For ensuring a easy, safe and fun journey abroad.
AVOID CHECKING BAGS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! I have flown A LOT, many times for several weeks at a time, and I've very rarely had to check a bag. I can fit two weeks worth of clothes into one 26" carry-on roller. Just pack smart. If you check bags you run the ridiculously high risk of them getting lost. You have to wait much longer at the airport while your bags make their way to the conveyor belt, and you run the risk of pissing off all of the other colleagues in your party who were smart and carried on, and now have to wait for your stupid ass to get his bags.
Purchase some anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking undergarments and take them on any trips that may involve high temps, a lot of walking, excessive physical activity, or prolonged wear/re-use of said undergarments.
If you read a lot, a kindle may be a good investment (for long trips especially).
Plastic bag for your dirty clothes.
Ear plugs. If you're travelling on a budget, you will probably be staying in some noisy located places. They really help.
Pack sandals or thongs for use in showers. Showers can be gross. You don’t want your feet to touch the floor.
Carry the travel-size packets of laundry detergent (Tide makes good ones) so you can wash clothes in your bathroom sink. This works surprisingly well, particularly for undergarments and socks. And hotel laundry fees are insane. Avoid at all costs, unless your employer is footing the bill and won't reject the expense
Don't buy trendy four-wheel, polycarbonate luggage. This is a huge trend right now and these are the worst bags for travel. They're terribly on non-smooth, flat surface, the dent and scratch VERY easily (just look at the floor models in your local luggage shop), they're slow, and they have easy-to-break wheels. A durable two-wheeled roller is superior. Get one with nice, big rollerblade wheels. And spend money for a good one. It will last longer.
Pack up a small first aid kit that includes pain meds, anti-diahhrial, laxatives, Benedryl, cold meds, Tums, sore throat treatment, bandages, disinfectant, and other things you'd want if you we're sick and didn't have easy access to them. Always keep this in your bag.
Buy a $20 phone calling card in case you get stuck somewhere and don't have money or phone. Keep this away from your wallet and somewhere that it's least likely to disappear.
Similar to above, buy a Visa gift card with $100-200 on it and keep in a similar safe, hidden location. This is only to be used for emergencies. Losing your wallet and having no ID nor money while traveling abroad can be a nightmare.
Store copies of critical info, including IDs, in an Evernote note or Dropbox folder so you can access it from any browser if needed.
Store your credit card numbers in an encrypted Evernote note, assuming you trust Evernote and its encryption. This can come in very handy.
Carry a ten foot length of brightly colored string/para cord in your suitcase. If you use the hotel safe, tie one end to the handle and the other end to something you can't possibly forget, like a suitcase. Otherwise there's a good chance that you'll forget that you put things in the safe and will have to get the hotel to ship it to you.
Slip on shoes. Comfort is key because you'll walk way more when travelling. These make it way easier to fly through security. I prefer a medium brown because its flexible. Just make sure your belt matches, gentlemen. And make sure you wear socks if you'll be going through an airport. You don't want to walk barefoot through security!
Foot odor avoidance: hotel floors are gross, even at the fanciest of hotels. Solution: scrub feet in shower in morning, only step on clean towels, apply deodorant to bottom of feet, put socks on. Your goal is to avoid bacteria. When you get home, deodorize those shoes.
Don't forget your sunglasses.
Concentrate points programs as much as possible. Pick one airline and one hotel chain and stick to it. Status makes a HUGE difference when you're a frequent traveler.
Buy a tablet and load it up with videos and ebooks.
Use Uber for car service when available. It is awesome.
Keep your toiletry liquids in a sturdy, clear plastic bag in a very easy-to-grab location in your bag. This will speed you through airport security.
If you're in a hurry, minimize the risk of having your bag pulled out for a secondary search by throwing iffy stuff into bins before running it through. Stuff like electronics, tools, weirdly-shaped equipment. Just don't give the x-ray guy a reason to flag your bag.
Avoid the security line with families, kids, elderly, or people who look like they never travel. They will take longer and if there bag gets flagged it will slow you down. (George Clooney's character nailed this bit in that one movie he was in where he was hired to fire people)
If you're a business traveler, consider taking up photography as a hobby. Its a great way to have fun when you're on your own on long business trips.
