The following is a comprehensive list of general travel advice specifically tailored to 20-30 something backpackers and hostelers. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive, but manageable, list to jump start your travel preparation. The list is tailored to novice and intermediate travelers.
Check back often, as we will continue to add to the list. We are always seeking additional tips and tricks! This list is slightly biased towards Europe and the Americas, however we will be adding more Asian and African hosteling & backpacking resources, tips & tricks as we get them!
Make sure you check out our user submitted “Packing Videos” section for advice from your fellow travelers! Also, supplement what you learn here with our sister sites, the Travel Resource List and Airfare Basics, for simple, straight forward and categorically sorted travel resource sites.
Have a question that isn’t covered on this site? Feel free to ask in a comment here or via twitter by tweeting @AlexBerger.
Notify your bank & credit card company – Credit Card (CC) companies have a number of checks in place to help protect you from fraud. Unfortunately, these safeguards can be a real nightmare if you forget to notify your bank/CC company that you’ll be leaving the country: be sure to call and notify them that you’ll be traveling before you leave. If they start to see a lot of charges from a foreign location, they may put a hold on your card thinking it has been stolen. Make sure to provide the dates you’ll be gone as well as the countries you expect to visit. There is nothing worse than trying to get a replacement credit card while on the road. Informing them is easy, just dial the number on the back of your card and speak to a representative. It will take less than 5 minutes.
Know your Credit Card Pin – If you’re an America, you probably don’t know that your Credit Card has a PIN # just like your ATM/Checking card. Why? Because you’ve never had to use it in the US. Be forewarned, that’s not the case in Europe. Most European Credit Card transactions require that you enter your PIN # when making every day credit card purchases, just as you would when making a checking/debit purchase in the US. So, before you leave make sure you double check/set your Credit Card PIN.
Be Aware of Credit Card Chips – Not all Credit Cards are created equal. While not actively used in the US, many European credit card companies have switched to an on-card chip system. While not a huge issue yet be aware that your card may not be 100% compatible with newer systems. Don’t worry though, they’ll still be able to enter your card # and data manually in most cases. After a lot of pressure American CC providers are starting to roll out brand new chip-friendly cards.
Choose the right card – You’re going to pay a currency penalty no matter what you do. However, how much you end up paying can vary widely. Almost all credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee. These fees vary, but are often as much as 3%. What percentage they charge varies from card to card and from bank to bank. Make sure to find out which of your credit cards gives you the best deal. Luckily, after years of exploiting customers and in response to CapitalOne’s zero international fee offering other banks are starting to roll out similar zero fee credit cards to compete. Keep a close eye on bank ATMs and debit card use. Find out what the fee is and what type of ATMs are in your bank’s extended networks. Many travelers unwittingly spend $6+ on fees for every $100 in purchases or cash withdrawals they make plus as much as 3% on top of that in foreign transaction charges. The FlyerGuide.com wiki offers one of the best breakdowns/easy to use charts I’ve found.
Currency Exchanges - Exchange booths are expensive and take a fee. They also tend to give outdated currency values. I avoid these if at all possible. By using ATMs and following the advice I’ve outlined for reducing ATM fees I’m able to get the best currency exchange rate possible. When you use an ATM to withdraw funds, you will typically receive a better, more up to date, and fairer exchange rate.
Travelers Checks and Money Transfers – Travelers checks are huge in the movies, and so are money transfers. In reality though, these two things are expensive and inconvenient. I typically use Visa/MasterCard credit cards/ATM cards while traveling and have never had an issue. Research the countries you’ll be visiting and figure out what cards are commonly used. In most cases credit cards or cash will be far more welcome than travelers checks.
Small Purchases – For many of us, we’ve begun to use our Credit Cards for all of our purchases. These include small ones – sometimes even those under $1. It is important to note that many countries still add a fee, or prohibit the use of Credit Cards for smaller transactions. The floor will vary from country to country, but make sure you have some extra spending cash on hand just in case.
