Travelling abroad, especially for leisure, is always great. However, I have to admit that I hate packing my luggage! However, no matter how strict you adhere to the "travel light" rule, there are still things that you have to carry with yourself and you always need a bag or a suitcase to carry them. And believe me, a bad travel bag / suitcase will ruin your holiday. Here are some tips that I have gathered over the years and would like to share with you all. Hope you will find them useful. Check-in luggage It is a personal choice as to whether you would like to buy a hardcase one or a soft one. But there is one key rule: choose the lightest one! The airports / train stations are getting much bigger and there are times that you will have to walk around with your luggage, without a cart that you can use! So choose one which is light! Besides, the airlines are getting stricter on the weight of check-in luggage so choosing a light luggage will always be to your advantage! I personally like to use the soft luggage because it provides a bit more flexibility. Most of these are expandable allowing you to squeeze one or two more items in! Just a small tip: never pack your luggage too full that you have to sit on your luggage to zip it. Even if you can successfully zip it, it will cause serious damage to the zip and it will break easily in the future. The planes are getting bigger these days, i.e. there are more check-in luggage and it is more difficult for you to find your own luggage on the luggage belt! If you are buying a new luggage, consider buying one with special colour (avoid black ones) as it will help you to identify your luggage more easily. If you have already own a black one and would like to continue to use it, try tying a colour ribbon to your luggage or use a colourful luggage tag. It will help you to find your luggage quicker on the belt! Hand Carry Bags As said above, the airports are getting bigger and you may have to walk a long way before you arrive at the boarding gate. Again, choose a light bag! Personally I would recommend some bag which you can put on your shoulder so that you can walk easier. Besides, do check whether your bag can fit it the size restriction of hand carry luggage. The airlines are again very strict on this and you do not want to be forced to check in your bags at the boarding gate! Another tip: check whether your items in the hand carry bags are allowed to be brought on plane. As I had said in my other review on swiss army knife, knives and alike are not allowed to be brought on plane! Foldable Bags It is always advisable to put a foldable bag into your luggage. You will never know how much you are going to buy during your holiday and it is difficult to buy a new bag aboard. Bring an extra foldable bag and you will find them handy when you have brought too much.....
When it comes to luggage for me it is a total no brainer and I have always gone for samsonite suitcases and flight bags, this is because they come with a long guarantee and are really hard wearing and do not get easily damaged. I always go for the hard body variety as these stand up best to the hard knocks that your luggage gets from those baggage handlers who are in training for the Olympic hammer compretion and decide to hurl your bags around as part of their training. The onl downside to this type of case is the fact that they are heavier so eat into your ever shrinking luggage allowance and also they will only manage a certan amount of clothing with no stretch to them. On the plus side the hard shell protects your valuables and toiletries which is really important, also these come with hard wearing moulded wheels which will last as long as the case, often the wheels are the weakest point on a case, and things get heavy without them plus with wheels you do not have to worry about paying for a trolley. I like the fact that samsonite cases have both locks and clips to secure your luggage and these locks are three or four digit combination locks for extra security. Bad luggage can really make ravelling a pain and also impact on the enjoyment of your holiday, that is why I recommend paying a little extra and getting a samsonite case.
In keeping with my travelling I am now starting to look at what kind of rucksack to take with me. I already own a large wheely suitcase, unfortunately this will be no good once we leave the US and move onto NZ. So I have to buy a new rucksack. I have been asking around on various travel forums, and the best one seems to be a sideloader rucksack. As opposed to a toploader which you can only access your stuff from the top, the sideloader is more like a suitcase on your back. I have also been told not to get one with wheels as you cant get waist straps with them and can hurt your back. I will also not be getting a massive one, as Im quite short and wont be able to carry loads of things! The type of travelling we are doing is not really trekking, which the toploaders are made for. I want to be able to access my things without having to unpack everywhere I go, as we will be only staying in some places for a few nights. With these rucksacks you also get a little daysack which can strap onto the rucksack for easy carrying. Im not one for carrying around a lil rucksack all the time, I prefer handbags, but I suppose it might come in useful for the beach and daytrips that involve boats and beaches or walking. These rucksacks cost upwards of £60 but I have seen some on ebay for a lot cheaper. I will shop around and most definately try and use quidco to get some money back on my purchase.
