Shelly and I have been traveling now for quite a while and have come upon a few suggestions and tips to make your traveling easier, cheaper, and more enjoyable. Here are 100 travel tips that we have gleaned from different sites and our own experience.
- Use multiple travel search engines to find the lowest fare. It only takes a few moments to run your search through a second and third search engine and it can save you a nice bit of money. We like Kayak.com because it searches other travel sites. We also find some great Asia deals on agoda.com. Places like priceline and hotwire allow you name your price for certain things. The only problem with this, is that you usually get this last-minute. Search engines like Skyscanner are also great to find a flight that is cheaper than to different airports or nearby countries where you can bus to the places you want to go. Online booking sites vary by country sometimes check to see what countries participate in which website.
- Read the news. USA Today points out that news sites often provide the best information about hot deals. They recommend themselves and their partner company Web Flyer as well as Travelzoo.com and Bestfares.com. More up-to-date news sources include phone apps (like FareCompare for iPhone) and Twitter travel news. Here are 10 Top travel news websites according to Skift.com. FlightGlobal.com, Skift.com, AviationWeek.com, Tnooz.com, TravelWeekly.com, ETurboNews.com, Hospitalitynet.org, AINOnline.com, Centreforaviation.com, and HotelNewsNow.com,.
- Pay attention to flight departure and arrival times. Choose flights that are close to hotel check-in and checkout times. Consider transportation issues getting to and from the airport at different times. We have found a huge difference in prices from day to day, and hour to hour. If your search engine has a +3-3 day function for searching like they have on Kayak.com, USE IT! For Some reason booking on a Tuesday or Wednesday give you the biggest savings. Wednesday morning at 1am is reportedly the best time to book. It's also advisable that you don't book any more than 45 days out from a flight.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Avoid scheduling trips that have you arriving just before you need to be somewhere at your destination. Give yourself time in case there are travel problems. And there inevitably will be some problems.
- Choose your layovers wisely. Give yourself enough time to catch the second flight even if the first flight is delayed. We have found that 1.5 hour layovers are simply not enough internationally, and one hour is not enough domestically. If you find that you are delayed, go immediately to the ticketing counter and see about alternative routes. They usually can get you where you need to go before a problem arises with connections.
- Select a cheaper seat. Some airlines offer middle seats at a lower cost or rather charges more for windows and aisles. We have found this more and more common, especially on domestic US carriers. Use SeatPlans.com or SeatGuru.com to search the prices of seats on your airline.
- Check fees before buying your tickets. Airplane baggage fees, in particular, aren’t included in the price of your ticket and can vary considerably from airline to airline. Look up those fees before you book your trip. Spirit airlines is a good example. They charge extra from every bag and even carry-ons as well as drinks in cabin. United has been charging much larger rates in the last year or so as well. Extra baggage fees can be more than the price of your ticket depending on the flight. Check the websites of carriers you want to fly with to get their restrictions.
- Take advantage of points and rewards. Use your frequent flier miles, credit card rewards and hotel loyalty program rewards when booking travel. Use them to buy the travel and make sure that you take advantage of racking up new rewards for booking your travel. Review them carefully to see which ones offer the best deals. OneMileAtATime.com is a great resource for credit card flight related info. For example, you may find that booking your flight through a travel tool such as the one offered for Chase credit card members is a better deal than booking the flight on another miles rewards credit card. We have both the Chase British Airways and Continental credit cards and have been able to accrue over 150k in travel miles. Why those two airlines? They are on different partner networks. It's a good idea to use more than one. The partner networks means you have more options when traveling and can book directly with them using your miles accrued on another airline. Watch for hidden fees too. British Airways in particular tried to charge us 60,000 miles and 700 dollars in fuel surcharges to fly overseas. We spent only 600 on another carrier, didn't use our miles, and gained miles with another network. Weigh your options carefully.
- Use a credit card to book the trip. Credit cards offer financial protections that debit cards don’t offer. OneMileAtATime.com reports that some credit card companies are required to reimburse you for airplane trips that get canceled. Check with your credit card providers for their individual policies.
- Conclusion: Do your homework!!! It can save you tons of money. We have flown all over the world for a couple thousand dollars each. It will pay off in the long-run and allow you more travel in the future.
Packing Your Bags
Do you envy those people who pack lightly and never forget a thing? So do we, but don't necessarily do so ourselves. In fact we have more baggage than anyone we have met traveling the world. How do we do it?