Changing Currency Rates – For those who are more focused on getting a good deal than where they actually end up – consider checking out the Economist’s Foreign Exchange Map. After you launch the site it allows you to research a country’s currency and compare how it has changed against other global currencies over the last day, week, month and year. View it [here]. For real time rates Google Finance and XE are two great resources.
Budgeting Tips and Tricks – For the budget traveler, budgeting is a long process which should start long before you start you trip. VirtualWayfarer has a great writeup outlining ways you can save money, cut costs, and maximize travel resources.
Xeroxing important information – Few things are more inconvenient than losing or having your passport, important documents and/or credit cards stolen. Take the 5 minutes to copy the photo page of your passport, and both sides of your credit cards. Make two copies. One to stash in some obscure part of your backpack and one to leave with your stateside contacts. Remember to keep a close eye on the xerox copies – they’re a great asset if you lose the originals, but can also be used to steal your identity if they get into the wrong hands.
Email yourself – If you have a web based e-mail platform, e-mailing yourself scans/copies of credit cards, important documents and passport info is a great alternative to the xeroxed copies outlined above. It’s easier to access, less likely to be compromised/stolen, and guaranteed to always be on hand.
Traveling abroad with your phone can be both a blessing and a curse. While not strictly necessary, the wealth of new travel apps which are available for smart phones can be a huge asset while on the road. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering if you should take your phone with you or not.
GSM/LTE/Other – Different cell phone companies operate on different types of technology. Verizon in the US operates on an LTE system, while AT&T and others use GSM. This is important when trying to use your phone abroad, as you may face compatibility issues. This is an essential concern if you’re intending to purchase SIM cards once arrived in your destination country.
SIM Locked Phones – A popular trend among carries is to lock a phone to their network. What this means is that you won’t be able to use a SIM card in the phone from another provider without them issuing you an unlock code. While absolutely infuriating, this can cause huge headaches when using your phone abroad. In some cases you can contact your provider, tell them you’ll be traveling and that you need the phone unlocked. In other instances you may have to go through a third party provider to get the unlock, or in the case of iphones jailbreak the phone and then install an unlock when available.
Data Roaming – Be extremely careful about your phone’s ability to connect to a data plan, or accidently butt dial while abroad. Even a 2 minute data connection while roaming in a foreign country can result in significant fees.
Pre-Paid SIMs – Many countries allow the purchase of pre-paid SIM cards. These allow you to cheaply (and easily) drop the pre-paid SIM card into your SIM friendly phone. Once done you’ll be able to make and receive calls on a new local number.
Throwaway Phones – Like pre-paid SIM cards, it’s also often possible to purchase a very cheap mobile phone in the country you’re visiting. This may be a much simpler, and more affordable option for people concerned with the cost of using their mobile plan abroad.
Leave the suitcase at home – Even if you aren’t planning to “backpack” in the conventional sense of the word, ditch the suitcases and trade them in for a quality backpack. A suitcase with wheels is all well and good, but the wheels typically end up being more inconvenience than asset. A backpack is effective 100% of the time. It also encourages you to pack more effectively. Wearing the pack also gives you increased security – more on that later. There are cheap options out there, the blue pack in the video’s I’ve attached below is made by Outdoor Products, cost $45 and was purchased at Walmart.
Keep the straps in mind – The one downside to a backpack is the need to protect the shoulder straps, waist belt, and clips. A lot of newer backpacks have zip up covers which allow you to protect your straps when traveling by bus, plane or train. If yours doesn’t, you might consider purchasing a small, cheap duffel bag which you can roll up and strap to the outside of the backpack while traveling. This also makes securing your bag in hostels or hotels with light security significantly easier.
Roll your clothing – Folding may be all well and good for a suitcase, but it’s terribly inefficient and can result in badly wrinkled clothing. A far better option is to tightly roll your clothing. It naturally eliminates a lot of the air which takes up space, allows for easier access to your clothing, and allows you to fit significantly more into the same space. Don’t just roll pants and shirts though! Make sure to roll it all, towels, jackets, boxers and sweaters!
