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Top things to do when you arrive at your destination

Yay! You made it! Here are the top things I always do after I arrive at a new destination.

Have an end game

I live in NYC where my commute to the airport could take anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Therefore I have a nervousness about getting to ANY airport and a mild distrust of the travel times hotel clerks tell me (they’re always spot-on… yet still). So, as I am arriving in the airport of my destination, I don’t just follow signs to baggage claim, but instead become aware of things that I will encounter on my return trip home. For example:  the security line + its chaos factor, a nice place for a coffee, a good regional restaurant I might want to try to kill some time in and, most importantly, how long it takes to get from the airport to my hotel. That way when I’m planning to go home, I already have my own tested knowledge of my commute (and then I ask the hotel clerk just in case)

Home sweet home

Once I’m in my hotel, I unpack all my things and essentially set-up shop. I get my computer out and plugged in, set up my charger for my phone and Kindle and unpack all toiletries.  I also do a test run of the shower. Every hotel has its own apparatus and sometimes it takes up to 5 minutes to figure out what position the knob has to be in for hot water to arrive. I would rather not do that at 6am standing on a cold tile floor.

Let loved one’s know you’ve arrived

This means you, Kevin (my husband). Once you are at your very eagerly awaited destination, it’s real easy to forget that there are people back home: children, parents, spouses, pets you can Skype with — who want to know you’re safe.


Secure what’s valuable

I’ve never had anything stolen from me out of my hotel room.  I’ve never been suspicious of housekeeping because I’m sure they know if something does go missing, they are the first people who are accused. But I don’t have the same trust of other hotel guests. I’ve often come back to my room with the door wide open housekeeping cart outside but housekeeper is busy in the bathroom, water running loudly or has maybe stepped away to replenish something.  This can be a great opportunity to a guest with sticky fingers. So I make sure that I never have any of my personal items grabbing distance by the door. The hotel room desk can usually be seen from the hallway as well, so make sure all your tempting electronics are put away and unseen. If the safe is big enough, I will store all things there.

Head outside!

There’s a strange feeling I always get when I arrive at my hotel room for the first time: “Well, now what?”  It’s this mild fleeting depression that marks that I’m no longer anticipating my travel, but am here.  So whether I am in a great city like Paris or in a hotel that shares a parking lot with a Best Buy, I still go for a walk to take in my immediate surroundings to see what restaurants, shops and stores are within walking distance. Or maybe a nice neighborhood where I can avoid the hotel gym and take a jog. I’m sure there are Apps that can give you that information in mere seconds, but a walk will always make you feel good.

And then there’s jetlag

If this is an overseas trip with a major time change, this step is imperative. Although I typically fly first class (can it be possible to hate me more?), I still know the feeling of red-eyes in coach as they are hard to forget. I know that when you finally make it off the flight (through the 25 minute line in immigration, the 15 minutes to collect your luggage, the 10 minute “Nothing to Declare” line) and finally reach your hotel, the idea of lying horizontal on a bed with a two fluffy pillows is more tempting than a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. You’ll tell yourself you’ll only nap for a half and hour, but 4 hours later you’ll wake up more disorientated than before and now you’ve completely screwed up your time clock. So just HEAD OUTSIDE! The air and (hopefully sun) will do more for your acclimation than anything else.

Take pictures

I used to think that the sometimes tedious task of taking pictures would only corrupt my first day bliss that I loved so much. Now I know that those first hours in a place are some of my most amorous where I have a greater sense of childlike wonder, a perfect mind-set to be in for some really spontaneous photos.

Make a plan

Once I’ve taken in my immediate surroundings, I sit down with a map + my research and plan my overall trip. I’ve had in my mind what I’ve wanted to do before my plane even touched down, however it’s only when I’m actually in the destination that all these post it notes in my brain can come together and forge an efficient itinerary that will allow me to see the sights and daydream as well.

Check the weather

I know this should be done technically before the first 24 hours, but it’s an important item on this list because if you didn’t, then #7 wouldn’t be NOW GO HEAD OUT AND HAVE FUN! but–pay for expensive taxi to a department store  (the last place you want to be) to buy expensive clothing that you already own but forgot to pack.  I am never so upset at myself then when my budget has to go towards a generic Fleece zip-up rather than some beautiful piece of pottery, a bottle of high end olive oil or a great meal.

Have a great first day routine?? Share your tips in the comment section below!

