It is almost May. I’m slightly alarmed by this. Not just because the year is zipping by, and I’m wondering how I squandered away all that time with so little to show for it (Whither the sample chapter of the great American travel memoir, Everywhereist? Whither the clean laundry you were going to do?), but because I am coming up on another anniversary.

Soon, I will have been blogging for three years.

THREE YEARS. Yeah. Having been out school for well-over a decade, and unemployed for a good shot of time, too, I’ve found that only my blog’s arbitrary birthday that provides me with any opportunity for reflection on the events of the last few years.

In some respects, I’m amazed at how staggeringly little I’ve grown as a traveler: I still roam cities with nary a clue as to what I’m doing, I’m still motivated largely by my quest to stuff as many baked goods into my mouth as possible, I still weep a little when forced to read a map. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn anything. I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I’ve gleaned from my many copious mistakes. Here are the best of of them – my my top travel tips and lessons learned from the last few years.

  1. Always pack a hat. In the winter, a knit hat will keep you warm and take up little room. In the summer, a brimmed hat will keep the sun off your face. In either case, it will save you when your straightening iron doesn’t work in the trapezoidal electrical socket you found in your hotel room.

    Warning: sometimes the brim of your hat will get in the way of snuggling.

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  2. Packing for a trip is infinitely easier when you’ve just done laundry.
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  3. Bring a travel first aid kit with the following: ibuprofen (or other pain killer), decongestant, NyQuil, bandages, hydrocortizone cream. You will not believe how often it will come in handy.
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  4. Going somewhere with clean drinking water? Pack a reusable water bottle that clips on to your bag. Bonus points if it’s collapsible. In an age where the bottled stuff costs $7, you’ll save a ton, too.
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  5. You will never wear that second dressy outfit, so stop packing it. Most trips, you won’t even wear the first dressy outfit (but you should still pack that one).
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  6. Bags with wheels are amazing. That backpack might seem more agile, but have you ever seen someone trek across an airport with one of those on their back? Nimble does not come to mind. Sciatica, yes. But not nimble.
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  7. Don’t forget your camera charger. You will go through that battery in a second, esp. when your friends insist on flipping through all of the photos that you just took in order to relive something that happened 5 minutes ago.
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  8. Don’t pack clothes that require ironing. Hell, don’t buy clothes that require ironing.
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  9. If you are staying with someone, get them a present. Either bring it from home, or take them out during the trip, or send them something afterwards. Do it not only because you will likely be invited back, but because your mom will be so proud.
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  10. Never pack something that you haven’t worn before. Otherwise you’ll find your new shoes too uncomfortable, your new jacket too flimsy, your new underwear too wedgie-prone.
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  11. Buy that delightfully grotesque souvenir, even if you don’t know who to give it to. Odds are, you will think of someone for whom it would be perfect. Worst-case scenario, you’ll keep it for yourself. Which is a really great worst-case scenario.

    I really should have bought one of those ridiculous hats. Because you can never have enough.

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  12. If you hate wearing something at home, you will hate wearing it even more on a trip.
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  13. Pack those god-awful tennis shoes you only wear “jogging” (a.k.a., “to the store to buy ice cream”) At some point during your trip, you won’t care what you look like. You will only care about being comfortable. For me, that point is “Day 2.”
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  14. Do not go into a McDonald’s. I don’t care if you are scared and starving – McNuggets are NEVER a viable option. If you need fast food, at least hit up a regional chain.

    Or consider picking a restaurant based on its name alone.

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  15. Always ask museum staff for tips. They’ll tell you what the best exhibits are, and what you can skip.

    Plus, they probably get bored looking at naked bodies all day and are DYING for a little human interaction.

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  16. If you are at an aquarium or a planetarium, feel free to skip the IMAX movie. They cost a bundle, and are the same EVERYWHERE.
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  17. Tip your hotel housekeeping staff. (A good rule is to leave them about $2 U.S./day.) While you can leave it every day on the pillow, most staff is instructed not to move money or personal items, so they might not pick it up. If this is the case, just leave it in a prominent spot when you check out.
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  18. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket, and never carry your purse on just your shoulder.
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  19. Take notes. As much as you believe the contrary, once you get home you will not remember your tour guide’s name, or the artist whose worked you loved so much, or even the city where you stayed. Write it down.
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  20. If you have an inkling that you should be taking photos of something, take them.
  21. If you have an inkling that you should not be taking photos of something, don’t take them.
  22. The second you think of packing something, PACK IT. If you wait, you will forget. And then you’ll end up using a plastic bag as a shower cap. Subsequent attempts to seduce your husband will be impossible after he’s seen you with a Rite-Aid sack on your head.
  23. If you don’t speak the local language of the place you are heading, then at least learn the following phrases: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. Do you have those shoes in a size 37?
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  24. Wherever you  are, wherever you are going, bring snacks.
  25. Dry shampoo is a godsend for those days when you don’t have time to wash your hair, but still want to interact with other humans.
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  26. You will inevitably forget something, either at home or while on your trip. Accept this reality, and pray it is not your passport or your spouse.
  27. Call your credit card company before you leave and put a travel alert on your card. While you’re at it, jot down their international customer service number.
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  28. Consider contacting the embassy and letting them know the dates of your trip. Or at the very least, have their contact info on hand.
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  29. Make photocopies of your passport and leave one with friends and another tucked into your bag. Or, better yet, scan your passport and email a copy to yourself.
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  30. Pack more underwear than you could ever conceivably go through. They don’t take up much room, and after a few days on the road, you will feel FRIGGING DECADENT when you put on a fresh pair in the morning and again in the afternoon.
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  31. Stuffing socks into your shoes can help you save space and ensure your loafers retain their shape.
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  32. No one will judge you for watching a dumb movie while on a plane. That’s what you’re supposed to do on planes.
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  33. When packing, try to match all of the pants/bottoms you are taking with all of the tops. This will prevent you from looking like a total goober by the end of your trip.