Bulky items – Inevitably I find most people (myself included) lose a lot of space to 2 or 3 bulky items. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – let’s face it, jackets are big and puffy. However, usually at least one of the items isn’t actually necessary.
Towel time – Ditch the bulky bath towel. There’s only one way to go when traveling – microfiber travel towels. I’ve been using PackTowl Personal for years and love them. They dry quickly, are soft, incredibly absorbent, and roll up to take virtually no space. To top it all off, you can get what you need for less than $20.
Pants and shirts – Take whatever you’ve packed and halve it. You don’t need to take a week’s worth of outfits with you. In fact, I can tell you right now you’ve over packed. If you are not 110% confident that you’ll need and wear the items you’re packing multiple times, don’t pack them. Have more than two pairs of pants? You shouldn’t. More than 4 t-shirts? Time to axe a few.
Power converters – It’s often a lot easier to get these once you reach your destination. However, don’t rule out picking up converter plugs or a converter before your trip if you know where you’re going.
Voltage – When traveling abroad keep in mind that not all power plugs are the same. If you’re from the US chances are that you’ll need both a plug AND power adapter. Voltage can vary significantly from country to country, and while many items (like your laptop) may have the built in ability to handle both 110 and 210/230 voltage, other objects may not (like curling irons) and will promptly be melted or burned out.
Bags & shoelaces – Sure, you can get them at any time during your trip but I highly suggest throwing an old pair of shoelaces into your bag, a plastic shopping bag, and a few Ziplocs of differing sizes. Think of these as your traveler’s duct tape. You never know how or when they’ll come in handy. Example: While exploring the Scottish Isle of Skye we spent a day in pouring rain and strong winds…not enough to keep us inside, but enough to damage any non-waterproof camera. Luckily I had a ziploc bag on hand and was able to create a waterproof case for the camera. The result? A bunch of amazing photos I would have otherwise completely missed out on.
Super Glue – I’d suggest only purchasing this when needed to avoid having it explode in your bag. That said, Super Glue is phenomenal for quick on-the-road repairs. I’ve used it on multiple occasions to reinforce ripped seams on my backpack/bags/shoulder straps, on small cuts and as a quick way to make other general repairs.
Footwear – Research your destination. Footwear varies widely depending on where you’re going and the type of trip you have planned. While I always opt for a good pair of shoes walking/hiking shoes for places like Europe and Argentina, A good pair of flip-flops or sandals is an absolute must for more tropical destinations. I’ve been using Keen’s Men’s Targhee II for years because I love the fit, price and support. Make sure the shoe fits and can be worn in a variety of settings! You want something light enough for days spent exploring cobblestone streets and rugged enough that they’re also good for slugging through rural highland mountains or flooded Belizean Caves! Make sure to try them on in a store before you buy, even if planning to pick them up off Amazon.
The second piece of footwear you shouldn’t be caught without is a pair of plastic shower thongs/sandals. Make these as cheap and light as possible. All you want is a basic, plastic $2 pair that dries fast. You do NOT want a nice pair of sandals and definitely should avoid sandals with leather for your shower shoes. Keep in mind hostel showers aren’t always super clean.
A Video Camera – (evaluate your options, this market is changing quickly) Recording your trip is always a challenge, especially as a hosteler/backpacker. You need something portable, affordable, but still high enough quality that the video is worthwhile. New trends in portable video are great. There are two primary routes you can take. Most newer smart phones include HD video capability. Explore your phone, the amount of on board memory it has, and see if it’s a good option. If you want something more durable, flexible and built for video from the ground up consider an on-the-go video camera. The cameras range in price, but the top of the line versions are usually under $250. They’re the size of a cellphone and work beautifully for capturing video. A added bonus is that most people think they are a cellphone and ignore them. Kodak’s portable cameras are the PlaySport HD and Zi8 which offer 1080P resolution and limited waterproofing. Two other very popular options are the GoPro Hero and Contour HD. These cameras come with waterproof cases and grab fantastic video quality for the price.