Selecting your luggage is an important consideration as the wrong type of suitcase can be both an expensive error and also be a real uisance while on holiday. The first choice is between the hard shell type or the more flexible canvas material suitcases. The advantage with the hard shell variety is that they take the knocks of being thrown around by baggage handlers far better than the more flisy canvas variety however some say they are also treated less carefully by said handlers. Another plus with the rigid fram e is that you can sit on it if delayed for a long tme with no risk to the contents. The downside is that it is rigid so there is a limit to how much it can take unlike canvas ones that have a bit of give incase you over pack or go a bit crazy on the spending while on holiday. Secondly they are heavier than canvas material bags and so affect your weight allownce, given that some airlines are reducing this allowance that can be an issue. Which ever design you go for one with wheels is a god send and these need to be robust and preferably moulded into the design so they do not get caught on the carasel, similarly handles especially the ull out extendable variety need to be well constructed. Locks are important, I prefer four digit combination ones rather than key ones as the key can be lost. It is also advisable to add an extra lockable strap to it and if available shrink wrap as this system is available at some airports. Finally make your bag distinctive, go for a different colour or if you opt for black then add some personal identification stickers to it, these make it easy to spot on the luggage carosel and also if someone attempts to swipe it in arrivals you have more chance of noticing. Personally I always opt for samsonite or delcey hard shell suitcases as they protect the things important to me and last for yars no matter how battered they get.
After many years of travelling I've decided to compile a few of my travel tips -covering some of the things I've learnt or discovered along the way - which hopefully will give you food for thought: -------------------------------------- GENERAL PRE-PREPARATION -------------------------------------- 1. Give a photocopy of your passport and driving licence to your parents or close friend in case you lose yours on holiday - then you'll have all the reference details to hand in order to be able to renew them quickly and easily, should they get lost or stolen. 2. Whenever you visit a hotel take all the freebie soaps/shampoo/body washes etc. Then use them the next time you go on holiday. Keep the bottles once empty so you can fill them up /decant from your favourite bottles - great for when space is at a premium. 3. Buy milk and put it in your freezer - you can always microwave it when you get home to have an emergency cuppa when you step in the door. Everything else in the fridge should be binned if it's gonna be past the eat by date by the time you return. 4. Ask someone to keep an eye on the house and then leave them £5-£10 to pick you up some basics the day before you return - so you don't immediately have to go out shopping when you get home - because you'll be tired and the last thing you'll feel like doing is going out shopping! 5. Rather than buying all your drugs e.g. anti-malerial tablets in the UK which can cost £50+ for longer visits, consider buying them in the country you are visiting for probably a tenth of the cost. Note: Obviously you need to research what drugs you are going to buy 'ahead of time' and be aware that sometimes the instructions are in a foreign language (they aren't all printed in English!) - no good saving money and then overdosing! (Many people travelling around India said they'd purchased their anti-malerials in India and had saved a fortune (although they knew the country and it wasn't their first time so they were comfortable doing this). It's definitely a 'point to ponder' for those of you on a tight budget! 6. Do a bit of internet research when it comes to airport parking - There are a lot cheaper alternatives than just turning up at the airport and paying the regular car parking price. Last time I paid less for the car parking by turning up at the airport and getting them to park my car for me...seriously! 7. Many children are fussy eaters. Remember to make and take sandwiches or a small picnic to the airport rather than relying on the food there. There's nothing worse than shelling out £20.00+ for them to have sandwiches filled with something they don't really like (cos there's nothing else left!) and refusing to eat it afterwards, despite you picking out the lettuce and pickle etc.. (OK yes I know you can do McDonalds but I've had flights were McDonalds were closed...!). Far easier just to make up a quick few sandwiches, throw them in a plastic bag with a few crisps/apples/carton drinks - than stressing out at the airport - plus you'll save a small fortune - because airport food is usually quite expensive. 8. Depending on where I go, I consider/weigh up taking out travel insurance versus the cost. I'd definitely do insurance for the U.S. (and other long haul destinations) because it's so expensive in the States and they won't treat you without it - but parts of Europe and all UK destinations I personally don't bother (although I'm NOT advocating you should do this). In the ideal world take out insurance ALWAYS - but if you are considering ditching your insurance because you can't afford the holiday - which I've done on numerous occasions(!), then (a) try to make your holiday as safe and accident free as possible (i.e. no adventure sports, no swimming with the local rhinos, riding mopeds in your knickers with no safety helmet, binge drinking/drug taking etc). (b) Try to search the internet to get a better insurance deal to beat the current quote or (c) downgrade your holiday/switch to another date or hotel so holiday costs are brought down to enable you to afford the insurance (d) do lots of work on Dooyoo to boost your earnings or (e) look at paying for your holiday on certain credit cards which include the holiday insurance cover for free - but immediately pay off the card in full to avoid interest charges! 9. If you take a flight only then you might want to consider pre-packing a tent in case there are no rooms available anywhere. 