Thursday, 18 August 2016

Travel Tales and Tips - The Preparation

Well, this is embarrasing. This post is over 2 years old. I posted it on my wordpress blog but forgot to post it here - for all the other pots about the trip visit

Now, if you are like me and have not travelled extensively and want to try some independent travel then here are some tips I learned through trial and error based on my own experiences. I like to be prepared so I love to research my destinations; the history, the current social and political situation (stable/war etc), and all kinds of things like how long it takes to get from one city to the next, what kind of souvenirs I should I look out for and nice places to stay at that won't overwhelm my budget. No 5 star travel for me unfortunately, all the lotto tickets I keep buying haven't yet made a return on my investment.
1 -Travel guides are your friend
I like to prepare by reading a travel guide that will let me know a little about the history of the country and each city I visit, as well as all sorts of useful things like must see sights, city maps and so on. I have read a few different kinds like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides but my personal favourite is the DK series. It has beautiful illustrations of the cities, city maps, and a great synopsis of the history of the country and each city. It is very well laid out which makes it easy to find information while you are travelling. The down side is that to be so thorough, they also tend to be quite bulky and a bit heavy but I am happy to carry it in my backpack while travelling. If weight and lack of space becomes an issue, remember that you can always ask hotels for a map of the city and they often include major tourist sites and information.
2 - How to avoid fungal infections and scabies
A good friend of mine returned from a wonderful tour of the major cities in Europe with a bag full of souvenirs and an unexpected free souvenir from one of the hotels she stayed in. I could hardly believe her when she came back from her doctor's clinic to tell me she had caught scabies. She seemed to think it was from the bed-sheets of one of the last hotels she stayed in at the end of her trip. Feeling slightly paranoid about catching some weird skin disease from a shower floor that hasn't been cleaned properly or scabies from bed sheets that haven't been washed well, I have armed myself with a pair of thongs (flip-flops for the American readers) to wear in the shower and a cotton bed-sheet that I can wrap around myself in a sort of sleeping bag fashion to avoid touching sheets. I also learned to take a small towel with me to drape over pillows - I learned that in Jerusalem as the pillowcases of one hotel I stayed at were a bit stained looking and yellow...
3 - Laundry bills
If like me, you have a budget to stick to and can't afford to fork out an extra 100 euro to get your socks and undies cleaned by the hotel laundry service, do it the good old fashioned way. All you need is a decent hair-dryer. When stopping somewhere for more than one night, you can easily wash your clothes in the shower or bathtub and hang them on the side to dry overnight. To speed things along, especially when travelling in winter, use your hair dryer. Just make sure you don't accidentally shrink your thick wool socks like I did..I washed them, let them air dry then put them in the dryer to get rid of the dampness which means I now have to wrestle them to fit on my feet. I feel like one of Cinderella's stepsisters when I try to put on those socks...The best way to avoid smelly socks when travelling in winter is to wear thin cotton socks under your wool socks. The cotton socks will absorb any sweat, they can be easily washed and dried and your wool socks will not become smelly!
For my next post, I want to look at the pros and cons of booking online with different service providers like and, as well as the benefits and drawbacks on using travel agents or contacting the company directly.
I hope that by sharing these little tips with you, you will have a wonderful stress-free journey!
Happy Travels!