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Yay! You've made it to your final destination! Here are the top things I always do when I arrive at any new destination.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. The first thing I do when arriving is check into my hotel and force myself to stay awake as late as I can so that my schedule is as close to home’s as possible. A tip to budget travelers, if you’re staying in hostels most of your trip, splurge on hotels your first and last nights, theres nothing worse than being kept awake by others when you have done or anticipate flying internationally.

  2. I’d always grab a local map upon my first arrival to a new place – from the airport information center or at hotel reception, and prioritize spots where I’d like to visit during my first day. Although I know I could always search for maps from the Internet beforehand – powerful google maps, the good reason for me to grab a local map(hard-copy preferable) is that I always could find special hightlights or good offers from local information. I think this is a good fact checking to double confirm what you research before arrival is reliable.

    1. I have an awful commute and try to sleep every morning and evening o the train. It prepares me for a 45 minute nap on vacation. And yes I set an alarm for the train.

  3. find the grocery/convenience store or local market. knowing where and going to the markets/grocery is an adventure in itself, but also very handy to buy bottles of water, or snacks, bread, cheese, chocolate(always try the chocolate if traveling outside US!), or sports drinks. in Paris one time I became severely dehydrated, there was a US worthy heat wave, and thank goodness I knew the market was just up the block from my hotel. powerade to the rescue!

    1. Lisa I love the grocery store plan! I try to do the same. I love grocery stores in a a big city or in another country. We have a great grocery store in Texas so I love to see how other grocery stores compare.

  4. Like John, I try to stay awake and put myself on the new time schedule, too. More than that, I want to get out and see the world. I drop my bags, grab a map and start walking. Usually I go until I can’t go anymore nd then start forming my plans for the next day.

    Eventually it occurs to me to unpack, but it usually takes a day or two.

  5. “Head Outside” is right! Even when we took a day flight from JFK to London, we still managed to head out at 9PM after checking in to our hotel and venture out to Harrods. You know, it’s just a few blocks walking distance up the street…have to scope the neighborhood, there’s a bar at the corner on the way there… that sort of stuff. Harrods… LOL!!!

    1. What a great idea! You think you’ll never forget it but you can, especially if you’ve had a few “drinks”.

    2. Brilliant! I will from now on take a picture of my room number. I take snaps of the intersection outside the hotel door. When walking I get turned around in a new place. At least then I can show it to a cab driver and get back.

  6. Agree with Jenn – after arriving in London we had breakfast, then a two hour nap.
    After that we went for a whole day of sighseeing and survived.

  7. You forgot disinfect remote control, door knobs, light switches and in-room phone. Swap in-room glasses at the bar for freshly cleaned ones. And…due to several stories I’ve read, look under the bed(s).

  8. Omg! So many grammatical mistakes in this blog! Does anyone proofread it? I could not finish it, as I was noticing a mistake after a mistake!

    1. Svetlana, who cares? People are just having fun, this isn’t school and they aren’t being graded. I’m sorry that you missed the point, I enjoyed reading all the comments.

      1. I care.

        You DO have a point. If you can read something and understand the information the author intended to convey, then they’ve succeeded, no matter how many errors that text may contain. But why is it that such errors are shrugged off, and people who point it out are ridiculed?

        What if you took your car in to get a new paint job, but there were chips in it when it was done? Would you, the person who ignores truly horrific grammar, be OK with that? If not, why not? The car’s mostly blue now, and most people will perceive it as blue instead of red, so the information that “my car is blue” has successfully been transmitted to others. Isn’t that good enough?

        If you order a pepperoni pizza, and one slice completely lacks pepperoni, is that OK? Because you perceive it as being pepperoni pizza, and most of the pizza has pepperoni… isn’t that good enough?

        If it’s not good enough, why then is it OK for a professional media personality to put out such terrible writing?

  9. We are so much alike. I felt so weird reading your article. But it was comforting to know that I am not the only one who experiences a mild and short lived depression even though I love to travel.

  10. Add this to your list. It may save your life.
    Find out which way you have to turn to get to the nearest fire exit. Count how many paces it is from your door to the fire exit door. You may have to do it in the dark or through smoke.

    1. So important! Easy to be disoriented in a strange place. Know your exits and have a reuniting plan with your family or other travelers I especially like the idea of taking pics w cel phone of your room and belongings ????