Here are two videos from a recent trip – a December voyage to Spain. The videos illustrate the rolled packing technique and provides a step by step walk through of things I took with me. Make sure to check out the Packing Videos section of this site for more like-kind videos.
Note: Despite going out of my way to pack light, I still over packed:
Airfare – There’s a lot more to getting a great rate than just booking in advance. I’ve found that airfare tends to spike about 40 days before the departure date. Also, conventional wisdom is to try and book on a Tuesday or Wednesday if at all possible – and in my experience this still holds true. If you’re flexible and looking for a great deal I suggest utilizing airfare search sites like Kayak.com. I’ve done very well by signing up for an account and running flexible date searches. Don’t stop there though, most people check once – then book. That’s a major oops (airfare typically fluctuates hundreds of dollars from day to day). If you’ve got time, set up several searches to airports in the area/region you want to explore and for different dates, then sign up for their (free) daily e-mail updates for each. Once a day you’ll receive an e-mail with the current airfare and the $ change from the previous day. Monitoring prices this way works well, but you need to be ready to book when you see a great deal. For a complete list of quality search sites make sure to reference the Travel Resource List. For more in-depth budget airfare advice head on over to our site specifically dedicated to airfare advice – Airfare Basics.
Another thing to keep in mind is specials. Airlines are always operating specials of some sort or another. Usually these are only so-so deals, but with a little research and patience you can usually find a fantastic deal. Sites like TravelZoo.com and Airfarewatchdog.com typically provide a good summary of current airfare specials. It’s also important to note that you should not limit yourself to the airlines that immediately come to mind. A lot of travelers (especially North Americans) forget about the wealth of high quality foreign airlines. These airlines are almost always extremely safe, usually offer better service than domestic airlines and can be much cheaper.
Student Airfare - Under 26? You’ll still qualify for significantly discounted airfare. Still a student? Even better! Services like STA Travel and Student Universe offer fantastic airfare specials and discount airfare. Make sure to check their site and see what they can do for you.
Discount Airlines – Don’t forget your discount airlines. The quality is usually rough, and you’ve gotta do your research to make sure you don’t get stuck paying any number of random fees – but the price is usually right. If you can book a day or two ahead discount airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir are typically cheaper and faster than long distance train rides. Keep in mind they also lack the amazing cross country view that train and bus rides offer. If you’re flying with a discount airline read up ahead of time. They typically fly into secondary airports which can result in costly/timely commutes between the airport and actual city. For a comprehensive list of budget airlines world wide check out whichbudget.com.
To and From the Airport – This one is simple: Figure out the added costs, time schedules, and best mode of transpiration between the airport and the heart of the city. Hostel booking websites, travel guides, and the like typically provide this info. However, I’m also a huge fan of the website To and From the Airport. A top notch reference site with loads of information.
Rail - When available, travel by rail is an excellent option. It is scenic, relatively comfortable and in western Europe, typically drops you off in the heart of the old city. Faster and more comfortable than bus travel, rail travel is typically also somewhat more expensive. If you’re traveling to eastern Europe be aware that bus travel is probably a better option as countries like Greece and Croatia have poor rail infrastructure. When buying rail tickets you typically have 3 options. You can purchase online, in advance, or the day of. Online and advanced tickets are typically significantly cheaper. Also, most countries have regional trains that, while slower moving, are 2-3 times cheaper than the faster commuter trains. Once you purchase your ticket, be sure to validate it before getting on the train. In Italy, for example, tickets are good for several months. To assure that they can’t be used multiple times, you have to validate the ticket in the yellow machines readily available in the train station. If you are riding without a validated ticket, there are stiff fines.
