I Wish I'd Thought of That Travel Tips

I Wish I’d Thought of That: Travel Tips from a World Traveler

By Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD Editor

power strip
The power strip...an essential for any wired traveler going somewhere without that many plugs -- photo by Lisa Linsley

I’ve been traveling on international trips about 10 times a year for the past five years. Since that time I’ve compiled the following tips that in most cases occurred to me after I wished I had thought of them. Below are some recommendations that will make your next trip easier and safer.

1. If you’re given a piece of paper by customs or somebody else with a uniform in the airport, save it in your wallet…even if you don’t know what it is. You will most likely be asked for it again on your way home.

2. Ask to sit in an aisle seat or in an exit row when you check in if you get antsy and anxious during a flight. Being able easily get up and move around when everyone is sleeping in the dark cabin can make you feel much better.

3. Have your passport scanned and email it to yourself before you leave. Take all of your credit cards and copy them onto a piece of paper along with the phone numbers of the credit card companies so you can easily cancel them if they are lost or stolen.

Do the same with prescriptions if you would be in trouble without them; having that info makes refilling them much easier abroad. If you’ve emailed them they can easily be retrieved on line.

4. Tell your bank you are leaving the country so that when you use your cards abroad, they won’t think someone has stolen them and deactivate them.

5. Always put your passport in exactly the same place, preferably in a secure pocket of your carry-on. Put it back in the same place every time you’re finished with it, and never leave it in your jacket or in random places. Forget all of those airline papers emails you printed out, all you need to check in is that passport.

Boingo gives you Wi-Fi access in hundreds of hotels and airports around the world...and it's pretty cheap.
Boingo Wi-Fi access in hundreds of hotels and airports around the world... and it's pretty cheap.

6. Limit your baggage to one big suitcase and one carry-on. Use a backpack with a lot of room for the carry-on; if you have more try to fit it all in so that you have just two things to carry. It’s super easy to always have everything if it is just two, three bags tempts fate that you’ll forget something.

7. If you’re loaded up with more than you can bring home in two bags, consider mailing or shipping the excess back. With security and ground transport, it’s just too easy to forget something.

8. Bring a hat if you’re visiting South America, Australia or New Zealand, and throw in a few bottles of sunscreen. The southern hemisphere has higher incidence of skin cancer because of the ozone hole, and you burn much faster.

9. If you want to converse with someone who doesn’t speak your language, try opening your laptop and going to Google translate. You can type in English and they can type in say, Spanish, and it quickly provides an instant-message like translation. This really works!

The drawstring bag is great for toting along just what you need, not your heavy daypack. photo by Lisa Linsley.
The nylon drawstring bag is great for toting along just what you need, not your heavy daypack. photo by Lisa Linsley.

10. If you have an iPhone, you can download a whole host of incredibly useful applications such as Skype -- call any phone anywhere for pennies a minute or call any computer for free using your iphone handset. Other apps include translating, soothing ambient music for sleeping in noisy places, and weather forecasts for wherever you are.

11. Bring a smaller nylon bag with drawstring handles to take with you when you go out to see the city. It is useful to have this smaller bag without everything in your backpack or bigger bag; this also keeps all of your stuff from getting lost.

12. Pack a jacket or a skirt and nice shoes. In almost every other part of the world, people dress up a lot more than in the US, and going to a fancy restaurant in sneakers and no jacket marks you as a tourist. Avoid those white sneakers unless you really truly want to look like an ugly American.

Join the frequent flyer program, even if you only fly one time.
Join the frequent flyer program, even if you only fly one time.

13. If you want to be able to get connected in airports while you wait, sign up for Boingo Wireless. They offer a cheap plan for under $10 a month that works in thousands of spots including most US airports. You can cancel it if you’re not going to be traveling for a while.

14. Bring a small power strip that you can use to charge up your cell phone, camera, iPod and laptop. That way you only need one small adapter and you’ve got plenty of places to plug in your gear. No hotel in the world provides as many plugs as in the US, and it’s always hard to find that one electric plug in most hotel rooms.

15. Even if you don’t fly much or don’t think you’ll fly on that airline again, join their frequent flyer program. OneWorld, Skymiles and other clubs offer miles on US airlines from foreign airline flights. And you can trade the miles in later for magazines and other useful things if you aren’t going to use them on flights.

Max Hartshorne is the editor of GoNOMAD.com, the travel website based in South Deerfield. His last trip was to Chile; his next trip will be to New Zealand.

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