Traveling Tips for Longer Trips

April 22, 2014
After I wrapped up my third year of teaching in Korea, I went on a five month long trip to various countries in Oceania, Asia, and Europe before I eventually returned back to Ohio.  Today I'd like to share my advice on what worked well for me during this trip.  I'll also be bringing up some mistakes I made and what I would have done differently.

*Give yourself some extra days that you don't plan anything for.  If your schedule is too rigid and you don't give yourself extra time, you might not get to see everything you planned because stuff comes up.  The weather might be terrible, the whole city might shut down because of a strike (yes, that happened!), or your bus might break down.  The point is, you never know what might occur and unexpected delays may waste valuable time.  If you give yourself a few free days to use whenever you'd like, you don't have to miss touring a city that you've been dying to see because of an unforeseen circumstance.  Also, if you end up falling in love with a place, you could use those extra days and stay longer instead of having to be rushed away.

*Have multiple ways to access cash.  Bring a credit card, a debit card (or two), and have a stash of money to use in case of an emergency.  Before I left Korea and headed out on this adventure, I thought I was so prepared.  I brought my Chase Bank Card from the U.S., my Korean Hana Bank debit card, and an American credit card.  When I arrived in Australia and tried to withdraw cash with my Korean debit card, it kept saying that I had typed in an invalid pin number, which was really frustrating to me because I had gone into the bank and set one up months ago.  Plus, I had been using that pin # with no problems in Korea.  To make a long story short, that card wouldn't work and all of the money in that account had to get transferred to my American bank account, so there went one way I had to access money.  I just decided I would go ahead and use my Chase bank debit card from then on to withdraw cash at ATM's.  That worked out just fine until one day I was shopping in China and I put my debit card back into my wallet, only my wallet was broken!  I had noticed that it was broken a few days prior and thought I had better get a new one, only I never did.  Two slots in my wallet where I kept my cards were not actually holding the cards in properly.  When I put a card in, it would just slide out... Forgetting that, what did I do but put my Chase card right into the broken slot?  When I opened my wallet to pay for a taxi to the airport, I found that my debit card had slid right out and was nowhere to be found.  I was in a state of panic because I had hardly any cash at all!  At that point in my trip I was traveling alone, so it's not like I could have just asked a friend to borrow some money.  I took my flight into Chengdu, and got a taxi to a guesthouse where I had stayed at before.  Thank goodness the workers at the guesthouse remembered me because when I explained the situation, they told me that I could stay there until I got my money situation sorted out.  The way I had to get money was to use my credit card to get a cash advance until a new debit card could be sent.  The closest bank that was able to do this was miles away and because I had no cash for a cab, I had to walk it.  I was so, so relieved to finally get cash!  I didn't get my new Chase debit card until a good month later when I was in Nepal, so now when I travel I make sure I have a good wallet, extra debit cards, and an emergency fund!!

*Bring waterproof shoes and apparel.  You don't know how many times I was out for the day and the weather seemed nice, but then all of a sudden it started pouring rain.  Sometimes I had no choice but to go out in it, which resulted in soaking wet feet and clothes.  I actually got sick from this in South Africa, and when you're traveling that is the last thing you'll want!  If I had only been wearing a rain coat, I probably would have been just fine.

*Pack lightly.  Remember that everything you bring, you must also carry.  You don't want to burden yourself with carrying extra weight when you don't need to.  You'll also want to leave room in case you pick up a few souvenirs.

*Limit your shopping.  If you buy items of value, you'll have to worry about them the rest of the trip.  I bought some nice pashmina scarves that got stolen out of my suitcase in one of the guesthouses I stayed in.  Too many items will also add on extra weight.  If an item is too bulky to carry or you've gone overboard, consider mailing the extra souvenirs home.

*Arrive very early to the airport, especially during peak seasons.  My friend and I arrived to the Manila airport in the Philippines two hours early for a domestic flight, which we thought was plenty of time.  It wasn't.  We couldn't even enter the airport until we got our bags X-rayed and the line for that was ridiculously long.  By the time we got inside the airport, it was almost time to board.  The airline overbooked our flight and since my friend and I were late, our seats got given away!  We were told that we would be standby for the next flight, but that there was no guarantee we would even get on the next plane.  It was a bit of a disaster and we ended up having to buy a whole other flight (from a competitor) to ensure that we got to our destination.

*If you're traveling with someone else, there's no need to bring two of everything when you can share one thing.  When I traveled with a friend, he carried the medicine, toilet paper, and alarm clock and I carried the body wash, guidebook, and sunscreen.  This helped a lot with keeping the weight of our bags down.