If you do enjoy photography, consider avoiding the hefty DSLR unless you're going somewhere really amazing and instead carry your smartphone and a Sony RX100 (get the new version that just came out). The Sony fits in your pocket and takes AMAZING photos that rival DSLRs in quality. And unless you're a pro, you're not going to see much of a difference. Shoot in Camera RAW format so you have more flexibility when editing in Lightroon later. DSLRs and the obligatory collection of lenses are VERY heavy. And they're thief bait.
Pack light. Especially if you're backpacking/sole traveller. Everything in one bag!
Roll your clothes when you're packing. You can really compact bag this way.
Be wise. Scammers like to pick out tourist and do what ever they do.
Photocopy or take a photo on your phone of your passport/other docs.
Look up local tipping custom.
Don't rush everywhere at once. Do your own thing.
Pack a complete outfit in your carry-on. Delayed baggage is extremely common and it's best to ensure you have backup clothes so you can at least wash them without having to hang around a hotel in a robe half of the day just to have some clean undies.
If you eliminate checked luggage, you can literally walk off the plane and to your car or hop into a cab without breaking stride.
Dress for the climate that you are going to, not the one you are leaving.
Learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you're in. Ex: hello, thank you, I am lost, where is the bathroom, etc. Have a phrase book handy. Many countries now have a high English-speaking population but you never know. And it makes you look like a more considerate tourist.
Don't be afraid to do some unplanned stuff! People always map out exactly what they want to do and I've found it's nice to talk to some local people and just see what happens instead of being all timetabley and stressy and stuff.
If you're traveling in the US and want to find a good place to eat, ask a cop. They eat out every day, usually at smaller non-chain places.
Once the plane takes off, set clocks to destination time. Try to stay awake until something like a normal bedtime at your destination (this will be easy or hard depending on direction of travel and the time you leave).
Get a small rest on the flight if you can. Try not to get up again until it's in the AM at your destination.
Once you land, DO NOT HAVE A NAP unless you have seen the sun go down (unless your flight is weird and arrives at night time). You need that melatonin to start flowing. Use (legal) substances if you have to.
Just as important: once the sun is down, and it's a reasonable bedtime, GO TO BED. Again, use (legal) substances if you have to.
Don't unplug your brain because you're on vacation. Bad people look for people who are in La-La land to rob.
Get a multi power converter and a multi-plug power board to plug into it. You'll always be able to power your devices, and you'll make heaps of friends.
Always make a photocopy of your passport.
For tall travellers. Try get the emergency row seating, I know this one is obvious for frequent flyers but for those who are less experienced, the emergency row seating has more legroom, and will make the flight far more comfortable.
Always be aware of your surroundings. If someone/somewhere gives you sketchy vibes, there's a reason! Don't ever go near places/people that make you feel uneasy.
For going through security: it doesn't matter how nice you like to dress for flights, dress with consideration to having to take your shoes off (depends on the airport), jacket off, belt off, and pockets empty. People, probably including you, just want to get through security. It'll benefit everyone for you to not be scrambling trying to get those tight, strapped or buckled shoes off and dumping your pockets full of loose change and receipts. Dress with efficiency.
For flights: sometimes, when you miss your flight, you have to do the work to get on another one, do not put all the effort on the airline workers. This past trip, I flew from Atlanta to London. We missed our flight because we were stuck on the previous flight for about an hour. The employees couldn't find any flights for us the next day, even by splitting our party of 5 up. My dad had to go on the website and find flights for us, and then just tell the employee to book us for them.
If you can do all carry on, do it. Check bags as a last resort. It'll save time, money, and significantly reduce the chances of your bag being lost.
When packing, remember your chargers. It seems obvious, but it's very easy to miss. Then you spend your trip trying to find a charger to buy, sharing a charger, or just living with dead technology until you go back home.
Convert your currency in the destination country. Keep a wad of small bills or coins in one pocket, keep a couple large bills in another with one credit card, and the rest in the hotel safe with your passport.
Never carry your passport.
Brief yourself on local laws
Say no to hookers and drugs
You might want an adventure, but unless you know what you're doing, stay in public places.
Register with your country's consulate (you should be able to do this online before going)
Keep one passport scan in your bags, one in your hotel safe with your passport, and one in your pocket. This goes for any visas and credit cards as well.
Try to keep that oblivious tourist look off your face. Find out if it's weird to smile at people (check how the locals interact).
