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travel tips

After years of traveling, I get lots of requests for travel tips, so it made sense to start collecting some of them in my blog. If you have tips of your own that you’d like to share, feel free to let me know and I may incorporate them into this page or give them a try on my next trip.

This page will grow as I add more tips or try out new things, so keep checking back!

Water | Bags | Shoes | Vaccinations | Insurance

Water

While we in the developed world take for granted our ample supply of clean, drinkable water, the U.N. published statistics that indicate that one in six people in the world—that’s 894 billion people—do not have access to clean drinking water. In fact, nearly all of the traveling I’ve done in the last five years has been to countries where you cannot drink water from the faucet. That said, water is a big focus of mine when I travel.

Although I was in the habit of purchasing bottled water every time I traveled, I became aware of the amount of waste I was creating when I did so, especially when I could see heaps of plastic waste lying on the sides of roadways. So I did some research on easy and effective water sterilization options and discovered the Steripen. It’s a hand-held “pen” that uses ultraviolet technology to sterilize your drinking water. Now, for each trip, I pack a Steripen and an empty water container and voila!—drinking water for the entire trip. For more information, see: www.steripen.com.

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Bags

I’m not talking the kind of bags that you get from flying a nonstop red-eye to Paris, either. This tip is about shopping bags. When you travel, you have a tendency to purchase things along your way with the casual ease of a pickpocket in Times Square–a souvenir here, a snack there, aspirin, maps…I could go on. Soon, you’re laden with random bags of all sizes. Usually plastic ones. If you read my tip about water, then you know how I feel about all of the excess plastic. This is why I always travel with reusable shopping bags—you know, the kind you (hopefully) use when you bag your groceries at home. The bags are not only useful to gather your bits of shopping, but also work great for laundry, and can even serve as emergency overflow when, at the end of your trip, you discover your luggage has shrunk along the way. For traveling, the best reusable bags are the kind that compress to a small size so that you can put it in a pocket or a purse when not in use. There are lots of brands out there, but my particular favorite is Envirosax. For you guys out there, Sea to Summit is also a great choice. For more information, see: www.envirosax.com or www.seatosummit.com.

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Shoes

First off, let me just say that I’m not a high-heel traveler. That is, I am not in the habit of packing fancy shoes for nights of dinner and dancing. Having said that, I’m a minimalist when it comes to travel shoes. Shoes take up a lot of room in your luggage, so it’s important to ensure that the shoes you choose are able to perform for more than one occasion—shoes that are comfortable for walking, that can be dressed up for a casual night out, that can hike on uneven terrain, or that can be worn in wet conditions.

The most important thing to ask yourself is also the most obvious: what types of activities will I be doing when I travel? Make a list, if necessary, and then find shoes that can comfortably accommodate the most number of activities.

Here are the types of shoes that I bring on my travels most often, depending on the activities I plan to do:

    • Sport sandals – these are great for walking around town and light hiking, and depending on the style you choose, can also be dressed up for a casual night out. Favorite brands: Keen and Teva.
    • Hiking shoes – these do double duty as your on and off-road shoe. If you plan to do a lot of hiking, you might consider a hiking boot that offers ankle support. I prefer low-rise hiking shoes because they take up less room in my backpack/luggage when I’m not wearing them. Favorite brand: Keen.
    • Compressable sneakers/water shoes – Great for working out, walking around town, and light hiking. Many styles have quick-dry mesh uppers that also mean you can wade in the water with them. Favorite brand: Jambu.

Important! Once you’ve chosen your shoes, wear them before your trip to make sure they’ll be comfortable during the activities for which they were chosen. I know you read that all the time, but how many of you actually do that (is it just me?)? So if you’re packing hiking shoes, take them for a long hike on variable terrain. If you’re packing city shoes, wear them on an all-day shopping excursion that involves a lot of walking. I have too many stories of packing new-ish shoes that were super-comfortable in the store or when I wore them for some other purpose, but then gave me weeping blisters once I really put them to the test. Don’t let that happen to you.

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Vaccinations

A lot of well-meaning people think they make responsible travel choices, but then scoff at the idea of getting the recommended vaccinations for their travels. After all, can we really be sure that vaccinations help and don’t harm? Besides, we’re strong and healthy and the likelihood of contracting a serious illness or disease is pretty slim, right?

In my humble opinion, traveling responsibly isn’t just about reducing your impact on the local environment and resources, it also extends to protecting your health and the health of those around you. Communicable diseases such as typhoid and polio have been eradicated in our own country, but still exist in other parts of the world and have vaccinations that can help with their prevention. Yes, it’s true that vaccinations are not 100% effective; however, in the world of medicine, there isn’t much that is. Do you want to err on the side of risk or caution? Okay, you might still say you’ll take the risk…but what if your decision affects more than just yourself?

I’m going to assume you already stay on top of the U.S.’s recommended vaccinations, so if you find yourself traveling abroad, make sure you check the recommendations for travelers to that area. A resource I use before every international trip is:
www.cdc.gov/travel.

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Insurance

Now here’s a question I get a lot: do I buy travel insurance? The answer is yes. In fact, most reputable volunteer organizations require you to have travel insurance, but that isn’t the only reason I purchase it. As a person who has been the victim of theft, who has needed medical care, and who has experienced baggage snafus while abroad, I find that having insurance softens the blow just a little. It’s bad enough to discover that your camera was stolen from your bag along with two weeks’ worth of irreplaceable photos, but it’s even worse when you have to replace all of your equipment. Travel insurance can at least help with the latter.

As far as travel insurance goes, I don’t think anyone can beat the cost and service provided by World Nomads. I’ve used them for the last eight years and have had nothing but positive experiences: www.worldnomads.com.

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  1. Pingback: Tips for traveling in Bali | tales of wander - December 2, 2013

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