As I’m busily packing today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my travel hints. It is not an exhaustive list and some are quite obvious but here is what I know:
(I’ve added some Japan specific tips towards the end)
Planning your trip:
– Make sure you know in advance any visa/documentation requirements you need to travel. Don’t assume your travel agent will know everything, especially if you are not traveling on an Australian passport. Visa requirements may differ for different nationalities. If you are traveling with kids and without both parents, you may require extra documentation/permissions for some countries.
– Check your passports are in date. They will need to be valid for at least 6 months after your planned return.
-Think about the currency you will take and what you will do for money whilst you are there. Don’t assume you will be able to access your bank account in some places. I had a really hard time withdrawing cash in Japan. Australian dollars may not get the best exchange rates in some countries, I like to carry some US dollars and Euros as backups. If I can, I purchase some local currency before I leave so I don’t have issues with currency exchange when I arrive. The exception to this rule is where the currency is unstable due to inflation etc…
– Your local post office can order currency for you at quite a good exchange rate.
– Never travel overseas without TRAVEL INSURANCE. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. (Shop around online to save $$)
– Contact your bank to tell them you will be overseas, you don’t want your accounts frozen when you are away.
– Make copies of all your travel documents including your passport and credit cards. Leave a copy with some one you trust and take a copy with you in a safe place away from your original documents.
TOP TIP – scan your documents and e-mail them to an e-mail account you can access whilst you are away.
– Know where your passport is at all times. It is the most important piece of paper you will own. Keep your boarding passes in a handy place too, you will need to show these and your passport to lots of people.
– I always like to have a couple of pens in my bag, there are never any on the end of those little chains when you need them.
– I love zip lock bags! Due to liquid restrictions on international flights all your gels and liquids will need to fit into a sandwich size zip lock. Liquids include, lip balm, hand cream and toothpaste. I use my zip lock as a mini toiletry bag and use small product samples (like mini toothpaste and hand cream) for the flight.
– Pack your chargers, cables and adapters in zip lock bags to keep them all accessible and dry if your luggage gets wet.
– I also like taking a few spare bags to seal up wet/dirty clothes or shoes. Great for keeping paperwork in order and small items like jewelry and accessories organized.
– I never leave home without my laundry kit. It consists of a small bag of washing powder (equivalent to 2-3 loads, double bagged to prevent spillage), a universal sink plug, and a travel washing line (like a bungee cord with hooks on the end). All of this goes inside a mesh/delicates wash bag.
– First aid kit is really important and will save you from miming out embarrassing conditions at a pharmacy where they may not speak English. I tend to pack: Painkillers (without codeine), anti-diarrhoea tablets, rehydration powder sachets, allergy tablets, cortisone cream for rashes and bites, bandaids, alcohol swabs, adhesive fabric tape (for blisters), and of course any other medication you may be required to take regularly.
Don’t forget travel sickness prevention tabs if you are prone to motion sickness.
Depending on your destination you may also want to think about travel vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis.
Also sunscreen, insect repellent and anti-fungal cream.
– You won’t really need as much clothing as you think you will need, especially in warmer weather. Lugging around heavy luggage is no fun and there won’t be any room for shopping. Minimize the size of toiletries, on shorter trips a few sample sachets of shampoo may just be enough to get you through.
TOP TIP– If you are going away for 2 weeks, before you go make a mark on your shampoo/moisturizer etc.. then measure how much you have used at home in 2 weeks. Now you can decant a similar amount into a smaller container and not worry about running short or taking too much.
– make sure your luggage is labeled on the inside just in case the tags on the outside are lost. And of course ensure you have luggage tags with current contact details including a phone no and email address as well as your name and address. Why not make your own Luggage Tags with this tutorial.
-If you have a nondescript piece of luggage, invest in a brightly coloured luggage strap. You will spot your bag on the conveyor belt from a distance and it will prevent others picking it up by accident.
TOP TIP – Take a photo of your check in bags before you check them in. That way, if they are lost it’s much easier to show a photo of your missing bag than trying to describe it from memory.
– Be nice to the check in staff, they don’t need your attitude and they can tee you up with some extra leg room if you are lucky (or the holy grail, an upgrade!!
It’s never happened to me I’ve been upgraded to Premium Economy once.)
– Tell the staff if you prefer an aisle or window early on, it holds up the line if they have to re-do your seating.
On the Plane:
– I like to get myself set up early on. In the pocket in front of me I have my lip balm, ear plugs, eye mask and inflatable pillow. I always travel with a small bag that I keep on me with my passport and valuables.
– Best not to leave money and passports in overhead lockers, you don’t know who is accessing bags whilst you may be sleeping.
– Enjoy your flight and catch up on movies you may have missed.
I could go on forever…
Japan specific TIPS
Money was a big issue in Japan. Most ATM machines don’t accept foreign issued cards. The post office machines wouldn’t accept my Maestro EFTPOS card, luckily I had a Master Card debit card and Visa credit card with me as a back up.
Most shops are cash only.
I took Yen and US dollars with me with the intention of changing my US over there but never came across any exchange offices.
Narita airport is quite a way out of town. Best to catch the Limousine Bus to the general area in Tokyo where you need to go.
We purchased a PASMO card for public transport which one can load up and use on any train and bus service, it saves heaps of time and stops you fumbling around for the right money at ticket machines.
If you have any general or specific questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer them in a comment so everyone can see. I may even write another post if the answer is complex.