When you first take off on your travels, everyone is full of advice.
Even if it’s not your first trip, everyone has a story about the time when…
Some of them seem obvious, like make sure you know which airport you are flying into (Bangkok has two. Learned that at the not fun time of 2am. Travel!)
Some you learn from years on the road, and getting tired of not having the things you need or knowing which way is up.
Or wearing brand new shoes and nearly crying from blisters by the end of the day #lifelessons…
I learned a few of these things the hard way; some of these travel tips were passed to me from other travelers so I didn’t have to learn for myself.
One girl I met missed her flight home because she never received her wake up call from the hotel. Cost her quite a bit of money to book a new ticket. Lesson learned: always have a backup alarm.
So instead of trying to make sure you’ve remembered everything and forgotten nothing, just follow my awesome list of travel tips instead. You’re welcome 😉
25 of the Best Travel Tips:
Before You Leave:
Call your bank and credit card companies.
If they know you’re in Bangladesh, they won’t block your card from being used. You do not want to be caught in a foreign land without access to funds. You can set up travel advisories for the exact length of your trip.
Or if you’re like me, you can say, “I’ll be in South America for 6 months. Maybe 7. I don’t know. I’ll call you when I’m back.” This works too, but be sure to monitor your card once a month for fraud.
Take Out Cash.
It’s never a good idea to rely on cards alone. Always have a few hundred dollars (or equivalent) before you go anywhere. Cash is king.
Make a Copy of your Passport.
I usually email a scanned copy to my mother and myself. Then I print one to keep with me in a separate place from my actual passport.
While you’re doing that check to make sure your passport doesn’t expire while you’re abroad. Most countries require AT LEAST more than 6 months before expiration to let you enter.
Don’t Trust Technology.
If you rely on your phone for all your travel details, you might find yourself SOL.
I always carry a small notebook where I can write down important details. Flight times and numbers, address of my first lodging and important phone numbers in case of an emergency. It’s come in handy more than once.
Don’t rely on your smart phone in case it runs out of battery. Not a nice feeling.
Packing for Your Trip:
You Don’t Need It.
Pack. Then pack again. I always spread everything out a few days before, and slowly remove items I know I actually won’t need. Repack a third time.
Somehow when I’m home, I can wear sweatpants for a week. But when I start to pack for travel I go bananas. What if it floods?? I will need 27 pairs of socks! Maybe the Queen will invite me to tea..? I’ll need this formal gown and a fancy hat!
No. You don’t need it. Save some space for souvenirs too.
Pack your Carry On Smartly
If you can, ONLY pack a carry on.
If you can’t, make sure you have a change of undies, a toothbrush, a swimsuit and a sweater. That way you’re ready for anything even if your luggage arrives two days after you.
Plus we all know it can get freezing on a plane.
Have a Day’s Supply of Emergency Meds.
You do not need to bring your entire medical cabinet. But it’s a good idea to have a small medical kit in case you get sick in the middle of the night and the pharmacy isn’t open.
Literally one of everything will suffice until you can get to a pharmacy, but feel free to have a few extra. For example, Imodium tablets, a band aid, antibiotic cream, an antihistamine pill etc…
Bring Single Use Laundry Soap Packets.
If you’re going to be on the road for a while, these are super useful so you don’t have to pack 42 pairs of undies.
Just make sure you have time to let everything dry before you pack it again. Pro tip 😉
Sarong = Your Best Friend.
It’s a scarf. It’s a towel. You can fold it up and use at a pillow. It’s a dress. It’s a blanket. Literally, the most useful thing I have ever packed. Plus it doesn’t take up much space!
At The Airport or Border:
Always Have a Pen.
You always have to fill out forms. And there are never enough pens. Plus you get to be the hero to someone else who didn’t bring one. Just put one in your bag, trust me.
Check in Online.
Planes ALWAYS overbook, as a general rule. I forgot to check in online once only to arrive at the airport (2 hours early mind you) to be told I had been put on stand by.
Which meant I missed my connecting flight. LAME.
