I will divert from my story this month to offer some travel tips.
The first rule of travel is: Take one bag only preferably a carry-on with wheels. Here is the exception to the rule: If you are traveling through different climates in one trip you may need two bags or one large bag because of bulk.
When I travel in late winter to a warm climate, I wear my down jacket and a pair of sandals with heavy socks in the car. Then I leave my jacket with the car at the airport. I change into a hooded garment and layer it with a denim jacket that can be worn later with pants or a skirt. I remove my socks upon arrival and do not put them on again until we fly home. This way I only have to take one pair of shoes. I bring sandals with good treads in case we have to hoof it. I make sure all my clothes can be mixed and matched with whatever top or bottom I wear.
For a 21-day trip with temperatures ranging 70-75 by day and 55-60 at night, I take three pairs of linen or lightweight pants, which don’t wrinkle easily and dry fast if they get wet from rain or need washing in a hotel sink. I take enough underwear for one week. They can be washed in a sink as well. I take two skirts that are not so fancy they couldn’t be worn during the day, and not so casual they can’t be worn in a restaurant at night. I take three tank tops and three shirts so I layer when cold or remove layers when hot. I take a scarf for style and warmth. When packing, I roll my clothes. I get maximum space out of the bag and they won’t wrinkle.
In my toiletry bag I have the following: one toothbrush, one full tube of toothpaste, dental floss, soap, a small sewing kit, band aides, Neosporin, tweezers, nail file, razor, deodorant, one lotion for both face and hands, Q-tips, hand sanitizer and tissues (real handy when forced to encounter public toilets that are not cleaned with any regularity), hairbrush, hairclip (good for when you haven’t showered), ear plugs (great on the plane or for snoring companions), Tums (helpful while getting acclimated to food), and travel size shampoo and conditioner; some hotels provide them, some do not. You can always buy more while abroad without incurring a large expense. The small sizes take up less space and weight. I also take sunglasses, a paperback book that can be left behind when finished, and a Swiss Army Knife for cutting cheese, opening wine or reading the small print on maps with the magnifying glass. I don’t bother with make up or a blow dryer but if you must take a blow dryer, make sure it has a plug adapter that will fit the plug configuration in the country you visiting. You may also need an electrical transformer to convert your dryer from 110V to 220V for example, as in Europe.
If you find when you have returned home that you wore everything in your bag at least once, you did well. I recommended writing down or photographing exactly what you took, so next time packing will be a breeze.
Before I leave, I email myself all my important information like passport and credit card numbers, flight confirmation, hotel information, etc., so I do not have to carry those papers on me. I have a password-protected site that I send this to. (Remember, the key is to travel light and every little bit helps.) I can easily access the information at an Internet café and also conduct business while I am away, and line up business for when I get home. Internet cafés eliminate the need for carrying an expensive, heavy laptop that can get stolen. I can also check the local weather online if I am unable to find a newspaper or can’t read the language. If inclement weather is predicted for the region I am in, I can leave. And if I do, I can find lodging online in next town I want to visit.
Telephones vary from country to country. Some still have phone boxes on the street, while others have telephone offices where the person behind the desk connects the call for you, and you pay on your way out. I usually buy a 5-euro international phone card for example, when in Europe, that usually lasts the whole trip. I don’t bother bringing a cell because the international fees are astronomical. Making a local call to another area of the country you are traveling is more difficult than making an international call. It requires a different phone card than the international card. You will also need the city codes of the places you are calling, which can be found in a phone book or online. When phoning the US from overseas you must dial 011 first, then the area code, and then the number.
Nowadays we have the ultra convenient 24-hour ATM machine, which has rendered travelers checks obsolete. Some banks will reimburse you all your ATM transaction fees, and the conversion fees charged by the foreign bank whose ATM you are using. If using a credit card, be aware they charge 3-5% in conversion fees every time you use your card, so whatever you are purchasing will cost that much more.