Important Tips & Tricks

  • Money matters.
  • Insurance.
  • Odds and Ends.
  • Clothes to wear while sightseeing or at night.
  • Luggage - Tour with Minibus or Van
  • Luggage - Tour without a Minibus or Van
  • Specific clothes for the trip.
  • Packing
  • Expense money and important documents
  • Tipping
  • Cameras and picture taking
  • Video equipment and accessories
  • 220 Volt 50 Hz (frequency or cycles per second)
  • Special items
  • Personal items
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Doing Laundry on Tour
  • Warnings!

Money matters.

Credit cards.

Take advantage of the travel related services offered by credit card companies. We believe American Express offers the best overall travel services. You should check with American Express to determine which card (i.e., Gold or Platinum), provides the additional services you want. Emergency medical, lost luggage, car rental insurance, etc. Then you need to verify that these services will be available in the countries you'll be visiting. For example, if you plan to rent a car before or after the tour, what insurance if any will your credit card cover? In some countries, your credit card may not cover any optional insurance! Before you travel, you need to know the limitations of credit card benefits based on your travel plans.

 

When to buy foreign currency.

Credit cards purchases typically offer you the best exchange rate. However, you will need to have some foreign currency with you. Most international airports have a Foreign Currency Exchange. They typically offer a 30-day guaranteed exchange rate up to the amount you convert. This guarantee is a big benefit if the rate drops during your tour. You can at least change what you have left back at the original rate.

 

Insurance.

Medical insurance.

Does your medical insurance cover you outside the US? What do you need to do if you medical attention while on tour? Will your coverage pay for an emergency medical evacuation? Does your credit card company provide any of these services? These are some questions you need answered before you depart.

 

Travel insurance.

When you book a tour you will receive a pamphlet on optional travel and medical insurance. Review the coverage offered through your insurance carrier and your credit cards. Determine if you need any of these optional services.

 

Odds and Ends.

Passport.

If you'll need a passport, don't wait until the last minute. We recommend you get it a minimum of two months before your departure date. Sooner if possible.

 

Vaccinations.

Is your shot record up to date for your planned travel? If not, you need to get it up to date before you depart. Here too, you really need to plan in advance. Hepatitis B requires a shot and a booster at 1 and 6 months! We recommend you get your shots up to date a minimum of six months before your departure date. Sooner if possible.

 

 

Comfort on the plane ride.

A decongestant (e.g., Sudafed), and a saline nasal spray (e.g., Ocean), will help with climate and pressure changes. Bottled water is also very important for the plane ride. You must stay hydrated to reduce airsickness and headaches. As an option, you might consult with your Doctor for a sleeping pill for the flight. We use them on long flights that arrive in the early morning hours local time.

Loose fitting light fleece exercise clothing (pants with zip up jacket), is much more desirable on long overseas flights. It helps to keep you warm and comfortable while seated or sleeping. A pair of slippers (e.g., Isotoners), will also be much more comfortable than walking shoes during the flight.

 

Copy all important documents.

Copy all of your important papers before leaving the US. Passports, Drivers License, Shot Record, Travelers Checks, etc. You may also want to take some pictures of your items before you pack just in case something gets stolen or lost on the airplane. Give a copy to someone you can reach back home by phone as a backup. Take a copy with you in your carry-on. On tour, keep the copy in your luggage that goes on the Van. If you're traveling with a group, we suggest you trade backup copies of important documents.

 

Clothes to wear while sightseeing or at night.

Sightseeing attire.

Select items that are comfortable and casual. We have found travel clothing to be perfect for use when sightseeing. There are packable shorts and coolmax shirts for warm weather. Long sleeve shirts and pants for cooler climates. You could also select packable pants with  zip off pant legs that easily convert to shorts. The most important item to keep in mind is shoes. You should being comfortable walking shoes.

 

Typical evening attire.

Again, select items that are comfortable and causal. We have also found travel clothing to be perfect for use as casual evening attire. In addition, we bring a light jacket or sweater for cooler climates.

 

Special or formal evening attire

If you plan a special evening (e.g., Monte Carlo Casino), men should bring a business suit with tie and ladies an evening dress. Check our checklist for more detail on clothing.

 

Specific clothes for the trip.

