Friday, January 13, 2012

A few travel tips....

You can find hundreds of useful travel tips on sites that sell travel gear. I've picked up many great tips from them and from fellow travelers over the years. Here are a few suggestions based on my personal experience that might be helpful:

Use plastic packing bags you squeeze the air out of. They work. I can get twice as much in a suitcase when I use them, particularly when packing sweaters or bulky stuff.

Keep everything valuable in your carry-on: cameras, Ipads, phones, medical stuff. Don't buy one of those carry-on's with a zillion pockets. Pain in the butt. Unless you use the thing for weeks you'll always be searching through nooks and crannies for something. Equally useless is a bag with one big cavity. Something with a few zipper compartments and an outer pocket or two is best. If you buy a new bag, try it out for a week or so before going. Some of these things just feel awkward..maybe they hit your body at the wrong spot or slip off your shoulder or something. Better to know ahead of time and buy another bag if you choose poorly the first time. I have a very light Donna Karan backpack I bought a dozen years's traveled the world with me and I can't find anything to replace it. It just feels right on my shoulder, carries just enough. For me it's perfect...might not be for you.

Take old clothes you can throw away. We always look like crap when on the road anyway. Clothes get wrinkled and you have to wear them many times before the opportunity for laundry crops up - it's just inevitable that you won't look your best on the road...relax and go with it. In Asia we buy cheap clothes in the markets and wear them while we're there. Sometimes they get tossed - a few pieces have made it home.

When we have some old underwear around we wear it and toss it. When we're packing underwear to wash, obviously we take the lightest possible stuff that can be washed in a sink, towel dried and finished off in the morning with the hair dryer if necessary.

Get a fresh haircut. Hair is always easier to manage for the first two or three weeks after a cut.

Divide toiletries among three or four small bags. I put the hair stuff in one, cosmetics/make up in one, the toothpaste and deodorant in a third. The kind of bag you hang on a door hook is the handiest because it doesn't take up the valuable and rare counter space in the bathroom.

We sleep in light stretchy sweatshirts and sweat pants. Nothing that screams of sleepy time. Just plain or lightly patterned and then you can wear them out in public in a pinch. Stretchy and snug (not tight) is good for cold weather travel because you can use them as a layer if necessary.

Scan your passport cover pages, driver's license, itinerary, credit card info (including the back side which has the lost card number and the out-of-country number) and email it to yourself. No matter where you are or what happens you can get always get these copies. Email is available everywhere.

Do yourself and others a favor and wear slip-on shoes for the airports.

Get some kind of sleeping potion so you can konk out on the plane. We take an ambien and it works just fine. Take the pill, whatever it is, before you eat and it will be most effective.

Keep a small flashlight on the night stand to prevent possible trips or falls en route to the bathroom in the dark and to avoid turning on the room lights and waking up your room mate or spouse. Good for reading in the middle of the night if you don't have an ereader (buy one!) and do have insomnia.

Do not bother with jewelry. Nobody is looking at you (sorry about that) and furthermore you don't want anybody to be looking at you. Often when you're traveling and in unfamiliar circumstances,  you can get a bracelet caught on something or a necklace as it swings down in front when you bend over to pick something up. If you must wear something decorative, take inexpensive unsentimental items you can lose or have stolen without regrets.

Don't buy anything new "for the trip" at the last minute. Buy shoes at least a month ahead to break them in, wash new clothes at least once so any shrinkage will have already taken place and wear the items for a day or two to make sure nothing is binding, scratchy, pulling, stretching, sagging or needs a belt. Don't buy a new camera.....I see people so often trying to figure out the new camera just when the great shot is going by. If you're going to acquire a new one, do it well ahead of time.

Don't plan on wearing anything white.

Ever since my suitcase was lost en route to Jordan and Richard's wasn't, I think it's a good idea to cross pack at least one set of underwear. I had to wear his shorts for a couple of days until my suitcase was located and delivered to the hotel. The chance of both suitcases being lost is slim. If you're traveling alone, pack a change of undies in your carry-on.

