Have the best New Year's Eve

I'LL TAKE BERLIN: Where I'll be celebrating.
I'LL TAKE BERLIN: Where I'll be celebrating.

The best night of the year is usually the worst. It gets so hyped up, New Year's Eve, but it often seems to wind up with frustrated, sober people wandering the back streets at 3am looking for non-existent taxis to take them home so they can pretend this whole thing never happened.

It can be even more of a gamble for travellers, where getting your NYE party on is made that little bit more difficult by the fact that you have no idea what you're doing or where you're going.

Done right though, it can be the best night of your life. As I'll be doing my countdown in Berlin this year, I've been thinking about the ways to ensure the first hours of 2013 are spent in the best way possible.

Don't over-plan.

Just like any other night of the year, the best NYEs are often the ones with the least amount of planning. It's all about those crazy nights when you stop and think, "How did I even get here?" So don't get all obsessed with the "be in this club by this time" mentality – just go with the flow and take a few chances.

It's about company, then place.

So you've got this amazing venue in mind, but no one else wants to go? Forget about it. You can be perched on a balcony with fireworks exploding metres from your face, but if you haven't got fun people around then it's not going to be much of a night. Go where your friends want to go.

Scout out your venue beforehand.

This might contradict the advice to not over-plan, but if you're really set on one venue for the night it's worth checking it out beforehand. Don't just book something you found on the internet – arrive in the city a few days early and hang out in a few of the potential NYE nightspots. You'll pretty quickly figure out if they're going to be good for the big day.

Ensure you're in a place that cares.

Just because you're overseas doesn't mean you're in a city that does a good New Year's Eve celebration. In some places NYE just isn't a big deal. Do a little research before you go to make sure you're not the solo idiot running around town looking for someone to kiss at midnight.

Fireworks are overrated.

This is just a personal preference, and really nothing to do with travel, but hey, I've got the floor. Why do people sacrifice an entire night just to be in a good position to see 10 minutes of explode-y lights in the sky? I can't figure it out.

Identify your target crowd: travellers or locals.

Do you want to hang with drunken backpackers such as yourself, or pretend you're a local for the night? You could be in for a wildly different experience, depending on which way you choose to go. Once again, it comes down to research. Ask around at the hostel if you want to be with the travel set; chat to a few locals if you want to find out where they're planning to go.

Whoa tiger. Pace yourself.

I know it's tempting to crack the first beer at 10am. After all, you gotta start these things the way you intend to finish them. But as my mate Dave, who fell out of a truck window in Zimbabwe one New Year's Eve and knocked himself unconscious, could attest, it's sometimes best to pace yourself. At least wait until after midday to start boozing - it's a long day. And eating is not cheating.

Don't leave with any of the following people:

The Cambodian guy with the motorbike and the cheap weed; the German who knows where there's a crazy party; the hammered Australian guy who definitely knows his way home from here; the English girl who's feeling a little bit unwell; the dude selling roses; anyone with more tattoos than you.

Leave your passport at home. And your bank card. And anything else you value.

If ever there's a night when you're likely to lose things, it's this one. And if ever there's a day when you don't want to deal with having lost things, it's tomorrow. Cancelling cards, replacing passports? Blergh. So be smart and leave anything you really don't need for your NYE back at the hostel. Preferably in a safe place.

Don't plan to check out on New Year's Day.

I've done this before, and it's mental. Why, oh why, would you plan to check out of your accommodation on the day after the biggest night of the year? Doesn't matter how well you think you'll bounce back, or how small you think your night will be, this plan will inevitably wind up with a still-drunk you trying to negotiate check-outs and taxis and transfers and airports with the onset of the world's worst hangover. Just stay another day.

And that's it! Merry Christmas everyone, and have a happy, safe New Year. Provided I'm not lost forever in Berlin somewhere after not following any of my own advice, I'll see you in 2013. The blog returns in mid-January.

What are your tips for a successful NYE overseas? What's been your most memorable holiday New Year's?

Sydney Morning Herald