    Though sometimes you will look like a goober anyway, because you really can't dress yourself.

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  34. Dryer sheets remove static from your hair and clothing and make your suitcase smell awesome while taking up virtually no room.
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  35. Do not, under ANY circumstances, use an airplane lavatory while not wearing shoes. That is not okay. I don’t care how swollen your feet are. Also, consider rolling up the hems of your pants while you are in there, so they don’t brush the floor.
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  36. Toilet paper is not a given in many parts of the world. Which is why those little packs of tissues they sell at drugstores are a godsend.
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  37. It is far easier to get drunk and make an ass of yourself at 30,000 feet than when you are on the ground.

    Of course, that doesn't mean it's difficult to get drunk on the ground. Just MORE difficult than on a plane.

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  38. Border control agents do not get sarcasm.
  39. If you can’t afford to lose it (either financially or emotionally), don’t pack it.
  40. When in Bulgaria, never get into a cab that doesn’t have a meter.
  41. If you’ve selected the window seat, you’d better have a big bladder.
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  42. If you are starting a brand-new book on your flight, bring at least one other form of entertainment with you, because that brand-new book might suck.
  43. Suffer from motion sickness? Ask for a drink that is half ginger ale and half club soda. It will help alleviate nausea without putting you into diabetic shock.
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  44. Never check any of the following: your toothbrush, your prescription medications, your deodorant, your pjs.
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  45. Wear sunscreen anytime you will be outside, regardless of the temperature or weather.
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  46. Regardless of size, never bring more than two bags with you- any more than that is unwieldy and difficult to keep track of.

    This poor gal was more pack mule than human. But she did have the legs of a 25-year-old, so there's that.

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  47. Rolling non-wrinkable items before shoving them into your suitcase really does save space.
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  48. A passport protector is the most useless item anyone can buy, ever.
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  49. If you’ve forgotten something, check with the hotel before running to a drugstore. Most housekeeping departments carry toothbrushes, combs, sewing kits, shower caps, and disposable razors that they will give you free of charge.

    Bonus! If you get a teeny tiny tube of toothpaste, you can pretend you are a giant.

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  50. Budget hotels almost always offer free wi-fi. Luxury hotels will charge you for it. This is almost always the case.
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  51. Sleeping in while traveling is only acceptable if there is absolutely NOTHING better to do. In other words, it’s never acceptable.
  52. Never trust a theater review from a London critic.
  53. Don’t take foreign guests to an Americanized version of their cuisine. I know I shouldn’t generalize, but NO ITALIAN HAS EVER WANTED TO GO TO THE OLIVE GARDEN.
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  54. If a restaurants posts its menu in more than three languages, the food is probably going to suck.
  55. And, most importantly: never, EVER leave any valuables in your vehicle. I don’t care if it’s safely hidden in the trunk. I don’t care if you’re parked in the safest part of town. Don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk.

Phew. Okay – that’s the entirety of my travel knowledge. Seriously, that’s it. It will be another year before I have anything even remotely useful to share. But what about you? Surely you must have some useful nugget of travel wisdom you’ve been dying to share. If so, leave your sage advice in the comments for all to see.

Full list of categories:  Advice » Somewhat Useful Info » Top Ten
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Comments (78)

  1. 30. Apr, 2012 / Camels & Chocolate:

    A bag with wheels completely changed my travel life. Not sure how I ever managed as an actual backpacker when I had a 50-pound North Face pack strapped on my back. I spent a lot of time at train stations, upside down, legs flailing, like an overturned turtle about to meet its demise.

    [Reply]

  2. 30. Apr, 2012 / Melanie:

    These are all so good. The putting the socks in the shoes thing is something I never thought of. I’m totally using that my next trip.