10. Take your address book with you and make sure it's up to date. Not only is it useful when you're writing your postcards but it's great for emergencies. Have your bank telephone number/details in the book just in case your card has a fatal error while abroad and refuses to give you any money out of the cashpoint (happened to me once - which is why I always carry 2 cards just in case!). 11. If you are staying at a hotel with say, spa facilities, then pre-book up massages, manicures, childs place at childs club etc as soon as you get your booking with the hotel confirmed. Several times I've been on holiday and got to the hotel - only to be told that they have no availability for massages as they're fully booked. This can be really disappointing if its important to you. 12. If you have young children and are hiring a car, check before you fly that they DEFINITELY have a spare car seat for your child set aside - sometimes the hire cars provide car seats on 'first come first served' basis so even if you tick the box to say you want one - you may not necessarily get one. I checked once just to be on the safe side and they'd run out - so I had to bring mine with me from the UK. It was a pain but I'd far rather this than take the risk of driving without one! 13. If you want to reduce the cost of your holiday then don't forget to look at booking your holiday on-line through a cash back website - or to pay for the holiday on a credit card to earn cash back (then pay the credit card off completely). ---------------------------------------- THINGS TO CONSIDER PACKING ---------------------------------------- In this section there are various items I have packed in the past which have proved very useful. I always travel as light as possible so I'm not saying you should pack everything - but rather weigh up what might be worth carrying! 1. Buy sterilising tablets (especially if you are self catering) so you can sterilise fruit/veg (e.g. apples, lettuce etc) before eating if you feel the area you're travelling to may be dodgy or if you are prone to funny tummy's! I did try this once and although its a good tip you do need to wash the stuff again once more in bottled water to stop a chlorine taste to it. This is probably more useful for very young children and those who are someway immune compromised. 2. Always useful to take a small torch along with you in case you need to walk late at night or if there is a black out. 3. Many cheap/basic hotels often fail to have plugs for their sinks/baths - so throw a few cheap 25p-£1 plastic plugs of different sizes into your suitcase if you are on a tight budget - if none of them work you can always shove your flannel around one to bulk it out. 4. If you're apt to buy gifts while on holiday buy one of those bags that you unzip gradually to make a bag double the height/capacity. That way it can be small on your way out and filled/larger on your return. 5. Buy a hat that you can roll up or be packed in a suitcase. Pretty straw hats are great until you come back to the UK and throw it in your suitcase for the return journey...you'll never get them looking the way they should and eventually they get consigned to the bin! Even jam packing the head with all your socks doesn't stop the rim from getting bent out of shape. 6. Always pack a small light rucksack - use this as your flight bag or simply pack it in the main suitcase. This allows you to go exploring on holiday and have somewhere you can put your camera, water, sun lotion, hat, headache tablets, map, mobile phone, book, towel, bikini etc... 7. Never ever put your credit cards, cash, household keys, car keys etc in your main luggage - if this gets lost you'll be buggered! 8. Pack anything that can spilt if broken (hair shampoo/conditioner bottles etc) into plastic bags. That way if baggage handling manage to crush your luggage you will at least have some clothes that you can wear without having to wash all the shampoo out of them first. Then when you return home you can use the same plastic bag to throw all your dirty washing into -so you can separate the clean clothes from dirty washing. If anything gets spilt on the return journey you probably won't care so much! 9. If you know you will be arriving at your destination late, put all the things on top inside your case that you'll need first e.g. nightie, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste - so you don't need to drag everything out of your suitcase at 2am in order to get to it! That way you can unpack properly in the morning. 10. Always take a pen and some paper with you - it will often come in handy - not least for strangers giving you directions to a place! 11. Pack any spare change that you have for the country you are visiting. This is especially useful where you need to pay e.g. 1 euro for the suitcase trolley once you arrive at your destination - it save's the hassle of having to get change from the change machine/cashier if you already have it on you! 12. Pack a currency converter - takes up only a little space and makes shopping a whole lot easier when you know how much you're spending! 13. Take just a SMALL camera with you - unless you're an avid photographer wanting to take professional shots. I told my other half this while he was weighing up the pro's and con's of buying a wacking great big semi-pro camera worth c£2K. We both love photography - he understands the technicalities and loves fiddling - I 'point and click' and get just as good results. In fact I get more results because once the bloody thing goes through check-in and gets to the hotel room, then he rarely brings it out because it's too heavy/cumbersome to lug around all the time in the hot weather - especially when you have a 4 year old wanting a piggy back and you've got your day sack with suncream/maps etc. You can't put them anywhere discreetly like inside your rucksack cos the camera bag is too big and doesn't leave room for hardly anything else, you worry constantly someone will nick it, its obvious you're a tourist...and then you end up lugging it all the way back home after taking maybe 2 days worth of photos across the span of a 2 week holiday. Don't do it!! 14. When packing your flight bag remember that they may lose your main luggage so put things in your flight bag that will help in this circumstance e.g. pair of knickers, toothbrush/paste, flannel, all paperwork, all credit cards/cash etc... 15. Be open minded to homeopathic medicine. I tried EVERYTHING I had in my medicine kit for delhi belly in India - and the only thing that worked was some small insignificant looking homeopathic tablets. I am now a convert! 