Plastic bags can save your feet (and socks) when you don’t have waterproof shoes.
Say yes a few times you might be inclined to say no.
Visit fewer places for longer.
On a diet? Try to work with it, but don’t deprive yourself; that would just miserable.
In a busy and unfamiliar place, try not to look clueless.
…But don’t be afraid to have fun, act silly, and be yourself.
Take lots of pictures, but not 16 of the same, exact shot.
A big breakfast and several cups of coffee is a bad idea before a 5 hour hike.
Do you really need your computer? If the answer is no, it shouldn’t be weighing you down.
Map out your hotel before you arrive.
Keep the address and phone number for your hotel easily accessible, and in the correct language (e.g. Thai if you’re going to Bangkok, so you can hand this over to your cab driver and get there without a hitch).
Bottled water is best (or use one of those fancy purifier thingies).
Ziplock bags are your friend: perfect for snacks, leaky toiletries, and random junk you just need a tiny bag for.
Charge your camera batteries.
Backpacking sounds romantic, but let’s be realistic. Showing up in a new place without a clue of where to go or stay could mean a full day wasted.
Live in the moment.
Feeding the monkeys is a big no-no. They bite and steal.
The biggest cities are not always the best ones.
Check to see if you need a visa for the country you’re visiting. Some can take weeks or months to get approval for.
Try getting foreign currency from your bank prior to travel (currency exchanges can give poor rates).
Sharing an entire lemon Pannetone cake between two of you, on a train, is a good way to make yourself sick.
…Swiss chocolate, on the other hand, is perfect.
Bring some basic meds along (tylenol, decongestant, anti-nausea, and cold/flu) as it can be tough to communicate exactly what you need with a pharmacist in a language you don’t speak.
Like to read? Bring a book. Draw, perhaps? Paper and pencils. Whatever it is, have something to keep you occupied during down time and when you’re stuck on a layover.
Wear good shoes.
If the political climate of a city/country you’re visiting has your parents feeling a little uneasy, don’t panic and change plans immediately. Do your homework, use your smarts, and then make your decision.
Never put items you absolutely need or would be devastated to lose in a checked bag (contacts, glasses, medication, jewelry, cameras, etc.).
Order a pint in an Irish pub and strike up a conversation with a stranger.
A granola bar could save your life. Have one at arm’s reach at all times.
If your phone is unlocked, pick up a sim card abroad to use your GPS and make emergency calls, especially if you’re renting a car. Most airports sell them.
Less is more. Pack smart and light, leaving a little room to pick things up along the way.
Do what you find interesting, not what guide books and websites tell you to do.
Bring extra memory cards.
Use the restroom before you head out. Public toilets can be hard to find, sometimes pretty sketchy, and not always free.
Always carry napkins (and hand sanitizer).
Embrace the local cuisine, but don’t shame yourself for just wanting a burger for a change.
Don’t let the windows to your soul get lost in photos. Mascara is the one makeup item I always pack.
How many Filipino pesos to the US Dollar? Know the currency conversion.
Do not order “spicy” in Malaysia, even if you like heat. You will burst into flames.
Walk in favor of public transportation as much as possible. You’ll see more that way.
Smiles are, generally, universal.
Get (a little) lost. Chances are, you’ll find your way back, or you will come across someone happy to help with directions. Either way, it’ll be an experience.
Use zip ties to secure zippers (duh!), when carrying your backpack in a crowded area.
TSA-friendly locks and luggage cables keep things buttoned up when you need to leave your things behind.
Mind your money.
Keep track of expenses and stick to the budget (with a small cushion built in for the unexpected).
Do something touristy, just once, even if it’s not your style.
Make sure you’re getting on the right train before you board.
…And don’t forget to validate your ticket.
After 10+ hours on a plane, you’ll be thankful you wore those yoga pants and not your skinny jeans.
Load up your music player with good tunes.
Heading to Switzerland but are plagued with an intolerance to dairy? Better pop a pill to help digest lactose because trying to resist the milky, cheesy goodness is futile.
Being fashionable isn’t everything, unless you’re in Paris. You’ll want to look nice but dressing appropriately is key. You don’t need heels in Iceland.
It’s okay to put the camera down now and again.
Sit back and observe.
You can’t see it all, so stop trying to cram everything in.
Enjoy yourself and your adventure; hiccups and all (because some of the lowest moments make the best stories).