  11. […] you’re not sure what I mean, let me explain by directing you to this blog post by travel guru Samantha Brown. In it, she describes something which I sometimes feel, as well, but didn’t realize that others […]

  12. I check for bed bugs too! I probably spend 45 nights a year in hotels for both business and pleasure. Never unpack before checking for bed bugs. Sadly, we’ve found them. It sounds like paranoia, but it’s too common and can be awful if you bring them home with you.

  13. I always load the hotels phone numbers and address in my cell phone. And I’ll grab a business card off the front desk if available. Allays my fear of getting lost.

  14. I like to go for a walk too. I stock up on water for my room at the local grocery on my walk and have an early dinner. I take a hot bath and go to bed in the evening. I try to wake up early the next day too.

  15. Since I NEVER sleep on planes, when I go to Europe, I am wiped out by the time I get to my destination having been up for basically 24 hours.I know it is against ALL advice in this article but I always take a 2ish hour nap otherwise I cannot function. Then I am up and out. I never have trouble falling asleep that night either. When I went to London, I took the advice in this article and after walking around for a while we took a hop on hop off bus tour but were too tired to hop on and off. I slept through the ENTIRE trip b/c all my eyes wanted to do was close. I’ve done this every time I go to Europe and it works for me. I need a nap.

  16. I like to find a liquor store and have some wine or cocktail ingredients in the room to save a little money, it’s also nice to grab a drink and go sit by the pool after I get back to the room. I also like to hit a grocery store and grab some fruit, snacks, and easy breakfast things so that I can spend money on a nicer meal later in the day.

  17. Before I venture anywhere, I unpack, set the temperature in my room and then I check out the hotel itself: where’s the ice? Is it free or will I need to remember coins? Where’s the bar? What’s available in the downstairs market? Is there even a downstairs market? Do they have a restaurant? Does the concierge have a map of my surroundings? Where’s the hotel on the map?

    Some hotels are easier than others but it’s the international ones that could be tricky: less familiar and more elaborate.

    It will be your home for the next week or so. Why not learn it and feel welcome every time you walk in?

  18. Another good person to ask about travel times & duration is the cabby that’s taking you from the airport to your hotel after you land.

  19. As soon as I check in to my room or rental, I wash my face, rinse with cold water, and brush my teeth. It’s an instant refresher. Then I’ll do some yoga stretches to get the kinks out from so much sitting and shuffling through long lines. I never put my luggage on the bed or any soft furniture where bud bugs might be hiding, but put it on the desk or luggage rack if there is one. After a check for the little critters behind the headboard and on the mattress, I grab a snack and my keys and head outside. Even if it’s raining. One of my favorite memories and travel photos is walking to St. Paul’s in London in the rain. With my brolly up, I felt like a real Londoner.

  20. A friend who is a frequent traveller gave me a fabulous tip when we travelled together for the first time this summer: find and join a free walking tour on your first day in a city. It helps orient you to good places to visit, where those places are, and often gives you a whole lotta info about the city! We really enjoyed the free walking tour we went on in Nice, France. Tips at the end are appreciated by the tour guide, but for a three hour tour, a few euro is a drop in the bucket! We also made sure to immediately take a hotel business card for each of us in case we got lost.

  21. We write a nightly family blog so I check the WiFi to make sure we have the right passcode. We mostly stay at B&Bs so there’s no front desk to call at 10pm.

  22. We have used many of Samantha’s tips down through the years. Here’s one of ours. When leaving our hotel I always take a picture of the hotel sign and street sign. When getting on and off a subway, in a foreign country, I always take a picture of the station name. I also liked the idea of taking a picture of your room number.

  23. Love these great bits of advice. I’m finally starting to travel again and this will really get me back feeling safe and happy to travel.

  24. It’s not as important as it used to be, but my father traveled to the Orient quite a bit, and he told me he would always get a pack of matches, or card from the hotel and keep it with him. Then if he got lost or simply needed to get back to the hotel, he could hail a cab and show them the matchbook or hotel card to let them know where he needed to go. That really helps if there is a language barrier.

  25. Take a photo of your cabs license… two different trips the hub, then I left 1) carry on backpack 2)my cell phone….worked out both times, but all cabs same color. Got our documents & cell phone back only through the grace of God & good samaritans.

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Yay! You've made it to your final destination! Here are the top things I always do when I arrive at any new destination.
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