16. A travel hairdryer is always useful. Not only to dry your hair but to heat up a small freezing bedroom, dry your socks or clothes or bikini (nothing worse than putting on a damp bikini - and they dry under a hair dryer in no time!). 17. Sometimes its nice to take a small collection of photographs of your family/your life with you. Yes it's a bit strange at first glance putting this in, but if you ever get kidnapped you can make them feel sorry for you if you show them photos of your loved ones and it helps build a rapport so they hopefully let you go - plus if you meet local people e.g. you decide to stay at a family run B&B - it gives you a chance to show them "in pictures" what your life is like in the UK - which is a great ice breaker. They often like to learn about us as much as we like to learn about them! 18. Don't forget to pack an electric plug adaptor. 19. If you love your coffee/tea and you're fussy about what you drink, then consider taking a travel kettle, powdered milk/coffee/tea/sugar with you. Nothing better than waking up to a nice cuppa before you go down to the hotels dining room for breakfast - or coming in late at night to a nice cuppa when everywhere is closed! Many countries won't sell English Tea (or at least it's hard to find!). Some people like to take small sachets of salt, vinegar, tomato ketchup etc as well as these can be also tricky items to track down in certain countries! 20. A light dressing gown is great for summer locations. Not only is it nice to have something to put on when you first step out of the shower - its great for a quick cover up when room service knock at the door or when the fire alarms go off. It's also useful when you get sunburn and need something loose fitting to wear in the hotel room (if you share it with others) i.e. no rubbing waist band etc... 21. If you want to pack perfume remember that sometimes when you get hot the perfume can irritate your skin (so do a test patch first if unsure), it can also attract insects/mosquitoes so use sparingly at night :-) 22. Insect repellant can be nasty stuff. Some will take the dye out of shoes etc so you may find you need to let it dry on your body first before putting clothes or shoes on. I remember one holiday spraying my legs and feet with my black sandles already on and I didn't work out until nearly the end of my holiday that the reason my feet were always dyed black was because the insect repellant was reacting to the shoe dye!! duh...!! 23. If you are back-packing, or travelling economy(!), it's always useful to buy a travel washing line. Not only is it useful as a washing line to dry your clothes/swimwear on - but is good if you need extra wardrobe storage space to hang extra clothes. 24. Don't forget if you are taking your phone/laptop/shaver to also take your charger with you! 25. If you have the space in your suitcase, a travel iron is always a useful gadget. Not only do you look clean and "pressed" - but you can quickly dry clothes with it, and in some countries like parts of Africa it proves useful to stop the Putzi fly larvae from burrowing into your skin (iron your clothes before you put them on!). 26. I always like to take 2 swimming costumes ...wear one / dry one ! 27. An odd toilet roll often comes in handy - especially a half used roll from home. Crush it flat so save on space and put it in your hand luggage. Often airport toilets run out of paper and you can use it for mopping up spills/cleaning the kids up or even as emergency writing paper!). Wet wipes are particularly useful if you have kids! 28. If you're planning to go self catering - always consider packing a tin opener if you've got the space. The amount of times I needed a tin opener...!! 29. It's sad to say that most of us work hard and then when we finally get to relax on holiday this is the time we get ill. On holiday is often the one time our body finally starts to allow itself the luxury of breaking down. If I'm going to get ill it's normally at the weekend or on holiday! Think back on all the holidays you've had and see if you can recall whether you suddenly came down with flu, cold, headache, unscheduled period, cold sore, skin rash, gout etc and then ensure that you pack a mini medicine cupboard to cover likely scenarios. I also normally pack a thermometer to check my daughters temperature if she is ill (one of those ear ones) and calpol. Remember to follow instructions re: storage of medicine i.e. many say keep in cool/dark place. Any important medicine should definitely be kept in your flight bag on the outbound journey, just in case your main suitcase goes missing. 30. Condoms. I'm not sure how to make this point without revealing my past but here it is! I dated a man who was rather large 10" / normal girth. We ran out of condoms and naturally we went out to buy some more, while holidaying in Greece. Perhaps it was the make of condom, perhaps they were defective(!) Greek men are no smaller than other Europeans in my limited experience...- but the condoms were too small for him. His eyes were nearly tearing up with the pain of trying to roll the condom on - so we had to give up! So if uh hum you're a little large in that department and you're going to Greece, you may want to ensure you take your own condoms with you! I'm not going to mention about safe sex/state the obvious about condoms. 