You can protect yourself with a flu shot, but there's no warding off the travel bug. But before you comb through booking sites, buy a ticket and take off, did you stop to make sure you have the right bag for the deal? Traveling the world doesn't necessarily qualify you as being a great traveler: These are the nine things you should be doing before you hit the road.
① You pack only a carry-on.
Using a large suitcase may seem like the simpler move, but seasoned travelers understand the difficulties: Fees accumulate and overpacking is way easier than you think. (Do you really need six pairs of shoes for a weekend trip? Probably not.) Having a multipurpose carry-on, like this one from Away, is crucial. Use the money saved on bag fees to get an extra croissant.
② You familiarize yourself with local customs beforehand.
Did you know that instead of pointing with the index finger in places like Malaysia and Indonesia, the thumb is used, as a gesture of respect? Better to find that out before you travel. Learning customs, such as tipping policies, greetings and what is considered respectful, is an important travel ideology—especially when there's a language barrier.
③ You ask for advice prior to departing.
Friends, family and some corners of the Internet are great resources for insider tips. Asking experts, or just those who have been to your destination previously, are fantastic ways to gain information. Bonus points if you score coveted dinner reservations ahead of time.
④ You download Google Maps to use off-line.
This one is a game changer. Google Maps allows travelers to download maps to use off-line onto either their devices or SD cards in case of slow Internet, high data rates or other panic-inducing situations abroad. Now the only type of lost you'll be is in translation.
⑤ You aren't afraid to go off the beaten track.
Look beyond big cities. Skip London for Brighton, a colorful seaside retreat; Paris for Roquefort, to eat your weight in pungent cheese; and Barcelona for Juzcar, the "Smurf Village" where all its buildings are painted blue.
⑥ You wear a heavy jacket on the plane.
Wearing a bulky sweater, coat or sweatshirt on the airplane is one of our favorite moves. Not only does it save room in your suitcase, but it also gives you a built-in pillow, especially for those rough red-eyes.
⑦ You pack multiple copies of identification.
You can plan every moment of your trip, but you can never anticipate when your ID will get stolen. Carrying a spare is like applying sunscreen daily— seems like overkill but is useful in the long run—so take an extra copy of your birth certificate, passport or state ID. And keep it in a different bag than your main travel pack, just in case.
⑧ You do a thorough check of your hotel room before leaving.
Forgetting your grandmother's ring or your passport in a hotel room will put a serious damper on wrapping up a vacation. Always do a "run-through" of your room to ensure you've packed everything, especially after longer stays where you've particularly settled in. Leave no drawer unopened and no nook under the bed uncheck.
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