Traveling abroad provides opportunity to experience new places and cultures while expanding one's personal growth. However, without proper preparation, unexpected incidents can sour the vacation. Here are some tips I have picked up in my travels that can help make your experience more enjoyable.
Obtain your passport early. Apply at least six months in advance of departure to insure its timely arrival.
Learn interesting facts about the country you plan to visit.
Learn short phrases, such as "Please" and "Thank you," etc. Print these on cards if necessary. Natives appreciate even the smallest attempt to speak their language.
Purchase a good suitcase, with sturdy wheels. This is an absolute must, as most countries do not have the convenience of moving sidewalks, escalators, etc.
Purchase good cargo pants, ones that zip down to shorts are an extra bonus. Wear these on the flight. The pockets eliminate the need of one carry-on. Also, it is safer to keep your possessions in pants pockets rather than in a carry-on that can be lost or stolen.
Purchase ticket. If the ticket includes layovers, be sure to allow adequate time between flights. At least 1 hour is necessary time to get through customs and on to your next gate. It is better to have extra time for relaxing with music than to miss a connecting flight.
If destination country honors travelers checks, purchase in large denominations as banks charge a fee per check. It is much cheaper to exchange a $100 check than five $20 checks.
Exchange only about $100 in USA. Don't exchange the money at the airport. A local bank will offer the best rate.
Know the rate of exchange to avoid unpleasant surprises. (On my last trip, the Euro was worth more than the dollar. It was a shock to get only $300 Euros for $400 USA dollars).
Be sure to keep change handy. Public toilets are rare abroad.
Carry all money and passport in a flat purse around neck for maximum security. Never put wallet in a back pocket. It is too easy to pick.
Think less, not more. This is very important.
Pack 4 changes of underwear, maximum. Plan to wash out nightly in the bathroom sink.
Pack two pairs of pants, or ladies can switch one for a skirt. Take 4 tops. Settle on harmonizing colors to maximize utilization. Roll clothing to minimize wrinkles. Calcutta cloth is great as well as broomstick skirts.
Pack one pair of walking shoes or sandals. Be sure your travel pair is equally comfortable. Walking is far more common, as well as expected, in other countries.
Tuck underwear inside packed shoes and wrap in plastic bags. This keeps shoes from soiling other packed items and the bags can also be used for dirty laundry, etc.
Wear necessary outerwear on the flight. This saves precious suitcase space for other items.
Pack small bottles of toiletries. Empty film canisters are perfect for lotion, shampoo, vitamins, etc. Dispose of as emptied.
Pack a backpack as carry on with essential toiletries, reading materials, camera and film, etc.
Wear your most comfortable clothing on the flight. Fill the pockets of the cargo pants with a CD player or iPod, your favorite and most relaxing music, a journal, travel itinerary, ticket, etc.
Journal everything, even the food consumed in flight. This will provide lasting memories of the entire experience.
Delays are impossible to avoid. Make the most of them. Listen to your favorite music. Read the book you've been wanting to get to but never had time. Work crossword puzzles. A positive attitude will improve any negative situation.
To offset travel sickness, take ginger hour before flight. You can purchase it in capsules or drink ginger ale.
Chew gum during the ascent and descent of flight. If you are traveling with children, have them eat crackers. (I once sat next to a resourceful mom with a two-year-old baby. She said she always fed him crackers as soon as the plane began to taxi and never had a problem).
Wait until just before your departure to purchase souvenirs. Don't buy breakables, no matter how pretty. They can be smashed in the overhead compartments. (I purchased a plaster lawn ornament, and even though well wrapped and guarded, it broke). Avoid the aggravation and disappointment of broken treasures.
Take lots of photos. When you return home, select the best to make a scrapbook. Include menus, maps, travel itinerary, train tickets, brochures, journal notes, etc. to create your own souvenir.
I hope these few tips will help you enjoy a memorable and stress-free vacation. Bon Voyage, Vaya con Dios and Happy Travels!
The author wishes to enjoy every year God gives her on this earth.