A version of this article was originally published in the Love of Dixie Magazine.
I got my first passport when I was seven years old. My family moved to Brazil in 1975. I’ve also lived in Singapore, England, and of course, the US. The adventure bug bit. I can almost hear my passport calling me when it sits dormant for very long. A fat passport = a happy me.
If I haven’t missed any in the counting, I’ve visited 26 countries and some of them multiple times. My thirst for travel is, for now anyway, insatiable. There is so much out there for my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my hands to hold, and my heart to feel.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
While I don’t claim any sort of “expert traveler” status, I do have a few helpful travel tips I can share. These basic tips can help make your overseas adventures a success.
Use Reward Points
As you plan your trip, check to see if you have credit cards that offer reward points. You can possibly use those for hotel stays or rental car reservations. Traveling is a great time to use your credit card with rewards points. You’re going to spend money anyway, why not be rewarded for it? Be aware, however, that it’s easy to go over budget with using a card. Set your spending limit and stick to it. It’s not fun to be paying for a trip after the trip is over.
Converter vs. Adapter
I can’t tell you how many people came to visit me when we lived overseas and blew up their expensive hair irons and hair dryers. I never shame them, though, because we successfully blew our computer up when we first moved to Asia, even though we’d been told.
So, if you have an appliance that you want to use in a country that supports a different voltage than where your appliance is from, you will need a converter. And you’ll need one that will handle the wattage of the appliance you are wanting to use. Check the tag on your appliance to see how many watts it pulls then make sure you get a voltage converter that will handle it.
Some appliances, however, are dual voltage. Most camera chargers, phone chargers, laptop chargers, and such are set up to handle any type of voltage. So, you will only need an adapter to make your plug fit into the wall plug of the country you’re visiting.
Pack Extra Clothes in Your Carry-On
I’m all for packing light but take an extra set of clothes in your carry on, and anything you must have in case your luggage decides to take a different route. Also, with air bumps and neighbor’s elbows, there’s a good chance of a spill. I always put my airline provided blanket in my lap first thing. This became my routine after an unfortunate OJ incident.
Pack Some Items You Can Leave Behind
While I’m on the topic of clothes, you might find it helpful to pack a few items, like comfy shoes that you wanted a new pair of anyway or jeans that are comfortable but have earned their keep. You could want to pick up a coffee mug or, say, several (or a lot) old books you find in a quaint bookstore in Oxford.
Sail Through Security
There is nothing more annoying than getting stopped by TSA in the security line. Sometimes it happens for strange reasons we couldn’t be prepared for, but I always try to do whatever I can to make getting through security as smoothly as possible. You’ll want these for your flight anyway but wear shoes that can be taken on and off quickly.
Make sure your bag of liquids and laptops are easily accessible. Putting them near your laptop or iPad is helpful. That way you can pull them out together and quickly.
Also, don’t forget to dump or drink your water! That fancy water bottle you bought for your trip might just end up in the dump.
*Water bottle tip: Take a small empty water bottle with you to fill before you get on the airplane
Pro Tip for Traveling with Children
I asked my daughter what travel tip she would want me to share. She said she hasn’t been able to use this one yet, but it’s at the top of her list for her next adventure.
When two adults are traveling with small children, organize your bags in such a way that one adult can get on the plane first and get things situated. Adult 1 can sanitize the space and store the bags while adult 2 and kiddos remain in an unconfined area. Adult 2 will board with the children when boarding is done. This will eliminate the stress of shuffling bags and kids as well as the issues that come with confining wiggly children on a plane for longer than is necessary.
Beware of Pick Pockets
If you’ve ever had your passport or wallet stolen, you just sighed a deep sigh, and you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. How do I know this? From personal experience. My wallet, lots of money and my passport were stolen in Paris. As a seasoned traveler, I knew better. I have several Pacsafe bags and backpacks, but vanity won out that day.
Although Pacsafe bags are pretty and come in all sorts of colors and styles, I carried something much cuter and much less anti-theft safe.
Pickpockets are good at what they do, and they often look just like another tourist. You’re having a good time, you let your guard down, they see you. Enjoy your trip by not allowing vanity or ignorance to give an edge to a thief. When it comes to pickpockets, cute is not worth it.
*Pickpocket tip for men: Put a rubber band around your wallet and carry it in your front pocket. This will make it harder for the pickpocket to snatch it without you feeling it. This is a struggle you want to be real!
**Another good anti-theft travel bag brand is Travelon.
Don’t be a grumpy traveler.
We’ve all seen them. We’ve probably all been one a time or two. Grumpy people bring everyone down with them. Don’t be a grumpy traveler. Be happy.
My last piece of advice for you is the most important one…
Enjoy your trip!