This is probably the golden age of traveling. There were more than 1.3 billion international tourists in 2017, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. This number is expected to rise by four to five percent in 2018. “International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development. As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world.” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
There are more budget flights, affordable accommodation and travel packages, enabling more people to explore other places. Social media is helping stimulate international tourism for the benefit of travelers and businesses. Your friend’s gorgeous photos in Siem Reap and your cousins’ videos trying out skewered fried insects in Beijing are more than enough to convince you to book a flight.
Make your international adventure a truly rewarding experience by knowing travel-friendly hacks. Here’s a list for you.
Pack like a pro
A much-awaited leisure trip abroad can easily turn into a nightmare. Did you pack your travel essentials well? Remember the you’re off to a summer vacation. You’re not migrating to another country, so keep your baggage as light as possible. Here are some helpful travel packing hacks:
- Roll your clothes instead of folding them to save space
- Wrap wrinkle-prone clothes in tissue paper
- Pack multi-purpose items such as a jacket, scarf or shawl and polo shirts
- Prepare a toiletry bag where you have travel-sized toothbrush, toothpaste mouthwash, soap, shampoo, moisturizer, shaving cream, etc.
- Secure your travel documents by placing them in a plastic envelope and scanning copies
For ladies, make sure you have enough sanitary napkins or tampons for your red days. When choosing the clothes to pack, you should also consider the local customs and tradition in your destination. You should avoid skimpy outfits in conservative countries.
Prepare for the unexpected
Anything can happen when you’re abroad. A trip to the hospital due to digestive distress may drain your bank account. You may lose your travel documents and end up in your embassy for the rest of your trip. Be prepared for the unexpected. Get a travel insurance whether or not your country of destination requires it. This will insulate you from the potential financial ruin of a medical emergency. It’s highly recommended that you ask for an emergency evacuation/repatriation coverage included in your insurance.
Scan your travel documents and secure them in the cloud. Secure the hard copies in plastic envelopes. You can also rent a safety deposit box in your hotel to keep your passport, visa and other valuables safe.
Do your research
If you only have a weekend in a foreign country, every minute matters. Looking for the train station can eat up your time if you don’t do your research first. Even before your flight, you should be planning your itinerary. What are your activities? Where should you have your lunch and dinner? How long does it take to go from one point to another. Google is free. Everything you need to know is available online. You can visit travel blogs and discussion boards. You can keep a small journal wherein you can jot down info on train schedules, bus stops, nearby tourist sites and even prices of meals. Being a clueless traveler can cost you time and money.
Don’t be afraid to ask for prices
One of the travel hacks travelers are too embarrassed to ask involve meal prices. No one wants to appear cheap, though this could mean racking up a massive credit card debt. Adrian Wooldridge, political editor and columnist at The Economist, shared an unfortunate experience during a trip to Tokyo. Ignorant of touchscreen menus, Mr. Wooldridge ended up ordering £500 worth of sushi. “ I had to give plates away to my fellow customers. Stuffed, embarrassed and surrounded by a sea of plates, I ordered the bill, worried that they would not take credit cards and I would be trapped in Tokyo washing up for the next few months,” he shared.
There’s no harm in asking questions. You can also check restaurant menus online, if available. Learn from the clueless Englishman who ordered a mountain of sushi rolls – know how a touchscreen menu works.
To tip or not to tip
Tipping is not customary in the Philippines. Customers are free to pay the exact bill or leave any extra amount for the servers. The service charge, which is shared among the staff, is typically included in the total bill. However, this may not be the practice in other countries. Tipping is a travel etiquette every traveler must know. It’s strictly observed in the US and you’re expected to leave a tip that is 15 to 20 percent of the total bill to waiters and hotel attendants. In Japan, tipping can sometimes be insulting. So don’t be surprised if your extra bills are politely refused. When in Europe, it’s advisable to check the menu if the service charge is included. If not, a five to 10 percent tip is acceptable.
Ask when in doubt and always observe local laws
A few years back, news of a Chinese tourist made the rounds online for deliberately ignoring a “Do Not Touch” sign in a Ming dynasty tomb. The woman took selfies on top of a 600-year-old statue. Another gaffe involved a Singaporean who ignored warnings against taking photos of a Komodo dragon in Indonesia. The man suffered leg injuries after getting bitten by the animal.
When in doubt, ask a travel guide or tourism officer. Not sure whether you should take off your shoes before entering a holy site or if it’s acceptable to take photos with indigenous people? Ask and abide. Mistakes can lead to injuries, unnecessary expenses, the risk of landing in jail, not to mention the unwanted publicity.
Ensure a hassle-free trip abroad by making the proper preparations. Creating an itinerary, which doesn’t need to be accurate, but can help you maximize your limited time. Pack light but don’t miss the essentials such as a multifunctional jacket and a toiletry bag. Get a travel insurance and secure your documents. Learn about the necessary laws, customs and practices in your destination. Finally, make sure you keep your condo safe while you’re having a blast abroad.