Friday, January 22, 2010

Essential Travel Kit for the Sarcastic Traveler

You are about to embark on an exciting journey to a place you've never been - whether domestic or international - what are the essential items you bring?

For this sarcastic traveler, I start with the guidebooks. Even if it is a business trip, I pick up the Lonely Planet book on the area. They do a nice job of giving you a quick history, they have great maps and are good about pointing out the pluses and minuses of different spots. The walking tours are usually very creative and take you into locations you may not have found as a casual tourist. I usually end up ripping out the maps and sections I want to carry with me since many of the books can be large and cumbersome to carry while walking around.

The other essential item is a Streetwise Map for the city. I adore these maps! They are laminated, concise, easy to use and best yet: you can whip one out quickly and find info before the folks around you realize you are a tourist!

The third book I buy only if I am in true tourist mode and not traveling for business. The Eyewitness Travel Guides are beautiful - lovely full color pictures and maps and lots of short concise information. I like how they break the destination into areas and color-code the pages that align to that area. These books also have a short history section at the beginning. Their lodging and eating sections are less detailed than the Lonely Planet books, so I use them primarily for planning sites to visit. These books are heavy and not really conducive to lugging around while you are touring. I use them for planning purposes only!

Outside of travel guides, there are a few other key items I bring: water, earplugs, eyeshades, a notebook and pen and cash. Yes, I travel with cash. It works in almost situation. I also print out copies of every itinerary I have and keep a copy of my passport hidden somewhere in my luggage. I rely on my cell phone for just about everything these days, but I don't trust it will be able to call up my e-ticket number when I am standing at the Air China counter arguing that yes, I do indeed have a ticket for this flight (real story, I'll share that one in another post some day). Finally, a small packet of tissues. You will need these in some parts of the world when you visit the public restrooms. Heck, sometimes you need that here in the US!

One last thing I learned traveling in Asia that is probably a good rule worldwide: If you cannot speak the local language, pick up several of the business cards for your hotel as soon as you arrive. They are usually printed in the local language and english.  If you are lost and need help getting back to your hotel, or your taxi driver does not understand you, use the business cards. This got me "home" at least once in Japan and a couple of times in China.

Happy Travels!

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