“Do you remember the way back to the hotel?”
Whether you’re looking for a week in Spain or heading on a three-week stint in Thailand, one of the most important things is to be prepared!
As seasoned travellers, Mom and I have had many experiences abroad and thankfully we’ve never had any major mishaps. Here are some of our top tips for smooth sailing and safer travel on your next journey:
1. Take a photograph of your actual suitcase and what’s in your suitcase
This comes in handy if you ever find yourself parted with your case and you need to describe it to an airline or bus company. Mom and I went without our suitcases for three days when we were in Italy!
2. Keep the most important stuff in your hand luggage
When we lost our suitcases, we were so glad to have all of our chargers, documents and a change of clothes in our hand luggage.
3. Lock your suitcase
You can also bring smaller locks for backpacks if you’re sharing an overnight train journey or are staying in a dorm.
4. Photocopy everything before you go!
Make sure that you have copies of your passport, visas, health insurance photocopied – very useful if you ever need to whip them out. Mom broke her wrist a few days before our journey to Vietnam in 2010, and we knew that she would need to get a check-up in Hanoi. We brought every doctor’s note that we needed so that there was no confusion when we had to explain the cast to the airline and clinic (airlines can be very particular with casts on a flight, as your arm expands up in the air and a tight/full cast can restrict circulation*).
5. Scan and email your documents to yourself
If you’re not a fan of having everything printed out, another precaution to take is to scan and email documents like visas to yourself so that you can access them from the cloud.
6. Learn key phrases so you can ask for help
Or at least write-down phrases that you can point at. If you have a smartphone, the Google Translate app on Android and iTunes can be a life saver as it also pronounces the words out loud (you can also just use your phone’s Internet browser to search for Google Translate).
7. Leave your valuables at home
Do you really need to bring your jewelry with you when you’re planning on walking the Camino? Though glamming yourself up is nice, consider what kind of holiday you’re planning to have. Better to know that your jewels are safe at home rather than risk them abroad.
8. Let friends or family know your itinerary
Remember when the volcano erupted in Iceland in 2010 and ash delayed all flights across Europe? Well, thankfully I knew exactly where my Mom was in Tenerife because she had left me all of the details.
9. Bring photos of who you’re travelling with
Particularly handy if you’re travelling with children, have recent photos of them in your bag in case they decide to go for a wander.
10. Make your own first aid kit
From plasters and antiseptic to diarrhoea tablets and mosquito repellent, it’s great to have a first aid kit to hand when things get a bit rough. You don’t even have to get fancy with it either; we use a simple makeup bag.
11. Know where your local embassy is
For Irish citizens, here’s a link to the Department of Foreign Affairs and foreign embassies. Did you know that you can also register your details with them if you’re heading to abroad?
Here’s what they say: “When you register with the Department, it means that we have a record of your details. The information will allow us to contact you, and provide assistance, if necessary and possible, if there is an unforeseen crisis such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, or if you have a family emergency while you are overseas”
12. Travel Insurance. Travel Insurance. Travel Insurance.
You could end up saving so much by having travel insurance when things go wrong. Have a read of a fellow travel blogger, Janet Newenham’s experience here.
13. Keep your cards close and your cash even closer
From secret pockets to money belts, there are so many ways that you can hide your valuables on you (even your underwear could save you from theft!). That being said, have a dummy wallet so if you can hand it over calmly but then know that your other money is safe. When paying by card, make sure that the merchant does the transaction in front of you – card fraud can happen anywhere. If you lose your card or suspect any foul play, try and call your card company immediately.
14. Know where you’re staying
Mom told me a story of a friend of hers who went on holidays to Greece and stayed in an ordinary white house, had a great time on a night out and couldn’t find his way back. He had left all his details at the house. Take your bearings and know the name of the street where you’re staying. If you’re in a hotel, take their card and photograph it. Even if you lose the card, you’ll still have it on your phone.
15. Be wary when you’re using a guidebook or maps
Along with bum bags, and having big flashy cameras, this is a dead giveaway and screams “I’m a tourist”.
16. Dress like a local
Not only is it good to blend in but it’s respectful to different cultures too. When we were in Egypt we made sure that we didn’t wear short shorts, tank tops or anything that showed off too much flesh.
17. Do I stay or do I go?
This relates a lot to public transport abroad. Mom and I have a system that, for example, if I don’t make it onto the Metro, then I wait in the same spot for Mom to come back to me. Otherwise, we could be going back and forth for ages!
18. Avoid taking part in public demonstrations
It’s just not worth the risk for a few minutes of potential camaraderie. If you’re in unfamiliar territory, then this could spell disaster. Demonstrations may be peaceful in the country you’re from, but they quickly could get dangerous if you’re not careful.
19. Don’t trust everyone
Unfortunately, though we would like to think that everyone is genuine, this isn’t the case. You may feel like you’ve bonded straight away with a local but take a step back and observe their actions. Are they asking you personal questions? Are they probing into your itinerary? AIG did an interesting infographic this year on the most common scams in Europe.
Have you any other tips to share? Let us know in the comment section below!
*If you have recently broken a part of your body, it’s so important to get medical advice before you travel. Make sure that on your medical note it states the exact date when the cast was fitted too. A lot of airlines have regulations in relation to this, for example, EasyJet state: “You are not permitted to travel within 48 hours of having your cast fitted. Plaster casts that have been fitted for less than 48 hours need to be split. The split needs to run along the entire length of the cast which must have been done prior to checking in. In all cases, passengers travelling with broken or fractured limbs in plaster are required to travel with a medical certificate confirming fitness to fly and the date that the cast was fitted.”