Some weeks ago I wrote about some basic travel tips and received lots of feedback and additional questions from readers—thanks everyone! Please keep your notes coming, I really appreciate them. Anyway, it looks like there’s a need for a part 2 of the travel tips especially since a lot of us are hopping from one destination to another this Holy Week and throughout the summer.
Here are some more reminders for the jet set:
- Buy a luggage scale. Very useful device and saves you moolah too–not to mention your dignity so you won’t have to transfer and repack some of your stuff to handcarry in front of everyone at the airport. Look for one in stores like The Travel Club or Rustan’s. It’s light and easy to pack so you can also weigh your luggage coming back from the trip and minimize travel anxiety.
- Learn to pack well. Another travel trade secret is the art of packing. Put the heavy things like shoes and toiletry bags at the bottom of the suitcase, and then everything else can be neatly folded or rolled in order to save space. You can even tuck things like a brush or socks or undies in the little gaps in between to max out. Then push everything in for a snug fit or use one of those garters that snap into place and hold your folded garments together and zip the bag closed. Don’t forget to use a small padlock for the bag and keep the key with you to keep your belongings safe.
- Only shop for something of value. There are a million and one useless things people have conjured to trap tourists into parting with their money. Souvenir keychains, shirts, mugs, accessories, and all other kinds of junk. You should keep in mind that you are traveling for the experience, the culture and the food, so if you must shop, use your money for something of real value, like an antique ornament you can hang in your home, or a pair of Italian leather shoes, ornate silver jewelry, a tailored blazer or precious gems. Buy something that the country is known for, and spring for the best quality instead of cheap replicas. You’d be surprised at how much you are actually spending on little nothings here and there that you never get to use anyway. Like do you really need all those refrigerator magnets? Tacky beyond belief.
- Take good photos. If there’s something worth investing in for a travel aficionado, it’s a good camera. And no, I don’t necessarily mean you must own an SLR. If you’re really a photography buff and you don’t mind lugging it around, then that’s your thing, but for the ordinary tourist, a good point and shoot camera suffices. The important thing is that you capture your favorites scenes from the trip so you can look back at them fondly in the future. In fact, why not keep a travel diary where you can paste the photos, interesting maps and illustrations, even receipts and jot down notes and thoughts? It’s like writing your own adventure book! I’ve also taken to collecting beautiful postcards from different places, framing them and mounting them on the wall so it looks like a giant collage.
- Carry travel size toiletries. I always wonder why some people just dump in their big shampoo, bath gel, and lotion bottles for a 3 day trip. Such a waste of space and weight! Always make it a point to carry just shampoo and conditioner sachets, small travel sized soaps or little tubes of bath gel, and even just little amounts of your night creams, contact lens solution and whatever other magic serums you use. The last thing you want is for all of it to explode inside your suitcase and ruin all your clothes, so put all of these small containers into a Ziploc bag and tuck in one of the suitcase pockets.
- Hydrate on the flight. Long hours in a plane can worsen dry skin. Make sure you drink a lot of water (and get an aisle seat to going to the lavatories won’t be a problem), and it may also be a good time to put on some moisturizer for your face and hands, some leave on hair conditioner, then put on one of those cute sleeping eye masks (mine says “Dream Girl” and I can’t get over it) and catch some zzzs on the flight. That way you’ll wake up fresh and rejuvenated when you get to your destination and will have lots of energy to parteeee!
- Mix and Match. It also drives me nuts when travel companions pack a different outfit (with matching shoes and bag) for every single day of the trip. Such a neophyte blunder. More experienced travelers always know how to mix and match and stick to just one or two color palletes to play with. Pack clothes in fabrics like jersey or knit that won’t wrinkle, and when it comes to bringing warm clothing (for low temperatures), stick to at most two or three coats, two pairs of jeans, neutral tops like t-shirts in black, white, beige, and colorful scarves and accessories. Remember, you don’t have to match everything—that makes you look like an old biddy! Take along dresses that can go from day to night with just a simple change of accessories and shoes.
- Bring a change of clothing in your carry-on luggage. So worst case scenario is they misplace your suitcase in the middle of nowhere (my greatest fear!). At least you have your valuables with you and one change of clothing and underwear and some spare toiletries in your carry-on luggage to get you through another day. And if they still cannot give you back your luggage by then, that’s when you can buy new clothes and undies for the duration of the trip. Hopefully you also filed for travel insurance to cover the loss in case the suitcase cannot be retrieved.
- Always bring photocopies of your passport and a list of important numbers. In the unfortunate event of your passport going missing, you should at least have a photocopy or two with you to present to the embassy. Also, have a list of important numbers such as your bank officer or credit card hotline in case problems arise.
- Read up on your destination. It’s great to go with the flow and discover things as they come, but it helps a lot to equip yourself with information and history beforehand, not just for practical tips like the best mode of transportation or good deals for shopping and food, but also so you can appreciate what you see and experience better. My pet peeve for example is asking people for details about their trips, and they reply with “Oh we went to some castle, I forgot what it was famous for…” “or we ate this yummy dish, I don’t know what it was made of…” Eek, ditz alert! Money can get you the ticket baby but it can’t buy you class and culture.
Hope you all have a wonderful summer!