Conventional travel wisdom is to use a rail pass – do your research. Rail passes are no longer as good a deal as they once were – many countries (eg: Italy) charge seat reservation fees which can cost more than a lone ticket would. That said, in countries like Germany where rail travel is significantly more expensive, a rail pass can save you a lot of money. I’ve found that it is usually significantly cheaper to make seat reservations in person when possible. Another must explore site is seat61.com which has a lot of general information for those considering rail travel.
Bus – Far from the most comfortable way to travel, buses are a cheaper and still pleasant option. It is not uncommon for long distance buses to have bathrooms and many are equipped with ceiling mounted T.V.s providing entertainment – some even have wifi! If you’ve got extra time or are traveling in Eastern European or Latin American countries, bus travel is a fantastic (and sometimes the only) option and will give you a great view of local villages and rural countrysides.
*Yeah. We saw the movie. It was stupid. No. That’s not what they’re actually like.
Not your parent’s hostels – The modern Euro hostel is totally different than what the movies and old stories have probably led you to believe. Most are clean, modern, and have fantastic amenities. In fact, it’s not uncommon for hostels to provide communal kitchens, en suite bathrooms, free/charge internet access and all sorts of organized events. Heck, believe it or not – a lot actually have on-site bars! Oh, and the whole…bring your own sheets or a sleeping bag? Not anymore! In fact, leave the sleeping bag and spare sheets at home. In order to prevent bed bugs and for health reasons mainstream hostels now provide linens and in most cases prohibit you from using your own. One thing to be prepared for (and personally I think it’s a huge asset) is mixed-sex dorm rooms. While almost all hostels provide female-only rooms, the vast majority also offer rooms in a mixed gender dorm format. Average dorm size is usually 4-16 beds. Though some go larger (I suggest avoiding these when possible).
Types – I typically classify hostels into one of three categories. These are “Old”, “New” and “Party”. You can read a more in-depth discussion of the differences in this post on the emergence of new dedicated Party Hostels. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the three different models of hostel and keep in mind the differences when booking.
Booking – Depending on what time of the year you’re traveling, you might want to book ahead. Regardless, you’ll want to do some research (no better way to avoid bad experiences and bedbugs). There are three fantastic resources for booking and research. The first (and largest) is hostelworld.com The site allows easy booking and has a huge database of user submitted reviews which are invaluable. Slightly smaller, but equally valuable is hostelbookers.com. A third and relatively newcomer to the hostel database/online booking industry is the industry travel site bootsnall.com. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s possible to get a discount rate by booking with the hostel directly, and that many hostels have an extra cache of beds available (so even if one of these sites isn’t showing availability – sometimes another will have access to vacant beds).
For those of you traveling in Europe – one word of caution about Hosteling International hostels. HI Europe was one of the first major hosteling groups and still clings to the outdated hostel model. A lot of their European hostels have lockouts, group showers, charge extra for linens and are dirty. They are most prevalent in Italy where hosteling outside of major tourist destinations can be tricky. This doesn’t seem to be the case with American and South American HI Hostels.
Lockouts – Most hostels have abandoned the lockout model, but you’ll still find some shoddy ones that have lockouts. When booking online always make sure to check if a hostel has lockouts before you book. The standard lockout process means that the hostel locks the front doors during the day and late at night. For example, a standard lockout would be from 10AM-4PM and from 11Pm to 6AM.
Basic Hostel Etiquette – There are basic rules. Here are a few of the core ones to keep in mind:
- Noise – you are sharing a room with a number of strangers. Be respectful. If you know you’ll be returning late in the evening, or leaving early in the morning make sure to pre-pack/unpack. Most hostels have 24/7 receptions. That means you’ll have the option of getting back at all hours of the night. Follow the golden rule.
- The light switch – after 11PM the lights stay off with few exceptions. Sure, you can turn them on, but unless the room is empty or your party makes up the sole occupants – do whatever you need to do in the dark. Same principle as with noise applies – have your stuff ready and easily accessible. If you slap the lights on at 3AM in a drunken stupor, you’re going to look like an idiot and make a lot of enemies very quickly.