Learn customs and a little language before you go.
ALWAYS have a list of the belongings in your checked baggage, and make two copies- keep one with you, and leave one sitting on top of your items inside your bag so it's clearly noticeable to anyone who opens your stuff.
Pack as few toiletries as possible. You can buy them where you're going.
Shower immediately before you leave to go to the airport, and then have your "human being kit" ready to use upon arrival. This has kept me from feeling like a complete zombie even after 15-20 hour trips. Your "human being kit" should have wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste, some kind of lightly scented body spray, and (at least) a change of underwear. Do you know how nice it feels to change your underwear and wipe the grime of sitting in the same place for 14 hours off immediately upon landing?
Spend the time before you go to max out your own in-flight entertainment. Give yourself options, too, because you just might not be in the mood to watch a movie at that exact moment.
Skip the belt and wear (non-smelly!) flip flops. It'll help you get through security with less hassle and keep you more comfortable on the flight. A leather belt digging into your stomach is exactly what you don't need to have a better time on your flight. You're sitting so your pants aren't going to fall down. The flip flops are easier to take off and give your feet room to swell during the flight (and give them some air to keep your feet from getting sweaty and smelly!). Pack a light pair of closed toed shoes in your carry on to make walking around easier when you get there.
If you're going to be travelling to multiple locations once you arrive, try not to buy toiletries with pump tops. Those things say they can re-shut, but they never do properly and you're going to end up with greasy lotion all over your stuff. If you do buy pump top shower supplies, you can transport them much more easily after that if you keep some plastic bottles from drinks you'll buy at your destination, clean them out, and use those.
Aim to go at least 15 pounds under the weight limit for your luggage on your way there, and try to only use one carry-on bag for that part of your trip as well. Pack the bag you'll use for your second carry-on for your return trip inside your checked luggage. Then, when you go back, you have plenty of weight for normal souvenirs in your checked luggage and an extra bag to break out and use in case you want to come back with anything particularly heavy or fragile.
If travelling outside your country, don't exchange currencies at the airport or anywhere else, use an ATM at your destination. Your bank fees will (probably) be cheaper than the exchange rates charged by the currency exchange places.
Wash your clothes in the sink / shower. Use the hotel soap. Or take a little traveller sized bottle of laundry detergent with you. It's much easier than finding a Laundromat in a foreign country. And there are only so many times that you can wear the same pair of undies.
Learn how to use a needle and thread. You've only got space for a few items of clothing. Sewing a broken button back on will save you a lot of hassle.
Carry baby wipes / facewipes. This can be used to feel clean when there are no showers. Yes, sometimes there are NO showers.
Learn how to say "no thank you". Most travel advice columns will tell you to learn how to say "hello", "yes please", "thank you" and "do you speak English?". But in some countries you really want to be able to say "no thank you, please leave me alone". Think about the crowded market places in Asia. Knowing how to say "no thank you" in their language is going to give you a lot more peace.
Grocery stores are a traveller’s best resource. Cheap food, local flavours. Find the nearest one to your hotel and you will save yourself a heap of cash. Have a picnic lunch every day.
Keep an emergency stash of money. If you lose your wallet you will still need to eat. An empty Chapstick is a fantastic secret hiding spot.
Learn how to drive a manual car. Stuck at an airport after your flight has been cancelled? You could drive. You will be smacking your head on the desk if they only have manual cars.
Roll your clothes when packing. No creases and more clothes fit into your suitcase.
Always keep a stash of spare plastic bags for dirty clothes / shoes. Smelly socks will make your clean clothes stink. Always.
Learn how to swim. You never know when you might need to on the spur of the moment.
Learn how to pack light. You do not need to take 20kg for a week of travel. You CAN wear trousers two days in a row or more. The less you have to carry, the happier you will be travelling. And if the French Metro goes on strike on the day you need to get to the airport - you will thank us.
Know how much it should cost in a taxi. Carry a card with the hotel address and a map. Ask for taxi drivers to use the meter. Make sure they are legitimate taxi drivers.
Always carry a hard copy map of the city you're going to. Save your phone charge for when you really need it.
Make sure your bank cards work. There is nothing more annoying on holidays than spending hours on the phone to the bank back home.
Carry tissues that can double up as toilet paper. Plus carry a hand sanitiser.
