- Prepare yourself physically…and mentally.
- Get as much info as you can on the area.
- Don’t be a tourist…be a visiting friend.
- The point to go is to experience something new. You can always get McDonald’s down the street.
- Ask your hosts where to eat. You’ll get better recommendations.
- Observe…be a student.
- TRY IT…Be adventuresome.
- Sit back and watch a bit before jumping in. You’ll learn a lot more.
- Get off the Beaten Path. Even on a guided tour you have time to yourself. Plan your own tour.
- Don’t overlook those doubledecker bus tours of cities. It’s the best way to get a sense of the city, see architecture and get around. Get a 1 or 2 day pass. After the first circuit, use the bus to get to your stops.
- Wear Sturdy Shoes…Be prepared to walk.
- Practice packing for all trips in a single roll-on suitcase.
- Unless you’re doing formal dinners every night, you really don’t need more than a roll-on and a carry on. There are Cheap laundries everywhere. So pack what you need and then take out half.
- An organized tour might work best for you, especially for a first visit to a country. Research your company carefully. Look for reviews. I love planning myself, so I’ve only been on 2 tours. I can highly recommend SMARTOURS for a reasonably priced, dependable, comfortable tour.
- If you’re planning your own trip, carefully research the collected sites like Travelocity, Kayak, Expedia, Hotels.com. I’ve used them for years and never gone wrong. And yes. Travel advisers like Rick Steves do have good information. I’ve often rented, and have been very happy with HomeAway/VRBO.
- A little money-saving tip: many touristy areas are more expensive. Stay in the next town over. For instance, we wanted to stay on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, but the towns of Amalfi and Positano, the most famous, were too rich. So we stayed between them in Praiano, which costs about a third, and has the same spectacular view. For Florence, Italy we stayed in Sienna, another brilliant medeival town only 20 min away by train. Instead of saying in Telluride, CO, we stayed over the pass in Ouray. It helps make a trip much more affordable.
- No matter where you go, check out the smaller out-of-the-way places along with the ones you’ve heard of.
- If you’re renting a car, use a credit card that includes insurance. Rental insurance is costly.
- Really read about the area you visit. Find out the local customs and laws. It makes it much more fun. Remember. You will be arrested if you break the laws in that country. Your US citizenship does not protect you.
- Plan to use mostly credit. You get a better exchange rate. Use a card like Capitol One Venture or Chase Sapphire, which don’t charge fees to convert currencies.
- Prevent jet lag with common sense–the most important: The minute you get on the plane, set your watch to the New time zone, and behave accordingly. I take Melatonin when I get on the plane, and on long flights skip the movies for a nap.
- If you need cash, the very best place to exchange it is in the airport when arriving in the country. The second is banks. You’ll get a better exchange rate in that country.
- If you use your credit card for car rental insurance, make sure the card covers the country. For instance, very few cards cover Ireland (Americans are notoriously bad drivers). It only takes a call.
- If you’re not on a package tour, look into staying at a B&B or small local hotel. You’ll be exposed to more locals and the kind of information and local color that really makes a memorable trip.
- Meet the locals. Most of the world speaks at least a little English. Many are as curious about you as you are about them. Ask your hosts where to eat. You’ll get better recommendations.
- Take a good pocket language book or app and learn a few words well.
- Please + Thank you
- Water + Toilet
- Excuse me + How much?
- Personal tip: Carry a notebook and learn how to say “Write it down Please” We’re all taught how to ask directions. Nobody teaches us how to understand them. But people love to make maps.
- You are much safer and get a better response from people if you don’t wear the “American Uniform” of Ballcap, sunglasses and white tennis shoes. Believe me. People see you differently if you don’t wear especially the tennis shoes.
Things we always pack for international travel:
- Toilet paper(few places are as fussy as we are about it)
- Medications in identifying bottles
- Photocopies of front page of passport (leave a copy at home in case of loss) If you’re in a hotel with a safe, leave the passport there and carry the photocopy
- Plug and currency adapters(any travel store has the appropriate ones)
- Small language book or app
- Small book or copies of info about what we want to see
- Credit cards. The common thought is to use credit when possible. The exchange rate is lower.
- We prefer the cards like Capital One Venture or Chase Sapphire that offer miles and waive foreign transaction fees.
- Get local cash at airports and banks for best rates.
- Don’t bring bills larger than $50. Small banks don’t accept them for exchange. If you get cash in US, make sure bills are new and unmarked.
- Sweetener – the US is the only place that offers it.
For now that’s all. Have a wonderful time. I’m happy to answer questions. I’d love to hear how your trip was, too. And let me know about your own travels. Contact Eileen.