Adventure 7 Tips for Adventure with World Explorer Jaci Marie Smith

by Jaci Marie Smith | June 13, 2019

As a travel photographer, each day is a new adventure.

I’ve always had a passion for photography, but really started devoting my work to travel as a subject around three years ago. I had lived in Arizona my whole life and was ready to leave to explore the world and share those experiences through my photos.

It was a total risk, but now it’s something I’ve built into a career that I look forward to doing every day. I try to get the most out of every trip by planning ahead, living in the moment and finding ways to make the experience part of my journey.

With that, here are my top tips to help you make the most out of your next adventure.

1. Plan ahead, but always leave free time to explore.

I do a lot of research ahead of any trip and always put together a rough itinerary. To start, I usually think about one main activity per day, and then focus other plans around it. We often feel the need to plan every second of our trip, but sometimes over-planning can hinder the experience.

I try to leave a whole day open with no plans so I can do something unexpected — like wander a new neighborhood or explore areas outside of a city. These unscheduled outings are when I’ve discovered unique shops, hidden restaurants with local food and some of the best views I’ve ever seen.

Jaci Marie Smith walking across a cobblestone bridge

2. Pack thoughtfully: carry on the essentials, and check the rest.

For me, a flight is the beginning of the adventure so I try to make it as smooth as possible. Be thoughtful about what you’re putting in your carry-on and your checked bag.

For the carry-on, add a little luxury to your flight with an eye mask, noise cancelling headphones and a good playlist or pre-downloaded movies. I also keep my camera and laptop handy if I want to be productive. Oh, and always have a snack handy in your carry-on just in case you need some energy. It can be a lifesaver!

In the checked bag, I pack my clothes, shoes and beauty products. I always try to leave a little extra room so I can bring back a few gifts and mementos.

overhead shot of an opened packed suitcase

3. Arrive at night to feel recharged.

One of my favorite travel hacks — no matter where I’m headed — is to pick a flight that’s arriving at night. I tend to be pretty worn-out after a flight and like to get settled wherever I’m staying. So when I land, I grab a quick bite, then get a good night’s sleep so I’m rested and ready to take on what’s to come. It’s become part of my normal routine. I will even spend a little more on a flight that arrives at night to help make the most of my trip.

landscape view of city at night

4. Make a budget, but plan for the unplanned.

Travel expenses can add up, so it’s important to be realistic and always have extra cash on hand. There are always going to be small costs that you may not think of. I usually put together a rough budget to estimate what everything is going to cost, and then add a good cushion — around 10%.

Also, stop and think before you make that impulse purchase. If you can get it at home or online, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” If on the fence about something, wait until the end of the trip to buy, this way you’ll know if you have extra budget and space in your suitcase for it.

Confession: I do tend to love going to antique shops because they have one-of-a-kind pieces — it can put a dent in my wallet, but these are things I can’t get anywhere else.

Jaci Marie Smith purchasing food from an outdoor vendor

5. Treat yourself — without breaking the bank.

Treating yourself doesn’t have to come with a big price tag. For example, on any trip where I have access to a kitchen or know a local with an apartment, I make a meal that is authentic to the location. Going grocery shopping in a foreign city can be fun and I love experimenting with new foods. I once made pasta on a trip in Italy — it was a completely unique and cultural experience, and more affordable than going out to dinner.

Another option for an affordable splurge? Go out for dessert instead of a full dinner at a notable local spot. You will get the same experience, but won’t spend nearly as much.

Jaci Marie Smith having a meal with a gentleman outside

6. Pick one day to wake up at sunrise.

It’s extremely special and completely different to see a city when the sun is coming up. There are less people, it’s quiet and you won’t get caught in any lines. I’ll never forget the beauty and peacefulness of seeing the Eiffel Tower in the early morning on a recent trip to Paris. It also made for a great photo opportunity.

7. Set aside time for yourself and ditch the tech.

Living in the moment is hard in the digital age. We are always on our phones or laptops and it can feel nearly impossible to disconnect. Leave your work and tech at home for a day to prioritize yourself and your surroundings. I get so much more out of the experience when I’m unplugged. If you need to bring your phone, go off the grid with airplane mode for a few hours each day.

Jaci Marie Smith smelling an orchid

I like to think that travel is an endless journey that can start anywhere, even if it’s an hour’s train ride from your hometown. Follow me on my adventures and get more travel recs: @jacimariesmith.

Jaci Marie Smith


is a photographer and multi-platform content creator who co-hosts the five-star-rated podcast What We Said, is the Co-Owner of two vacation rental cabins (@getawayframe), in addition to creating and running her well-known brand on both YouTube (Jaci Marie), and Instagram @jacimariesmith.