As a self-professed globetrotter, I’ve learned my fair share of traveling do’s and don’ts. My mother was a travel agent so much of the advice below was introduced to me at a young age. I’ve traveled to 20 countries and counting. Learn from my lessons as an international relations and international law graduate.
* If you don’t have a passport, apply for one straight away. It often takes weeks to months depending on processing time. Your local US post office can direct you. Passport pictures can often be taken at your local Walgreens or CVS.
* Copy your passport, travel tickets, and itinerary. Put a copy in your luggage, one with you at all times, and leave one at home with the address you will be staying at and how a friend or family member can reach you.
* Leave your name and contact information in each piece of luggage you own and even on your person.
* Consider purchasing travel insurance. It may seem unnecessary but if you miss your flight or tour or heaven forbid a family member dies, you will not have lost all your money. If you purchase travel insurance, keep a copy with you at all times.
* Expect the unexpected. Always.
* Respect the culture. Don’t trash it or talk bad about it. They live here. You don’t.
* Always bring a carry on with the necessities: underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste, any medicines that you must bring with you with your name and doctor’s name on them, and at least one-two days’ worth of clothes, should you incur lost luggage.
* Make sure you have a pen and paper handy for any necessary notes/changes to your plan.
* Bring gum if your ears bother you on flights. (Tip: if you have ear pain while flying, try taking a doctor-recommended nasal spray. Flonaise is now over the counter and it works just as well. Take it ten minutes before liftoff and ten minutes before descent. No, I’m not a doctor but yes, it works).
* Carry small amounts of liquid and be certain that you check each airline’s requirements. Put liquids and any medicines in clear plastic bags for airport security.
* Check the size of luggage your airlines allows.
*Conserve space in your suit case by tightly rolling your clothes and bonus, you may not need Wrinkle Release later.
* Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off for security check purposes as well as maneuvering on the airplane.
* Bring a book or something else to do while on-board.
* If you know that you will want a snack or something to drink, buy it near your gate (not before security check). This way you won’t be at the mercy of the flight team and the cost will still be lower than what you would pay onboard the flight.
* Do your research! Research the hotels you will be staying at. Is it located in a safe area for tourists? What are the reviews on it? If you are a senior citizen, military member, or a particular insurance member, you may be able to receive a discount. Price shop.
* Consider downloading an app on your phone to track the status of your flight.
* Some sites are only available for tours during certain seasons of the year. Research it and read reviews.
* Plans are good and well but be certain to create time for relaxation whether at the spa or on the beach. Besides, when else will you have the chance to buy tourist trinkets?
* Be realistic. If you want to go on a walking tour of Venice but have bad knees, choose a different option. If you are struggling to keep up, you will be miserable. Vacations are to be enjoyed.
* Make sure your plans are feasible. If you book a tour, realize that you may miss out on low-key events only locals know about. The upside to a tour is you can see more of the usual tourist sites with less of the hassle. Ask yourself if you want to share those life experiences with a bus of 30 others. Which reminds me, do not expect a toilet or AC on every tour bus.
* If you are traveling to a “Third World” country, bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Even if you are not traveling to a “Third World” country, I still highly recommend it.
* Bring comfortable shoes and clothes. The last thing you want to do is be restricted while hiking in a jungle or falling off a cliff because your shoes don’t have traction. Trust me, I know from experience.
* Bringing a small first aid kit is always a smart idea. You would be surprised how few there are when you actually need them.
* Bring plenty of memory cards for your camera and the chargers that will fit local power outlets.
* Do your research and purchase a SIM card that will cover international phones calls. Opting to go with your usual phone service will me twice as high as purchasing an international SIM card. Some travelers, like myself, keep cheap mobiles from foreign countries that they can reuse. Do not, I repeat, do not roam.
* Taking a journal is a great way to remember the fun you had while away and as a bonus, your journal will serve as a reminder when it comes to informing others about the pictures you took.
* Consider your gestures. Some are considered rude in foreign cultures.
* Pack with wisdom. By this I mean do not wear a tank top and daisy dukes to tour a basilica. Also, pack layers so that you will be ready for whatever the weather throws at you.
* Try to learn basic phrases in the native language. Trust me, this will take you a long way to being on good terms with the locals and it shows respect to the culture. Plus, it puts you in the mood to truly experience everything around you.
* Unless you have food allergies, you should try the local food. You only live once and no one wants a McDonald’s pity party.
* Hide your money and passport from sight but keep them with you at all times. If there is a safe in your room, you can keep other valuables there. Chances are, once you leave the country, your valuables won’t make it home without you so do a double take of the room before you leave.
* Find out where the closest American Embassy is if you travel abroad. This could save your life.
* Have a Plan B. Back up plans are safety nets. The tour was cancelled? That’s fine. Plan B is renting a bike and touring the streets with your travel mate.
* If you are on a cruise ship and take a day tour, return to the cruise ship well before the departure time. Otherwise, say adios to your ship.
* Be mindful of others.
* Don’t eat at major tourist sites unless you want to spend three times the going rate for a plate of pasta. Mom and Pop restaurants three streets over are just as good and bonus, they are cheaper.
* Don’t tell your life story. Trust me, they don’t want to hear it. They are there to experience the same thing you are, either that or the friendly ear might have other ideas. That being said, don’t ask locals their life story or about their family. Many countries are private about *surprise* their own private life with strangers.
* Don’t forget to go with the flow. Crazy things happen on trips. (I should know). Breathe. Repeat.
* Don’t carry large amounts of cash and do not count it in public.
* Don’t recline your seat too far back on the plane. Don’t block pathways. Don’t push your way into crowds (i.e., don’t be a jerk).
* If you are out of the country, you are not in America so don’t expect it to be America! This means American conveniences do not exist in most countries and even in other “First World” countries so don’t cry when you can’t get a decent WiFi signal.
* If you have a bad feeling about something, walk away. Do not venture out alone in remote or dangerous areas, especially if you are a woman. Always be aware of your surroundings.
* Don’t bring politics into the picture.
* Beware of the water. In certain countries, it is best to ingest bottled water due to poor sanitation or your own body’s low immunity to what lies in their water. This includes vegetables that have been washed in water and brushing your teeth with bottled water.
* Take pictures but put down your camera just as often as you take a picture. You’re there to experience, not look at the camera. This brings me to another point: ask for permission if you want a picture of locals. They are not animals in a zoo.
* Do not be the ugly American! Blend in with locals as much as possible. Your fanny packs can stay at home.
Ugly American- An American in a foreign country who behaves in a way that is offensive to the people in that country and to other travelers.