Today I turn 34! I'm spending the day on our 3rd annual Boxing & the Beach retreat in Costa Rica with an amazing group of people, and I'm reflecting on the travels I've had that inspired me to launch Ketanga as well as the travels I have had since starting the company. I've certainly had travel blunders and embarrassing moments over the years, but I have also learned some helpful tips that I thought I'd share with you.
By the way, I'm Stacy, the founder of Ketanga Fitness Retreats! Feel free to learn a little more about me here including why I quit may job to travel for 100 day before starting this company.
Planning & Booking
Travel solo at least once. You’ll learn so much about yourself and grow in ways you never expected.
Poll your Facebook network for their travel recommendations - I always get some amazing tips this way. People will come out of the woodwork to offer helpful suggestions from their travel memories (and I love to do the same!).
Look at your credit card points balance and your airline miles to see what the best value is for purchasing flights. Sometimes cash is king, and sometimes miles or points take your money further.
The inconsistency of airfare pricing is pretty annoying, let's be real. However, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally the most cost-effective days to book travel as well as to fly.
The SkyScanner app allows you to search flight prices for all destinations or regions in a certain time frame, so if you are looking for somewhere to go, it could be a great (and fun) way to pick a new spot!
Look into traveling during the shoulder seasons to save on money and save time waiting on line at attractions. Shoulder seasons are those few weeks or months between peak travel time (when everyone goes to a place) and off peak (when the weather is not ideal or it's just not a great time to visit a location).
Ok, I had to add this one in here... go on a Ketanga Fitness Retreat! Or a small-group getaway that caters to something you are interested in like yoga, biking, photography, etc. You'll be surrounded by like-minded people and amazing experiences.
Prepping & Packing
Teach yourself a few words in the local language before you leave! Duolingo is a great app for picking up a new language.
Your carry on is also your life preserver if your checked bag gets lost. Be sure to pack any meds you take, a toothbrush, underwear, and anything else you can’t live without.
If you’re an over-packer, invest in a luggage scale to make sure your bag doesn’t exceed 50lbs before you even leave the house. There’s nothing worse than being charged extra for a 51lb bag or holding up a bag check line while you take shoes and books out of your checked bag and try to stuff them into your carry on to stay within the limit!
Ziploc bags or packing cubes can be really helpful for keeping your clothes organized and saving space in your suitcase.
Taste something new!
Things To Do
Talk to strangers (in safe public places) to get their suggestions of places to go and things to see. My favorite place to meet locals is at a coffee shop or local fitness class.
Do that thing you love while you travel! For me, that's horseback riding. I always try to find a place to ride while I travel. It's a great way of seeing different areas I wouldn't see on foot, and it is also a good way to meet like-minded people.
Taste something new! Every region has something special to eat or drink, so this is a great way to be a little adventurous and experience something unique.
Tourist attractions may cause some to roll their eyes (coming from a New Yorker who is not a fan of Times Square), but they are notable for a reason. If you are in a place you likely will not visit again, go see the famous 'thing' and enjoy it!
Cheer on the local team at a sports game! There's nothing like being surrounded by locals and experiencing their passion for the local sports team! I find this such a great way to get to know the culture, and participate in something really fun - especially when you get to see something for the first time (like when I saw cricket in Barbados!).
Get your fitness on by jogging through a local park or visiting a fitness studio, just like you would back home. It's yet another way to step away from typical tourism and meet new people while also working off the delicious new foods you may be enjoying!
Opt for bike tours when you can, especially when visiting new cities! They can be such a fun (and active) way to explore while learning about the place you are visiting and getting your bearings.
Don't overdo it. Especially if you're planning a longer trip, make sure you don't overexert yourself and try to do everything without taking a break. The last thing you want is to feel run down or too tired to enjoy something you have been dreaming about for so long. My favorite way to relax is to cozy up in a local coffee shop or relax in a park, depending on the weather.
Don't stress about getting gifts for others, anyone you care about enough to buy a gift likely cares enough about you to prefer you spend your time and money enjoying your trip. However, don't underestimate the surprise and appreciation of someone receiving a post card. Who even does that anymore?? Such an easy, thoughtful and inexpensive way to show someone you are thinking of them!
Do that thing you love while you travel!
Money & Spending
Taking out local currency from an ATM will usually get you the best exchange rate.
Make sure you bring a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee to save you lots of money on card purchases. If you don’t have one, look into a no-fee or low-fee card with this perk if you are a frequent international traveler.
Splurging and indulging can be ok! Regardless of your budget, if you have saved money to go on this trip, you should be able to treat yourself to something special that you love like a massage, a night at a fancy hotel, a special restaurant, or a beautiful souvenir.
Don’t keep all your money and cards in the same place, such as your wallet, just in case you get pickpocketed or lose your bag. If your hotel room has a safe, it’s always a good idea to leave some cash in there.
Be sure to notify your bank and credit cards that you will be traveling so they don't put a lock on your account when you're trying to make a purchase somewhere!
Common sense, common sense, common sense! When you travel, don’t let your normal safety measures disappear. Lots of people feel carefree on vacation and ignore their instincts and common sense.
Download a Google map of where you will be traveling so that you can navigate any time during your trip - even without an Internet connection.
Have a photo of your ID/passport and a credit card (front and back) on your phone. It's also good to have a copy of your passport printed and kept with you when you're out and about so you can keep the real thing back at the hotel.
Travel insurance! It's really not that expensive, and it can pay off big time. I like to visit InsureMyTrip.com to explore different policies and find one that works for my specific trip and needs.
Visit Cappadocia, Turkey
Places I recommend
Turkey: Such a beautiful country with so many unique and distinct areas. I traveled from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Antalya so I was able to experience city + mountains + beach in one trip. The food is incredible and Cappadocia, in particular, is unreal when it comes to accommodations (cave hotels), activities (hot air ballooning) and natural wonders (incredible rock formations)!
Mallorca: Lots of people think of Ibiza when it comes to a Spanish island, but lesser known Mallorca is actually the largest of the Balearic Islands and rich in culture and things to do. Mallorca is where many triathletes come to train because of its unique terrain, so hiking, cycling and swimming are so much fun here. Also, some of the hotels are wild like the art resort we are staying in on the Adventures in Mallorca retreat this spring!
Costa Rica: If you know me, or if you've been following Ketanga for a while, you've noticed that we host a lot of retreats in Costa Rica. To me, it is the perfect combo of welcoming people, delicious food, incredible weather, and so much to do! It's an easy flight from the US, and you can be on the beach, in a national park or hiking a volcano within a few hours of landing.
Switzerland: I've visited Switzerland a few times and can't get over the beauty of this country. The Swiss Alps are one of my favorite places in the world - great for skiing and hiking - and the landscapes look like paintings, not real life. It's an expensive place to visit, but well worth it for the priceless natural beauty.
Ireland: I'm an avid horseback rider, so visiting Ireland and riding an Irish sport horse has always been on my bucket list. I finally had a chance to do that in 2014, and I have been back again and again! This is another example of an amazing combination of kind, friendly people, gorgeous surroundings, and lots to do. We've hosted a few equestrian and yoga retreats here, and I think we will be planning a hiking and adventure trip here soon!
Have a travel tip you'd like to share? Please tell us in the comments below!