- Buy small clear bottles and gallon sized zip locks. This simplifies the process of taking any liquids of toiletries on airplanes. You don’t need a huge bottle of shampoo when a small 3oz bottle will last weeks. Most international TSAs will require that all bottles be in a zip lock bag. Shelly in particular has this down-pat. You can buy them in just about any department style store like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Zip locks are invaluable for many things and can be washed and reused. Nothing worse than finding your hair gel spattered all over your shoes or books. Keep anything you don't want ruined in zip lock bags. This goes for things you don't want to leak AND things you need to protect from the outside elements.
- Pack wheeled suitcases or backpacks. Your arms will thank you for it. Make travel easier on yourself by making sure that some of your luggage has wheels. We both used rolling duffel-style bags on our Central America trip for 6 weeks in 2011, although they can present problems if you are traveling in places that pavement is at a premium. Rolling your bags down a gravel road to your nice resort is miserable and damaging to the wheels. If you carry a backpack without wheels, pack it with the heaviest items on top so that it sits comfortably on your back. This is important, otherwise the gravity of heavy items in the bottom of your bag will drag on your hips and pull on your shoulders. We don't personally use them for longer trips, however shorter travel is where you might want the ease of wheels.
- Use a suitcase divider. Separate the top items from the bottom items. If your luggage doesn’t come with a divider just use a light piece of cardboard. This simplifies the process of getting through security lines if you have to open your bags.
- Roll your clothes. This saves room compared to folding your clothes. This cuts down on dead airspace in your bag and will allow you to pack more in a smaller space. If you have items that need to be wrinkle free, roll them inside of tissue paper carefully.
- Use a ready-made packing list to see if you’re missing anything, we are both proponents of lists and find it easier to pack what you need.
- Pack a change of clothes into your carry on. This gives you an extra outfit in case your checked luggage gets lost or YOU get delayed. We have been delayed for hours and even days, that change of clothes is a welcome friend.
- Look into getting duffels that cover your bags. REI is a great place to get them. They have luggage tags built-in. Bags get absolutely destroyed in airports! There is little not care with how rough they are handled. We have found black grease all over our bags along with ripped fabric and broken straps. Airlines will also take little responsibility. We learned this the hard way. Spend the extra 20 dollars and get a durable external duffel that compacts down into its own pouch is invaluable. They are also handy for waterproofing an extra bag if you need them.
- Check baggage restrictions. Ideally you’ll pack as little as possible. However, if you’re taking extra luggage then make sure that you’ll be able to bring it all with you. Check restrictions on weight, size and number of bags before you head to the airport. Watch those excess baggage fees however! They are getting steeper and steeper.
- Take a walk around the block with your luggage. If it’s too heavy or cumbersome to walk around your neighborhood then you’ll know in advance that you need to make some changes before the trip. We have found that you truly only need to lug around your bags for relatively short distances unless you are on a trek. But even a few blocks can be damaging to muscle groups and joints.
- Conclusion: Let’s face it... it would be great to travel light, but if you are on an extended trip or just have a penchant for taking things with you, packing is of utmost importance. Keep in mind what you truly need from what you might need. There is a difference, and many things can be purchased easier and cheaper at your destination. But if you must... then do so smartly.
Airports and Flights
This is Brady's area of expertise to an almost obsession. We reap the benefits of these 10 tips and feel that it makes travel LESS STRESSFUL!!!
- Check into your flight in advance. You can check in to your flight before you even get to the airport using mobile phones and the Internet usually 24 hours in advance. Print out your boarding pass and take it with you. I prefer to check in early at the airport as well. Get there really early and go directly to the ticketing counter. They can many times make your inflight experience better with more leg-room and window/aisle seats that aren't available online. Skip the auto-kiosks if you can. The human touch is always the best.
- Print out your itinerary and confirmation numbers. If there’s a problem checking in then it makes it a lot easier if you have a paper copy of this information. Having the email on your smart phone is essential as well.
- Pack and organize the day before you leave. Doing this the day you leave will only stress you out when things go wrong. This is one thing you don't want to procrastinate. It also gives you the opportunity to remember anything you missed.
- Know how to get to the airport. Make sure that you know in advance how you’ll be getting there, what route your taking and how long it’s going to take you. Plan on delays and leave early.