Take a GPS if you have a portable one you're used to.  Even if the car comes with one take yours anyway just in case (presumably you know how it works). They are invaluable. In Europe hotels and B&B's will give you map coordinates to input which further simplifies matters. A small compass is handy when you're walking around a strange town and now they have a small personal GPS which I think we may purchase for our next trip (buy it at least a month ahead to get familiar with it).

When you're staying one night or two nights in a spot DON'T UNPACK. Just work out of the suitcase, then everything is contained in one might become one big messy heap but at least you know where things are. I've traveled with people who take everything out of the bag and put the stuff in bureau drawers, night stand drawers etc. And of course they forget something when they pack up to leave.

Do a double check of the room when you leave. If there are two of you, one should become the bathroom expert, the other the sleeping room/closet expert. Do the first inspection in your area of expertise and then change off. Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one. We've left things in drawers, showers, on closet floors and dark shelves. We've left books which slipped under the bed or a sofa cushion or were left in the heap of messed up sheets - falling asleep reading. This will happen less frequently as we travel with e-readers and don't use regular books.

Voltage converters or chargers. Put a blob of day glo paint on these things so they stand out when you scan the room and you'll see that you've left them in the plug.

A couple of plastic bags are always handy for dirty laundry. You can distribute a few bags around in your suitcase (instead of having one big lump to work around). They're also good for the obvious - damp laundry or a bathing suit or dirty shoes. 

Keep notes. I love my travel pictures but I don't think one picture is worth a thousand words...some, but not all. Reading back over the notes is at least as much fun as the pictures and the notes have the pithy details: hotel names, restaurant names, prices, names of people, anecdotes, personal impressions.  Things people ask about. Nobody wants to look at your pictures. Trust me.  Sometimes I take scotch tape and tape ticket stubs etc. into the note book although I'm getting lazier about this all the time. I must say they are fun to keep and look back on years later...the small memorabilia trigger memories and aid recall.  

Drugs: We always carry as basics an anti-diarrhea medicine, pain killers, an antibiotic and sleeping pills - then there are various things each of us needs and keeps track of..Richard's arthritis stuff, my ibuprofen.

Stop in at a local drugstore for the regional novelties/remedies which are sometimes available over the counter unlike in the U.S. or are just better products - we buy Panadol (pain) in Australia and Bali, 222's (aspirin with codeine) in Canada, cold sore medicine (anti-herpes virus at half the US price) in Singapore, roll-on insect repellent (smells good -very effective)  in Bangkok.

A trip to the grocery store is equally as much fun. In Europe you could spend days in these (I have)...there's not much you can bring back to the U.S. , but it's fun to buy and try foods while you're there. When we can, we rent an apartment with a small kitchen facility (microwave, refrigerator, small stove) and this gives us an opportunity to try many things, plus the convenience of eating breakfast in our pyjamas, having a little more elbow room and the pleasure of the hints and tips other renters leave behind.  We've always rented spots through the internet and have never had a disappointment. We've rented apartments in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Bali, Hawaii, Tuscany, Cannes (Australia), Spain, Portugal, Sorrento, Argentina, Chile and most recently Jerusalem. In most of the apartments we've rented the landlord has left at least a list of local restaurants of interest. There are often guide books either deliberately or accidentally left behind, with pages dog-eared (good sign), notes in the margins. In some apartments they've left names of cab drivers to ask for, metro routes for popular sites, phone information etc. If you're in a pinch of some kind, the landlords can point you in the right direction - we've never had to ask for this kind of help ourselves but they have all offered. Think Concierge+++.

We carry our eye glass prescription just in case our glasses are lost, but also to have glasses made - often a bargain in Asia. We've had them made in Vietnam, Burma and Singapore. You could email this prescription information to yourself same as you do the passport info.

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever thought to collect all these useful infos and write a humorous tour guide? (I'm serious).