    [Reply]

  3. 30. Apr, 2012 / Gigi:

    I agree with so many of these. A few addendums though:

    #5: if you are me or if you are going to New York to see Broadway shows every night or if you are going on a cruise, you will wear that second fancy outfit. And maybe the third.

    #6: while this is true in airports and paved places, it is decidedly untrue in wilderness travel situations. On my first ever trip to the Australian Outback, I had to wrap duct tape all the way around by bag to keep things from falling out the bottom on the way home, as the cobbles and dirt roads and other wilderness situations were much too much for my wheeled bag to handle. Not only did it lose a wheel (and try wheeling around a wheelie-bag with one wheel; it is 0% fun), but it also lost most of its bottom. Thus, the duct tape.

    #46: unless you also bring a sherpa. Then, have at it.

    [Reply]

  4. 30. Apr, 2012 / Giulia:

    Never take a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, expecially when they say it’s going to be for free. Tehy will take you where they want and you’ll waste 1 day

    Always take meter taxi expecially in Asia otherwise they will overcharge you

    Always negotiate in Asia and Arabic Countries. That’s the way it goes

    Never ask information to thai men. Even when they don’t know the answer will say something to you. 99% of the times it’s wrong. Only ask women.

    Only take “Legal” taxi/shuttle” in South America. There is the risk you’ll be robbed

    Always lock you backpack/bag when on South America buses (mainly night buses). Children will be sent under the seats and will take all your values

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  5. 30. Apr, 2012 / Majida:

    Take along: A bag with nuts and dry fruits. Take along sandwiches or something else you fancy for your travelling time, we just had the case of no non-meat alternative during a flight!

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  6. 30. Apr, 2012 / desenchantees:

    ‘Warning: sometimes the brim of your hate will get in the way of snuggling.’

    You mean HAT, rather than HATE, right? That’s a typo you won’t want to make :)

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    Oops, yeah. Fixed. Though I am often brimming with hate, too. :)

    [Reply]

    Ronald Reply:

    You could also fix those errors where you cursed.

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    Those weren’t errors. ;)

  7. 30. Apr, 2012 / Robert Somerville:

    Some great tips here. My contribution:

    Always take a (4 plug) powerboard with you in your luggage. That way you only need one adaptor and and all of your electronic devices can be charged/used at the same time.

    GuruBob

    [Reply]

  8. 30. Apr, 2012 / Asenath:

    Take a paper map. Metered or not, that cab may drive you the loooong way to your destination to run up the fare. Directions in a foreign language are much easier to grasp when the helpful local can point to an intersection or draw a path with pen. It’s amazing what you can find when you are lost in a new town but it is so comforting to know you can find your way back to the hotel/pub when your feet are tired of exploring.

    [Reply]

    Asenath Reply:

    Almost forgot: you can tuck that map inside of a local-language magazine to avoid outing yourself as a tourist. Bonus: if you pick the right magazine it may even spark a conversation at the cafe/pub with locals that wouldn’t normally approach a tourist.

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    Linda Bibb Reply:

    If you have data, you can use Waze (free GPS phone app) to show you how you *should* be getting there. If he takes the long way, you’ll know. (It happened to us, I told my husband “he’s taking a long detour,” and he obviously knew we were onto him, because he immediately changed his direction.)

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  9. 30. Apr, 2012 / Ramen:

    I couldn’t agree more with #7 – after missing a perfectly delicious shot of a gorgeous full moon setting into the ocean up in Seaside, OR b/c my battery wasn’t fully charged, I always travel with my charger and an addit’l full battery (so I can swap them out quickly if I see something stellar). *sigh* it was the moonset that got away…

    [Reply]

  10. 30. Apr, 2012 / Katie:

    I love the scanning and emailing a copy of my passport to myself. I always bring a photocopy–but this is, and a scanned copy of my credit cards is going to be in my starred items ASAP.

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    Leyla Reply:

    I put all that stuff on a USB flash drive – then even if there’s no Internet cafe around I can stick it into the hotel’s computer or anyone else’s. Just don’t transfer the data!!

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    eddie Reply:

    I keep copies of my important documents including my passport, airline information, insurance, etc, on a cloudsite. I’ve never been to a country where the places that I may need to have that kind of information do not have computers. That way if I lose absolutly everything, all is not lost. Also, the cloudsite is secure, unlike most (but not all) flashdrives.

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    Linda Bibb Reply:

    Also, a regular photo of your passport page is easy to access.

    [Reply]

  11. 30. Apr, 2012 / Ben Milleare:

    #56 those free shower caps that are in every hotel room? they’re great for putting your spare shoes in to protect your clothes in your bag/case

    [Reply]

    Majida Reply:

    Thanx, THAT is an idea, I didn’t think off! Told my Husband off, when he wanted to pack more of them in last hotel, already having more than enough !!

    [Reply]

    heather Reply:

    Also, those “socks” international airlines hand out for long flights work great for keeping shoe gunk off your clothes.