*Invest in a quality backpack or suitcase for your trip.  The mini suitcase I brought with me broke in China, so I bought a new one, and then that one broke.  The wheels were busted, the handle broke off, and the zippers were defective--what a pain!

*Ask the rate per minute BEFORE you use the phone to make international calls.  I made the mistake of not asking before I called my mom from my hotel room in Nepal and when we went to check out, I was appalled to see that I owed over $100 for a single phone call that was under an hour long!

*Wear comfortable shoes, even when you don't think you'll be doing a lot of walking.  My friend and I went out to a club in Dublin, and she bought these adorable sandals with a huge heel.  She thought it would be fine, but we were only halfway back and she was in tears from the pain.  It didn't help that we made a wrong turn and walked longer than we thought we would have to.

*Have extra water with you because you just never know... When our bus unexpectedly broke down for 8 hours, I was really glad that I had some water!!

*Bring an extra camera if you can.  Yes, I know I said to pack light, but in my experience having an extra camera was worth it.  Before I started my trip, I packed two cameras and good thing I did because one of my cameras that was less than a year old just stopped working for no apparent reason.  Later on my trip, my friend was taking a picture of me, and when he tried to hand my camera back it fell to the ground and got busted.  We were about to go on a camel safari in the Indian desert, and the town I was in had one camera store that was open with only ONE digital camera for sale, so I had to buy that one.  Geez, with my luck, maybe I'd better start bringing three cameras!  No, but other friends I have traveled with only had one camera with them and freaked when it broke out of nowhere, so an extra camera is always a good idea.

*Check the bedding for bed bugs when you first enter the room.  A tell tale sign of bed bugs is if the sheets have reddish/rusty colored stains all over them!  If you must know, I learned that the hard way from a bad experience in India.

*Bring reading material in your native language if you're visiting countries that speak other languages.  My friend and I each brought two books with us and then swapped books with each other when we were done reading what we had brought.

*Don't expect to live by first world standards in developing countries.  Hot showers and always having electricity and drinkable water in your room are luxuries!

*Check the Visa requirements when planning.  You do NOT want to overstay your visit or be stuck in another country because you are unable to get the Visa to the country you want to visit in a timely manner.

*If something bad does happen, try not to focus on the negative and let it ruin your trip.  Odds are, something WILL happen that is less than ideal, but try to stay calm and assess the situation.  My whole losing my debit card thing was a terrible fiasco, but I didn't mope about it for a month until my new one came.  Sure, I was worried, but if I fixated on that I wouldn't have been able to enjoy sights like this:

What advice do you have for longer trips around the world?

Travel Tuesday

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The Rachael Way said...

You have had some TRULY amazing life adventures :) Seriously!

Kiki said...

Awesome trips. Some amazing adventures you have had!

Shane Prather said...

This is perfect for my travels to Australia! Thanks for the tips!

Kathy @ Vodka and Soda said...

omg the bugs. the first thing i do in any room, no matter how fancy the hotel is: check for bugs and if the bathroom is clean (to my standards which is pretty high!). if it's good, then we're good. if the bathroom is gross, new room please!!!

these are all great tips; esp packing light.

Vodka and Soda

Nancy @ Neatly-Packaged said...

Excellent tips Lisa!! I am honestly impressed (and jealous ;) ) that you have traveled so much!! I second your tip for quality luggage. I use Travel Pro (not only because it has an Eiffel Tower on it) but because it has a lifetime warranty. Yes it is a bit pricey but it is better than seeing your luggage come down the conveyor belt in baggage claim and see it has been duck tapped together (an awful lesson I learned traveling to Cancun)!! Thank you again for sharing :)

Rebecca B. Bird said...

Great list. I would add not bringing anything you would regret losing... things can get broken, stolen, lost etc.

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

I haven't had any lately! I hope that more adventures are in my near future.

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

Thanks, and you've had some great adventures yourself! I always enjoy reading about them. :)

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

That's so exciting that you're moving there. I'm glad some of these tips were useful!

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

The bed bug thing in India was a horrible experience. I still shudder thinking about it, but I'm just glad we figured it out and did not stay in that nasty room for long.

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

On top of being high quality, your bag is probably so easy to find at baggage claim, too!

Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie said...

Oh yeah, for sure. That was actually on my original list, but I forgot to add it in my post, so thanks for bringing it up! I guess another tip would be to bring your cell phone overseas unless you are very familiar with what charges you will be incurring. I've heard plenty of horror stories about people being charged thousands of dollars for a few phone calls or for checking their Facebook.

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