31. Take an auto-translator or dictionary with you if you don't speak the lingo. This is especially useful if one of you becomes ill/there's an emergency and you need to speak with doctors/police/fire brigade (who may not speak English) - and of course it's also helpful for getting out and about, shopping, asking directions etc... 32. I often take tweezers, nail clippers, face packs, nail varnish etc and do all the 'beauty things' on holiday that I never get time to do at home. One great thing is to buy an oil pack for your hair (or use olive oil) and put it on your hair first thing before going to the beach (if hair long enough tie it up out of the way) - then by the end of the day your hair is soft and silky after a day at the beach. A really great treatment! ------------------------------------ ABOUT YOUR LUGGAGE...!! ------------------------------------ 1. Don't put your home address on your luggage for when/if it gets lost. If someone has your home address and your house keys/car keys you're not going to like your homecoming. It's useful to put your parents address/telephone number to contact in the event your suitcase is lost - and to put these details both on the inside as well as on the outside of the suitcase because often outer labels get detached/lost. 2. If like me you have a vague memory and regularly use several different suitcases - then get a strap with your name on it - or buy a suitcase which stands out e.g. bright pink with blue spots! You don't half feel silly hurling yourself onto a big blue suitcase and man-handling it off ...only to find it isn't yours. You then find yourself telling everyone around you who assisted...well mine looks VERY similar - then you suddenly see a medium sized silver suitcase which looks suspiciously like yours up ahead! It happens! Remember to look at your suitcase before you part with it and retain the image. If it gets lost you'll also have to describe it at the "lost & found" desk. 3. Put all things like scissors, nail files, nail clippers etc into your main luggage or you'll lose it if you have it in your flight bag. Check beforehand what's allowed/not allowed onto the plane. --------------------- AT THE AIRPORT --------------------- 1. Always take the time to note down where you parked your car - sometimes its hard to remember 2 weeks later at 2am when you're tired. 2. Always take the kids to the loo just before you board (JUST BEFORE!!) because often there is no going to the loo while passengers are boarding and it could be another half hour or more before you're all set to take off. -------------------------- ON/OFF THE PLANE -------------------------- 1. Generally always select the aisle seat in the plane unless you absolutely must have a window view. The window seat is draughty and colder for some reason (yes I know they're supposed to be air tight LOL!) and its a pain in the butt to get everyone to move when you need the loo or want to stretch your legs...especially if they're asleep! You can also stretch one leg out really well into the aisle when no-one is walking down. You also get more choice of seats the earlier you turn up for check-in. 2. If you want to go onto the plane and just crash/sleep - then do the opposite. Always select the window seat because the trolleys don't bash into your legs as they whizz past, people don't accidentally brush against you as the plane suddenly pitches while they're walking past and people don't keep asking you to move to get to the loo etc... 3. If you get bored with the normal variety of your in-flight meals then opt for a vegetarian or halal meal - also many times the vegetarians get their meals first because they're the awkward buggers so if you're starving hit the light when they ask for all vegetarians to make themselves known. 4. Don't fly with a cold when you're completely bunged up - cos last time I made that mistake my eardrums burst on the plane. The pain is akin to childbirth! 5. Often the airline expects the people next to the emergency exits to help open the doors in an emergency and assist other passengers off - therefore if you have children with you, you won't get these seats. Best to sit immediately behind these seats to maximise your chances of getting off quickly! ;-) ...AND IF YOU HAVE BABIES/TODDLERS 1. When disembarking get the funny little golf-cab-type cars to take you leisurely down to the luggage area. Babies/toddlers make your arms drop off after 10 minutes of holding/carrying them and you could be waiting an hour for your luggage. Juggling your hand luggage with your baby to try and get your passport out is hard work as a single mum - but the drivers will do all the work for you. Often the pushchairs come onto the conveyer belt LAST ...oh yes!! 2. A mobile DVD player, paper/pens, a few soft toys are all great to take along for young toddlers/children who turn into the devil incarnate when they're bored. Be resigned to the fact that they will probably show you up...it's half the fun! LOL 3. Babies and young children can have real problems with air pressure. Just as the plane starts to decend have a drink ready (or their milk bottle) and get them drinking to help relieve the pressure. Another tip is to put a few drops of decongestant, Olbas oil or even Vicks onto a hankie and hold it close to their nose. 4. Once you arrive at the airport, take the kids to the loo just before you set off to your destination - it's a lot easier than trying to stop off somewhere (and you know they'll ask at the most awkward time)! ------------------------------------------- AT YOUR HOLIDAY DESTINATION ------------------------------------------- GENERAL SAFETY 1. DON'T wear a waist/bum bag - you stand out a mile as a tourist - just keep wallet/money safe in an inside pocket somewhere - and if you're in a particularly dangerous area sew some local currency into the hem of your clothes. 