Having traveled extensively, I've found that preparing for a trip provides the traveler with less stress and makes for a much more enjoyable adventure. In addition, using "street smarts" while on will make the trip that much easier and trouble free. Below are some suggested things to do, both before departure and while traveling, that may make your trip one to be remembered, not one you wish you could forget!
- First, when you make your travel plans, always consider purchasing travel insurance. (Grand Circle Travel offers travel insurance based on a percentage of the overall cost of your trip.) Not only does travel insurance provide protection for you should the trip have to be canceled (medical, etc.) but the policies provide for reimbursement if a portion of the trip is missed (travel delay). On one trip, our flights to France were delayed and we missed two days of our pre trip ... but we submitted a claim and were reimbursed by the insurance company.
- Next, make a point of placing everything you think you "might" need on your trip in one place ... and then eliminate about half and only take that. Remember that in most travel destinations, you can purchase most things that you might need, and you will often find that the "must have" items usually weren't all that necessary after all.
- With regard to only taking half of your original "must have" items, if on your trip you are located in one place for a week or more, consider having your clothes washed locally once. It will make it easy to take less items, and upon your return home, you'll have room to take back some purchased items from where you have been.
- I know folks will say I sometimes go to extremes (and I do!). But after once seeing all of the clothing in bags belonging to some friends get throughly wet, from being left on the tarmac at Miami during a rain storm, and having every item turn red from the bag's dye, I started using Zip-Loc bags to pack most all of my clothes. I fold each item to fit exactly inside gallon size (10 9/16" X 11") plastic bags, and then place them in my roll-on duffel "standing up." This has the advantage of "filing" them and I can easily see what's in each "filed" plastic bag. It also virtually eliminates the possibility of my clothes getting wet during transfers.
- No matter where or how you are traveling, make it a must to leave home with more than enough time to get to your initial point of departure ... airport, cruise dock, etc. Remember, it only takes one accident on the highway ahead of you to tie up traffic and cause you to miss your transportation.
- In addition to leaving early, I've found that it's easier to go to the departure city a day ahead and spend the night in a local hotel prior to traveling. You eliminate the possibility of having something cause you a delay in getting to the departure point. Many hotels now will permit you to leave your vehicle in their parking lot and use the hotel shuttle van to go to and from the airport, dock, etc., and, in many cases, parking is free! When you'll be traveling for an extended time, the free parking can be a real saving.
- Prior to arriving at the airport or dock, be sure that all your checked luggage is secure and contains a copy of your passport and your home address information. Also, have all your carry-on items set up so they will be easy to submit to the security inspection.
- If you have a computer, it will need to be passed through the x-ray machine by itself. And, of major importance, if you are traveling with someone, have them go through the security checkpoint first and wait, while you submit all the carry-on items through inspection. That will eliminate the possibility of a stranger grabbing your items before you get through the inspection station.
- And, if you are taking along a computer (laptop or netbook), and you have any trouble finding somewhere to access a Wi-Fi connection, most of the MacDonald's restaurants worldwide have on-site, free Wi-Fi (More than 15,000 MacDonald's restaurants are now Wi-Fi enabled around the globe! Click here for MacDonald's Wi-Fi enabled locations). If however, you use a public computer to access the internet and your e-mail accounts, make sure that you don't allow the computer to "save" your logon identification and passwords!
- While it is normal to want a liquid libation as soon as they are available on a plane, remember that on long flights the recommendation is to skip alcoholic and caffeine drinks and, instead drink plenty of water or juice.
- On a long plane flight, be sure to get up out of your seat and walk around from time to time. This will help circulation in your lower legs and feet.
- Be sure to keep your valuables with you onboard your flight. It is far better to carry your valuables bag with you than risk somebody pilfering it while you are in the restroom.
- The following should be followed not only while you are traveling, but all of the time. When using a credit card at a restaurant or in a shop, always take it to the check-out desk personally ... don't allow a waiter or shop employee to take it for you. You want to see it all the time while your purchase is being submitted, to forestall any attempt to separately write down the card number and card verification code (CVC) and later charge multiple items to your card.
