Friday, February 20, 2009

Needless tips for lengthy trips

I haven’t really blogged here since coming home from my trip a long while ago but in the last couple years I’ve heard from a lot of people planning their own trips and I thought I’d write an entry of tips and suggestions to answer some of the most common questions I get…

First, remember your passport. And remember that it’s the only thing you really need for a big trip. Everything else is truly a detail.

Scan your passport and e-mail it to yourself. Make a few copies and stash them in your bag.

If you’re bringing valuables (like a laptop), insure them through Safeware and lock them in a wire-mesh bag from PacSafe.

Remember a padlock, a tiny flashlight, and a Swiss army knife.

Get a Lonely Planet guidebook but don’t become a prisoner to it. The region guides (Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, etc) are sufficient unless you’ll spend more than a few weeks in a single country, then its worth springing for a country-specific guide.

Under-pack. If you really end up needing something you can buy it on the road.

I usually travel with 3-4 pairs of socks, t-shirts and underwear. Then one long sleeve shirt, one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts. One bathing suit and a pair of pajama bottoms come in handy too. And a very lightweight raincoat.

You’ll quickly find an efficient way to organize your bag; try to stick to it. Whenever I misplace something its because I’ve put it back in a different place than usual.

You don’t need to pre-book hostels unless it’s a super-busy season for the destination. The only time I’ve pre-booked was for Oktoberfest in Munich.

You don’t need a phone.

Check the foreign transaction and ATM-withdrawal fees charged by your bank, they’re probably outrageous. Capital One offers a “direct banking” account with no foreign ATM fees, which can save you hundreds of dollars over time. I’ve heard Charles Schwab has something similar but don’t know the details.

I like having a family member listed on my bank account in case something needs to be taken care of while I’m away.

Doing your taxes before you leave might be helpful.

High-deductible foreign health insurance is pretty cheap and can be a big help if something medically expensive happens.

Now go.