Learn how to change a tyre. Murphy's law says if you don't know and you head off on a road trip, you're bound to get a flat.
Be prepared to sleep anywhere. Ear plugs and eye patches will help block out the light.
Learn how to take a decent photo. Don’t come home with a bunch of Instagram selfies. Memories fade and you'll want something to remember the scenery by.
Pack smart. Put necklaces in straws so they don’t get jumbled. Use a button to keep earrings together and take a look at this list to help you pack.
Learn basic first aid. This is just a great life skill, if nothing else.
Get folders for travel documents and itineraries. Keep them organised so you don’t have to mess about digging through pockets in your bag at the airport check-in.
Use public transport. It's fast. It's easy, it's cheaper and it will give you a better travel experience. Get a map, learn the different ticket types and if you are heading to London – organise an Oyster Card in advance.
Use little bottles for everything. It takes up less room. If you use plain bottles make sure you label them with a pen that won’t wash or rub off. Mistakes can and do happen. Moisturising your hair is not a good look.
Buy and wear good walking shoes. Blisters are not fun and high heels don’t work on Europe’s cobblestone pathways.
Ask the locals for advice, tips. The best beach probably isn't the most popular one. The locals can help you find those secret spots you will rave about.
Eat where the locals eat. Just like number 26 - the same goes with restaurants. Ask the locals where they eat. Go there instead.
Peg clothes to the outside of your backpack as you walk around in the sun to dry them after washing. Cheap and easy!
Know where the embassy is. Seriously. Find it on your map. Don’t think just because you are in a "safe" country you won’t need it. All it takes is a quick Google search, write down the address and put it in a safe place.
Register your details with DFAT. OK, this one is obvious but surprisingly so many of us don’t actually do it. In cases like Boston or London, DFAT will be the place your family will turn to. Make sure they know where you are.
Be aware of the local laws. Don’t get drunk on the streets of Dubai or expect to chew and spit gum in Singapore. You’re leaving Australia - don't expect our law system to follow you around the world.
Get your vaccinations if you need them. Yellow fever is not fun. You will kick yourself if you could have prevented it and you didn't.
Scan your passport and travel documents. Give copies to family/friends. If you lose your passport or travel documents, this backup will save you a lot of heartache. It will also help your family to find you in the event of a disaster.
Learn a few phrases of the local language. Speak to the locals. Experience their culture. Don’t just wander through it.
Know the scams of each destination. 'Thai driver want to show you his best restaurant?' It’s probably his mate's. Get on the internet and work out the scams so you don’t become a sucker. Then refer to number 4.
Learn the art of haggling. Haggling saves you money. Be bold. That extra $4 will buy you a coffee.
Learn the basic geography of the country you are visiting. There’s nothing worse than a traveller who has no idea where they are travelling.
Learn how to use a compass. Sounds extreme but it could help in a crisis.
Learn how to use chopsticks. Don’t look like a tourist asking for a fork. Chopsticks are a must.
Get travel insurance. It's obvious, but probably one of the most important items on this list. The French always go on strike meaning your flight could easily get cancelled and accidents do happen, particularly if you want to ride a scooter in Bali. Get travel insurance.
Allow relaxation time to get over jet lag. You don't want to be on the go for six weeks straight. It should be a holiday. You should relax at some point.
Keep a change of clothes and basic toiletries in your carry-on. If your luggage gets lost you will be very glad.
Travelling via Singapore? Pack your swimmers in your carry-on and take a break in the outdoor rooftop pool at the airport while in transit. You will feel 100 per cent better getting on the next flight.
Research the airports you are travelling through so you can a) find the fastest way through and b) use the facilities. Don't just sit at the boarding gate.
Take a jumper on the plane. It is cold. It has air conditioning.
Take thick socks for the plane. Cold feet will stop you sleeping.
Take Imodium and panadol/nurofen. The cuisine of other countries can be harsh on the tummy.
Find out if the country you are going to sells tampons. Some countries don’t. Or they are really hard to find. Even places you wouldn’t think of - like Athens.
Check if the drinking water is safe. That includes brushing your teeth, ice in cocktails and drinking water in the shower.
Be aware of altitude sickness. Give yourself time to adjust between altitudes, drink a lot more when you are high up.
Know the local road rules. Even in New Zealand the rules are different.
Be respectful. Pay attention to how local people dress to work out how you should.