    [Reply]

    Linda Bibb Reply:

    Those shower caps also make great camera condoms, in case it suddenly starts to rain.

    [Reply]

  12. 30. Apr, 2012 / Chris Monsanto:

    When you need to take a cab in a foreign country ask a local (e.g., the hotel desk clerk or concierge) to write down the destination address in the local language. The driver will understand this better than your lame attempt at speaking his language.

    [Reply]

  13. 30. Apr, 2012 / Melissa:

    I love #13. Every time I’ve said I’m only going to wear cute shoes, I’ve regretted it.

    [Reply]

  14. 30. Apr, 2012 / Dyanne@TravelnLass:

    “48. A passport protector is the most useless item anyone can buy, ever.”

    Agreed. BUT, I dare say a simple PLASTIC PASSPORT COVER (a mere $3 for 5 at http://www.amazon.com/Plastic-Passport-Cover/dp/B004TP4ZNK) will definitely save your precious passport from soggy shred after a few weeks/months backpacking around Southeast Asia/the tropics dangling in a sweaty money belt against your chest/hip/etc.). Which begs the question…

    Surely you don’t carry your passport, credit card and other valuables in your wallet/purse – sans back pocket/strap on shoulder or otherwise, no?

    That said, your #19 is the BEST – g-knows I often forget some precious detail when I travel, and always regret not jotting down a few notes while I’m on the trail.

    Oh, and my own contribution:

    #56. Six words: ear plugs. ear plugs. EAR PLUGS.

    [Reply]

  15. Dearest Geraldine,

    Love your points 5, 22 and 35. Number 53 is a KILLER but you would be amazed at how many people still would do this. Traveling light makes it also light on you. We learned this for our 1,500.000 miles as international consultants and by every piece I added to my wardrobe I asked myself, is it bulky, heavy or wrinkly? Forget it. You learn and it pays off big.
    Always I carried some wipes in a zip-loc bag for freshening up. A roll-up down travel pillow is a bliss too for being able to sleep better on the plane and even for adding in the hotel. But with the restrictions to luggage size and weight it will be harder. The most important thing we’ve learned is to already after boarding adjusting your watch to the destination’s time. That way you are better adapting mentally to your time change. Never eat heavy meals the day(s) prior to a long trip. Try to avoid meat as your body will adjust more rapidly to the time change and new meals routine.
    Keep up your great writing and enjoy the month of May!
    Love,

    Mariette

    [Reply]

  16. 01. May, 2012 / Natalcho @ Tomatoes Rock:

    All of these I’ve also learned the hard way and might I add:
    - never check in your glasses because lenses on a flight are the worst!
    - always consider the fact that your tv on the plane might not work – nothing more infuriating but it happens so bring books and magazines just in case
    - make sure you print out the address of the hotel you will be staying in … just in case it turns out you’ve forgotten it by the time you need it
    - triple check whether you have the appropriate visas (I guess this is not so important if you are american). there are few things more upsetting than not being allowed on your transatlantic flight

    I also just read your post about cabs in Bulgaria. I am Bulgarian and I just wanted to tell you that you and Rand should pat yourselves on the back for managing to take a legitimate cab from the airport. I am local and I still sometimes get ripped off or sometimes I get told in Bulgarian “this cab is really not for you – keep walking” – the assumption I guess being that I cannot afford to pay the ridiculous price of the journey. Anyway – well done!

    [Reply]

  17. 01. May, 2012 / Emily McGee:

    If the locals aren’t drinking tap water, then you shouldn’t either. I’ve been places where people sell water in sealed bags for about 10 cents and that’s all the locals drink too. It’s much better than getting sick.

    Now I just need to solve the mystery of how they keep that water icy cold despite the 100 degree heat and without a cooler in sight.

    [Reply]

  18. 01. May, 2012 / Connie:

    I always bring a power surge protector/strip whenever I travel, particularly outside of the US. They make them compact enough to travel with, are great for setting up a charging station in the hotel room, and protect my electronics from “iffy” electrical issues that I’ve seen in some places in Mexico.

    [Reply]

  19. 01. May, 2012 / Majida:

    Here are a few things that came to my mind late ron
    - Take enough storage media for pictures (may be online storage?!) and DO save them at least once elsewhere than your camera card: consider losing them camera card photos due to whatever reason- malfunction- loosing camera etc. etc. My friend made > 1000 pix in Andalusia on her iphone and when she was back in US then iphone had a malfunction and ALL date was lost :(. I saved them to Dropbox having a wlan at very hotel, worked out good. However if you have RAW pictures, you may need much more disk space!

    - consider voice recording of your notes: much more spontaneous- you can do it while walking thru the monuments/Tourist attractions, while moving along on a bus ride, car /flight whatever

    - take fresh fruit and sandwiches on a plane or hv them before boarding)!

    - Avoid underwire bras if u don’t want to have the hassle with the oversensitive security checks – tip from a friend!

