, you may want to simply have two.

4. Read a book. This isn’t just generally good advice, though apparently it is – I hear that these things can be highly educational, allegedly. More specific to your travels, its extremely helpful to read up on the places you are going. Not only will this help to provide you with ideas about where to go and what to see in the areas you plan to visit, but it is also a great way to get yourself pumped up for your trip! Often times you find out things that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and between reading a myriad of different books, you usually absorb at least a few things – even with my attention span.

**Another great option for those who aren’t huge readers is to try out Audible or other audio book options. This is is also a bit easier when you are trying to read on-the-go!**

5. Follow your instincts. This piece of advice may seem diametrically opposed to the previous “obsessive list-making” segments, but I promise, it isn’t. Life is about balance, travel is also all about that centered point. Staying in the moment while planning ahead all of the time, but its important to remember, especially when you are on-site, standing in front of the ornate, richly history-ed facade of the Hagia Sophia, that the lists will be there when you get back, and the perfect photo will happen – in due time. Be in the moment, and go where you find your spirit leading you. Be adventurous and spontaneous and you’ll find that you’ll be rewarded. Do it all: Make lists and stop to sniff roses.
6. Have many forms/methods for payment. This may appear, on the surface, to be another no-brainer, but, well, you’d be surprised. First of all, have a credit card with $5,000 to $10,000 at least at your disposal for any international excursions or prolonged domestic ones. This is emergency money-ish, not to be confused with your travel insurance. This is for those last-minute or large and unexpected occurrences, so you can handle it first, worry about APR later (though getting 0% for up to 18 months is easy, credit-reliant). Have another credit card with a smaller, $500 to $1000 limit. Perhaps this one will be the mileage points card and it will definitely be the one you want to pay off or close to pay-off every month. Last, but not least, cold, hard cash! Cash will always be king, so hold onto yours like its royalty. Don’t frivolously spend cash, even for tipping, if you don’t have to. Where a card will go, use it, save the money for those (and there will always be one to a few) cash-only shops, bars, and eateries. Never have too much money out either, say $50 should be sufficient, depending on the area. No reason to make yourself a target for robbery.
7. Build the perfect rucksack/carry-on. Think of your baggage as Russian nesting dolls, they all fit with and often within each other but should also stand as self-sufficient individuals when separated. Your carry-on is that solid wood doll at the center, it doesn’t come apart, nor should it. Your rucksack, back-pack, side bag, carry-on – whatever – should contain a survival kit of sorts that would keep you going for at least 48 to 72 hours if need be. Why? Cus there is a good chance it might be needed for just such a purpose. Luggage gets lost, and sometimes never found, either way there will be an indefinite interim period from when you finally get it during which brushing your teeth, washing your face, or working on that project for the site, would be anywhere from nice to necessary. Pack accordingly and ensure that your bag contains everything that you need. This is another place for a list: phone charger, extra battery pack, xyz toilietries… Feel free to roll your eyes while you write it and while you pack it, cus you won’t be rolling ’em the moment it saves your ass.
8. Have a back-up plan! We’ve already gone over the importance of planning ahead, but what about back-up-planning-ahead? That’s not even a thing is it? For me it’s slowly becoming a thing. Let’s say you have plans to hit The Knoll along Oregon’s coast. It’s a great hike and the overlook to the cliffs and beach below have stellar reviews and pics on Google, should be great, right? Well, it will be if it happens to be one of those days that falls into the 10% of the time the Oregon coast isn’t foggy. If it isn’t then your photo op/viewing plans will be tanked – and this is when its good to have a back up ready. Trying to scramble (more often than not, without any wifi or data on your device) to re-arrange plans last minute usually results in no plans or piss-poor ones. You don’t have to go crazy with your back-up planning, having an outdoor and indoor option will usually suffice. I use google calendar to block both and with full instructions and directions. This makes it easy to find the info if plans change and to move something for a re-schedule: Maybe try The Knoll hike on Friday when it’s supposed to be quite sunny and cloudless?
9. Take care of yourself. This one is especially applicable to ex-pats, digital nomads, and otherwise nomads who have taken on travel as a full time lifestyle. One of the first mistakes I made upon embarking on a traveler’s life was to throw away nearly every element of my previous, “normal”, rooted existence. This kind of reckless abandon seem invigorating until your two weeks in, already paunchy and tired because you haven’t eaten a vegetable in that long and you don’t remember what fitness even is. Keep your routines as best you can, especially the ones that involve self-care. That can mean more than bubble baths and scented candles too. Eat right, get lots of sleep, drink water, work out, and simply take care of yourself. Travel is no excuse to become chaotic or to ignore the things you need, in fact, structure and self-care become even more important as they become harder to make time for.
10. Embrace the unexpected! My last piece of advice is a simple one: Be prepared to have your plans f*cked up and try to have a positive attitude when they do. I can’t count how many times I’ve lost my cool. That time Spirit Airlines decided not to refund my cancelled flights despite having insurance – epic meltdown! In retrospect, I ruined my own day with my anger and frustration over it though and it wasn’t worth all of that. Your backpack strap might break mid-hike, or you realize you forgot your snacks or even your water, but you’re gonna have to keep rolling from that point and you can either do it with a rumpled face and steam leaking out your ears, or you can just laugh about it. I’ve tried to train myself to just giggle at the busted sneaker or the misplaced train ticket. Its part of the journey and not a bad one, just a different color that will complement the picture overall once you’re looking back at the memory. That part where things fell apart a bit, will probably lead to the best story or blog post (that’s the kinda thing I think about).