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Travel Tips

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Money

What to Bring

Money

US Cash is often a good idea to bring.  It's a popular currency that is widely accepted throughout the service industry of the travel world.  It's great for cabs, for tipping and even for some restaurant bills.  You can also convert US$ to local currencies at airports and exchanges during your trip, but we recommend keeping US$ for direct use.

Bring a charge card or bank card and draw funds in local currency when you arrive or replenish funds along the way.  Bring a spare charge card to use when your primary card is stolen or compromised.

Inform your bank and charge card company of the dates you will be away.  Many companies block international transactions unless they know you are abroad. 

Change the PIN on your bank card to 4 digits for travel in Europe, as many banking systems throughout the world do not accept more than 4 digits.

Ensure the account you will withdraw from is under "Checking", as many machines don't recognize "Savings". 

Check your accommodation arrangements carefully, as smaller establishments in Europe often don't accept anything but cash for your room.

Safeguarding Your Possessions

Use a day pack for your most valued possessions and carry it with you on planes, trains, buses and automobiles.

Set up notifications of international transactions with your charge card company and check on free wifi occasionally to ensure your card hasn't been compromised.

During travel in congested areas, carry your day pack on your chest.  Turn the pack so the zippers are against your chest.  Don't feel awkward - it sends a clear message to pick pockets that they won't be successful in approaching you.  They will pick an easier target instead.

Don't hang your bag over the back of a chair.  Secure the strap under your chair leg when sitting.

When touring a city, leave most of your valuables in a hotel safe each day.  Tuck a little cash and a charge card in a secure zippered inner pant pocket.  This adds safety and is easy to access when you need to use it.  If you think you need a money belt during sightseeing, you are carrying too much with you.  Plan to lose everything that day and you will be surprised how much more enjoyable your day will actually be.

Don't keep anything in open pockets that you aren't comfortable losing.  When you feel a hand in your coat pocket and turn to see the back of a woman walking away with her young child, be thankful you don't have to run after her and try to get something back.

When touring, don't bring jewelry.  Having your favorite necklace ripped off your neck by a bicyclist in Rio can spoil your impression of the Copacabana beach and the city.

Remember that the higher the concentration of people, the better it is for pick pockets.  While you are jammed elbow to elbow with other tourists in the Palace of Versailles and your hands are over your head to take pictures, whatever you have below your neck is at risk.

Carry a pocket camera that slides deep in a pocket or store it in a Velcro pocket.  This not only keeps the camera safe, but it allows you to look less like a tourist just by storing it.  Thieves are targeting the person who has their hands full managing that bulky camera.

Electronics

For international travel, cell phones can be problematic.  You must obtain an expensive plan from your provider or buy a new SIM card for the country you are in, which may be difficult.  Also, not all SIM cards work in all cell phones. However, a cell phone is still a great way to keep in touch over free Wifi.

iPads and Tablets - Free wireless is becoming more and more common at coffee shops, B&Bs and even major hotels.  In addition to its email and internet access, you can install internet calling applications and buy minutes to your home country.  Even without the internet, you can still have access to books, music, games, contacts and a calendar.  A Camera Adapter allows you to back up your photos from an SD card onto the tablet.   Leave the bulky laptop at home.

Battery Charging and Electrical Adapters: - there are inexpensive adapters available for countries around the globe, so it's easy to use your portable devices wherever you go.  You can also purchase inexpensive, yet reliable camera batteries and battery chargers from places such as eBay and Amazon.  Try to ensure you've got backup power with the least amount of wiring to transport.  Want to know which electrical adapter to bring with you?  Check out our database search by country or region.

Clothing

The secret to easy travel is packing lightly.  You will be amazed at how many weeks you can travel with nothing more than a 20 inch suit case and a small back pack.  Make sure the suit case has rollers. Put your liquids and small metallic souvenirs in a clear plastic bag and stow this in the back pack, so you have easy access at airport security.  Carry your luggage with you on and off airplanes, trains, hotels and cruise ships.  You'll wonder why you ever used to check your bags.

Some space saving ideas:

  • Small bottles of shampoo, sun tan lotion and tooth paste take up less space and don't cause problems at airport security either.

  • Pack the toiletries on top where you don't have to dig them out each night.  A separate see through container is easy to hang in a bathroom and makes it easy to access the contents.

  • Buy quick dry clothing such as socks, undergarments, pants and shirts from travel or sporting stores.  Wash these in the evening with hand soap and warm water.  In the morning they will be dry and ready to wear or pack.  You can reduce the amount of clothing you bring by more than 50%.

  • For cruiseship formal nights, a man can get by with one dress shirt, one tie and a good pair of casual pants.  Leave the suit at home.  For women, mix and match a couple tops and skirts for formal situations.  Leave that good dress at home.

  • For those with fair skin, buy a broad brimmed hat such as those sold by tilley.com  They aren't the most stylish, but they protect the face and neck.  Plus they fold away easily when not needed.

  • Make your clothing multi purpose.  Pajamas, a long sleeved T shirt and a light gortex shell can help you survive freezing temperatures in Chamonix and downpours in Rome.  Mix and match layers of clothing to the weather conditions and leave your heavy coat at home.

  • Get a good quality walking shoe that will also work for the formal night on a cruise for men.  Avoiding the need for extra shoes saves a tremendous amount of space, but is a major challenge for women trying to pack light.

Locking Your Luggage

Don't lock bags at the airport check in.  Security staff do random inspections of bags after check in and will open locks with lock cutters or tear into the bag if necessary to gain entry.  If its too valuable to lose, carry it on the plane.  Visit the Transportation Security Administration for packing tips and suggestions on how to secure your baggage during your next trip.