Female photographer taking a photo of the duomo in Pisa, Italy

5 Tips for Navigating Unfamiliar Places

I’m Emily and I’m no stranger to navigating unfamiliar places. I took my first international trip to Peru in 2017 all by myself at 21 years old. I have also traveled to many other destinations solo with my son. With each trip I’ve taken, I have forgotten about something in the planning process. My hope is to help you out, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

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Female traveler posing with traditional Peruvian women while holding a baby alpaca

Research the Layout of the Destinations You’re Traveling To

I usually use apps like TripAdvisor and Steller to help plan my trips. TripAdvisor is great for recommendations and reading reviews, and the user-uploaded photos give me a more accurate idea of what to expect. Steller, a newer travel app, is video-based, allowing you to see the layout of places you’re visiting more clearly. It lays out restaurants, activities, and landmarks on a map, making planning easier. Plus, you can create your own itinerary or borrow one from another traveler! Google Maps can also be helpful to see hours of operation and to see what’s in the surrounding area, but it’s not always the most accurate.

Female photographer taking a photo of the duomo in Pisa, Italy

Make Sure You’ll Have Cell-Phone Service

This is key especially when traveling internationally. You might be limiting yourself by having a carrier-locked cellphone because you’re not able to purchase an e-sim. E-sims give you access to a cellular network in the country you are traveling to without having to pay for international roaming charges. There are plenty of E-Sim companies, but my favorites are GigSky and Airlo.

There are also situations where you’re traveling inside your home country and are in a remote area, so cellphone service is limited. In this situation, I make sure to download maps or screenshot any relevant information I might need. Both Apple and Google maps allow you to download maps of certain areas.

Female looking sad while it's raining in Cusco, Peru

Don’t Be Afraid to ask Locals for Recommendations

Locals are the best source of information and they’ll actually be honest with you. I love looking to tourism boards for destination specific travel information, but they often won’t tell you the bad stuff. I usually look to front desk hotel staff or tour guides for recommendations because they typically know a lot about the area and will be painfully honest with you. The random stranger you meet on the street works too!


Plan Your Parking

I feel like this piece of advice is relevant no matter where you’re going. Way too many times, have I plugged the address of a museum into my GPS only to find myself circling the block 10 times in order to find parking. Now, I just research ahead of time and find the addresses of parking garages or lots in the area and that address into the GPS. This has made my plans go much more smoothly.

Stock photo of cars parked in a parking garage
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Start By Traveling to Nearby Cities

This is beneficial if you’re completely new to travel. Traveling to nearby city you’re not familiar with will give you more confidence and test your problem-solving skills. This will force you to get into the mindset of traveling in an unfamiliar place and you will adapt better when you’re trying to enjoy your vacation. You may also discover a new favorite spot!

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