Tuesday, December 13, 2011

25 Post-trip travel tips

A friend sent me this list of someone's 55 top travel tips. My travel tips and lessons learned, mostly from this trip, in the order that I wrote them down:

  1. Pack lightly. Don't pack more than you can carry up a couple flights of stairs by yourself. I found this time and time again in apartments, hotels, and train stations. Make sure there's enough room in your bags for whatever you're going to bring home (both weight and volume).
  2. You can't pre-plan enough but at the same time, you can pre-plan too much. Plan enough that you know what you would LIKE to do. But don't over-schedule everything down to the minute.
  3. Be flexible in your plans in case something unexpected happens. In fact, expect the unexpected.
    • Be prepared to make alternate plans to your daily itinerary in case transportation is late, the weather scuttles your outdoor activities, there's a train strike, you change your mind after seeing something else, you meet someone, you decide to stay somewhere longer than planned, etc.
    • But also be prepared to radically change your plans (or have the means to crowdsource them) in case  of something like a natural disaster or a strike that shuts down the city and prevents you from leaving.
  4. For a long trip, remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't exhaust yourself too early, build stamina instead.
  5. Think of your daily activities as what you WANT to do, not what you HAVE to do. This was the hardest lesson for me to learn. If you got to do everything on your list for the day, great! If not, push whatever you didn't get to do onto another day, or keep it on the list for the next time you visit.
  6. Plan a variety of activities so that you don't get museumed out too early.
  7. You're a tourist, so you get to do touristy things. But try not to look like a tourist while doing them. 
  8. People in big cities often speak English, but they like it when you (try to) speak their language.
  9. Try to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, especially with local food. Do something that your friends and family won't be able to believe that you did.
  10. Wear comfortable shoes that are already broken in.
  11. Make train reservations, even if you have a rail pass. Double check departure times and locations, and schedule enough time for plane or train transfers.
  12. Have a wi-fi gadget and take advantage of it when you can. Use the Cloud for file storage, backup, and transfer.
  13. Carry a water bottle and don't pass up an opportunity to refill it or top it off (or to buy a bottle if the local stuff isn't drinkable and if you don't have much left).
  14. Have enough cash on you in case they don't take (your) credit cards.
  15. Always keep your passport with you. You might need it on the train or to show a cop when you get a jaywalking ticket.
  16. Use a smartphone to take pictures and notes (either text or voice) so that you can remember what you did and where you did it.
  17. Scan your passport photo page, and the front and back of all your credit cards so you have access to the phone numbers in case the cards are lost. Email them to yourself, but don't keep them on your phone in case it gets lost.
  18. Check around you when you leave the hotel, bus, plane, or train, to make sure you didn't forget anything (especially in the seat pocket in front of you).
  19. Be aware of your place in a crowd. There are possible (probable) pickpockets in buses, museums, elevators, and anywhere you interact with people. But if you feel you're not safe, get out.
  20. On a long trip, schedule some days off and stick to it; if you can't (or won't) take a day off, at least take some down time or light days.
  21. Bring Ziploc bags. They're great for storing things and keeping wet things out of your dry things.
  22. Bring extra camera batteries and have them and all your gadgets all charged up and ready to go. And bring your chargers (and plug adapters) with you when you're gone for the day, you never know when you'll need to recharge something and find a handy outlet.
  23. Keep a travel pack of tissues (or a roll of Charmin-to-Go) and a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you. There's going to be that one time you'll be glad you did.
  24. If you left something at home, chances are you can buy something similar when you get to your destination. Plan on buying local stuff.
  25. Don't forget to have fun. When you get back home, even the bad stuff will make for a good story.

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