1. Bring no expectations
2. Remember, it’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.
3. Follow the leader
4. As soon as you acquire your passport, sign it and make a few color copies:
a. pack a copy of it away from your person
b. have a copy where a responsible person can fax it to you
c. fill out the contact page of your passport in pencil
5. Have a travel agent who you can call upon for help or at least advice
6. Remember what my daddy used to say: “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”
7. Take two – four extra passport photos with you
9. Learn about the culture that you are traveling to way ahead of time. “Let’s Go” series is a really good resource.
10. Keep those things which are valuable to you in your carry on, if you can’t do without it, don’t check it… this is true for equipment as well as sentimental stuff. The most valuable things you carry are your passport and money cards (cc and atm). If you can’t live without other things (such as if they are stolen), don’t bring them. If you must bring such things, maybe you should stay home where this stuff is safe.
11. ABC – Always Be Charging. Whatever gadgets you need for your journey for phone calls, wifi, or music need charging. As soon as you get to a stop (the place with relative security where you will sleep) find the outlet and top off your gadget
(yes, I know this is not what best battery life teachers teach) because you cannot count on there always being a place to charge (see rule 1).
12. ABW – Always Be Washing. When you get to the above mentioned stop, get out the twine (carry a length of about 4-5 meters of common household twine) and figure out the best way to string your clothesline. Take out your travel detergent and your stopper (all pictured) and use your sink (or shower, creek, river or whatever is available) and wash your handful of dirty clothes and hang them up.
I find it wise to do this at every stop possible. If washed and hung now, in the morning when I am on the move again, the clothing will be dry and ready to roll and stuff in the backpack. You probably can’t do this everyday, but if you do this when you can, you will extend the length of your pack of clothes’s service without a washing when you can’t. Since I have no washing machine back at my base in Bp, I want to return there with as many clean clothes as possible.
13. Never lose track of your passport and money cards
14. Keep prescription medicines in their original container. I carry a multi purpose anti-biotic that my physician and I have agreed on. This way, if I get THAT sick (it happens), I can call him and will have this important but often unavailable medication. Bring along a two or three day dose of cold medications, throat lozenges, some band aids and antibacterial ointment. Alcohol wipes are useful for many purposes. If you suffer from allergies and have a useful antihistamine, bring PLENTY. Bring and take vitamins and use the “Airborne” family of product before a flight or if you visit a house with small children. This stuff should fit in a small zip lock bag.
Bring along zip lock bags, wash and dry them, don’t throw them away.
15. Never cut it close time-wise at the airport, you don’t know what delay along the way could make you miss your flight. I dislike beginning a flight (or a bus ride for that matter) hot, sweaty and disheveled.
16. Wear comfortable shoes that support your feet, carry along cheap flip flops as a back up.
17. Pack a clean shirt, 2 sets of undergarments and toiletries in your carry-on so that you are prepared when they lose your luggage for a day or two.
18. Never leave behind a clean or lightly used napkin, you never know when it might be helpful on a Ukrainian train.
19. When you find a clean rest room, use it and tell your team mates where it is, you can’t be sure when you’ll see the next one .
20. A packet of hand wipes or a container of anti-bacterial hand cleaner is prudent, the small bottle of anti-bacterial lotion with a high alcohol can help with insect bites if applied soon after the bite is found. It seems the alcohol when rubbed into the skin around the bite helps to neutralize the itching. Clean hands are good too..
21. American noisiness and abrupt behavior is annoying in some countries, if others are speaking quietly, keep your voice and laughter as quiet and civil as possible. Let’s change the American stereotype.
22. NEVER BRING TRAVELER’S CHECKS, take an atm card and be very careful with it, don’t be careless at the atm machine (which are called “banc-o-mats”). You will get a better exchange rate.
23. Learning some simple phrases and striving to learn more from your friends abroad will do much to win their hearts. Know how to greet, thank and say sorry to start.
24. Bring earplugs for overnights that may be less than quiet.
25. Always be ready to try food that your host offers, remember rule number one
26. Leaders – use plastic whenever possible to lessen trips to ATMS for cash. Try to acquire a credit card that DOES NOT charge international fees (Chase/BA card does not AND you can get one with a European chip and get British miles to boot.
27. Be careful about promises you make to people you meet that you may not be able, or want, to keep after you have left.
28. Think about baggage… No hard or semi hard case bag can be larger than 16″x11″x25.” (or a similar combination and sum of dimensions). Further, this bag can not weigh more than 23kg/51 pounds. Be sure you KNOW what YOUR airline will allow. I have given up the rolling bag (had a Samsonite that I used for 12 years) because where I travel has too many dirt, gravel, brick and cobblestone streets. I have gone back to a medium size backpack set (about 55 liters capacity) that has a removable “day pack”.
When this set is disconnected, it serves as a carry on and a briefcase which, could, possibly, if you wanted, on some airlines, help you avoid checking anything at all. There is a roll up flap that hides the shoulder and waist straps and makes for a more convenient piece of luggage for underneath a bus, over the train seat or in the airline overhead compartment or as a piece of checked luggage.
29. Put a copy of your itinerary and contact info INSIDE EACH bag, this way if all the outside tags get ripped off somehow, there is something INSIDE to increase your chances of the bag returning to you. In my fifteen years of traveling and facilitating many hundreds of people to and from Europe, I recall only 1 LOST bag (there have been MANY delayed bags). This bag had a BORROWED flute that was valuable and should have been in the carry on. Be forewarned and prepared.
30. Check in on line AS SOON AS the on line check in is available, you stand a better chance of getting an exit aisle.
31. I don’t eat airplane food on overnights. I eat on the way to the airport, drink a glass of red wine before the flight and go to sleep as soon as possible. Getting a window exit aisle is helpful here and if you tell the flight attendant, they will not bother you when food comes around. If you have a long layover in a major hub airport, ask where you can go pay to take a shower. You will feel much better for the second flight and arrival (and smell better too.)