It makes sense to check in online if you can. Most flights allow this 24 hours before the flight, so set a reminder for yourself, and don’t worry about it at the airport.
Check Your Visa Stamps!
Make sure they have the correct date on them, and are for the length of time agreed upon. A fellow traveler I met spent over a WEEK at her embassy trying to fix her visa stamp because the customs agent had written the wrong date and it looked like she had overstayed.
It’s also worth asking if you can have more time. I did this at the border into Bolivia from Argentina. They normally give one month, and then you have to extend at a customs office. I just asked if I could have three and he gave it to me. Just for asking. And smiling J
Have a Plan Before you Land/Arrive:
This is makes your first day so much more relaxing. Know which bus to take, or how much a taxi costs in general.
The tourist booths at airports or bus stations are good for this, but you might land late when they aren’t open. Ask the person you are sitting next to on the plane. Or the flight attendant. Someone knows. And make sure to WRITE down the address of where you’re staying! (See #4)
Put Something Bright on Your Bag.
If you did check luggage, then make sure to put a neon ribbon on the handle. Or something else unique that can help you identify it. Or help you find it.
I panicked once when I couldn’t find my bag, not realizing the bag had made off the plane before me. Then I saw it sitting in a pile of unclaimed luggage with a hot pink scrunchie on it. Crisis averted.
During Your Travels:
Know the Exchange Rate.
I always (almost always) use a bank to exchange money or withdraw from an ATM. They usually have the best rates, even better than the ones at the airport.
If that’s not an option or you need cash quickly, make sure to be informed on what the current exchange rate is so you don’t get ripped off!
Never Pass Up an Opportunity to Pee.
You never know how long it will be before you see the next one. Even if you don’t have to go, just empty your bladder when you can. Your body will thank you.
AND carry TP or tissues with you. These are very handy in countries that don’t see that as a necessity. Or if you run out of small change…
Learn a Few Key Phrases.
You can get far and people will be friendly if you can say, “hello”, “please”, “excuse me” and “thank you”. This makes you a good traveler, and a conscience one. Locals generally love if you try at all to speak their language.
It can also help you find the bathroom. See above 😉
Never take the Last Bus or Train.
I’ve been stranded in many a station because of this. Take the second to last one. That way if you are running late or something goes amiss, you have a back up plan.
Keep a Hand on Your Bag.
Not an eye. A hand.
A friend of mine had her bag stolen TWICE in two different countries because she put her bag next to her, thinking she would notice if it went missing. Nope.
Even on a bus, put your foot through one of your bags (or backpacks) straps. This way you’ll notice if it starts moving.
Always Agree on a Price Beforehand
If you are in a place where prices are flexible, make sure to have this discussion before you get in the taxi or take the tour. You do not want to be surprised when you arrive somewhere. And then argue. In the street. Not good.
No one likes to be hangry. I know I don’t think straight when all I want to do is eat. Keep a granola bar in your bag in case you get stuck at a bus station in the middle of the night and nothing is open. And you last ate at 2pm.
Low blood sugar makes us all crazy.
Maybe you don’t like to write about your experiences, but you will be so happy you did. I love reading my old journals and remembering stories I had forgotten.
Pictures are great, but they can’t capture a feeling or a mood. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s important to stay safe when you are traveling. Be aware of your surroundings and make the best decisions based on the information you have.
Trust your gut.
Remember to Let Go Too.
Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying yourself. Or let worry stop you from having a good time.
Sometimes things go wrong. Accept it. Find a way to make it a part of your journey.
You can’t do all the things. You can’t see all the things. Make a list of the top 3 adventures you want to have, and focus on that.
Let everything else be a bonus.
Hopefully you won’t have to learn any of these lessons the hard way. Because you read this handy dandy list, so you are super ready to travel! You smarty pants you.
When you travel, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. But don’t forget you are traveling to have fun, so don’t get too caught up if you forgot to pack band aids.
You’ll be fine. And it will all be great in the end. As my Dad used to say, “If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” Have fun out there!
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