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Guide to getting lost on vacation (and what to do if it happens to you)

Getting lost when you’re away from home, especially when traveling in a foreign country, can be an unsettling experience. Maps and navigation apps do a great job of keeping us on track, but what should you do if you lose your way? First, don’t panic. Getting lost can actually be a good thing. After all, traveling is about exploring new things and discovering new places.

On the other hand, if your idea of the perfect vacation is knowing where you are at all times, we have some tips on helping you find your bearings. But first, take a moment to consider the advantages of losing yourself in a new place.

Discover the art of getting lost

Traveling puts us in unfamiliar surroundings and gives us opportunities to get away from everything we know. Plotting the most direct route to the next landmark is very efficient, but as the writer Ray Bradbury once said, “There’s nothing better than to walk around Paris and not know where in hell you are.”

Getting lost can be an adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life—and an opportunity to stumble upon something unexpected. Better yet, it’s a great way to meet new people who will help you find your way back to wherever you want to be.

How not to get lost on vacation

If you want to make sure you never get lost on vacation, following a few simple tips can help.

  1. Plan ahead  When it comes to traveling like a pro, a little planning goes a long way. Read travel guides, watch travel shows and take a deep dive into travel websites, paying particular attention to the personal reviews. Also, talk to friends who’ve made the same trip before. Make lists of sights you want to see and things you want to do. Spend time researching restaurants and nightlife.
  2. Get to know your neighborhood  Write down the name and address of the hotel where you're staying and learn how to say the name. Take time to get to know the area. Is your hotel located near a famous landmark or popular destination? Are there any well-known buildings, restaurants or shops nearby? If you need to ask someone for directions, they might not know your specific hotel, but most people are familiar with local landmarks and shops.
  3. Learn the lingo  One fun thing about traveling abroad is learning to speak a new language. You don't have to become fluent, but memorizing a few key phrases can come in handy. It also shows locals that you're interested in being more than just a tourist. A couple of weeks before you leave, set a goal of practicing one phrase every day. Better yet, download a free language app. Get started with these phrases:Hi. My name is… Excuse me. Do you know where…  I'm lost. Can you help me…  Is there a train station nearby?
  4. Carry emergency cash  Always have the equivalent of at least $50 in the local currency in your wallet, a little more or less depending on your destination. Carrying cash and other important documents in a money belt is your safest bet, but that might not work if you're heading to the beach. No matter what happens—whether you become separated from your group or your phone dies—you’ll know you have the funds you need to get back to where you’re staying.
  5. Have the right travel insurance  When you’re abroad, a good travel insurance policy that includes both medical and traveler’s assistance offers added peace of mind. If you have a SafeTrip Travel protection plan, for instance, you’ll have access to 24-hour travel assistance through the Global Emergency Response Center. You can send and receive emergency messages toll-free and get an emergency cash advance.

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