The following is a collection of travel tips that have significantly improved our vacations since we started using them.
Packing lists – Until a few years ago, it seems that I would always forget something whenever I went on vacation. Now what we do is several weeks before going on vacation we start a list and place it somewhere accessible together with a pen. Whenever we think of something that we need to take, we add it to the list immediately. When we pack, we go off the list, crossing things off only once they are physically packed. Since we started this, we have not forgotten a single thing.
Money – A long time ago I used to use travellers checks, but a few years ago I figured out what rip offs they are. The best bet is to use credit cards and ATMs. Call your credit card companies first to find out what they charge for currency conversion as I have found significant differences. In many places, credit cards will not be accepted so you will need cash. Rather than carry a lot of dollars around with you and exchange them, which means you stand a lot to lose if you are robbed, I prefer to get money from ATMs as needed. Remember that your bank will charge a service charge for this so its best to withdraw in rather large amounts – I usually do a few hundred at a time.
Tips – I used to spend a lot of time figuring out what the customs are in each country. The problem is that even in countries where tips are not expected, many individuals will still expect them from tourists (for instance – Thailand). Therefore I generally always leave a tip and if the money is returned to me I stop tipping for that type of service.
Moving around – Moving from place to place can be a big hassle, especially when you have a lot of luggage. Sometimes it is possible to stay in one location and make day trips from that location. To see more area just change the central location every 4-7 days. Sometimes though the site you wish to see is not possible in one day. In this case, if you are staying at a decent hotel they should be able to store the majority of your luggage for you, minimizing the luggage you need to tow around.
Bargaining – My wife and I have vastly different forms of bartering. She prefers the lowball approach – which is acceptable where she comes from. So for instance if the initial price is 100, she will offer 5. Some places this works very well, while in others the dealer will be offended and no longer barter. The approach I use is to show interest in an object and then ask the price. If I want the object, I show continued interest – picking it up and looking at it, but then I start to move to another dealer or walk away. In many places, the dealer will press me to name what I think is a fair price but I always refuse to do so. To keep me from walking away, they continue to lower the price themselves. When they have reduced their initial price significantly, I will name a price a bit lower, but not significantly lower than the latest price. If they counter, I walk away, at which time they usually agree to my price. I feel that I have better luck with this approach, but I have to admit that in some places Nelya has gotten better prices with her approach. What I like most about my approach is I never offend the dealer – because I never name my price.