- Know how to get around the airport. Print out an airport map and take it with you. Do this for your layover airport and arrival airport as well. This makes it a lot easier to get around. Tech-savvy people will find that there are smart phone apps of maps available from many airports (such as Dallas-Fort Worth). We like http://gateguru.com/ and http://www.ifly.com/ Maybe you can tear out the map from an inflight magazine or take the whole magazine with you.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Reduce your stress by getting to the airport early. Bring a book or other entertainment. Plan to eat a meal when you arrive there, although more expensive, you can't put a price on stress. Relax after you've checked in we actually enjoy people watching especially those who are obviously not relaxing and are stressed-out trying to make their plane.
- Let someone know if you're running late. An airport security agent can usually help you get through lines more quickly if you are running late. Just let them know in as polite a manner as possible, they can take you to the front of TSA and get you processed faster. Also take advantage of any airline frequent flyer and perks programs which allows you to board first. Also check out the TSA Pre-Check Program. It can save you time in those long lines.
- Dress up. Travel and Leisure Magazine reports that you might receive better treatment at airports if you're dressed a bit smarter. However, you do want to make sure that your clothes are comfortable and easily removable such as shoes, coats, and bets. TSA in every country we have been too, has required removal of shoes. We prefer flip-flops and wear pants that don't require belts. So maybe dressing nicely and flip-flops don't really match? It's ok, you can also find slip on shoes that make getting them on and off easy.
- If you are an American. Check into the U.S. Customs Department's "Global Entry Program" By signing up, you can get into expedited lines on return flights back into the States. It saves time when making your way through immigrations and customs.
- Conclusion: Check with TSA and your airlines. For special help. The "special needs" section of the TSA website provides great tips, tricks and information for people with special needs. This includes people with disabilities, people with illnesses, people traveling with children, people traveling with pets, people traveling with special items, people with special religious or cultural needs and people in the military. This has made our travel infinitely easier at time and have given us a private escort through check-points etc. The best airline we have found? Singapore Airlines for EVERYTHING!!
Buses, Trains and Road Trips
Planes aren't the only way to get to your destination. Don't be pigeonholed into believing that planes are the best way to travel. This varies depending on convenience and comfort depending on where you go.
- Check online reviews!! This can help you a lot with getting information about the safety of bus and train stations as well as the reliability of different routes. TripAdvisor(our fav) ReviewStream, Yelp, RateItAll, Viewpoints and your social media sites are top places to find reviews. They will give you information that can be invaluable on how and where you go and the pitfalls you might run into before you go.
- Anticipate delays. They're unfortunately common with bus and train travel and can certainly be a problem on road trips. They will happen and we have found them more prevalent and greater than on planes.
- Bring motion sickness medication. We have watched many people on ferries and other modes of transportation “green" with envy at our comfort due to our Dramamine induced calm. Make sure that you have the medication that you need to take on windy roads if this is something that makes you feel ill.
- Pack snacks. You’ll feel your best if you eat snacks and drink water. Pack them at home to save money. At many times, the break you get on buses, boats or trains are insufficient to get something to eat. This has been a lifesaver.
- Get comfy. It’s common to sleep in buses, trains and cars. Make this easy on yourself by getting comfortable. Wear comfortable clothing. Use ear plugs and eye masks. We both have neck pillows and cannot express enough how useful they are. I have one that was given to me as a gift that can be unzipped into a square pillow and is filled with buckwheat. I have used it for so much more than a conventional neck pillow. I have a small travel pouch that has earplugs, headphones, face mask, and eye mask. Yes facemask. No matter what you have been told, diseases like tuberculosis can be spread in small areas over an extended period of time. We don't risk it on long flights anymore. We wear N95 masks and we have also found we don't get as dried out and sick after flights.
- Bring entertainment. A book or an eReader, a handheld gaming device or a mobile phone packed with games, tablet with movies and a travel journal are great items to take with you on buses, trains and cars.
- Address baggage issues in advance. Double-check with the bus and train lines to find out what baggage restrictions there are. Pack your car in advance to make sure that you have room for everything.
- Avoid peak travel times. This is especially true for road trips in cars, buses and trains. You want to time the trip to avoid arriving in major cities during rush hour. We prefer night buses/trains as we can sleep (sometimes) yet provide you with less delays and hassles.