    [Reply]

  20. 01. May, 2012 / Lani:

    My tips:

    #1 — Don’t pose with “gladiators” in Rome — they want to charge you something outrageous like 10 Euros, and most of them are not gladiator material anyway.

    #2 — Don’t go on a tour in Rome. It’s better to use a map and walk around getting lost. 3 blocks in any direction and you will find another famous Roman ruin, fountain, church or something.

    #3 — You don’t need a fancy, expensive Vatican tour package. If you want to know who sculpted/painted what, pick up a book in the Vatican bookstore (printed in multiple languages) that describes the art in St. Peter’s basilica and elsewhere. The Vatican police are very serious about enforcing the “no photo” rule where it is in play, by the way.

    #4 — If you go to mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, be prepared to get your picture taken a lot by tourists. (Look! A real Catholic in their native habitat!) Also be prepared to understand NOTHING since it’s in Italian, unless, of course, you are Geraldine.

    #5 — When you book a cheap B&B room, you take your chances. It can be fantastic, like in Venice, or a minor (but survivable) disaster, like in Rome.

    #6 — If you’re eating on the cheap, buy groceries from a local market. If you need to buy cheap at a restaurant in Italy, the pasta and pizza dishes are almost always reasonable. Meat dishes can get pricey. I didn’t pay attention to prices on pastries — what does it matter, anyway, if you’re drooling?

    [Reply]

  21. 01. May, 2012 / Kristi:

    As someone who had to go without my checked luggage in Barcelona for 2 days, I’d add “a change of clothes (especially underwear)” to #44.

    I’m currently living in Iceland for a month for work and I wish I could’ve stuck to #46, but that was kind of impossible.

    [Reply]

  22. 01. May, 2012 / Lee:

    Beware of the body scanners – the chances of you dying from a terrorist attack is one in 20 million, the same odds that you will die from one walk through a body scanner.

    Fight the TSA and the police state – Ron Paul 2012

    [Reply]

  23. 01. May, 2012 / Debra:

    I still think the tip you gave about bringing baby powder is the best travel advice I’ve heard yet.

    [Reply]

  24. 01. May, 2012 / Jeremy Branham:

    Awesome, practical tips. Sure, I could leave it at that but if I didn’t add my comments or stories from my travels, then you are otherwise just going to ignore my comment because it was just another one of those pat on the back comments right?

    So here it goes.

    #7 Bringing your camera charger – completely 100% agree. However, I would add to this and say spend the money and buy an extra camera batter to take with you. It doesn’t cost much and you won’t regret it. Then you can charge the other one while you use the back up.

    #14 Don’t go into a McDonald’s – OK here’s the irony of this one. In the US, I may not step into a McDonald’s for 5 years. When I travel, I will probably stop once on a trip. Sure, I regret the choices of food but it’s a comfort thing. And one time in Paris, I met a Lebanese girl at McDonald.s I spent the entire day with her – went with her to the doctor, saw a move in a Parisian theater, ate at a Lebanese restaurant, and saw a side of Paris I could never see on my own. Also, I am still friends with her (on Facebook at least) 8 years later. Don’t completely knock McD’s. :)

    #19 Amen! I always think I will remember all that stuff. But I don’t.

    #27 Once in Barcelona, I had no access to money for 24 hours. It sucked. Won’t make that mistake again.

    #41 I love the window seat. Yes I have a large bladder, rarely go to the bathroom and like to sleep without being interrupted!

    OK so I could say a lot more but I do agree with these and just had to add my two cents to a few of them :)

    [Reply]

  25. 01. May, 2012 / ehalvey:

    #8! Yes! I HATE ironing. I, too, refuse to buy clothing that requires ironing. Meanwhile, the hubs irons his jeans…

    We missed our connection for our honeymoon, so having a toothbrush/pjs/undies in my carry on is a must after that. I wore the same clothes for 2.5 days, ick.

    Also, I use Photosync to wirelessly upload photos to Picasa from my phone in case something goes wrong.

    [Reply]

  26. 02. May, 2012 / Colleen Kelly Mellor:

    If you’re going on a self-directed, Eurail trip (with kids), train for it first, as in months prior to actual going. I seriously wanted to burn my backpack one week into a 7-week trip, because I never realized the huge physical stamina required of hefting that bag around, since I didn’t prepare. It gets heavier by the day. Only perk? I had nicely-sculpted arms by the end.

    Yes, get a smaller bag with rollers (not the typical American stye of travel,) and “each person’s got to be able to carry her own stuff.” That ruling dramatically cuts down on everyone’s desire to buy souvenirs… or whatever.

    And yes, absolutely bring sneakers (only Americans wear these, so we’re easily able to pick out each other) because feet are swollen and brutalized in short order, so never give in to fashion. We brought a couple of jeans and several undies squirreled away in infinitesimal rolls, a few tee-shirts. That was it…and the first-aid kit–a MUST. Surprising what you can’t find that we consider easily-attainable in another land (or maybe we’re just spoiled.)