2. DON'T go around wearing your camera around your neck either. If you're taking it during walks around town, put it in a bag/ruck sack so it's not too obvious and just take it out when you want to take snaps. Thieves sometimes drive by on a motorbike and snatch items off you with a knife to cut through straps - so ideally you don't want to be garrotted! 3. DO go by the old adage of taking some money with you just in case someone tries to rob you. They may just leave you alone and unharmed if you give them something. 4. If you are a small group (e.g. teens-early 20s) try to go together and leave together - don't split up. There's safety in numbers. 5. Don't offer or allow yourself to carry anything for ANYONE. If you feel you absolutely have to and are finding it impossible to say no - then tell them at the desk that you are carrying something for someone which you HAVEN'T PACKED YOURSELF and which you believe are biscuits for their great aunt Doris ...but could they just do a check of the biscuits so you can assure yourself that they haven't given you drugs to carry. You really should and must say no. I have no idea if you will still be treated as a criminal if you ask them to check the biscuits for you and it turns out you are carrying a box of heroin...and in some countries you may not like to find out the answer... e.g. some places carry the death penalty or you can be flogged or spend many years in prison. 6. If you are looking for a restaurant, eat where the locals eat. Avoid salads where possible because local water, while not affecting the local people, may affect you simply because of the different balance of minerals etc... Even in India the local Goans I teamed up with (and travelled up to Northern India with) claimed they got ill on non-local water! 7. Where possible try to take advantage of hotel security safes for your passports etc - it's easy to lose a passport/bag when touring around and ruins the holiday if you have to spend a couple of days at the embassy. 8. When you plan to travel for more than a few weeks e.g. world tour or 4 months around Africa - make sure you regularly check in with family or friends e.g. say you'll email them every Tue or Thur circumstances permitting and each time give them a rough itinerary of what you're planning to do. If it's been 2 weeks and they've not heard from you, then alarm bells can start to sound. You never know when you might need help and it's good to know that if something does happen to you, someone will notice and help will be close at hand. 9. Do immediately check out where all the fire exits/fire extinguishers and alarms are from your bedroom and get familiar with the layout. You don't want to start doing this at 3am in a smoke filled hallway. 10. If the general advice is not to drink the local water - then make sure you buy bottled water to drink. Don't only use it for drinking but also use it for brushing your teeth too! SAFETY FOR SMALL BABIES/TODDLERS/CHILDREN 1. If you have children never let them out of your sight. Don't let your guard down just because you're on holiday. 2. In hot countries avoid the sun between 11-3pm and don't forget if you visit a play park at say 4-5pm your child may still get serious burns from sliding down a long slide with shorts on - always check temperature of slides etc with your hands first before allowing your child to slide down them. 3. Keep young children in the shade, plied with frequent drinks, and a hat. 4. Remember small babies/children can't control their body temperature like adults can. Don't keep them in their buggy all the time - they often swelter in them. Make sure you buy a suitable umbrella and perhaps a fan which clicks onto the umbrella - Mothercare do them to keep them cool. A cool child in hot weather is a happy child. 5. If a baby's fontenelle has depressed and you can fit your thumb in it, then they are dangerously dehydrated. It doesn't take much for a child to get dehydrated in very hot weather. Take them to be assessed to the local A&E. 6. Remember that some water proof suntan lotions don't allow childrens skin to breath so they can over heat. 7. Finally a pasty white baby looks like you're taking care of their skin - and you'll get everyone's respect ...they don't need to look tanned. 8. If you are swimming in the sea make sure you are aware of local rip tides etc so you and your children can swim safely. 9. Don't forget the sterilising tablets I mentioned above - you can also sterilise baby's bath water if they tend to put their hands in their mouths when bathing to avoid getting ill. 10. You can buy powder which is combined with calamine to help with prickly heat in children. (This is called Talquistina in Spain - although not seen it in the UK). 11. If the weather is really hot make sure you go for an air conditioned car - especially if you have kids - you'll all be far more comfortable. However also take a towel with you wherever you go, and place it over the child car seat if you're not parked underground - otherwise the cars and car seats soon heat up quickly if the car is left in the sun. A safety buckle can burn a child badly if they touch it and the seats can be too hot for a baby/child to sit in it - a towel covering the chair stops it from getting too hot. Also, remember to pack your childs stick on window sun shields to protect their eyes from the sun - they take up virtually no room in the suitcase and you'll only end up wishing you'd brought them along! Sun glasses are also a must for young babies/children to protect their eyes in very sunny climates. CAR HIRE 1. If you want to hire a car and the temperature/climate is HOT HOT HOT - with relentless sun, please don't hire an open topped car. You'll fry. You won't look cool. You'll look stupid! And when you get caught in those traffic jams - you WILL resemble a lobster and possibly get sun stroke LOL ;-) YOUR ROOM 1. If you want great room service, give the maid 50% of the tip up front and promise the remainder at the end of the holiday. If they know they're going to get a great tip from you they'll work harder to keep you happy. 