Is there an advantage to travel specific clothing?

Yes, these items are referred to as "packable" and take up one-third the space of traditional clothing. They are made of high-tech woven fabrics (e.g., Supplex). In addition to saving space, these fabrics typically do not wrinkle, dry very quickly and wick moisture from your skin. They not only save space in your luggage, you can also wash them in your hotel room sink and dry them overnight.

 

How do I find travel specific clothing?

Visit an "Outdoor" or "Travel Store" for these items. Read the garment tags and look for items that are "packable." You can also find them through mail order companies such as Campmor - (888) 226-7667, REI - (800) 426-4840, Tilley - (800) 363-8737 and Travel Smith - (800) 950-1600. You can also contact these companies via the web Click Here.

 

Undergarments.

You'll need enough to last you the entire trip or you'll need to wash along the way. If you purchase new undergarments or socks, buy the same brand you are currently using. Make sure you wash them a few times before the trip. As an option, you can bring old and new undergarments with you on the trip. Use the old ones first and leave them in your room when you checkout. Save the new ones for the end of the trip.

 

What about thermal undergarments?

Silk thermals are very compact and provide a surprising amount of added comfort. They wick moisture from the skin keeping you cooler in warm weather and warmer in cold. Silks are great by themselves or as a first layer below a set of heavier thermals. They can also be washed and dried in your room overnight. 

For high mountain or cooler climates, we bring two sets of silk thermals, a set of medium weight cotton and a set of expedition fleece. We layer one or the other sets over the silks based on anticipated conditions.

 

What about new clothing purchased for the trip?

Be sure to launder any new items several times before the trip. You will not have this luxury while on tour and some newly purchased items tend to be itchy.

 

Packing.

How do you fit everything into one suitcase?

  1. First, ask yourself if each and every item you plan to bring is really needed?
  2. Is there a smaller or travel version available?
  3. Instead of bringing a bottle of pills, bring only those you would need in a zip-lock (use a magic marker to note which pills are in the zip-lock).
  4. Review our other tips on travel specific clothing, undergarments and clothes.
  5. Pack clothing inside "Pack-It Cubes" (by Eagle Creek) or zip-lock bags (squeezing out all excess air).
  6. Pack shoes/ boots full with clothing (e.g., undergarments and socks).

 

Zip-lock bags in Gallon and Quart size.

When packing clothes, place them in zip-lock bags and sit on them to remove air before sealing. You will cut down significantly on wasted space. Or purchase the smaller "Space Bags", these do not require a vacuum to use. Carry extra gallon-size zip-locks for dirty or wet clothes. They are also very useful in protecting souvenir brochures and guidebooks. The smaller snack-size zip-lock bags are useful to hold credit card receipts, coins or pills.

 

Large heavy-duty plastic trash bags.

As the trip or tour progresses, you may be forced to pack dirty shoes, a wet swimsuit or overripe laundry with your clean items. Bring along a couple of heavy-duty plastic trash bags folded down to handle these items.

 

Shampoo, deodorant and other liquids.

You can purchase small travel bottles (typically found at camping and drug stores), to bring smaller portions of your toiletries. Fill the containers leaving a small air pocket. As an option, you can also purchase smaller trail size versions of your favorite toiletries. Pack liquid toiletries in a zip-lock bag as an added measure of security against spills.

 

How much of a supply do you need?

You should pack enough toiletries to last you for the entire trip.

 

What about packing formal evening wear?

If your plans include a formal or semi-formal evening pack accordingly. Men's dress shirts should be professionally laundered folded. Your suit or evening dresses should be dry cleaned and placed in a valet in your suitcase. Use travel shoe socks to pack and protect your dress shoes.

 

Expense money and important documents.

Copy all important documents.

Copy all of your important papers before leaving the US. Passports, Drivers License, Shot Records, Travelers Checks, etc. You may also want to take some pictures of your items before you pack just in case something gets stolen or lost on the airplane. Give a copy to someone you can reach back home by phone as a backup. Take a copy with you in your carry-on. On tour, keep the copy in your luggage that goes on the Van. If you're traveling with a group, we suggest you trade backup copies of important documents.

Credit cards.

