You know where you’re going; make the rest easy for yourself! Image from

I was road tripping to Salt Lake City, Utah recently, helping a friend move, and our anticipated 8-hour drive turned into a 14-hour excursion that ended at 1 o’clock in the morning. The four of us on that trip were competent people: we had snacks, we could change a tire, and we could navigate in the dark. Our little adventure got me thinking about how easily travel plans can go awry. One missed flight can be a minor inconvenience or a multi-day stranding. Flat tires aren’t a big deal, unless it’s 11 PM and you’re in the middle of rural Wyoming (as we were). In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of ways to help yourself overcome obstacles a little more easily – or at least with a little less stress.

Before you travel

  • Get to know your destination. What’s the basic geography? What transportation options are available? Where are you staying in relation to everything else?
  • On that note, get to know the airports or transportation hubs along the way. I will never forget how mind-blowingly confusing Tokyo Narita airport was after 20 hours of flying, especially since I spoke no Japanese.
  • If language may be an issue, consider bringing a phrase book or flashcards.

    Avoid jumbling your words. Image from
    Avoid jumbling your words. Image from
  • If you’re traveling by car, do a check on the spare tire before the trip and make sure it’s in good condition. Also be sure that the jack works, your wrench is the right size for your lugs, and that you have a good enough flashlight for a midnight tire change. If any of that sounds intimidating, have someone teach you how to change a tire before you drive.

While you travel

  • Have a watch or clock on you. It sounds awful, being a slave to time, but it’s a life-saver if you need to catch a bus and can’t find a clock, or your cellphone has suddenly run out of batteries.
  • Flashlights are crucial too. If you can carry one that both lights the way and tells the time (easily found at hiking stores), you’re solid.
  • Try not to rely on technology. Cell phones may be indispensable, but they fail to hold a charge, often carry surcharges, and can unexpectedly lose reception. Plan alternative places to keep addresses and phone numbers, like a journal.
  • Carry cash and stash it in multiple places. My debit cards only worked 50% of the time when I lived in Germany, and you’re not always going to have access to an ATM. Keep your cash in different places in case something unexpected, like a pickpocketing, happens.
  • Always carry a spare pair of knickers! Bonus points if they’re fast-drying.
  • Carry a light snack, like dried fruit or some trail mix, in case of delays.

Above all…

Remember that you only have so much control. Being prepared allows you to handle most situations without losing your mind, but things won’t always be so manageable. Be ready to let go of the things that aren’t under your control, and you’ll have a ball.