2. If you don't like your hotel room - talk with your rep. Mention first that you are interested in taking various trips with him...(for which he will earn commission and so be indebted to you) and then mention you want to switch rooms/change hotel. He's more likely to make an effort if he knows he's going to make some money out of you!! TOURS 1. Booking hotel tours can be quite expensive but also time effective if you're only on holiday for a short while. On the plus side everything is arranged for you and often the tours are very good - and you learn a lot more than bumbling through it yourself (if you have a great tour guide). On the negative side you can do it cheaper yourself and you often only get a short whistle stop at each place - which is frustrating when you find somewhere you want to investigate further. Sometimes (if you have the money) the hotel tours can be utilised as taste testers for where you want to direct the rest of your holiday. COUNTRY DIFFERENCES 1. Remember that different countries have different laws so check them out first before going. I believe it's a criminal offence to have chewing gum in Singapore or to drop litter. In Arab countries you should check first before going topless anywhere (and totally avoid drunken sex orgies on the beach)! mmmm 2. Remember that different countries also have different shopping times. For example, when Spanish siesta hits (especially in parts of Southern Spain) all the shops shut - so... if you forgot to get the pain killer for your raging toothache in the morning and waited until lunch time to get it - you'll be in pain until all the shops re-open again at 5pm. Also some pharmacies rotate in certain towns so only 1 will be open on weekends to dispense medicine - this can be a harrowing experience when you're desperate! Again this is important to remember not only for medical reasons but if you are self catering and want to avoid restaurants. If you forget to shop in the morning you'll have no food for lunch unless you bought it the day before! :-) 3. Don't forget that there are laws about what you can and CAN'T take out of different countries - learn before you go what they are or you may find yourself missing your flight home and having to explain yourself (or worse!). 4. When buying things in a foreign country remember what looks great there very often won't look so great back at home. e.g. who doesn't go to Egypt and take home a papyrus painting (often painted on the cheaper banana leaves!)...you love it...you get it home and put it up - then a year later you go off it. Buy something generic that will fit into your English home is my advice. I bought a stone carving in Egypt...there were lots of pharaoh-type ones...however at the back of the shop there was one which didn't scream Egypt which I bought. In Sri Lanka I bought an ebony carving - I ignored all the Sinhalese styles and bought one depicting the three graces with SLIGHT Sinhalese faces - again this has stood the test of time. My papyrus, bottle of sand, mexican hat, bongo drums unfortunately went by the wayside as did the general inexpensive tatt! 5. If you need emergency treatment abroad in a hospital, then be aware that some countries don't do everything for you in hospital - they expect the family to help. For example, in India an English girl needed her appendix taken out. Her friend visited her every few days in hospital until the hotel manager kindly pointed out to her that in India the persons family normally provides the food, drink and other facilities needed by hospital patients - and asked her why she wasn't helping her friend. Luckily the landlady had felt duty bound to assist the girl -but she would have starved through lack of basic understanding if she had relied on her friend to know/understand how some hospitals in India are run. Leave all your ideas about how things "should run" back at home - you're on foreign turf now! 6. Many countries, strangely, differ in the strength of OTC (over the counter) drugs. Spain provides pain killers of double the dose of the UK - while Italy provides a much lower dose than the UK. I don't know why but it's something I noticed while living in Spain - and an Italian friend said he was surprised that UK medicine was so much stronger than his home country. It's useful to be aware of this. MISC 1. If you purchase a flight-ONLY and find that there are no hotel rooms/hostels available - or none that you want to stay in (happened to me once in Israel) then you can always opt to buy a cheap tent and go camping on the beach - although check the beach signs because sometimes camping on the beach is not allowed. Just don't forget to buy a good bed roll because the sand is HARD when you sleep on it!! (Unfortunately when I woke up the next morning on this particular occasion, bombings had started in Israel - and our nice clear beach suddenly had a whole military platoon decend all around us ...admittedly they were quiet and I only realised when I walked out of the tent in my bra and knickers! ...and it was just the search lights that kept strobing through our tent that kept us awake from the other side!!... those were the days LOL!!). 2. If someone has looked after your house make sure you always bring them something small/nice back from your hols so they'll do it again for you next year! :-)