- Know about tipping. It's common practice to tip certain train crew members. In US states where full service gas stations are mandatory (such as Oregon) you only need to tip if an extra service is performed (such as window washing) or if there are special circumstances (such as stormy weather). Tipping internationally is less common and unheard of in most circumstances, but a tip... even a small one.. can go a long way in your comfort in the long run.
- Conclusion: Don't be scared to travel by alternative methods and it pays to spend the extra money when 1st class is offered. We took a 16 hour sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand that was actually enjoyable! It cost us more but was well worth the price when we were able to sleep in comfort. We also took a faster ferry and spent the night in a hotel and spent about 15 dollars each more than our friends who opted to take the night boat (cheaper) They were absolutely frazzled when they arrived (at the same time we did 24 hours later). It pays to look at your options for comfort rather than the cheapest route.
Dealing with transportation once you're in your destination is easier when you plan ahead and have the appropriate hardware.
- Use your GPS. It's one of the best ways of getting around in unfamiliar destinations. When motorbiking from Vietnam through Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, we wouldn't have made it without one. Your cellphone doesn't count unless it works independently from cell towers and service. You can download maps for free by looking online.
- Bring a map. You want to have a backup plan in case your GPS isn't working. You shouldn't rely on the technology alone. You can also download Google maps for offline use as well.
- Choose a hotel close to local public transportation. This allows you to utilize public transportation during some or all of your stay. This is very convenient in many major cities and saves you money on taxis.
- Download the local public transportation map if available. Again, you can print this out or get a version for your phone. It makes getting around a lot simpler. There are many city specific maps that show bus routes and do so with ease.
- Park in a cheaper lot. If your hotel parking isn't included in the price then it might be more expensive than need be. Drive around the area to see if there's a secure parking garage with a cheaper cost.
- Get the right car rental insurance. If you have your own car insurance or you book with a credit card then you may already have liability coverage and you don't need to get extra.
- Use a gas rewards credit card. Let the driving that you're doing add up for you.
- Read about taxis before you go. If you're traveling in a foreign destination, make sure that you research taxi information. Always fix a price before taking one, and opt for metered taxis over fixed price taxis if available. For example, in Buenos Aires it is recommended that you call for radio-taxis because they are safer than the taxis you can hail on the street. And in Hanoi, Vietnam there are different colored taxis that are cheaper than other metered taxis. We found the pink ones were the fairest, we took green one and watched the meter jump every time he pushed a hidden button on the floor. But the pink ones in Bangkok are generally worse.
- Use the shuttles. Shuttles between airports and hotels are designed to be affordable and convenient. Contact the hotel in advance to find out about this option, and only book hotels that offer that option. It will save you time and money.
- Conclusion: We have found out the hard way that every city (especially internationally) have their own rules about taxis that are specific to country and city. Ground transportation can really put a hole in your pocket and sometimes taxis can be cheaper than rentals ie.. cars, motorbikes etc. We also suggest you see if Uber is available in the city you are visiting. They aren't everywhere, but growing rapidly worldwide.
Reduce your costs and enjoy your accommodations. Hotels are inevitably going to be one of your greatest expenses next to food.
- Use hotel alternatives. Hostels, couchsurfing, working on farms, volunteering for boarding and home swaps are all affordable alternatives to staying in hotels. We aren't too great at this, as they can be dirty, downtrodden, and weird, but we have met many who find this a great alternative. AirBNB is of course another alternative. We have had great success with it.
- Choose a hotel that offers a breakfast. This provides you with a meal saving you money and getting your day off to the right start. Eliminating one meal a day cuts down 1/3 on your food expenses (one of your largest expenses) in many regards. Again read the reviews on your hotel. Some hotels offer a breakfast and charge more for it, but then you find it in-edible.
- Share a hotel room. If you travel in a group then you can save a lot of money by sharing hotel rooms. But, don't share with someone you just met no matter how great they seem. We have run into many travelers who have been taken advantage and lost cameras, money etc. Be selective with who you share a hotel room with. We don't do this at all!
- Read reviews carefully. Hotel reviews can provide great insight into the pros and cons of staying in a specific hotel. Don’t just look at the star ratings. Read through the reviews to see why people did and didn't like the hotel. People have varying different standards for accommodations so reading those details is important. Keep an open mind with the negatives and look into the source. If someone is complaining about an isolated circumstance or a power outage that are things that can happen and don't mean the place is bad. Do your homework!!
