Travels With Lea

Lea’s Best Travel Tips, A-Z

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Ask directions! (That goes for you men, as well.) 

Avoid DVT. That’s deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot which can be fatal, and you can get it from being cramped for hours in a plane seat. Get up, move around in your seat, and wear knee-high elastic stockings/socks (about $8 in a drugstore and often available at the airport). They’re not cute, but I wear them under pants and nobody sees them. (Also, be sure to move around, either in your seat or take walks every hour or so. 

Bring a book or DVD you love. And if you have an iPad or Kindle, great. And if you bring a laptop, the lighter the better. 

Be Polite. There’s often a love-hate feeling towards tourists and politeness can tip the balance. 

Bring photos. Of loved ones, to keep you smiling.

Carry-On, with wheels. It’s always better, but when you’re on your own, it’s imperative. You probably need half of what you pack, and a carry-on with wheels and a backpack can take you around the world. And in today’s ever-changing world of airport security checks, be up-to-date on what you can carry on!

Carry some paper towels or tissues. Now and then the toilet paper might be lacking. 

Choose clothing that cleans easily. You want to be able to wash them out in the sink and to dry overnight in your hotel bathroom. Choose colors that disguise or hide spills. Nothing ruins your image faster than spilling your coffee first thing in the morning and having to wear those clothes all day long until you reach your hotel again.     

Convert. Be sure to have the right converter(s) for any electronics you bring. mypsyche

Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. And when you do, don’t get upset. Find the humor in it and laugh. 

Don’t TALK LOUDER to get foreign language speakers to better understand you. 

Double-check. Being on your own means you’re responsible for just about every decision, so you don’t want to make mistakes. For example, when you’re leaving a hotel room, look again. When you’re reading a map, check your route –twice. Better to be safe.

Engage others. Ask questions. You’ll meet more people that way.

Find a home base to eat. When you’re on your own, it’s nice to choose a restaurant or cafe to return to each night, and even a favorite waitperson to talk to.

Fix things ahead. When you’re traveling you don’t want to deal with luggage that doesn’t zip, clothes missing buttons, and other odds and ends.

Get travel insurance. Especially for trips far away, you don’t want to take a chance!

Go off-season. Fewer crowds, better choices in lodging and restaurants, more real, good rates.

Hide your valuables. Wear a pouch around your neck, under your clothes. Better yet, don’t take anything you don’t want to lose.

Inns and small hotels–think small. When you’re on your own, small lodgings are great ways to make friends.

Join a group. Whether for a half-day tour or your entire trip, you can join others for companionship.

Keep a journal. Writing, sketches, photos, whatever. Collect them together, easy to reach, in chronological order and you’ll have priceless memories and mementos to pass along.

Leave info with family and friends. So that they can contact you and know where you are. Leave pills in their original container, with the label on. 

Learn the Language! Even if only “please” and “thank you,” “How tasty!” “Yes” and “No.” People appreciate your effort. 

Learn the local currency. It will save fumbling around in shops and markets and makes you less prone to being taken advantage of.

Memories are great –take photos, record sounds. Especially when you’re on your own, these mean alot.

Note details. When you’re traveling alone, nobody else will point them out.

Offer to take photos. You often see people taking photos of each other who’d rather have photos taken of both/all of them together. Your chance to do a good deed, and to have a nice moment and maybe even make a travel acquaintance. (And if they offer to take a photo of you? Well, I ‘d hand over my camera only if they have one that’s as good or better!)

Prepack basics. Keep a kit of toiletries and other necessities that you usually need when you go. Silly to have to pack them each time.

Prepare. When you’re going it alone, it’s especially important to have as much info about where you’ll be going as possible. This saves time, stress — and leads to more possibilities.

Prevent Problems. Photocopy your passport, itinerary, and emergency contact numbers. Put those copies in a separate place, in case of loss of the originals.  (Or, scan and send it to yourself on yahoo and then if it’s lost the photocopy is never more than a computer away. ) 

Question. That’s the easiest way to start a conversation.

Read the local newspapers. Many cities have English language ones or there’s the International Herald Tribune. You’ll feel more a part of the place. 

Read up on wherever you’re visitingTourist guidebooks and local histories both serve useful purposes.

Reserve tables through a concierge. You’ll get better ones.

Save your old and tattered underware instead of tossing it. Bring it with you and discard as it gets used. 

Sense the Sun.  Sun can be stronger than you are used to. Pack hat, shirt, and slacks made of SPF30+ fabric (see http://www.sunprecautions.com). You’ll be stylin’ and it’s so much easier (and cooler) than applying creams. dianaani

Smile. It helps in all ways.

Stave off seasickness! (See Inverted‘s long comment below in the comments section!)

Stay alert. Vacationers are often targets for theft and assault. Don’t leave your common sense at home. Donna Carbone

Stay near your interests. If you’re going to a concert, or shopping, or spending time at museums, choose a lodging where you’ll be close by. This is especially convenient at nig

Study the local map(s). In big cities it helps you get oriented. 

Take the stairs. Travel means indulging, and there’s not always time for walks, swims or gyms. So take the stairs instead of elevators, and you compensate for those extra calories. I prefer non-enclosed, pleasant stairs, and small hotels are more likely to have these.

Use a cell. It’s important to stay in touch. And learn the emergency number equivalent of 911.

Use safety deposit boxes. If there’s no in-room safe. Be sure to ask.

Vitamins and veggies — down ‘em daily. Two ways to stay healthy on the road. But aim for peeled or cooked veggies, or wash them carefully, if raw.

Write down PIN numbers somewhere safe, and bring. If you remember PINs only as words, remember that foreign banks may not match up to North American bank machines. 

Wash your hands. You’re touching who knows what, so wash up. I carry anti-bacterial gel or wipes, just in case. No need to get sick going solo, and hand-washing is a proven health-maintainer.

Water, water, water –carry it. Preferably bottled.

Wear sunglasses while you eat alone. It glams you up, and you can look around without people realizing it. A winner.

X-rays, meds — prep. Arrive prepared and healthy, with all needed tests, vaccinations, and extra meds. It’s no fun to be sick on the road, so head it off.

Yoghurt –eat in some form. I usually spoon some up for breakfast while I’m traveling. Sometimes I enjoy yoghurt as a smoothie or a snack. Something about the bacteria breakdown, but I think it helps keep my stomach calm.

Zoos zing — enjoy. So do other animal situations, such as safaris or snorkeling. You can commune with the animals for as long as you want, one on one. One of my favorite solo things.

 

 

 

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Author: Lea Lane

Lea Lane is an award-winning writer/editor and world traveler, who’s visited over 100 countries. She was managing editor of “Travel Smart” newsletter and was the “Going it Alone” columnist for Gannett newspapers. She has written six books, contributed to dozens of guidebooks, and is a featured blogger on the huffingtonpost, and salon.com.

3 Comments

  1. This is a good, informative article. Thank you.

  2. This is an aritlce that makes you think “never thought of that!”

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