I travel quite often for both work and pleasure and have therefore had to alter the way in which I pack. I'd like to share my secrets with you. I used to be one of those people who always had a suitcase twice as big as me. I could be seen waddeling through the airport red hot and flustered. It was full with a selection of clothes, shoes and accessories for every occassion I could possibly come across whilst I was away. Most of which returned having never seen the light of day. You'll now see me pulling along a rather small trolley and looking a lot less flustered, plus I can usually take it on the plane with me which means I don't have to wait for luggage when I get to my destination. Firstly start with a good suitcase (wheels are best, check out my opinion on Samsonite Trolleys) or backpack depending on what meets your needs. With suitcases easy wheelability is vital, with backpacks bigger is not better, there is only so much weight you can carry, make sure you can adjust the fastenings to your height and they fit comfortably. Firstly preparing to pack. Alter your shopping habbits, don't buy 5 different coloured cheap t-shirts, spend a bit more on just a couple of well chosen t-shirts that will go with serveral other items in your wardrobe. Taking 2 or 3 tops which you can mix and match with 2 or 3 bottoms leaves much more space in your suitcase than packing a complete outfit for everyday. When you recieve free samples of toiletries through the door or in magazines save them for when your going away they take up much less room in your suitcase than full size bottles, also remember most hotels give you soap, shampoo and towels so don't pack these. Are you travelling with a friend? Compare your packing lists do you both really need to take travel irons and hairdryers or can you share? Most people buy new things to take on holiday, remove packaging as it tends to be bu lky and make more weight. The one exception being perfume, keep it in it's box and if possible pack it inside a shoe to protect it. Packing a Suitcase When packing a suitcase bulky items first, this way you can pack smaller items around them. Use towels or sweaters to protect more fragile items or if possible put fragile items inside shoes. If your suitcase has a divider keep shoes seperate in one side. If not wrap them in carrier bags so not to dirty your clothes and use them to fill gaps around the edges of your case. Pack under wear together in a carrier bag, it saves pulling everything out of your case in search for your favourite black bra, also if customs search your case they don't end up display your undies to the whole airport. A spare carrier bag is also handy to keep dirty laundry seperate, no matter how well you pack you usually come home with some clean clothes and unpacking is so much easier if the clean and dirty are seperate. Packing a Backpack When packing a backpack think which things you will need most often. These are generally the things you think of first when packing and throw them in the bottom of your bag. Not the best place for something you may want to get to 2 or 3 times a day. These are the things you should pack in the outside pockets of your backpack, depending on the person these could be things like maps and travel guides or toiletries and makeup. Other things to pack in outside pockets are things which may leak. You may also find with backpacks that they have a pocket on the lid which is rather flat and an odd shape, this is a good place to pack under wear and socks. When packing your clothes it's often a good idea to roll things up, this supposedly stops them creasing of course this depends on the fabric, if it's going to crease it's going to crease no matter what you do. But rolling things means you can fit them into spaces better. Finally when packing a backpack pack some plastic bags, these will come in useful if something decides to leak or for keeping wet or dirty clothes seperate. Now your backpack is packed there is one final thing to do, attach all other items you are taking ie sleeping bag, tent, saucepan and put it on. No I don't just mean pick it up and see how heavy it is and put it back down. I mean fasten it properly on your back, then go outside and take a walk around the block. If you get back and it's still comfy then you've done very well, if you don't even make it to the end of the garden path you have some rethinking to do. A piece of advice at this point is to remove several items of clothing and any extra shoes you may have sipped in there and replace them with a small bottle of handwash detergent. Checking in Luggage If you are going to check your luggage in please remember don't put your holiday currency, credit cards, or valuable Jewelery in your suitcase in case it gets lost. Talking of lost luggage if you are travelling with a friend it's a good idea to each pack a spare outfit in each others cases. That way if your case is lost you'll still have a change of clothes in your friends case. Frequent Travellers If you travel often, you may find you spend a lot of time packing and unpacking, which is really not the best use of anyones time, and if your like me you end up with a half unpacked suitcase in the middle of your bedroom floor for about a week. To avoid this I have my travel washbag, this remains packed at all times, it contains a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, travel size conditioner, make-up remover, razor etc (note no soap or other items which hotels supply). Not only does this save time when packing it means no running around just before you leave checking you've got your toothbrush, as you can never pack it the night before as you need it in the morning. I also have my travel PJ's which are kept in my suitcase , even if you don't normally wear PJ's there good to take when you travel, remember hotels don't always have dressing gowns. Now imagine the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night, hopefully it will be a false alarm but do you want to waste time looking for your jeans? Or do you want to end up stood outside surrounded by strangers in a little black lacey number? Speaking of fire alarms this is not a packing tip but I feel it's a very useful tip when staying in hotels. When you first arrive in your room, check for your nearest emergency exit, if there's a fire alarm you may not be able to exit the way you came in ie the lift.