Learn the Art of Packing Like a Pro
What’s your packing style? Military-style precision or ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’? An under achiever or an over-the-topper? Of all the details that need taking care of when we head off on a holiday, packing is probably everybody’s least favourite task. Because who knows what mood you’re going to be in a week from now, and how are you supposed to know what shoes are going to go best with the new outfits you’re planning to buy?
What to take and what to leave behind is a conundrum, but our InsureMore experts didn’t get so well-travelled without picking up a few tips along the way.
Make a List and Check it Twice
All the great organisers of history understand the importance of a good list: Santa, Schindler and the, er, list goes on. When you’re going on a holiday there are so many details to take care of it can feel like your head might do a full rotation on your shoulders: flights, accommodation, airport transfers, passport, visa, currency, and more. But if you make a list it all reduces into manageable proportions. Packing can be simplified in exactly the same way. List what you think you’ll need – and cut it in half. Once you divide that by three you should be at about the right number of pairs of shorts and shoes you really need. Then, start your packing and don’t deviate. No, not even for that. You won’t need it. Really.
A Throwaway Wardrobe!
It might sound strange, but if fashion is low on the list of priorities (like if you’re hiking or roughing it in Asia), one very sneaky tip is to take your oldest clothes and throw them out as you wear them! Not only will it lighten the weight, it means there’ll be room for all those exotic souvenirs you might pick up along the way.
Fashion on the Flight
Winter holidays cause a lot more packing problems than summer simply because coats, boots and woolly scarves take up a lot more room than board shorts and bikinis. Make sure you dress cleverly for your flight – which means wearing the biggest, furriest and bulkiest items of clothing and keeping your luggage space at a premium.
Take Care of Your Valuables
Even if you morph into a case-packing extraordinaire with all these helpful tips and create a few pockets of spare space, never be tempted to fill them with any of your valuables. Cameras, jewellery, travel documents, cash and credit cards should never go in checked baggage – keep them on your person or in hand luggage at all times.
Follow these simple tips and packing doesn’t have to be the headache most people make it out to be. Take what you need, leave what you don’t and if you’re tempted to falter, picture yourself carrying your case up a few flights of stairs. There now – step away from the shoes.
Find Fun for Free in Any City
There’s no getting around the fact that travelling costs money – and often lots of it. This is especially true when you arrive in a city; every time you set foot outside the door you have to outlay your hard-won holiday cash for transport, lunches, tickets and souvenirs.
At InsureMore we know better than most that some expenses just can’t be avoided, but we also know a few tricks to having a good time without draining your wallet empty.
While every city in the world is different, there are certain ways to enjoy some free fun in virtually every single one of them. How? Just use your imagination. And these tips.
Culture for Free
Wherever you are, if you do a little digging you can always find some free museums or galleries. Some are state-subsidised and some simply rely on the generosity of benefactors – but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, just enjoy its smile! In Paris, for example, even the most famous museums offer a free day once a month, or even once a week. Do a bit of smart research and you might never have to pay an entrance fee again!
Commune With Nature
You’ve heard the expression “stop and smell the roses”, and in a new city this is one of the best ways to not only get out and explore but also to familiarise yourself with some local flowers and plants. Every city has at least a few green spaces, often right in the middle of the bustling metropolis. Enjoying a relaxing walk around the parks and gardens can reveal myriad aspects of a city’s personality and people.
A Spot of People Watching
Speaking of people, who doesn’t enjoy a little down time watching how the other half live? If you’re in France grab a crepe, if you’re in Japan settle in with some sushi, then find a comfy place to sit and just soak up the ambience of the passing parade. Nothing teaches you more about a city than observing the locals go about their daily routines.
Restrained Retail Therapy
Even if you don’t have the readies at the ready for that Hermes handbag or antique French armoire, window-shopping can be almost as much fun – and a good deal easier on the budget. Glam up and head over to Rodeo Drive or the Champs Elysees and give your dreams free reign – if only for a few hours.
When it comes to exploring a new city, the old saying often really is the truth – some of the best things in life are free!
Itinerary or Itinerant - What Kind of Traveller Are You?
When it comes to travel, what floats your boat? Or train, plane or automobile? Whatever your answer, it’s important to remember we’re all different and our idea of the perfect travel experience will vary wildly. Some of us extol the virtues of independent travel, while others are fans of letting somebody else take care of all the hard stuff. And that’s just as it should be – after all, diversity is what makes the world go round and keeps our feet on the ground (that and gravity).
Our InsureMore experts are all passionate travellers and, not surprisingly, they all have very different ideas. But they did agree on enough to get together and compile this list of the pros and cons of independent vs package travel.
Idyllic Independence or the Perfectly Planned Package?
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t have endless time to research and would rather let an expert take care of all the details like where you’ll stay, what you’ll do and how much it’s all going to cost you, then you’re probably suited to a package holiday with a set itinerary. But if you’re the kind of person who loves the thrill of the unknown and your idea of planning is waking up and randomly choosing a point on the map to decide your next destination, then you’re the classic independent adventurer.
Bang for Your Buck, Or Trust Your Luck?