    [Reply]

  27. 02. May, 2012 / Ville:

    If you are traveling with kids and they want candy, lemonade, ice-cream etc. Buy local ones, those can taste great (or very bad), but your kids learn some new tastes and they get experience.

    [Reply]

  28. 02. May, 2012 / Kristen:

    Always bring your passport- even if going somewhere you don’t need one. You never know when a side trip might come up and you don’t want to be the one left at the hotel.

    Always have your contact info on your luggage. Someone once took my suitcase by accident and we just happened to be staying at the same hotel- saved us both trips back and forth to the airport.

    If you have food allergies, always print out in the local language (or have the hotel do it for you) what you can’t eat.

    [Reply]

  29. 02. May, 2012 / A Montrealer Abroad:

    Phew – indeed, that’s a lot of tips! I had to learn some of them the hard way, and can’t stress enough how valuable items should NEVER be checked. NEVER. Unless you want to be journey through Shanghai – without you.

    [Reply]

  30. 02. May, 2012 / Zara:

    A bag with wheels – SO IMPORTANT! I have a hybrid (backpack with wheels), an Osprey Meridien, and although it is everything but cheap, I would still recommend it. I don’t understand why other backpackers are still making their backs older by submitting themselves to carry the burden of their backpacks. If I had 1 tip to give to other travelers, that would be it: get yourself a wheeled backpack. It pays off!!

    [Reply]

  31. 02. May, 2012 / Traveling Ted:

    Some great tips and some even better humor.

    [Reply]

  32. 03. May, 2012 / andy:

    a compass!

    thanks for the tips, great read

    [Reply]

  33. 03. May, 2012 / Stacey:

    Have you even been in a situation where #28 has been necessary?

    [Reply]

    Everywhereist Reply:

    Nope. But I travel to places like London and Madrid. If you went to more tumultuous places, I suspect that, yes, it would be a good idea.

    [Reply]

  34. 04. May, 2012 / Tracey:

    Maybe don’t land in Bangkok at 3AM by yourself, with no plan. You might end up scared, in a place with neon flashing nights.

    [Reply]

    Dave Reply:

    Great Advice! The same goes for India too!

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  35. 07. May, 2012 / Jessica:

    #22 is sooo true – you should definitely always pack something as soon as you think of it (or at least write it down somewhere!). I hate getting somewhere and realizing I’ve forgotten something important.

    Great tips!

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  36. 07. May, 2012 / Abhay:

    I disagree with #48. My passport got damaged because of sudden rain.

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  37. 10. May, 2012 / Jessi:

    I do believe you are my new favorite blogger to stal… I mean keep an eye on. Is that “Pho King” the one in Seaside, CA? Despite the funny name it was a halfway decent place to get a good bowl of pho.

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  38. 17. May, 2012 / Loryne:

    Absolutely LOVE this post! Thanks for sharing :-)

    This one cracked me up:

    “Buy that delightfully grotesque souvenir, even if you don’t know who to give it to. Odds are, you will think of someone for whom it would be perfect. Worst-case scenario, you’ll keep it for yourself. Which is a really great worst-case scenario.”

    Been guilty of this on several counts and there’s always that friend who will love it!

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  39. 22. May, 2012 / Christine:

    Love love LOVE this. Brilliant tips–although I do still love my pretty passport cover :)

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  40. 23. May, 2012 / Diane:

    When you leave your hotel, especially in a big city, take one of their business cards. Then, when you are hopelessly lost and exhausted after wandering around all day sightseeing, you can give it to a cab driver or at least ask directions, as it will have the hotel’s name and address in the local language.

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    Gary Reply:

    YES! I always do and it has saved me 3 times

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  41. 05. Jun, 2012 / Jess:

    20 and 21 are right on.

    Bring ziploc bags of various sizes! Useful for toiletries, wet or slimy things, food dirty laundry . . . the list is endless.

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  42. 23. Jun, 2012 / Kitty:

    Awesome blog!!!
    I’d add:

    Always get small change in local currency (of the place you’re visiting) you might need it for vending machines,tips and even for using public restrooms.

    If you’re flying for the first time, remember to enter your name and surname CORRECTLY, any typo might get you to be left at your point of origin, with no refunds.

    Always get travel insurance, at least for your peace of mind regarding any health issue you might get.

    And i can’t emphasize enough about the importance of learning basic local vocabulary,it’s polite and it will let youstablish rapport whenever you need help from a local. They’ll try harder to help youandyou’ll be a better ambassador to your country.

    Beware of free public WIFI even at airports.many are too unsafe, and this applies to almost every country in the world.

