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Editor Pick

Top Things to Do When You Arrive at Your Destination

Updated: June 14, 2024

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 and 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 tablet 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 five minutes to figure out what position the knob has to be in for hot water to arrive. I would rather not do that at 6 a.m. standing on a cold tile floor.

Let Loved Ones 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 and 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 for a guest with sticky fingers. So I make sure that I never have any of my personal items within 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 an hour, but four 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 enamoured where I have a greater sense of childlike wonder, a perfect mindset 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 and 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 No. 5 wouldn’t be "NOW GO HEAD OUT AND HAVE FUN!" but instead "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 than when my budget has to go toward a generic fleece zip-up rather than some beautiful piece of pottery, a bottle of high-end olive oil or a great meal.

About AAA Travel and Samantha Brown

New places, different perspectives and heartwarming people around the world sharing their day...what’s not to love? That’s why AAA Travel is sponsoring Season 2 of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”—offering you added insight that brings our trusted travel information to life.

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