Travel Smarter

How do I plan my adventures?  Here’s how.

While in Nepal, I met a German guy who had a spreadsheet of places he wants to visit, with additional notes on best time of the year to visit, currency conversion rates, so that he could be ready to go at an instant’s notice.  I’m not suggesting we need to be that efficient, but the man has a point.  Adventures don’t just happen, they require some serious planning… and a bit of spontaneity.  

Just go onto Instagram and see where everybody else is going.  Just kidding.  

  1. Identify what kind of adventure is this?  Relaxing, thrill-seeking, bucket list, off-the-beaten path, city or outdoors.
  2. Use resources like The Guardian and Lonely Planet for ideas, and sample itineraries. For example, if you’re going to Chile for 4 days, see what they suggest and modify from there.
  3. Keep track of all your bookings and itinerary with TripIt.  You simply email all your flight, hotel, rental confirmations and the app automatically sorts them by date.  Easy access to your confirmation codes and the app also includes maps of airports.
  4. Lastly, start a list you keep on the cloud (Google sheets, Evernote), and keep a list of ideas for future trips.  This way whenever you see or hear something you like, note it here. 

About to travel?  Here are my tips.

I’ve been to every continent and on a wide variety of types, from city hopping to solo hiking to left-hand driving through a country.  Admittedly, I’m getting overconfident with my packing abilities and find myself under packing sometimes. Below are some of my tips on how to properly prepare BEFORE you go, and take some stress out of it.

Packing Tips:

  • Roll your clothes, it does save space.  Like this, Kondo style.
  • Start a packing checklist you can keep in the cloud (Google Sheets, Evernote).  This way you’ll always improve for the next trip and never forget power cords!
  • Does this adventure involve lots of destinations, if so, pack only essentials and go light.  If you’re not moving around much, then splurge on the comfort items.
  • Toiletries can get messy.  Here are two gadgets that help keep them in order – a superb, reusable toiletry bottle for soaps and lotions, and the best-designed toiletry bag, ever.
  • Don’t buy $5 bottle of water and contribute to plastic waste, bring your own bottle.  My current fav.


  • Take a picture of your passport and email it to yourself.  Always have secure access to it.
  • Don’t like the NSA all up in your business?  Then you may not like this tip: Register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), where they’ll keep you informed of any dangerous events and notify you of the nearest embassy.


  • Consider signing up Global Entry (which automatically includes TSA Precheck), and reduce wait time through security. $100
  • Use Google Maps and download maps for offline use.  In other words, mark down all the hotspots (your hotel, major sights) on Google Maps, download the map, no need for wifi, and never get lost.

At the airport or on the plane?  Here’s how I make the most of it.

I actually love being trapped on a plane like a sardine in a tin can.  It’s a confined space with no internet, and thus no distractions.  This is where I use a combo of catching up on entertainment and people, and powering through my to-do list.  Only way it could get better is if I could get cold brew coffee on the plane.

Actually, the trick is to prepare for the airport and plane ride BEFORE leaving the house.  You can’t trust airport wifi to be fast, so do all your setup before you go.  

For entertainment:

  • Download them movies.  Especially now that Netflix allows you to download and watch them offline.
  • Bring those magazines you haven’t gotten to.  Rest your eyes from electronics and dispose of the mag after you’re done, shedding weight along the way.

For productivity:

  • Email people.  While on the plane, it’s the perfect time to spend quality time responding or writing emails to people in your network that you haven’t caught up with recently.  Then when you get back to internet connection, they all send out.
  • Journaling and writing.  Take a moment to reflect.  Write about the state of your relationship, or something that’s bothering you at work, or an idea that you have.  Currently using Scrivener.
  • Plan your next project.  Whether it’s building a piece of furniture or your next big project at work or your side hustle, use a mind-mapping app to break it down.  Currently using MindNode.


  • If you’re going to a significantly different timezone, then I actually start living to that new timezone that day.  In other words, if it’s 10PM at the destination, I’ll start going to sleep wherever I’m at.  If it’s 7AM at the destination, I wake up and eat a big meal to get my body used to it.

While on travel, here’s what I always keep in mind.

My last trip was to Iceland, where I drove around and slept in a van for 5 days, before spending two days in the capital Reykjavik.  I’ve declared it a success because I did not die.  And on top of that, my planning worked out despite having to adjust last minute (instead of driving up through the center of the country, I had to drive around the entire country).  For me, that’s perfect – just enough planned mixed with some spontaneity.

  • First and maybe the most important thing – just be in the moment!  After all that planning and traveling, it’s time to just go with the flow and see where it takes you.  All that prep has teed up this moment, so now it’s time to be open to opportunities and get to know your environment.  Look out for flyers for local events, or ask the local cashier what’s the best thing to do.  
  • Be mindful of local culture – For example, HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl is popular right now (and great btw), so Instagram people have been flocking there and taking inappropriate pictures.  Or, if there are signs to not walk on certain areas, it’s there for a reason and maybe it’s your safety!
  • Don’t stand out too much – Since I’m asian, I’ll prob have a large camera around my neck and can’t hide that.  But what I’m talking about is don’t dress is super bright colors and be screaming tourist.  Dress in drab colors and do your best to not stand out.

Just got home from an adventure?  My post-trip checklist.

Just like a relationship, your trips need closure.  Do it properly so you have access to those memories the best way possible, and to also prepare for the next relationship, err, I mean adventure.  😉

  • Before you go posting on Instagram, check out Field Mag’s article where some expert influencers discuss how to be better than, well, them.
  • Remember how you created a packing list before your trip?  Well, time to update it with what worked and what didn’t.
  • Consider making a video of your trip, post on YouTube (you can limit who has permission to view it), and then it’ll be a fun way to share your adventures whenever it comes up!  Or if you’re depressed, to look back upon better days.  Here’s one of mine and one by someone far better than mine.

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