PASSPORT: Before you leave home, make 2 color copies of your passport. Keep one copy with your passport in the hotel safe, and keep the copy with you when you are out and about town. If you run into trouble for any reason, it serves as identification and you can explain to whoever that you have the original back at the hotel for safekeeping. Now if you need to keep the passport on you, again, also keep a copy with you and one in the hotel safe. Should your passport be stolen, you can go to the local embassy or consulate with your color copy and it you will be processed much faster to get a new one to return home. There will be times when you will need to have the original with you. For example, if you want to go out to the club or bar to have a drink, obviously they might not accept a photocopy of your proof of age. In this case, try to use your driver’s license, but only show them the passport if they insist.
MONEY: No matter where you travel, even if its fairly local, always have enough money on you to cover your expenses. If a hotel, motel, restaurant or any other establishment has a computer glitch, be sure you have enough cash on hand for a night’s stay, meal, bar tab, etc. Do not carry large bills, smaller places might not have change and you don’t want to be a target if you open your wallet full of $100 bills. Its a lot less painful to lose $20 if you can’t make change than $100.
CREDIT CARDS: While I am no fan of credit cards, if you are traveling abroad, this can be helpful, especially if there is there is a currency exchange difference. There is also consumer protection if they want to get a meal and wind up paying $5,000 for a hamburger. Don’t laugh, it happened to me right here in New York. I was talking with my cousins from Italy in Italian, they thought I was a tourist, and they continued to charge my card $500 every other day for about a month. I did not realize it until I got the bill the following month. It took me at least 5 months to get them to reverse the bill. For this reason DO NOT use a debit card. Use cash or a credit card.
DEBIT CARDS: Keep a debit card locked in your hotel room safe and ONLY use it for emergencies if you run short of cash or something comes up. Remember, if you use it for purchases and someone hijacks the number, they can clear out your savings account. Sure, you can prove it was not you and you will get your money back, but possibly not for weeks or even months. Only carry a debit card as a backup to cash in case of an emergency. Everything else should be paid in cash or with a credit card with consumer protection.
MOBILE PHONE: While many might be resistant to technology these days, a smart phone is nearly invaluable because it can do everything from getting you directions to exchange rates, weather, photos, email, texting family and friends back home, etc etc. While many apps like WhatsAp are free to use, you could be charged data fees. Some hotels will sell you wi-fi on a daily or weekly basis. The other way to go is to just get a data plan from your mobile provider. They might charge you an extra $25 per month, but the data overage costs can be 10 times that amount if you are not careful. Get an international data plan or data increase plan, pay the extra $25 for the month, cancel it the following month and/or when you return from vacation or traveling. Smart phones can also replace tablets and laptop computers because they can do everything a laptop can do, if not more.
CORDS & CHARGERS: Be sure to have the right charger if you are traveling to another country. Remember, if you can’t charge your device, its useless. In the case of smart phones, try to find one of those portable batteries to charge your tablet or phone, they are cheap, often less than $10. Just be sure you bring the right cable.
PRINTOUT OF CONTACTS: Hopefully you will never need it, but if your phone is stolen, have a paper printout of your friends and family back home. You might need them to get a message to another family member or friend, or even to wire you some money if your wallet is stolen.
LUGGAGE: Personally I never like to check luggage. On more than one occasion its gotten lost. I only like to travel with what I can put in the carry on and overhead compartment and things like my toothbrush, medicine, aspirin, etc goes in my laptop bag. If you do have to check a piece of luggage, do not put anything of value in there. Make sure it is things you can easily replace like t-shirts, jeans, socks, casual shirts, etc. If it gets lost your an easily replace these things at the local shopping center or mall to wherever you are traveling. The vital things you need like medicine, medication, electronics, etc should be with you on the plane where it is always in your reach.
CLOTHING: Obviously dress for the weather. If you cannot predict the weather that particular season in that region, bring a sweater. I remember the time I went to Istanbul in late April and did not want to pack a coat because it was too bulky, but that sweater saved me. I put on 2 t-shirts and that sweater on top. Who knew in late April it would be cold and rainy, I thought I was going to a balmy region that time of year. Weather can be unpredictable, so plan accordingly. Of course you can buy a winter jacket when you are there, but why waste money if you are on a budget? Worse yet, why lose space in your luggage with that bulky jacket to bring it back and/or have to pay an extra fee to check it in another suitcase? Plan ahead.
More to come…
# # #