- Too many times, too many people think that nothing can happen to them. They don't take precautions to make sure that they don't become a victim of either petty or major crime ... pick pocketing, mugging, etc. Instead, seasoned travelers use secure backpacks, day bags, money belts, etc., and this can greatly reduce the possibility of getting ripped off. (Even "Europe Through The Backdoor" travel expert, Rick Steves, recommends money belts highly, so much so that he personally uses one and sells them on his website!) And, money belts should always be worn under clothing!
- Carry most of your walking around money in your money belt or secure shoulder bag. Only carry small amounts of cash in a pocket ... preferably a buttoned shirt pocket ... just what you might need for minor purchases / expenditures such as buying bottled water, bus and subway tickets, etc. If you use a fanny pack instead of a money belt, be sure to wear it in front and keep your hand on it as much as possible.
- Some day bags, passport neck wallets, etc. have steel cables woven into the straps, and safety mesh woven into the bag itself, to eliminate the possibility of "slash and grab" thefts, especially by thieves riding motorcycles, etc. (Outpac Designs Ltd., makers of Pacsafe, and Magellan's Travel Supplies are just two suppliers of security travel items.)
- In conjunction with the above two tips, don't hang you bag on your shoulder. Wear shoulder bags with the strap worn across the body, and keep your hand on the opening mechanism (clip, clasp, Velcro, zipper, etc.) while out and about. Try to keep from walking along the curb, to prevent someone driving or running by from grabbing the bag off your shoulder. If you feel the bag being pulled, don't fight back unless you want to be dragged by the thief.
- A corollary to the above is not to hang your purse on the back of a chair, it makes it too easy for someone walking by to grab it and run. Keep your bag by your feet, and better still, wrap the strap around your leg.
- To reduce the risk of attracting attention from undesirables, petty criminals and beggars, when traveling always leave your jewelry, expensive watches and most other "bling" at home.
- There are places where beggars tend to congregate on the street. You're urged not to give money to beggars, particularly children, or to anyone accompanied by children. Giving money to them just encourages begging.
- You should always inquire of the hotel staff if there are areas which are unsafe for travelers, either during the day or after dark. Steer clear of such places ... that will go a long way toward you not becoming a travel statistic!
- If you plan to use washcloths while on your trip, bring them from home. Some hotels in Europe, Africa or Asia may not furnish washcloths in the rooms. We always take along a cheap package of them and just leave them when we change hotels. And, consider taking along a small bar of soap and a small package of laundry powder.
- Make a point of obtaining a good, local map as soon as you arrive at a destination. (Grand Circle Travel cruise Program Directors usually have these available for passengers.) This will better enable you to get out and about without having to always resort to asking for directions. You can also consider using a portable GPS unit (both Garmin and TomTom make units which have included maps of many locations, including North America and Europe), to be able to see exactly where you are.
- If you don't already have a good digital camera, you may want to consider getting a small camera ... these have come a long way, as far as producing excellent digital pictures. Large SLRs are heavy and just one more thing to have to lug around. And, consider getting one which uses regular batteries rather than one which uses proprietary batteries. While those batteries are normally rechargable, a charger is just another item to carry with you, and regular AA or AAA batteries can usually be bought most anywhere. Also, make sure to take along some extra memory sticks, SD cards, etc. for your camera. They are small and you can take scads of snapshots without worrying about running out of memory. Talking about cameras, I carry along a small, fold up tripod for long distant and "movie" shots.
- I also always take a small pair of of 8 X 25 binoculars with me. That way, I can view the more distant sights more easily. (I also use 'em when looking at a hotel pool, from the balcony of our room! <smile>)
- It's not always possible to select your total travel itinerary, but I make it a point to "try" and avoid the larger, most traveled airports (Atlanta, Miami, Dulles, JFK, O'Hare, etc.), in order to avoid the madhouse encountered when returning through immigration and customs at each of those locations. Instead, if at all possible, I try to have a smaller airport (such as Charlotte) as my first US destination, in that there are usually fewer incoming foreign flights, and therefore fewer passengers clearing immigration and customs to contend with upon arrival.
The above suggested and recommend do's and don't's and travel tips may not be for you, and that's fine. If you benefit from these, then I've been able to provided some assistance. And, please don't hesitate to take my tips to task ... and do post your best suggested tips as replies here.