I absolutely love the opportunity to share with a fellow traveler "I wish I had known" moments. Here are some of my favorites to pass along...
Credit cards are widely accepted in most destinations; however, it is always a good idea to have cash on hand. Not all vendors and suppliers are credit card friendly. For example, taxi cabs in Aruba do not accept credit, and using an ATM there is very pricey.
Always call your credit card company, and let them know you will be traveling. This prevents your account from being flagged for unusual activity and helps avoid embarrassing mishaps. I also recommend choosing a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees because they can add up quickly. I prefer Chase for that reason.
Separate your financial resources, and never carry them altogether. Distribute them between your travel partners, and leave some behind in the hotel safe while you’re out and about. These simple practices ensure that one mishap doesn’t leave you without access to all of your cash and credit cards.
Always have photocopies of your passport and any other important documents you’re traveling with. I send copies to my email for an additional backup. I also take printed copies of information about reservations, rentals, and pre-paid events. Having that extra backup in case I can’t access my email comes in handy.
There are those who travel light and those who wish they had. Pre-planning your clothing for each day can save you from carrying around extra weight. Pack pieces that are easily interchangeable, have multiple uses and are neutral in color. For men, swim trunks can serve double duty as shorts, and women can vary their wardrobe with accessories like scarves or hats.
Carry-on bags should be packed strategically. My necessities include my phone charger and battery pack, a book and music, a cardigan or small blanket, and a couple of snacks. I also pack enough to get by for one day if my checked bag gets delayed. That might look like a sundress, swimsuit, flip flops, and personal hygiene products that I can’t go a day without.
Most hotels will supply some toiletries, a blow dryer, and an iron. There may be a laundry service or you may have to deal with your own dirty clothes. I transition all dirty clothing into one suitcase while I’m traveling. When I return home, that luggage goes directly into the laundry room. For example, when traveling with my two children, midway through the trip one of our carry-ons becomes our laundry basket.
Planning is what I love to do and get paid to do, but there has to be some responsibility on the traveler’s end to make the trip go smoothly. I encourage having a “Before Travel Checklist”. Start this list long before the departure date so you have plenty of time to add to it as things come to mind.
I highly recommend planning ahead for popular destinations, special events, and transportation. I get that not all travelers want to plan ahead for dinner reservations; however, some of the best places to eat are hard to get into and may not be open every day. You may need to purchase tickets ahead of time if you want to see a live show or attend a special event. Transportation can be unconventional in some locations, and you may need to consider several options to get from place to place. Planning ahead will reduce frustration and disappointment and ensure that you have the opportunity to enjoy those “must-do” items on your trip.
The only thing you can’t plan for is the unexpected. Travel insurance is your best option for saving money if something comes up, but not all unexpected circumstances are negative. Some of the best travel moments happen spontaneously. It’s also important to understand that wise planning doesn’t have to be excessive. Leave space in your plan to follow recommendations from locals you meet.
This can be a stressful issue for some travelers. Can I use my phone while out of the country? How much will it cost me? Talk to your service provider before you leave. If you feel like you need to use your cell phone while traveling, they will recommend a package that works for you. If you just want to check in from time to time, you can usually connect to wifi at your resort.
I recommend taking a battery pack with you. I find that my battery dies faster while I’m traveling because I use my phone as a camera. A dead battery means lots of missed photos. I also take an extra cell phone with me just in case. It is an old iPhone, but if something were to happen to my regular cell, I wouldn’t be a happy traveler!
The last thing I worry about when traveling is the language barrier. In all my trips, there has only been one place I struggled to communicate. Locals love it when you try to communicate in their language, regardless of how bad you butcher a word. Learn some common phrases for the region you’re traveling to. Please, thank you, how much..., and I’m sorry will all come in handy. As you hear local phrases, start using them as well. Some of my favorites are Mahalo (Hawaii), Jambo (Africa), and Irie (Jamaica).
Translation apps offer additional help. Google Translate is one of my favorites for text translation. If you hold it over a menu, it will translate into your selected language. No internet needed. Be sure to download any apps before traveling, just in case the internet is slow or unavailable.
Some of my favorite memories of travel have come from hanging with the locals. Watching the sunset in Oahu from a cliff overlooking the ocean would never have happened without an inside tip from a local. It’s not an absolute necessity, but asking about local events, hot spot locations, and where they like to eat will work in your favor. Belly up to a bar, chat with your waitress, befriend the bellboy…get to know the area in the best possible way.
Transportation can be very important during your trip or not at all. Some travelers just want to get to their resort and relax while others will need some form of transportation every day. I can relate to both. Understanding your destination and the means of transportation is extremely important to the success of your trip. Will you rent a car to explore on your own? Do you need an international driver’s license? Will you purchase a rail pass to get from place to place? Is Uber available? Knowing your options and pre-planning is a must!