As a woman who has traveled to over 90 countries – you might assume that I have the art of travel nailed.  You would be wrong.  I grapple with some of the same issues almost every time I prepare for a trip (e.g. money and packing).    Below are five suggestions to consider as you prepare for your next adventure – not original, but worth repeating.

There is universal agreement that travelling lighis the way to go.  An over-packed suitcase jammed with clothes for every possible contingency is simply not necessary and adds a cumbersome burden.  But, it’s not just about the amount you take, equally important is the weight of what you take.  Many foreign domestic flights strictly adhere to a 20 kilo (44 lbs) weight limit.  Those compression bags that may help you increase how much you can stuff in your bag may also put you overweight.  Inexpensive laundry services are almost universally available and just about anything can be washed with a 2 night stay. Packing extra outfits to avoid doing laundry doesn’t cut it.  Nor do you need a hair dryer and tons of hair product as almost all hotels supply them.

 

Always a question – cash or plastic and if cash, how much and if plastic, credit or debit?  In today’s world ATMs are almost ubiquitous – almost I always recommend carrying some cash – clean new bills.  Dollars are still the best backup and using them can minimize bank fees. In many countries vendors will discount the price of an item if you pay in dollars.  Traveler checks are simply not a good idea as they are not as widely accepted as in the past and redeeming them may mean wasting time waiting in line at a bank.

Credit cards are generally accepted in hotels and stores that cater to the tourist trade, but small shops may only accept Visa and Master cards. Some credit cards add an international surcharge – which can add significantly to your cost.  And, finally, notifying your credit card company of your travels has become increasingly important.

There are some travelers (and I’m one of them) who won’t touch uncooked greens when travelling.  My feeling – if you know that you have a sensitive stomach, don’t take the chance of having severe diarrhea.  That said, some travelers find sampling street food an important part of the cultural experience and they enjoy it without negative consequences.  Bottom line – know your tolerance and err on the side of caution.  If you want to eat adventurously, visit a street vendor who has a good number of locals purchasing their fare.  ALWAYS drink bottled or purified water when in a country that has inadequate water treatment facilities and if you like ice in your drink – be sure it too has been made from filtered water. Best advice – don’t forget the Imodium.

OK, by definition we are all tourists when we tour a foreign country.  But you don’t need to be perceived as an obnoxious one. Rather, be an informed traveler.  The key is to respect the cultural norms and etiquette of the country you are visiting and accept that our behavior is culturally-based and may be offensive to locals.  A bit of research prior to your trip is always a good idea.

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A few suggestions:

  • Modest dress is important in many countries.  Dress appropriately
  • Be sensitive, ask before taking a photo of a local person
  • Respect the beliefs and the privacy of locals and don’t enter sacred places without permission
  • Bargain for crafts when it is the norm and do so with a sense of humor and good will.  Overly aggressive haggling to have bragging rights about the price paid could be depriving a vendor of very needed income
  • Tip local hotel staff.  Some hotels have a tip box.  If they do not, leave money in an envelope at the front desk.

Should I stay or should I go?

Life is unpredictable and any number of obstacles can arise that give one second thoughts about a planned trip.  If your friend cancels, do you postpone your trip?  If the State Department issues a travel alert for the country you are planning to visit do you cancel?

My best travel advice ever – If you love to travel – just Go!