- Ask about early check-in and late check-out. Some hotels offer this at no charge if you ask about it in advance. Others offer it for a minor fee.
- Make requests in advance. If you want a room on a kids-free floor, away from the ice machine or with the best view then you should request this directly with the hotel before you go. The request will be noted in your account and you can remind the hotel staff of this when you arrive. We book a lot of rooms in advance through a website like hotels.com (which offers 10 nights get one free options) and agoda.com. There are also some last-minute deals and we often book an hour before getting to the hotel. We will get somewhere sometimes and book from a cafe or train/bus station. Remember to write the booking number down and/or print the confirmation as some hotels don't' get the confirmation for hours.
- Try to get a free room upgrade. Helpful tips include ask directly for the upgrade, schmooze the hotel staff, plan your trip for a weeknight during the off-season, stay for only one night and arrive within the hour after check-in time.
- Ask about special discounts. Remember to ask about discounts for loyalty programs, kids, seniors, members of the military, corporate travelers, AAA members and any other specialties that may apply to you. If you book with an online booking company, book a night, if you like it, talk to the front desk and ask for a discount if you book directly with them instead of the booking company. They make have to pay the booking company for your stay and sometimes you can get a better deal with a small threat to keep using the booking company instead of paying with them directly.
- Leave the hotel room’s mini bar alone. Those $6 MnMs and bottles of water aren’t worth it. Get your snacks from the local convenience store and bring them back to the room.
- Conclusion: By doing some homework, and signing up with special awards programs and booking online, you save a ton of money. I can't express how important this is. One place we booked in Bangkok looked great and we booked through hotels.com. Once we got there we checked in and were lying in bed watching Gladiator (half-naked) when the door suddenly opened to the surprised faces of 3 Chinese men and a hotel employee. We were so upset about the intrusion that we complained. They offered us a suite, and free food for our stay but no refund. We called hotels.com and got a full refund and left promptly. Read the reviews on TripAdvisor and the booking hotel. If there are no reviews.. I wouldn't stay there. Hotels.com also has a reward program you should sign up for. Book 10 nights and get the 11th free. Plus you get silver, gold and platinum status depending on how many nights you book. We have saved thousands using this program.
What to do when you get there? Follow these 10 tips and never wonder again.
- Go to the local tourism office upon arrival. This is the best place to get free and cheap maps, information on the best current local activities and insider tips on what to do while you’re in the area. But don't book anything without checking around. We have found many that many travel companies offer varying prices with varying travel options. Some only use one bus/train company and prices and times vary drastically.
- Stay healthy and stay within your limits. Exercise, eat properly and get enough sleep when traveling. Traveling can be exhausting. Don't bit off more than you can chew. One big hike up a volcano, can put you in the hotel room for 3 days of recovery.
- Search out free activities. Do your research to find the best free local attractions, the free days at museums, the free festivals and the free markets. Fill your calendar with these events to keep travel costs down.
- Explore the area around your hotel on foot. But if you can rent a motorbike or car you can see more than the 10 block area of your hotel. This allows you to see and experience more in a small amount of time.
- Schedule downtime. You won’t have a lot of fun on your trip if you’re running from one place to the next to the next in an effort to see everything. Schedule plain old downtime for relaxation on your trip.
- Connect with local people and travelers. We have found that you can do this in transit such as boats, buses, planes and trains or hotels and hostels. This allows you to meet people during your trip and many times gives you an insider's view to what can be done or not done.
- Get coupons for major attractions. Check the Internet for coupon codes. Call and ask directly if major attractions are offering a deal.
- Do things that truly interest you. If you never visit art museums at home and they don’t really interest you then don’t feel obligated to check one out just because you’re on vacation.
- Plan outdoor activities early in the trip. This allows you the time to reschedule them if inclement weather causes you to have to cancel.
- Conclusion: Again, do your homework and don't bite off more than you chew. It's advisable to stay in a hotel close to the action and ask around before making decision.
Finances and Money
Make sure to deal with your travel finances appropriately money management is a sure-fire way to keep your trip enjoyable and extensive.
- Set a budget and stick to it. This is the number one rule you need to save money on your vacation. SAVE EVERY RECEIPT!!! Many trips are deductible at the end of the year and if you can show any business related reason for your trip, you can write it off. We wrote off our entire trip to Central America this last year because we also went to hospitals and clinics where we could to find out where we might be able to volunteer or work. We also wrote off any educational expenses on our travels like our Divemaster in Honduras.
