Thursday, 12 June 2014

Handy Travel Hints

Today, for a change, I've decided to share some travel hints which I have found particularly useful.  Some are aimed at making travel easier for singles but most are helpful to anyone.  I hope they help to enhance all those wonderful trips you are planning! 

1) Where possible book accommodation with breakfast included.  I find that after a   hearty breakfast, all I need is a midday snack and a cup of coffee to see me through until dinner time.

2) I resent having to pay a single supplement.  In my opinion it's bad enough having to travel alone without being penalised for it.  Search the internet for deals which exclude the supplement, they are there. Some cruise companies waive it in the shoulder season and some group tours will pair you up with another single traveller to room share. Not everyone is comfortable with sharing with strangers, though, so if you want to keep costs down find a friend to travel with.  I have done this several times and it has worked well.  As there are more and more single older people travelling alone I think it is about time the tourism market catered for them somehow.  I am sure there are golden opportunities for businesses in this area.

3) Always take a book with you when eating alone in restaurants. I forgot to once in Hong Kong and felt lonely and uncomfortable.  It was a relief when, without being asked, the waiter bought me a book of photographs to look through.

4)  I have found that it is easier to get chatting to locals as a single person than it is as part of a couple and as a result have met some charming and interesting people along the way.  Be is often you who needs to open a conversation.  Be brave too if you simply want to excuse yourself from the conversation.  Best excuse "I am meeting a friend/my husband/wife/son etc"  or, if you distrust the person "My son the heavy weight champion!!" :-) Be open minded but cautious.

5) If you can afford it or, even better, if there is a special deal, upgrade to the executive floor of a hotel.  I have done this a few times and found it to be marvellous for a solo traveller.  Breakfast, afternoon tea, and generous happy hour finger food and drinks are usually all included in the price of the room.  Most good hotels have a dedicated lounge for the executive floor and at happy hour it is a great place to get into conversation with fellow travellers.  I have spent several days in Hong Kong and Vietnam staying at executive level and have met many interesting people to while away a couple of hours with.  Another plus is that I have ended up spending nothing at all on food, offsetting the extra cost for the room.

6) Trying to manage your luggage when you're alone can be difficult so invest in a four wheeled, hard shell suitcase.  They are expensive but well worth the investment.  Once you have one you will wonder why you hadn't bought one sooner.

7) Don't be afraid to ask people to take your photo on your camera so that you are in at least some of your photos.  They are generally flattered to be asked.  I have never been turned down and in return I offer to take their photo for them.

8) Take only one dressy outfit, unless on a cruise.  Usually I find I it isn't needed but is good to have just in case.

9) Pick up a hotel business card or brochure to carry with you to use for directions back to your hotel or to show a taxi driver when language is a barrier.

10) Use large snap lock bags for packing your underwear, socks, T shirts etc. (separately) and make sure you keep using them for the whole trip. It makes living out of a suitcase so much easier.

11) Three really handy items to take are a quilted vest which is useful as a make shift pillow and for chilly days, a sarong ( I take a Turkish hamam towel which is perfect)which can double as a towel, a sheet, a wrap or a beach cover up and a pillow case for dirty linen.  I always pack these and use them all the time.

12) Take a multi country power plug and remember your recharger leads

13)   I hate the crumpled look so I search out travel clothes which don't wrinkle and are non-iron.  It is worth the effort. Clothes don't wrinkle as much if you roll them to pack  but I still prefer the non iron option.

14) Other Helpful things to take: A selection of snacks, useful if you arrive late and/or are very tired.  Also good if you wake too early for breakfast, a common occurrence with time zone changes.  A notebook, for jotting down your experiences.  You think you will remember details but, believe me, you don't.  You can also take the notebook to a restaurant instead of a book.

15) Take a medicine kit. Include any prescribed medication, insect repellent, anti-diarrhoea medicine, antibiotic cream and anything else you think necessary

16) Those throw away shower caps from hotels are perfect for packing shoes in.

17) If you are going to a major attraction or one of the world's great museums or art galleries buy your tickets ahead.  It is a glorious feeling to sail past others queued at the ticket office and saves valuable travel time.

18) ...and, finally, take comfortable shoes.  This may be the last hint but it is probably the most important.  I learnt this early in my travels from painful experience.

Well, there you are folks.  Just a few tips I have picked up on my travels.  Please feel free to add any others in the comments  at the bottom of this page.  I love to hear other people's ideas.