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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Travelling Tips

Although travelling can be the most exhilarating thing in the world, it is never that easy. There are so many things to consider when travelling. I’ve had my share of travel booboos so I’ve come up with some travelling to-dos that Chris and I try to practice whenever we travel.

Research and study. Get to know the place you will go to before heading off. Go to bookstores and scan travel books. Surf online to know about the culture, sights, food, weather and what else to expect of the place. Learn the country’s basic language if you can. This activity will also determine if you will need to join a group tour or not.

Buy a Guide Map. It would be better if you buy a map at least two weeks before (or even way ahead of) travel for you to be able to study it and plan your itinerary. You can also download maps online if you don’t want to spend money on maps.
Map of Singapore from Lonely Planet

Make a travel checklist. Make a list of your To-dos Before Leaving and Things to Bring so that packing your stuff won’t be so tedious. Your list will also help you avoid last minute shopping before you’re off to your dream destination.

Make a list of things you need and want to buy. It’s very tempting to be impulsive when travelling so I make sure that I have a list to focus on. My needs list is usually pasalubong for family and friends while my wants lists are stuff that I plan to buy should I have extra money left.

Learn the art of packing your things. You can’t just put everything inside your bag and say “that’s it”. You need to know how to pack things that are breakable and fragile. You need to know that putting clothes inside your shoes will prevent it from creases. You need to know that there are ways to fold clothes that will save space inside your luggage.

Travel light. If you plan to do a lot of shopping in your place of destination, all the more that you have to travel light. I usually bring just the essentials when I travel. I don’t bring too much clothes, shoes, makeup and accessories. I only bring clothes I know I wouldn’t have time to shop for like bathing suits and evening dresses and a couple of shirts. If there’s still some room inside my luggage, I put rolls of tissue to fill in the gaps, so my luggage would still look stuffed.
Send a package ahead. This is usually applicable to people going back to their mother country. This is more convenient than negotiating with check-in officers in airports, more cost-effective because airports will make you pay a ridiculous amount when you have excess luggage and more stress-free because you don’t have to drag yourself around the airport with a heavy luggage.

Bring a tripod. It will save you time asking strangers to take photos of you. The first time we brought a tripod, we had more fun capturing photos. It meant more poses, more photo opportunities and less camera shakes.

Bring a pen and paper at all times. This has always been a must for me because I tend to forget things. My bag usually contains a small planner, Post it notepads, an ordinary pen and a sign pen. While waiting for flights or sitting down for a meal, I make it a point to write down everything that transpired for the last couple of hours. Post it notes are for important reminders or notes to stick on our guide map.

Buy universal adaptors for your electronic devices. I recommend the 5 Outlet World Power Suppressor (see photo). This will likely work in most parts of the world (Europe, Australia, Asia, America). The number of adaptors you buy will depend on how many electronic devices you have with you while you travel. For us, we make sure we have at least three adaptors. At night we usually plug in two devices (digicam and videocam), the third adaptor is our spare just in case we misplaced one. We don’t want to waste time buying adaptors while travelling.

Invest on extra digicam and/or videocam batteries. This will save you a lot of panic attacks when you see your cameras shouting “lowbat!” especially when most of your travelling is spent outdoors.

Confirm flight schedule at least two days before flying. There might be changes in the flight itinerary and they also need to know that you will really get on that flight you paid for. If on the day of travel some emergency happens, call your travel agent or the airline office ASAP so you can rebook your ticket. In some airlines, a no-show would mean no refund.

Know your luggage weight limit. The usual check-in luggage weight limit is 20 kilos per person, in some airlines its 30 kilos—it really depends on the airline and destination. Your hand carry luggage should not exceed 7 kilos. For extra kilos, there is a fee that you have to pay and it’s usually in US dollars.

Put your valuables in one bag and always have that bag with you wherever you go. Valuables would mean passport, tickets, cash, camera, medicine, important documents, etc.

Be mindful of your things. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of travellers losing their bags and valuables so when I travel, I try to stay focus and mindful of the things going on around me. If Chris and I travel together, we usually watch each other’s back and we always count the number of bags we have. While inside the airport, we try to concentrate on the all the processes we go thru (check-in & check-out of luggage, customs, connecting flights, announcements, forms we need to fill in, etc).

Keep receipts or tickets of purchases you made. This is very useful if you need to know where your money went during travel, and this will be your reference when you receive your credit card statement. Receipts and tickets can also be used as souvenirs.

Explore, explore, explore. Unless you’re in the jungle or mountains, don’t be afraid to get lost in the crowd. Most tourist spots are user-friendly with directions and arrows pointing you where to go. Don’t be shy to ask for directions from strangers. With the right perspective, getting lost in a foreign land can be fun and exciting.

When in Rome, do what the Romans do. Short of saying, follow rules and regulations of the country you’re staying at the moment of travel. Saying “Sa Pilipinas hindi naman ganito eh” would get you into more trouble. This phrase also encourages you to immerse yourself in the country’s culture, when you do what they do, you learn more.

Buy something that will remind you of your travel. For little things, I normally buy refrigerator magnets or photo frames with the place’s name on it as a souvenir. For big things, I always buy a piece of jewellery so that when I wear that certain necklace or bracelet, I would be reminded of my stay in that place.

I’m sure there’s still a lot more tips out there so if you can think of any, please feel free to add them up here. Should I have any more tips, I’ll surely post them later.

Happy travelling!