- Exchange foreign money at the bank in your destination. This will typically offer better exchange rates than going to a money exchange spot or money hawkers at boarders. Check also if money can be exchanged in the country you are visiting. Vietnamese Dong isn't changeable in banks in Laos and vice versa. Sometimes it is better to get your money before you travel from one country to another.
- Buy a cheap money belt or pouch. We both use these. I have one that attaches to a belt and Shelly has one that is for a Bra. Pickpockets are everywhere, and never keep a wallet in a back pocket (front is advisable if you don’t have a money pouch). We sometime keep a fake wallet in our back-pocket that has old expired id and other stuff. If a thief looks for a wallet, they look for what is easiest (back pocket)Also put a couple of dollars in it, if you get held-up or mugged, the dummy-wallet can be given, keeping your real assets safe.
- Take advantage of credit card rewards. Put all trip expenses on a credit card that gives you cash back. Pay the card off in full immediately upon return. You’ll have a complete record of what you spent in one place (on your credit card statement). Plus you’ll get money back for what you spent. Use accounts that have no foreign transaction fees. These can mount fast and sometimes are a percentage of the purchase and or a 5 dollar fee.
- Let the credit card company know that you’ll be traveling. Many credit cards freeze accounts when too many charges show up in a destination away from home. It’s smart fraud protection but it’s inconvenient when you’re traveling. Let the credit card company know about the trip in advance to avoid this problem.
- Be aware of fees. ATM fees, foreign transaction credit card fees and roaming charges for mobile phones are some of the travel fees to be aware of. Pay with local cash, limit ATM transactions and use a service like Skype to reduce these fees.
- Bargain when appropriate. Most foreign countries (non-western) will bargain with you at a discount 0f 10-40 percent of the original price quoted. This is in markets and shops, but most malls do not do this. Ask around if the price is fixed or not. In Asia, we find a 50% counter offer with a smile will often times get the ball rolling, and sometimes gives you the sale depending on the time of day and mood of the shop owner.
- Spend smart when it comes to food during your trip. Don’t waste your travel budget on food. We prefer to get bread and make sandwiches for lunch, have breakfast provided by the hotel, leaving only dinner for the restaurants. Choose appetizers instead of entrees. Avoid pricey tourist restaurants in the expat communities. You can get the same dish in a local place for half the price many times. Many times restaurants near transit centers are more expensive as well.
- Track your spending. You should track your spending during the trip to make sure that you really understand how much you’re spending. There are some great apps out there for tracking spending without receipts.
- Conclusion: Watch your money literally and figuratively. Be safe and smart with where you put your money. Do you really need 10 credit cards in your wallet when out on the town? And always keep cash handy. Credit is nice but no substitute for cash when you really need something. Keep an emergency reserve and spend money wisely.
We have been traveling around for quite a while now without incident (knock on wood). Some of this has been through sheer luck but also through being smart... street smart.
- Be smart with your documents. Make a photocopy of your passport, ID, credit and ATM cards and any other important documents. We carry a water-resistant travel document folder and have copies of EVERYTHING!!! We also have backup images of them on our computer and smart phones. Pack the originals if you absolutely need them, in your carry-on luggage. Pack the copies in the bottom of your checked baggage. Scan a copy and send it all to your email....backup... backup... backup.
- Know your emergency numbers. Make yourself an emergency address book. Include the fire, police and ambulance numbers if you’re going to a foreign destination. Also include the contact information for the consulate or embassy. Add any other emergency numbers, such as the local hospital. Store these numbers in your mobile phone and send a copy to your email as well. We have also given a list of us embassy numbers and important numbers for the country where we plan to travel in case of emergencies. Not only this, we have also given them a password that can be uttered if you need to call them and don't want anyone else to know that you need HELP! Never had to use it, but it is nice to know we have it if we need it.
- Keep your valuables in separate places. Travellers Point recommends putting your cash, cards, passport, traveler’s checks, jewelry, etc. in different pockets and bags to reduce the chance of losing everything at once. Passports in particular should be kept in a VERY safe place and don't EVER give them to anyone for safe keeping. Some places offer to store them in a safe for you, or require that they keep your passport for a deposit or "insurance" like renting a motorbike in Asia. DO NOT DO THIS!!! NO MATTER WHAT! They can counterfeit your passport and use it, steal it, lose it, etc. Besides it's against the law to leave your passport in many countries as collateral.
