Nicole's Top 8 Travel Tips(I couldn't think of 10 good ones....)
1. PACK LIGHT. I pride myself on this and I cannot stress it enough. Nothing is better than being able to grab all of your belongings without slowing everyone else down. Never pack anything that you won't DEFINITELY use while you're there. Don't pack any extras. If you run out of shampoo, it is a great opportunity to check out the local products (even if you can't translate the label)- you can always ask an employee for help. I usually take clothing that I don't really want anymore (especially to developing countries) and leave it there/donate it/throw it away.... this includes socks, undies & shoes! Take as few items of clothing as possible. Washing your shirt in the sink and hanging it to dry in your room is a common thing in most other countries. Shoes take up a LOT of space, so try to limit shoe selections to (at the most) two pairs. Make sure they are versatile- maybe one pair is casual and one pair is a bit dressy. Check the weather and plan accordingly- if it is going to be rainy while you're there, make sure one of your pairs of shoes is waterproof, etc.
2. TRY TO GET ON THE LOCAL TIME BEFORE YOU LEAVE. I find it effective to set my clocks to the time zone a day BEFORE I leave and get on schedule then. That often means staying up all night the night before, sleeping when you get on the plane. You may know how valuable this may be because jetlag can consume an entire day (if not more) when you arrive and if your trip is only 10 days, that's 20% of your trip that gets wasted!! Once you arrive, GET/STAY ON THE LOCAL TIME. Stay up until at least 10pm the first night. If you need to, take a walk if you feel sleepy- Do what you need to do to stay awake. I am lucky because architecture school taught me to have a fubarred sleep schedule (I often went days without sleeping.)
3. BLOG! (or journal) EVERYDAY! And, if you are an artist, SKETCH as often as you can. This is a great way to keep record of your trip. Be sure to write about how you feel about a particular place, what you observe (i.e.- what is different and what is similar to your home, etc.), why you visited that place, who you meet, tell stories about any experience.... write about anything and everything.
4. KNOW BASIC PHRASES IN THE NATIVE LANGUAGE, even if your pronunciation is crap. 1) Hello/Goodbye 2) Please/Thank you 3) " Do you speak English?" And- if you are vegetarian or have special eating habits, it is best to know what items on the menu you can/can't eat before you get there. (Man, this trip is going to be challenging in this respect- I will be in 3, possibly 4 different languages and in one of them, my friends may try to speak Spanish!!)
5. SCAN YOUR PASSPORT, CREDIT CARDS AND OTHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND E-MAIL THEM TO YOURSELF (and/or photocopy and keep separate from the real items.) I guess this works when you are going places with internet access. I'm not sure if cruises have internet access?? It is also smart to leave a copy here at home with someone you trust as well as a copy of your itinerary including your accommodations.
6. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS! This is the absolute best way to get to know a country. Finding out how a family spends time with each other and what they value gives great insight. The size of their homes, how they decorate, how they eat meals and how they engage YOU are all things that you can learn a lot from. I always like to have someone I know (or a friend of a friend) in each place I visit. That way, I have a connection that I can trust. Most of these people will offer you anything they have- time, a place to stay, a meal or even to be a kind of personal tour guide.
7. STAY HYDRATED, especially on the flight. This is becoming more difficult to do with the current liquid restrictions on airlines. I used to bring a huge bottle of water with me, but now all I can buy past the security checkpoints is a 33 oz. bottle, which should be finished within 2-3 hours of flight. Do the best you can- every time the flight attendant walks by or offers a drink, GET WATER. And ask for large bottle if they can spare it. The bad thing (I think) about staying hydrated is that it may be best to take an aisle seat. Some people prefer this, but I like the window seats so I can look at the landscapes (if it is light outside) and I can use the wall of the plane for head support while sleeping.... it is annoying when you are sitting in the aisle and the person in the window seat has a small bladder. Also try to avoid alcohol and caffeine prior to and during the flights.
8. VISIT THE LOCAL GROCERY STORE. (And be sure to bring your language dictionary if you plan on buying anything.) You can really grasp how a culture lives by the things that are on the shelves and what people are buying. Think about a foreigner coming to America- they would observe lots of processed, sugary foods. On that note, always try the chocolate!!