Monday, July 27, 2015

50 Travel Tips

I've been compiling a list of travel tips for the past few months. I came up with 50, though I suspect I'll be able to keep adding to the list as I learn and experience more.
A lot of what I'm putting in this list has been shared before in separate posts. I thought it would be nice to compile everything.
  1. Don't spend money you don't have. Booking a trip on credit is just asking for trouble. Heaven forbid anything major happen while you're abroad, but if it does and you don't have a financial cushion to fall back on, it could be horrible.
  2. Review and understand the cancellation policies before you book anything. And call or email to confirm your hotel reservations.
  3. Always do a thorough "background check" of the hotels you're considering. Find out when the last renovation was, read reviews, and look at non-professional photos to get an actual feel for the accommodations.
  4. Update your social media and gladly brag about your upcoming trip. Your friends may have restaurant suggestions, a favorite site, cool activities, etc.
  5. Email scanned copies of your passport and driver's license to yourself, as a "just in case" thing.
  6. Make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your trip and beyond if necessary for the country you are visiting. Several countries have rules that you will not be allowed in if your passport is expiring in less than six months.
  7. Set up travel notifications with your bank and credit card companies, unless you like being denied and embarrassed by shopkeepers. And make sure you have money in your accounts before you go!
  8. If you're heading to a popular gastronomic capital (re: Paris, Barcelona, Bologna), research restaurants ahead of time so that you're not overwhelmed with choices once you're there. If you find a renowned, worthwhile spot, make reservations.
  9. Find out if your destination requires you to apply for a visa, even just for a quick holiday.
  10. Get in shape before you go. You'll likely be walking a lot and enduring long days of sightseeing and activities so you want to be sufficiently prepared.
  11. Invest in a spinner rolling carry on bag. They are convenient and awesome and make walking through the airport a breeze. My month long Euro-trip was done with a duffel and my back has never been the same.
  12. Check the allowable luggage weight and dimensions and make sure you're packing accordingly. It's not only airlines who place these limits on customers; trains and buses often enforce carry on limits too.
  13. Make a packing list so you won't forget anything.
  14. Pack an extra camera battery and memory card. They're so tiny and you'll be happy to have them if you need them.
  15. Never pack brand new, unworn clothing items. Always give your clothes, shoes, (heck) even underwear a spin before taking it on a trip. You don't want to be there and realize something doesn't fit quite right: the shoes give you blisters, the underwear slips down as you walk, the bra has a pointy boob-effect, etc.
  16. Pack extra underwear in your carry on. As adults, we hope we're potty-trained but sometimes accidents happen. I'M KIDDING but I'm also not kidding. In all seriousness though, if a flight gets canceled, if you decide to extend the trip by a few days, or your luggage gets lost, you'll be grateful to have those extra knickers.
  17. Pack a dryer sheet in your suitcase; just tape it to the bottom of the bag. It will perfume your luggage so everything smells amazing when you land in your destination. It will also disguise the stink so that your laundry isn't festering for days until you arrive back home.
  18. Pack your own headphones. They'll drown out the noise of the airplane engine, crying babies, noisy neighbors, etc. Plus, wouldn't you rather have your own headphones instead of borrowing a pair of used, potentially germy headphones from the airline?
  19. Pack your own in-flight entertainment. If (like me) you're too cheap to pay the greedy airlines for a selection of crappy (re: guilty pleasure) movies, you'll need to entertain yourself. And, if for some reason, the system is down or you're boarding an old-as-f airplane without individual television sets, you're covered. And, I recommend buying a trashy magazine at the airport. You can read it on the flight and then leave it in the seat back pocket for the next person.
  20. Pack light. No one in the history of mankind (since wanderlust became a thing) has ever wished their luggage was heavier.
  21. Use packing cubes to keep your stuff organized.
  22. Plan your outfits ahead of time and you'll save yourself valuable sightseeing time once you're abroad.
  23. Leave valuable jewelry at home. Anything you might be devastated to lose, leave at home. I once flushed a ring down the toilet by accident; I've learned my lesson.
  24. Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and face wash on board (plane, train, and even bus) and freshen up en route. That way, you're not scaring the customs agent with a greasy face and bad breath.
  25. If you don't speak the native language of your destination, try and be bothered to at least learn a few key phrases. "Hello," "Please," "Excuse me," "Thank you," "Yes," "No," and "Bye," are a great start. I love Duolingo for learning the basics.
  26. Check into your flight as soon as you're able. You'll be able to lock down your seats, which is pretty important. If your flight is an overbooked one and you don't check in immediately, you might end up on the stand-by list, which would be really stupid. Don't jeopardize your trip!
  27. Get to the airport early. It sucks to sit around waiting for your flight to board, yes, but it sucks even more to miss a flight. Same goes for buses and trains.
  28. Don't be that person in the security line who takes forever to remove shoes and the ziptop baggie of liquids and forgets to remove a laptop from its case. Wear shoes that are easy to remove, take off your coat, unzip your laptop case, and get your liquids baggie ready whilst you're queued up so that you can breeze through the scanners.