The benefits of choosing a package tour mean that, in many cases, your flights, transfers, accommodation and even some meals are all covered in the one price – which is ideal if you’re looking for the best ‘bang for your buck’ with no unexpected expenses. On the other hand, if you go it alone, booking last minute accommodation, flights and transport often means you can get some great discounts and you’ll have the freedom to make plans on a whim.
Thrill seeker or Chill seeker?
The die-hard explorers and adventurers would claim there’s a big difference between travelling and taking a holiday. Of course they’re right, but neither is better than the other – simply different. If you’re still not quite sure which is a more apt description for you, take a look inside your wardrobe. If you own a set of matching designer made luggage and a pair of diamante beach thongs you’re probably more of the ‘holidaymaker’ ilk. But if you own a Swiss army knife and a muddy backpack that smells vaguely of camel, you’re a traveller.
Whether you’re more comfortable with independent travel or package/organised tours, both have their benefits and drawbacks. Only you can decide what suits you best.
Discover the Delights of Slow Travel
Work, family, career, life, death, taxes; we live in such a fast-paced world, you’d think the last thing we’d want to rush is our leisure time, right? But to some, the desire to do it, see it and Tweet it in record time, just to tick it off some arbitrary list, is the end goal rather than savouring the experience of travel itself.
At InsureMore, some seasoned travellers in our team are finding their way to a movement that’s far less frenetic – the art of “slow travel”. And, although they can’t take credit for coming up with the phrase, they’ve certainly been able to come up with some helpful tips for those who want to join the revolution.
So, Just What is Slow Travel?
Well, we’re glad you asked! Slow travel has its foundations rooted in the concepts of connection, immersion and intent. That is, spending more than a cursory amount of time in a destination in order to really get to know the culture, cuisine and people on a deeper and more authentic level, and placing greater value on a destination than the sum of its tourist attractions.
Go Slow, Go Green
Travelling slowly and with intent means reducing your footprint and considering different ways of getting around – ones that have less impact on the environment. Instead of taking planes, slow travellers will use modes of transport that are ‘greener’ – like buses, trains, boats, bicycles, motorbikes, or even horseback and on foot. Of course, all the usual safety advice applies when using these less typical ways of getting around.
Deepen the Connections
By spending quality time in one location and interacting with the local community, you’ll be able to build a much deeper and more genuine connection with the ‘sense of place’. When things become more familiar, you’re able to feel more fully immersed and, in turn, you gain trust and acceptance within the culture and community.
Spend More Time, Less Money
There’s even better news about staying put in one place, and that’s the financial savings you’ll make. Long-term stays in apartments or houses are considerably cheaper than shorter ones, and if you plan ahead and circumstances permit, you may even consider a house swap arrangement.
While not everyone has the time, means and embedded spirit of adventure required to perfect the art of slow travel, for those who do take the plunge, it may not just be memorable but also life-affirming and, indeed, even life-changing. Only you can answer the question as to whether it’s something you should try – so think about it carefully, weigh up the pros and cons, and don’t rush your decision!
Top Tips to Learn a Foreign Language Fast
Are you the kind of person that tunes out when you hear a foreign language? Even when you’re in a place where you’re the foreigner? So many people think learning a new language is simply too difficult – so they pop it in the ‘too hard basket’ and continue just speaking a little bit LOUDER, in English…
But even if you don’t know your “sayonara” from your “salle de bain” or your “vacsora” from your “vespa” there are some very easy ways of picking up the basics without too much effort. Here at InsureMore, we don’t claim to be language teachers, but we do know travel, and, when it comes to learning a bit of local lingo, our expert team agree: it’s better to have tried and sounded a little foolish than never to have tried at all!
Total immersion is definitely the way to go, so if you follow these simple tips you could be shooting the breeze with the locals in less time than you thought!
Travelling solo is one of life’s true joys – bearing in mind all the relevant safety warnings. Apart from anything else, it’s a fantastic way of forcing yourself to learn a language fast, because if you don’t have anyone to talk to in English, you might just try that little bit harder. Another very important aspect of this is that if you’re travelling solo understanding and speaking a few of the basics can help out no end in an emergency – medical, theft, or otherwise.
Make Like the Locals
The absolute best way of getting used to the tones, inflections and nuances of a different language is by hanging out with the people who speak it – or eavesdropping if you’re a little shy! Set yourself down in the local cafes and, instead of checking social media, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Even waiting at train stations or bus stops can turn into a great opportunity to pick up some practice. Of course, at first it will all sound like Double Dutch (tip: if you’re in Holland it will be!), but the more you listen with intent, the more you’ll start picking up certain words, and it’s often not too hard to figure out their meanings. Once you think you’ve twigged a few phrases – try them out! Even the semblance of a simple sentence can get you started if you take the plunge.
Become a Blogger
If you’ve never considered blogging before, this is the perfect reason to start. The catch is to do it in your ‘new’ language! Collect notes, pictures and memories as you travel, then set yourself the challenge to commit them to a daily or weekly blog using all the new words you’ve learnt along the way. It’s a great way of retaining information and gauging your progress.
Even making an attempt to learn a new language can be extremely empowering and rewarding. So go on – give it a go. Bravissima!