Credit cards purchases typically offer you the best exchange rate. Besides gifts and meals, they are also useful when purchasing gasoline. With credit cards, you don't have to carry large sums of cash with you. Save your cash for those places that do not accept credit cards. Bring a VISA and American Express card with you. You should also take advantage of the travel related services offered.

Main money supply and passport.

Keep your main supply of money and your passport in your security belt or neck pouch. If you need to get money from your belt or pouch, do it in a private location. Never use your secret storage for a purse or a wallet! Here again travel specific packable clothing have a distinct advantage. They typically are equipped with a zipper pocket within a pocket for added security for daily pocket money.

Daily expense money.

Have handy only the amount you feel you will need during the day for purchases. Keep in mind credit cards can be used for purchases and typically offer you the best exchange rate. Save your cash for those places that do not accept credit cards. Keep this money and a credit card in your security zipper pocket.

Pocket change.

Keep pocket change for the toilets. As we travel from town to town, you may need to pay to enter a stall or you may need to tip the attendant that keeps the facility clean.

 

Tipping.

Restaurants.

Tipping at restaurants usually only requires you to round up to the next dollar or two. If you liked the service, add 10% of the bill and only tip to a round number. The usual procedure is as follows, the waiter/waitress tells you the bill, then you say what you want to give (bill + tip; e.g.: bill is 90 Shillings, you might say "100 please"), while handing over the money. If you're handing the exact amount you just say "it's OK like this".

Tour guides.

Your tour guides typically go well above and beyond to give the best possible experience. You should set aside money before the tour specifically to tip the guides at the end. At your last evening meal together, you should present your tip in an envelope to the tour group leader. How much you tip is obviously a personal choice. However, we recommend a minimum of $10 per day per person (e.g., 7-day tour $140 for a couple). If you feel the guides made your experience exceptional, you can always tip more.

 

Cameras and picture taking.

Don't try to learn how a camera works on tour.

Be sure to learn how to use the camera before going on the trip. Our time will be limited and riding gear makes handling cumbersome. Not a good environment to learn in if your goal is to obtain good results. You will not have a chance to go back to retake missed or poor shots!

Do you have an existing 35mm camera that works?

You might be better off using equipment that you are familiar with. However, if you do purchase a new camera, burn a few rolls of film or 50 digital pictures before the trip. Learn as much as you can before we reach the first castle.

What about the new Advantix film camers?

Advantix offers ease of film loading, smaller overall camera size and panoramic photo capability. These cameras use a new film format that's based on a 24MM negative. All pictures including panoramic shots are contained on a single 24MM negative. A standard 35MM negative using the same film (speed and type), is capable of producing a sharper more detailed image than Advantix.

What's a good 35mm point and shoot camera?

A brand name (e.g., Canon), 35MM camera with auto focus, built in zoom and flash is a good first or second camera. We always bring and use two cameras. Remember to shoot a few rolls with the camera before the trip!

What's about a Digital camera?

A brand name (e.g., Canon), 2 mega pixel or better digital camera with auto focus, built in zoom and flash is a good first or second camera. We always bring and use two cameras. Remember to shoot at least 50 pictures with the camera before the trip!

What supplies should I bring for my picture camera?

Bring enough film and spare batteries for the entire trip. You may not be able to find film or today's camera specific batteries on the road. We travel with four 128 MB memory cards for our digital camera. Each card is capable of holding 130 pictures at 2 mega pixels! That gives us the equivalent of over 12 rolls of 35MM film.

 

Video equipment and accessories.

Don't try to learn how a video camera works on tour.

Be sure to learn how to use the camera before going on the trip. As stated previously, our time will be limited and riding gear makes handling cumbersome. Not a good environment to learn in if your goal is good results. You will not have a chance to go back to retake missed or poor shots!

What supplies should I bring for my video camera?

Have enough tapes to last the whole trip. Also carry sufficient spare batteries to last you an entire day. We will not have any place during the day to recharge batteries. Also keep in mind that batteries don't last nearly as long in colder weather (think high mountain passes). I carry three high performance batteries for my video camera. There have been times on tour, when I used all three batteries in a single day!

 

220 Volt 50 Hz (frequency or cycles per second).

Check all electrical equipment you plan to bring.