  29. Don't be that person that queues up to board the plane before they've even called your zone. It's rude and annoying.
  30. Poop before you get on the plane. I know this one's venturing into "Eww, gross!"-territory but seriously, there's nothing worse than holding in poop on an airplane, except maybe being the person who stinks up the airplane. Both are equally terrible.
  31. Drink lots of water. Airplanes are incredibly dry environments so keep hydrated, lest you arrive at your destination with gross skin and giant undereye bags. Buy a big bottle before you get on board. And, once you're abroad and combatting jet-lag, water will refresh you.
  32. Do stretches before, during, and after the plane ride. Do stretches before, during, and after a long day of sightseeing. Being stiff and sore during a trip is the worst so it's better to look like a little bit of a loser for five minutes than to walk around achy for five days.
  33. Not everything that's popular is worthwhile so make an effort to see lesser-known sites instead of heading to the tourist traps like a lemming. My first time at the Louvre, I ran through the building to see the Mona Lisa (because the museum was about to close). When I got there, I was like, "Uh, that's it?" It was small, roped off so I couldn't even get close enough to admire the details, and there were a jillion smelly people standing around it so I couldn't even enjoy being in its presence.
  34. If you're exchanging cash before you leave, pack it safely. Spread a little bit of cash into different pockets of different bags for emergency situations but pack the bulk of your cash into a really safe spot in your carry on. Please, don't pack loads of cash into your checked luggage that has a potential to get lost.
  35. If you can buy advance tickets to an attraction, do it. You can skip the queues and feel like a badass. And honestly, these days, most attractions offer ticket sales online so it's super easy.
  36. Blend in. Leave the graphic Ts and douchey wayfarers at home. Try and look not-so-touristy so that you're not a blazing target for scammers and pickpockets.
  37. Keep your belongings secure and clutch your bag to your chest in crowds to thwart pickpockets. I left my bag open (so I could nestle a giant Evian bottle into it) and got pickpocketed in Paris on my way to Barcelona. It was pretty terrible, and obviously really stupid on my part.
  38. When you arrive at your hotel, keep your belongings clustered, not cluttered. Put all of your clothes in one drawer, keep your toiletries nestled on one shelf in the bath, leave your tech items on one nightstand, etc. When it comes time to pack up and leave, you're less likely to leave anything behind if your stuff isn't spread out all over the place.
  39. If plans get messed up or you run into an issue (like my pickpocketing incident), don't panic. Breathe and calm down so you can think clearly and make rational decisions. After I realized my wallet was missing (which was while I was trying to make a purchase at the Agatha store), I freaked out and tried to retrace my steps to find my wallet - ha! Good luck, Rach! Luckily, I had still had metro tickets to the airport and boarding passes to Barcelona nestled in the bottom of my bag. We made it to Barca and then called home to have some money wired over and the rest of the trip was great. Don't let a little snafu ruin your fun!
  40. Talk to the locals. They can tell you where to eat, help you discover hidden gems, and give you a feel for what it's like to actually live there.
  41. Know and follow the appropriate tipping customs. In Europe, tipping at restaurants is seldom necessary. I mean, save your money when you can, right? That being said, always tip the hotel housekeeping staff. Leave tiny cards or a few post-it notes in your luggage all the time so you can jot down a quick 'Thank you!' (along with a few bucks) before you leave.
  42. Keep a packet of tissues in your pocket or bag - I'm looking at you, ladies. If you encounter a toilet without any paper, you'll have a backup plan.
  43. Take lots and lots of photos, assuming you have a digital camera. The "film" is almost endless (especially if you packed that spare memory card as I recommended above) and it's better to have too many than not enough.
  44. But don't leave your eyes stuck to your camera viewfinder. Pause and enjoy your surroundings too.
  45. Don't scroll through the photos on your camera and waste the battery (to relive something that just happened). You can always look at them when you're back at your hotel but if you miss a shot later on in the day because of a dead battery (due to your idiotic curiosity) that is a moment lost forever and you will hate yourself.
  46. Don't use a selfie stick. It's another "I'm a tourist!" sign. Look for someone trustworthy to take a photo - maybe a couple that asked you to take their photo can return the favor - or go with the old standby arm-reaching-out selfie.
  47. If you have the chance, backup your photos while you're abroad. Should you encounter a problem (like a sticky-fingered camera thief or perhaps a ditzy incident where you accidentally leave the camera somewhere) you'll have preserved at least some of your photos.
  48. Keep track of your expenses. This is especially important if you're dealing with foreign currency and a credit card because you'll want to do a double check of the exchange rates later on.
  49. Respect your own body. If you're feeling exhausted or feel a little cold coming on, head back to your hotel and relax and give yourself some time to heal. You can't enjoy your holiday if you're sick.
  50. Journal whilst on your trip. You'll be grateful for the memories later on.
I plan on adding to this list as I come up with more tips. Perhaps in a year or two, I'll have a 'Part 2' for you.

xoxo.

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