Call me practical or call me paranoid, but you’ll probably agree that this is the most comprehensive travel list you’ve ever seen. You can find much of this information in guideblogs but I print it out with lots of blank spaces and add my own notes for planning and quick reference. Writing it down seems to plant it in my memory.
• WEATHER: rainy season, temperature, hurricanes, determines clothing and whether or not to visit – I include national holidays here as crowds can be like a weather phenomenon.
• LOCATION: determines where you want to stay – which neighbourhood? Be sure to get a hotel business card (in local lingo for cabbies), plus a Map, phone number, locator reservation number, cancellation policy.
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Select your room ahead of time – not next to elevators, noisy spots and adjoining rooms. Do windows open? Check-in and check-out time, late departure policy.
• HOTEL: room safes, amenities, voltage, internet and printing (for online airline check-in), extra charges.
• COMMUNICATIONS: cell phone or texting charges, internet accessibility, addresses for mailing postcards back home.
• SIDE TRIPS: where to? Blog in advance or on site?
• CITY TOURS: times, location, discounts, language spoken. Check out unusual ones, like night tours. Hop on-hop buses off are popular and fun.
• AIRPORT: which terminal? What time arriving & departing? Check-in times? Distance and time to airport, depending on time of day? Bus, taxi or train? Business lounges? Delays and connection terminals? Airport Map? Is your luggage checked thru to your final destination or will you have to pick it up and clear customs? Where to catch legitimate airport cab? Are airport transfers included?
• TRANSPORT: taxis and other, plus car rentals – is extra insurance needed?
• TAXI: where, which ones to take, which ones to avoid? Change? Tips? Security and scams?
• BUSES & SUBWAYS: rush hour, tickets – buy many or one at a time, odd practices, like needing your ticket to exit the station, can you buy a reloadable card? What to do with leftovers – refund or not? Correct change or not? Security?
• SECURITY: common scams, seedy areas, government advisories.
• CURRENCY: cash or credit, where to change money, current exchange rates, emergency numbers if you lose your credit card, is ID required to change $?
• MEDICAL: your insurance policy and phone number, embassy, first aid kit, flashlight, food problems, drinking water, pharmacy and prescriptions, vaccines, health advisories.
• AIRPLANE TICKET: check-in time, check bags or not, extra charges, passport expiry date, visa & departure fees, customs & immigration forms, contraband. FA TIP: the name of your airline(s) and flight number(s). Seriously.
• COUNTRY INFO: currency, time zone/change, national holidays, unusual customs.
• HOME BEFORE LEAVING: mail, newspapers, indoor pets, (cats, dogs, birds, fish, etc. ), and outdoor, (bird feeders, bird bath), security lighting, garbage pick-up dates, food for when you arrive home. Pets – back up if you are delayed. (I always ask the pet sitter to keep visiting until we call to say we’re home. That way, if we’re delayed, it’s one less thing to worry about. )
• LANGUAGE: a few good words.
• RESTAURANTS & BARS: your favourite spots or recommendations – costs, specialities, local dishes and tipping, when to eat, service charges, hidden or otherwise, drinking water, a few words to order coffee, local food and drinks.
• PERSONAL: clothing, grooming, (manicure, pedicure, etc. ), no new shoes, local customs for clothes, weather, walking, other sports or outings.
• SOUVENIRS: local & unique food, coffee, spices etc.
• GUIDE BOOKS AND MapS: make photocopies if you don’t want to carry the entire blog.
• TOILETS, SANITATION, DRINKING WATER: always pack some tissues.
• TRAVEL DISCOUNTS: ID or formal letter.
• MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES: best times to visit, special show or events, discounts for affiliated memberships.
• TOURIST SPOTS: visit or avoid.
• LIVE LIKE A LOCAL: popular places to meet locals or expats, foreign branches of your home club or organization, like Tai Chi.
• APARTMENT RENTAL:
• YOUR PERSONAL NOTES: recommendations from family & friends.
• VOLTAGE: Charge cameras, phones etc. Before departure & pack charging equipment; are extra plug adapters, converters & extension cords needed.