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  43. 25. Jun, 2012 / bec:

    backpack with wheels is a must, 20 months as a 5 foot turtle was not a plan esspecially when you discover your bag is now 40kg’s! carry Wet Wipes, easy fit all plug for plugholes, loney planet guide and journals, and try to fit in and look local, there is no gains looking (or smelling) like a daggy bogan hipee that screams look at me I’m a tourist! Take care with days and arrival times, landing in Niarobi in kenya at midnight might explain why your tickets seem a such a deal. Airports are huge, be early , never be late for boarding and always be prepared to answer even the strangest of questions politely. Travelling will involve lots of waiting and lots of queue so be prepared and allow time. Cover up, no matter the temp(at worst carry sarong and over shirt with sleeves) or be refused entry, even at the Sistine Chapel in Rome or you have wasted your time standing ,waiting and sweating. Halters and singlet strap tops were comfortable but not always practicle! Finally plan seasons well, I enjoyed the best of five summers in a row.

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    matthew clarke Reply:

    hey bec!, you did a 20 month trip? im wanting to do a 24 month trip, can we chat? :D

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  44. 25. Jul, 2012 / Loryne:

    Excellent points!

    I loved this post so much, I referenced your tips on our travel blog too with a few of our own tips from travel (hope you don’t mind).

    Check it out here: http://ifthebagfits.com/2012/07/25/55-best-travel-tips-and-then-some/

    x

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  45. 23. Oct, 2012 / Ellen Keith:

    “Always ask museum staff for tips. They’ll tell you what the best exhibits are, and what you can skip.”

    This is a great one, and something I would never have thought of! Thanks for the tips :)

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  46. 23. Nov, 2012 / Gary:

    I learned this the hard way…..when staying in many different hotels on a trip….write down your room number and put it in your pocket before going out drinking for the night. Also, throw away your previous hotels key card…..it won’t work at your new hotel, even if your are at the right door.

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  47. 27. Nov, 2012 / Louise Lacombe:

    RE # 17: Tip housekeeping every day. Leave a small note on a table, otherwise the money will not be picked up. If you leave all the money for the end and put it on or under the pillow, very often, the concierge will enter the room before housekeeping and pick up the money… The chambermaid , who does not get tips as often as other hotel staff will not get anything…

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  48. 22. Jan, 2013 / Wil:

    Great list! I’m excited to get back to traveling. I haven’t used my passport in almost 5 years and I’m ready for adventure.

    Candy from your home country makes a great gift. Most places outside the US don’t have the chocolate/peanut butter combo.

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  49. 23. Jan, 2013 / Helen:

    Pack a wine stopper incase you don’t finish your bottle of bubbly.

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  50. 01. Feb, 2013 / Kim:

    I loved this comment I read somewhere on the internet recently: “Bring your sense of humor. It weighs nothing and can be a lifesaver if you find yourself confronted with the unexpected!”

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  51. 11. May, 2013 / Gabby:

    Hi Geraldine!
    I’m going for the first time in my 19 years to London and Spain. I’m going with my uncle and cousins but I was still quite nervous since the farthest I’ve been from home is Montreal (I’m from Ontario). ALL of your tips were absolutely awesome and stilled some of the jitters I had, not to mention made me laugh. So thanks I guess. Hopefully my first trip will be memorable and problem free :)

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  52. 10. Jun, 2013 / olivia:

    hilarious and great tips!!
    just one extra thing do not watch air crash investigations before you leave.
    also change your watch on the airplane to the current time at your destination to avoid jet lag. for example if it is 7.00 at your location but only 4.00 where ever you are eat dinner. it helps you get used to the time zones :)
    thanks for posting this xx

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  53. 03. Aug, 2013 / Jess:

    I like to send postcards while traveling, so I compile a list on paper of everyone’s addresses. This way they are all in one spot and I don’t have to flip through my online address book. And if I am traveling in the US (my home country), I bring along postcard stamps. Surprisingly, they can be hard to find when you need them… On my next trip I am going to try out a DIY hydrating face spritzer. I’m headed to Bali and that will be one. Long. Plane ride. I think my skin will thank me :) Instead of spending $10-$20 on a drugstore brand, I’m going to add distilled water, some lavender essential oil, and vitamin e oil to a small carry-on size spray bottle. It’s worth a shot. Also, I bring along some of the individually wrapped packages of Oatmeal. Just add hot water :) And also some tea bags…

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  54. 16. Aug, 2013 / Sarah D.:

    Great list!

    I totally agree about the bathroom thing and the no shoes! Who does that? As as form flight attendant I will attest that tons of people do that and it’s nasty! Those bathrooms never get cleaned. I couldn’t survive without my ear plugs, eye mask, and fully charged cell-phone loaded up with movies, books, and music. Its also freezing on international flights…something about night time over the ocean…burr! So wear pants, a jacket, and never open-toed shoes or you will freeze. If you have the room in your carry-on, I suggest bringing all your bathroom supplies. Buy all the mini little things and even if you end up checking them…they take up way less room. That’s all I got. :)

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  55. 20. Aug, 2013 / Ramsey:

    Great list. Just a few more to add:

    For long-haul flights, bring a freshly washed pillow case from home. No one likes the feeling of cheap, synthetic, and not so hygienic airplane pillowcases on your face, but with a fresh cotton case from home, newly laundered and maybe even sprayed with a refreshing scent, just stuff the pillows inside for a bit of clean and more aroma friendly relaxation.