Verify all your electrical items (e.g., razors and blow dryers) are capable of handling dual voltage and 50 Hz power used throughout the world. Devices that are dual voltage compatible will still require an adapter to plug into the wall outlet. Adapter plugs are available at "Brookstones" and "Travel Stores" typically found in your shopping mall.

What if an item is not dual voltage compatible?

Devices that are not dual voltage compatible will require a voltage converter. Write down all the details on the device or take it to your local "Brookstones" or the "Travel Store." They can help you select the correct voltage converter.

Will one voltage converter met all my needs?

There are a wide variety of voltage converters available that are designed for specific applications. It's possible you may need more than one voltage converter. Keep in mind that the wrong converter could damage your equipment or even cause a fire.

All my equipment (i.e., razor and camera) are dual voltage compatible.

Great! Just remember to bring the appropriate adapter plugs for each country. Otherwise you will not be able to plug your equipment into the wall outlet!

 

Special items.

Secret money and document storage.

Make sure you purchase a money-belt and/or neck pouch. When traveling, keep your valuables (e.g., passport and money) safely worn under your clothes.

Currency calculator.

A simple money conversion calculator is very handy to have with you. It's great when shopping to determine how much an item costs in US dollars. That way you can determine if an item is a bargain or overpriced. It will also be useful at restaurants.

Travel language dictionary.

Also available in electronic format are miniature language converters of frequently used phrases. Even if you can't pronounce something, you can show it to a local for information or directions. Small books are also available that work equally as well.

 

Personal items.

Electric shaving power.

If you use an electric shaver, consider a pre-shave power by Remington called FaceSaver. It's small, easy to pack and it makes an electric shaver glide smoothly over your face. It really helps as the climate and water changes from location to location. Consider getting some and giving it a try before you go.

Toilet Paper.

It wouldn't hurt to bring an emergency supply of toilet paper with you. Remove the cardboard from the center of the roll and flatten it for easier packing. We also carry packs of pre-moisten sanitary towels in our riding suits. Toilet paper you encounter outside the US may not be what your used too. You'll be glad you brought some supplies with you.

Washcloths.

We suggest you either bring washcloths or body scrunches. Hotels outside the US very rarely offer washcloths. The body scrunches made out of net that come with liquid soaps (e.g., Oil of Olay, Moisturizing Body Wash), work great. They are light, dry quickly and squeeze into a small zip-lock in your toiletries bag. Note, most hotels only offer soft soap in rooms for hand and body wash.

 

Miscellaneous items.

Laundry tools.

We suggest you bring 15-20 clothespins and 20 feet of nylon line. These items will be handy to wash and dry items in your room at night. Keep in mind that cottons and heavy weight materials (i.e., dungarees) may not dry overnight. Consider packable clothing that will dry overnight.

Electrical extension cord.

Yes, bring an extension cord if your hair dryer or razor must be plugged in during use. It will be helpful since many hotels outside of the United States have no electric outlets in the bathroom.

 

Doing Laundry on Tour.

Will there be laundry facilities available?

Many places do not have in-house laundry facilities. Because most stays are only one night, a laundry service is not practical. We have taken advantage of these services in locations where we stayed two or more nights.

Is there a way you can wash clothes on tour?

Yes, bring travel specific laundry detergent with you. In Germany, you can purchase a product called "rei in der Tube." We've also found similar products available in other countries. Laundry detergent that comes in a tube that looks like toothpaste. With it, you can wash items in your room sink and then air-dry them. It's easy to use and your clothes will even smell great. Just don't forget to bring some clothespins and a nylon line to dry your items. Keep in mind heavier fabrics such as dungarees and cotton undergarments may not dry overnight. However, lighter weight quick drying packable clothing will.

 

Warnings!

A word of caution regarding bringing new items on tour.

Bring items with you that work and you are comfortable using.  For instance undergarments, razor, makeup, etc.  Don't bring something new to try on the trip. You could have an adverse skin reaction to a new product (e.g., razor, deodorant or cologne). It also may be difficult to impossible to find the brand you are used to on tour.

What about new clothes?

Don't change brands and be sure to launder any new items several times before the trip. You will not have this luxury while on tour and some newly purchased items tend to be itchy.