In my many travels, I've learned a thing or two. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next journey.
Purchase a money belt or neck pouch. Money belts and neck pouches are meant to be worn underneath your clothing and hold your passport, cash, travelers checks, credit cards, airline tickets and copies of prescriptions. You can find these at your local AAA store or one of the many online stores such as www.magellans.com. A money pouch will become the most important item you have when you're on the road. Even in very safe countries, I always wear my money pouch, all my valuables safely on me.
If you don't want to take everything with you, purchase a travel safe. We found this one at an airport years ago on our way to Ghana, West Africa. It has been one of the best travel purchases we have ever made! This sturdy bag — reinforced with "slash proof stainless steel mesh," — can hold my passport, extra travelers checks, jewlery and other small valuables. It locks around any secure fixture, allowing you to leave your valuables in the room without any worry of them walking away!
I always bring a stash of zip locks with me on every trip, especially when traveling to countries like Thailand and India. Having these on hand can make life so much easier.
Uses for quart-size baggies:
Uses for gallon-size baggies:
I never seem to have enough baggies on hand. Bring at least 6 of each size, including sandwich bags that are handy when you are backpacking and you need to carry your soap from guest house to guest house.
I pack a few of my favorite fabric softener sheets into a zip lock baggy and then add one to my luggage. It eliminates dampness in humid climates and keeps your clothes smelling fresh!
Bring along your favorite essential oil. It is great for long trips when the stale plane air is becoming heavy. In your hotel room, place a few drops on a light bulb (before the bulb heats up or it make break) and your room will smell like a spa in a very short time.
Find a travel size of your favorite perfume. It is small enough to pack into a zip lock bag for a quick freshening when you arrive at your destination and helps you resist duty free shopping (although you can find great travel-sized items in duty free).
Be sure to make two copies of all important paperwork. Leave one copy at home with a family member or friend. Place the other copy in your day bag. Important documents include:
A passport is your United States citizenship travel document. You have to have this to travel internationally and re-enter the United States. If you don't have one you can apply for a passport, but please allow 6-8 weeks to have it processed. You can also check with your local post office to see if they process passport applications.
A visa is the document required to enter other countries. It is like a permission stamp in your passport from that government to be in their country for a specified time period. The United States has agreements with some countries, such as those in the European Union, so there is no need for a visa. Other countries, like India, require US citizens to apply for a visa before traveling there.
Thailand: Travelers staying in Thailand for less than 30 days do not need a visa. You will be stamped at immigration for a 30-day entry.
India: You will need to apply for an Indian visa. Once issued, Indian visas are valid for only 6 months. Because of this, you must wait a minimum of 5 months prior to departure to apply for your visa.
To find a city's airport code, visit Expedia.
To select the best seat for your flight, visit Seat Guru.
To learn about current weather conditions and possible delays across the country, visit Flight Tracker It also gives you updates on wait times at security.
For information on what to do while waiting at the airport, visit Expedia.
Arrive 3 hours prior to your flight. This allows for any unexpected problems and helps you get a good seat assignment. For the best seat assignment, you can also visit www.seatguru.com weeks in advance. In order to find space for your carry-on luggage, be ready to board when the gate opens (typically 30 minutes prior to departure).
When flying internationally, you will have to go through immigration and customs before leaving the airport (both in the country you are traveling to and upon your return to your home country). While in-flight, you will be given an immigration form. Fill this out before the plane lands in the country of your destination. You will need your passport, flight information and hotel information to fill the form out completely. Tuck this into your passport once completed.
Have your passport and airline ticket stub readily available when you get into line for immigration. Typically, immigration officers are not the smiley, welcoming type. They are just there to get people moved through in an efficient manner.
Once you pass through immigration, you will be able to pick up your luggage at baggage claim (most airports have a digital sign board that will direct you to the correct baggage claim). After you have collected your luggage, follow the signs to customs. Chances are you will go to the line that has nothing to declare. Hand them your customs declaration form or simply walk past the officer. If they need to check your bags, stay calm and remain pleasant. It is just routine. The officer will sort through your bags and send you on your way.
Once you have passed through customs, you will then be in the main portion of the airport.
Long layover? Looking for ideas on how to pass the time? Visit Expedia for an overview of Harriet Baskas's book Stuck at the Airport. You'll find all sorts of tips on what to do in 65 airports around the world.
No matter what airport you are in, people-watching is always fascinating! Grab a cup of coffee or tea, find a prime seat, sit back and enjoy.
In the Bangkok airport (BKK), try one of the following:
Find a city's true colors by going to the market. Being in the midst of local daily life gives you an insider-view to the country you are visiting. A trip to the local market is one of the first things on our itinerary when I bring a group to Thailand. At Warowat market, we find everything — from mango's and papayas, slithering fish and beheaded pigs to mounds of fresh rice noodles and steaming pots of soy milk — lining the walkways. And the vendors are thrilled that you are there.
Markets are also an excellent place to find unusual souvenirs. In Thailand, you can buy bamboo noodle scoops, coconut spoons, gorgeous hand-thrown pottery, and sarongs, to name a few. You can even get a plastic tub of bamboo worms to bring home to your nephews!
Stepping into the busy world of a market at meal time takes a great expereince and turns it into an unforgettable memory. See what the locals are eating, then sit down and order a plate for yourself.
It is here that you will taste the truest flavors of the country. In Warowat market, I find the utlimate Thai coffee (no longer found on street corners because of all the coffee shops that dominate the landscape), wonton soup, donuts with steamed soy milk and much more.
For authentic meals that leave a party in your mouth, remember the following tips.