- Clean up after yourself – hostels are usually staffed by other travelers working for free accommodation. If you’re lucky enough to stay at one with a kitchen or common area, don’t leave a mess and then walk away. There’s no housecleaning and there’s no maid – that’s why you’re paying pennies on the dollar for the room. When you leave a mess, you’re punishing everyone else.
- Be friendly and inclusive – One of the best parts of hosteling is all of the people you meet. Don’t be bashful when it comes to reaching out to fellow travelers, and make an added effort to invite your fellow hostelers to tag along. Don’t worry, it’s not weird to ask a perfect stranger if they want to head over to the nearby market with you.
Be friendly – Hostels tend to be very social. Travelers are usually a friendly and genuine group. Many are traveling alone or on long-duration trips. One of the keys to enjoying the hostel experience is being inclusive and friendly. When people reach out to you with a hello or invitation respond in a friendly fashion, even if you’re not interested. Similarly, go out of your way to strike up conversation with other hostelers and always invite others to your table, meal, or outing when possible. Even if you’ve already formed a group.
Internet Cafes - There was a time when taking a trip meant complete disconnect from the rest of the world. Of late, it has become common for travelers to travel with laptops, mobile phones, and other similar peripherals leaving them connected in ways previously unimaginable. However, some of us enjoy a happy medium. If you’re planning on traveling and are worried about staying connected, but don’t want to take a laptop – don’t worry. Internet cafes are significantly more common in Europe than the U.S. and Canada. Rates are also typically very affordable (In Europe they range from 1-3 Euro an hour in most locations). Keep in mind, however, that the connection quality can vary widely. Also, it’s not uncommon to find internet cafes that are running specialized software which at times restrict the use of peripherals (Double check that you’ll be able to connect and access your camera before you settle in).
A locker lock - Security in hostels is fairly lax and can take some getting used to. That said, there’s seldom need to worry. Most hostels provide security lockers for your gear and/or valuables. The standard approach is to provide a locker (think back to your high school days). Lockers are typically associated with your bed and are present in the room. I’ve seen them in all different shapes and forms – from metal, to wood, to enclosed caged racks. One thing is always the same though: you provide your own lock should you decide to use one. For this reason it’s advisable to pick up a small but sturdy lock that will fit a wide variety of locker types. I used a small luggage lock and very rarely had any issues. Be mindful that larger, sturdier locks may not always fit. It’s also important to note that some hostels also provide in- room, programmable safes. These are a luxury and convenience, but also a growing trend. Typically an electronic key card is provided when safes are available.
Don’t stand still – Know that annoying guy at the airport or on the subway that just won’t stand still? Sure, he won’t stop moving or pacing and it’s a bit annoying, but it’s also a fantastic way to avoid pick pockets. Train yourself to perpetually move, even if it’s as simple as shifting your weight from side to side. By randomly moving and not standing perfectly still, you’ll make yourself a more challenging target. Thieves and pickpockets will have to deal with a moving target, and risk bumping you – both of which increase the chances that you’ll be alerted to their presence. No need to pace, but a little minor motion can go a long way to helping discourage criminal fingers.
Abandon your back pockets – I love to wear jeans when I’m traveling and as a guy I’ve always got a wallet on me. Like most guys my wallet is usually in my back right pocket and fairly bulky. When I hit the road though it takes the place of my car keys in my front pocket, where I’ve trained myself to casually brush my hand on a regular basis. My back pockets? Reserved for things like maps, bulky papers, fliers, and random tickets. I like keeping my maps in my back pockets (folded) because it adds the appearance of bulk/a wallet without endangering valuables.
