My 2¢ on Travel (okay, more like $2.00)

I've done a bit of travelling in my life so far and have learned some lessons along the way.  I love sharing my thoughts and tips with others, so hopefully they can have a wonderful trip and not get caught in any hiccups along the way.  Trying not to ramble too much, I've limited myself to 5 points per topic.  Here goes....!

  1. Where and when are you going? Trying to hit a spot right before or after their peak tourism period can be best.  You can beat the crowds, sometimes it means cheaper hotels and flights and it's likely you'll still be able to get the good weather.
  2. Get a good guidebook.  My favorite is Rick Steves.  When there's no Rick Steves, I go to Rough Guides.  
  3. Use search engines for deals, but always try to book directly with the hotel or airline.  I feel like if I have any problems or changes, it's easier to deal with customer service if you purchased from them.  *I always seem to find good airfares 3 weeks in advance for U.S. travel and 3 months in advance for international travel.  This does not include holiday travel or account for the rising oil prices.
  4. Check with your destination on arrival requirements.  Do you need a travel visa in advance? Can you get one "on arrival"? Do you need to have evidence of certain vaccinations? Are there customs restrictions on what can be brought in (food, prescriptions, etc.)? 
  5. Will there be any local holidays where you're travelling? Sometimes this is great for local experiences, but it can be bad if everything is shut down and your to-do list is shot for the day.

Websites I Like (and what I like them for)
  1. (global flights)
  2. (flights in Asia)
  3. (hotel reviews and forums for answering questions)
  4. (even if you don't want a tour, they can inspire some itinerary ideas)
  5. (posting pictures when you're home & making picture books)

  1. You will undoubtedly bring back more than what you came with.  Pack and depart with only one bag (not expanded) so that you can easily bring home two.  A gaudy duffel bag, cheap backpack, or faux designer carry-on are all fun options for souvenirs to purchase along the way and give you extra packing room for the trip home.
  2. Open your suitcase.  Then, lay out all the things you want to bring on the trip next to the open suitcase. It will never all fit.  Don't expand to a second bag, but whittle it down to make it fit.  I still find I have clean clothes when I come home.  Even try taking cheap or old clothes that can be thrown away at the end of the day.  One less thing to pack and carry each day. *My cheat sheet is at the bottom.
  3. Always pack some extra ziploc bags (gallon and quart size).  They take up no room and are perfect for dirty or damp clothes and preventing any liquid spills.  
  4. Make sure any plug-in items you bring are 220/110 volts so you don't need a converter.  You will still need a plug adapter.  One adapter that can fit multiple sockets is the most convenient.
  5. Copies of all your personal items is good to have with you, but scanned copies on your web email account is almost better.  Then, they are always accessible from your local internet cafe or wifi hotspot.  Items to scan: passport, travel visa, flight details, hotel details, front and back of credit cards and ATM, insurance cards, key contact names, addresses and numbers.

Things to Bring
  1. Day bag - be it a large purse, back pack or over the shoulder satchel. 
  2. Plastic - your ATM and credit cards (Visa & Mastercard for sure) are your best friend.  I've never gone wrong finding an ATM at the airport to get local currency - much better rates than exchanging a bunch of cash or having traveler's cheques.  **Be sure to tell your bank/credit card company before your trip though so their fraud department doesn't put your card on hold.
  3. Personal entertainment - something small, but something from home you can enjoy (book, ipod, deck of cards, magazine, journal).
  4. Comfy, wear-anywhere shoes.  If you're like me, you'll walk a lot.
  5. Snacks.  If you have a long flight, you will want snack foods for between meals (or instead of meals).  Also, depending if you're a picky eater, a granola bar or two a day may be a good idea :).  I like to bring Cheerios, trail mix, M&M's, granola/breakfast bars.

Once You're There
  1. Save souvenir shopping for the end so you don't have to lug things around.  If you know you want something bigger, heavier or more expensive, maybe arrange your itinerary so that place is at the end.
  2. When in doubt, get bottled water.  In Asia, most hotels provide complimentary 1-2 bottles of water for teeth brushing, morning routine, etc.  I haven't had bad problems, but I do try to be careful.
  3. I always plan for about 10 things in the day and do about 3 :).  You won't see it all.  Know your must-see/do items, the other stuff along the way is extra.  Take time for long dinners and restful afternoons. Plus, you're bound to miss one train or bus.  Always allow extra travel time.
  4. Make sure someone in your group is taking pictures (and get copies when you're home).  I try to take pictures of the signs at tourist spots then a picture of the actual item so that later on I remember what it is :).
  5. Know how to say "Hello", "Do you speak English?" and "Thank you" in the local language.  So many people know English, but just trying their local language will make them so happy and helpful.

Little Gadgets
  1. Band aid stick for when you feel a blister coming.
  2. OFF wipes are SO much better than spray, pack easily and are great for spot treatment without gagging the people around you.
  3. My packing list cheat sheets are a life saver (below). 
  4. Cell phone with an unlocked SIM card.  This way you can get pay-as-you-go cards with a local number to call taxis, hotels, etc.  Often you can find one that has decent rates to call back to the U.S. also (if you don't have Skype readily available).
  5. Coin purses or wallets are another good souvenir idea that you can use on the trip to help keep your money for each country separate.  If I lose it, it only has my foreign money and maybe 1-2 credit cards.  Everything else is in my U.S. wallet which I don't carry with me.

Cheat Sheet

You can ignore the highlights and comments unless you're coming to Singapore/Malaysia :).  I have a pad of these and use them every time I have to pick for a trip so I don't forget anything!

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