    Take the cheap airline socks with you. After a day muching about in what may be dirty streets, you can tuck your hand inside one, and use it ass a shoe buffer.

    If they give you one, also take the disposable airline toothbrush with you. They are great for scrubbing the grime in the cracks of shoes, between the sole and fabric/leather. Similarly, many hotels offer comp disposable toothbrushes, which are useful for the same.

    I’m a healthy eater, and sometimes find it difficult to find what I need on the road! so I often take a couple days supply of favorite balsamic, or spice with me, in case i need to grab some tomatoes or cucs, and just make a quick salad. Washed hotel shampoo bottles are perfect for that. they are usually strong and seal enough, and are small enough to pass through security on the plane.

    If they have extras on the plane, grab some of the small packs of salt and pepper to toss into your bag. You can also get these at many cafes and delis. You never know when you might need while on the road!

    If they have individual wet-wipes on the plane, ask the air crew if they can spare a few extras. Also toss those into your bag. Great to have those in the worst of times, when there’s no where else to wash up.

    Keep your empty water bottles when finished with them. If you stay in a hotel with gym, the gyms very often have larger water dispensers, where you can refill the empties for free, rather than buying more pricey bottles from the outside.

    More often than not, if I am stying more hat a couple days at a hotel, I will ask them to empty the mini-bar. First, I dont want to be tempted by a late-night raid of ridiculously priced snacks and beverages, and second, it gives me the fridge space to buy what I want much cheaper on the local marketplace, and store for my own use. Most hotels- other than the uptight 5-stars that also jack you for wi-fi, can accomodate.

    I always try and toss an empty water bottle in my bag, when going to airport. It clears security, and you can usually fill it up from a safe source inside the terminal.

    So many more to add- but I’ll leave it for now!

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  56. 21. Aug, 2013 / Ramsey:

    Oh yes, one more I just remembered! Ikea sells a packet of various multi-colored plastic cutlery and plates in the kids section. They are by far the most durable, and still light, I have found. Toss a couple of those into your bag, and you are always ready for an impromptu meal, anywhere. They can pass through security onto a plane as well, so if you bring your own food onto the plane, or are just tired of the poor excuse for overly security-conscious utensils, these are great to have with! Having livedin Asia for years, I also always carry a set of light-wood, but durable chopsticks at the bottom of my bag as well!

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  57. 11. Sep, 2013 / Jeannie:

    Great list! A few tips to share –

    I always order some foreign currency from my bank before I go in various bills. You’ll need cash for the taxi and saves on the hassle of having to get after a long flight not to mention the fees at the airport, etc.

    I usually have to travel coach but try and make it as comfortable as possible by creating my own “first class” travel kit. Grippy socks, sleep mask, rosebud salve, lotion, earplugs, gourmet snacks, wipes, etc.

    I like to look up customs ie, what is appropriate attire, tipping, etc before I travel. I think it’s very important to be as polite as possible and to be a good guest in other countries.

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  58. 21. Sep, 2013 / Irma:

    When I travel to Latin America I like to fill my suitcase with clothes I don’t really need and when my vacation ends I like to give the clothes away. This gives me lot’s more room in my suitcase and it also makes me feel good that others are going to enjoy my clothes.

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  59. 25. Nov, 2013 / Marie:

    №56: get international roaming free sim card (e.g., travelsim.com), if you don’t wanna get a $1’000’000 bill ))

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  60. 17. Mar, 2014 / Nicole:

    I don’t understand number 44 I believe. What Do you mean don’t check all those things? Can I bring them on my carry on?

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    Why couldn’t you?

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  61. 24. Mar, 2014 / Amanda:

    Great list!

    Someone mentioned it before but a Pillow Case – also doubles as a laundry bag if required and helps feel at ease when worried about the cleanliness of the hotel.

    I always take a power board as well – cant stress how many times this has saved me with phone/camera/ipad.

    Empty/old contact lens cases also can double as a make-up/foundation container if worried about breaking/leaking containers on flights – also small enough to be checked in as carry on luggage.

    Shower caps to wrap dirty shoes in.

    Light weight scarf can also double as a pillow where ever on trips/bus rides.

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  62. 29. Mar, 2014 / Amanda:

    Great tips! People get on me for taking too many pictures, but are grateful for them when we get home. With pictures you are able to relive your travels over and over again! Packing is a major part of traveling! I keep a list out and as I think of things I write it down so I will remember to pack it. Then I take that list with me so I don’t leave anything behind when I pack to go home. I get a little crazy sometimes packing, cause I like to be prepared for anything! Love your blog and love your tips!!!

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