Blog from the road – Do yourself, your friends, and your family a huge favor. Set up a blog before you leave. It’s free, easy and a great way to update friends and family. Sure, you can send a postcard out – but why not give them the chance to share your adventures with you? I highly recommend using WordPress – you can get a free, hosted WordPress blog at WordPress.com. In addition to saving you from writing 10-15 separate e-mails to friends and family, a trip blog creates a journal which you’ll be incredibly grateful for as you reminisce about your trip a year or two from now. Be descriptive and share your adventures – it’s a wonderful gift to friends, family and yourself. Internet cafes are common place on the road and the hour every day or two you’ll need to write an update can be a welcome rest period.
Resources – There are a lot of wonderful travel communities out there. It’s somewhat newer but TBEX or Travel Blog Exchange is a wonderful way of finding fantastic travel blogs and connecting with experienced travelers. If you’ve got a question or are looking for ideas – I highly recommend perusing their members lists. Need other sites or resources? Just let me know and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
Vitamins – Yeah, yeah I know. It’s basic. However, it’s something commonly overlooked. When you’re traveling – especially if you’ve just started the trip, vitamin intake is a lifesaver. It’s not enough to just take your daily vitamin. Keep in mind that you’re exposed to a whole spread of new foods, new germs, and are temporarily drastically changing your lifestyle. During the first 3 days of any trip I double up on my multi-vitamins with a heavy focus on making sure I have a very high B vitamin intake. B vitamins are fantastic, they’ll give you more energy, improve your metabolism and help repair the added strain/damage your body is taking. I’m also a huge fan of anything with amino-acids in it. Especially if you’re doing a lot of foot-based touring. One great source are products like EmergenC – head over to Amazin and browse Vitamin Packs. Look for packs with B vitamins, amino acids and a boatload of Vitamin C. 2 or 3 of those a day and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
Hydrate – Sure, drinking water is common advice…but it’s a pain so most people don’t do it. Big mistake – especially if you want to reduce jet lag. Sure, it’s difficult to know when your next bathroom break will be, but do yourself a favor – amp up your water intake and skip the soda/carbonated beverages for a few days. Taking your vitamins and staying hydrated will keep your body much healthier, improve recovery time, and increase the resilience of your immune system. Getting chapped lips or peeling cuticles? Drink more water – you’re dehydrated.
Timing is important – In my experience one major element that contributes to jet lag is that of mental adjustment. If you’re traveling trans Atlantic make sure to set your watch forward as soon as you board the plane. Use the 14 hour flight to adjust mentally instead of spending 14 hours in flux and then trying to adjust once you’ve arrived. Once you’re on that plane operate exclusively on destination time and try not to think about what time it is at your point of origin. It sounds silly, but it makes a huge difference.
Photo & Video backup CDs – Any time I’m on an extended trip I’m always paranoid about losing my photos and videos. What if my camera gets stolen or the memory card dies? A cheap and easy backup technique is to use internet cafe’s and a thumb drive to download your files and back them up. Looking for something a little more low tech? Most camera stories have digital development kiosks. For less than $10 and 15 minutes you can usually create a backup DVD with all of your photos on it. Or if you’re game to do a bit more work, you can usually save a few dollars by burning your own DVD at a local computer cafe. I suggest making backups every 4-700 photos. One thing to definitely keep in mind – don’t delete the photos after burning the backup. DVDs scratch fairly easily, especially while traveling. Keep the DVD as a backup – not – as a replacement. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do – it sure beats losing your images, or the quality loss that occurs when you try and re-download photos you posted to Facebook.
Travel Cards – Websites like Facebook and Twitter have made keeping in touch with fellow travelers much easier. Add e-mail into the mix and you’ve got a pretty cool tool to keep in touch with the amazing people you meet during your trip. However, it’s often difficult to track each other down/get accurate contact information. I can’t tell you how many people I missed out on keeping in touch with because I couldn’t read their handwriting or the note I’d written on a random scrap of paper had gotten smeared. Consider creating travel cards – basically business cards – but to share with fellow travelers. You can get 250 business cards for 20 minutes and $20 or less through Staples or another similar service (cheaper options online). Things to include: Your name, blog url, twitter url, e-mail, website, and if you can shorten it – the link to your Facebook profile.
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