- Use the security locks on hotel room doors. Always make sure that the door closes behind you. Lock the security lock when you’re inside. Don’t leave duplicate keys in the room. We have also found that if possible, take off any identification key rings for the hotel. If you lose your keys and your ring says you are staying at the Park Hilton, someone can get back and clean you out before you even know they key is missing. We also pack a travel bike lock and pad lock. Some places have pad lock holes on the outside of the door, and we often time use the bike lock to lock our valuables in a cabinet by locking the doors together through the handles. Although not secure, it's a visual deterrent. Many times thieves look for what is convenient, fast and easy. If they have time and determination. Remember no lock is thief proof. Don't make it easy on them.
- Check recommended vaccines and medications. When traveling to a foreign country, you want to make sure that you have the updated medications and vaccines that are recommended for the trip. We do not recommend however taking anti-malarial tablets during your trip. We have never found nor heard of anyone getting malaria from not taking tablets, but have met dozens who spent their trip in their hotel room sick from the pills. Unless you are in a jungle, slum, or marsh far from medical care, I wouldn't worry about it. Your chances are very slim, and the chances of you dying are slim with even basic medical care of IV fluids and antibiotics.
- Check travel safety warnings. Use the official government site to check the latest travel safety warnings before your trip. Although, I wouldn't take that much stock in it. Many places are discouraged on the US.Gov site which we have been without incident. Be smart and just about any country, unless they are in civil war will be fine. Don't listen to everything you hear and read. There is just as much crime if not more in the US, Australia, and UK as in any other country, and if you are smart and cautious, you won't have any problem.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. Being vigilant about what’s going on around you will help you to avoid safety issues while on vacation. Watch your bags, watch your on-person valuables, watch the people near you, don't walk home drunk from a bar alone in the middle of the night, don' cause problems with locals, stay in well-lit areas around others, double-check your hotel room before leaving that things are secure.... this is called Street Smarts!!!
- Avoid intoxication. You can’t make smart choices when you’re drunk. This is especially important if you’re in an unfamiliar place and even more important if you’re traveling alone.
- Learn about local scams. For example, one common pickpocketing scam in South America is for someone to “accidentally” spill something on you and then offer to help clean it up. As they do, they steal your wallet. Pick pockets work in busy congested areas. The more people and confusion the better. When in areas that are busy with people such as public transport stations, streets, etc.. take extra care and keep that wallet in the front of your pocket or use a money belt.
- Conclusion: Trust your gut instinct. The best tip to follow is to trust your gut. If you feel unsafe in a situation, get to safety. It’s better to be safe than sorry. This is absolutely our credo!!! Many time we get a bad feeling about a hotel, restaurant, place, person.... don’t dismiss this! Do what it takes to get you out of that situation no matter the cost. And for goodness sakes.... BE STREET SMART!!!
When you get Home
There is still more to do when you get home the easier that transition is, the sooner you can start planning your next trip.
- Have someone pick you up from the airport. You will be tired from your trip so it helps to have a familiar face and help with your bags.
- Organize your receipts immediately. This will help you to see quickly if there are any incorrect charges. Plus you can write off much of your trip at the end of the year if you can prove that it was educational, work-related, etc.
- Pay off your credit card immediately. Don't add to your travel expenses by getting charged interest on your trip.
- Put your passport back where it belongs. You don’t want it to be lost the next time that you need it.
- Eat light and healthy for a day or two. This helps your body get over the stress of traveling. It keeps your immune system strong.
- Seek out medical attention if you aren’t feeling well. Some travel experiences can cause medical issues a few days or weeks later. For example, if you went scuba diving during your trip then you may feel fine until you get on a plane to come home and then travel-related problems can set in.
- Relax when you get home. Schedule your trip so that you have an evening or a full day of down time before you have to get back to your usual busy schedule.
- Upload, share and organize your pictures quickly. If you wait too long then you’ll forget what the pictures are of or just put off getting them organized all together. Have a photo organization and scrapbooking day scheduled for a week or two after your trip.
- Organize any other documents. If you made purchases during the trip, organize the receipts. If you paid an airport re-entry fee that’s good for future trips then store that documentation. If you need to get any rebates or cash in card rewards then do that.
- Start saving up for your next trip! It’s never too early to begin budgeting and saving for your next vacation.