There are a ton of videos and blogs on this subject. But welcome to my take on the situation. I have only found a few things to be true when travelling and the rest to be crap.
I don’t put necklaces through straws so they don’t get tangled, because I only take one set of jewelry with me so I lessen the risk of losing something (or having it stolen). I don’t take much shampoo in little bottles because it’s far more logical to “buy it when you get there” and in small quantities.
Perhaps this sounds a little rugged and I know we have favorite hair products, BUT the reality is that one exploded bottle of shampoo or lotion in your suitcase can make a mess that’s way worse to deal with than messy hair. And unless you are going somewhere where you know they won’t sell cosmetics, then just buy something when you get there. You often can find better products in places like Europe, that will work better in the water/sun/humidity in that location.
For instance, a pharmacist in Rome noted how pasty I was, and insisted I buy some SPF50. “Blanca, blanca, come here” she told me and shoved the bottle in my hand with some tampons. This was the best sunscreen I have ever used and I wish I could find it here in the states! It didn’t cause me to break out, it was light and it worked to keep “blanca” from being “rosso”.
As far as hair products, most drug stores will carry something, and in places like Europe the labels are often in several languages so you can read ingredients. It’s better to buy stuff when you get there, because if you are like me you’ll lose your Paul Mitchell hair products in two days by forgetting them in a bathroom due to jet-lag.
If something is popular, or you see a local buying it, it’s probably a good product. ALSO- in case this is news- a lot of US products are available overseas. (Irritating…but for another article)
Learn Key Phrases
If you are allergic to something, LEARN THAT WORD in the language of the place you are at. For me it’s Gluten, in Italy it’s Glutine, or if you need something “gluten-free” it’s Senza-Glutine. Read more on this post. You can learn more about different places and print cards here.
Also learn to be polite. Such as please, thank you, excuse me and sorry. In the age of google translate and Duolingo, you don’t have excuses not to.
Pro tip: learn how to order food and drink too
It’s easy to become fearful or intimidated by new experiences. Yet the whole point of travel is to do something different. Meaning: try the escargot, dive off a cliff, kiss the stranger in the club and try the scorpion tequila. As long as you or someone else isn’t getting hurt, then it’s time to go! Who knows, you may find something you REALLY like or want to try again.
Research Ethical Concerns
When traveling many things will catch our eyes. Giant balls of string and animal rescues come to mind. And while some places have strict laws on say keeping exotic pets or having a zoo, other places don’t. For instance, in parts of Thailand there are little to no regulation on keeping animals for entertainment. So, in some cases tigers and lions are tranquilized so that tourists can take cute photos to send home. READ MORE
So, I urge you to research what you are planning to see and avoid certain attractions. I love animals too, but I don’t want a great Facebook picture to be part of a death and cruelty cycle. Here is some information on doing things ethically in Thailand.
Eat Like a Local
What is your favorite restaurant where you live? Okay if you picked a chain, pick again…something local.
Okay, now this place is probably inexpensive, maybe a little rough around the edges. Good good. Okay not look for that same place when you travel. Find somewhere where no one, or very few people are speaking the same language you do. Make sure you go at least 3 blocks from a major touristy area. Check the prices and if they’re a little cheaper than the main part of town, then you’re on the right track. ALSO if it is busy and there is even a line out the door…that’s a good sign!
Less is More
Pack less and you REALLY will feel like you have more. Make due with what you have, buy things if you NEED it and do laundry in the hostel sink. It may not be convenient, but when you roll into town at midnight with 3 bags of crap you’ll wish you had less….while if you show up with 1 then you’ll be way less burdened.
& Shipping Gets Expensive
I travel very cheaply, because I’m in my 20s and if I didn’t, well I would never leave home. So when it comes to getting souvenirs home, I very much keep in mind the cost of it and if it’s worth it. I kid you not, my aunt almost spent $800 mailing stuff home from a trip to Europe….most the stuff she bough wasn’t WORTH more than $5/a piece. Meaning all of those great “deals” and “sales” were actually destroyed by paying for shipping. This also goes for suitcase fees, buying and checking extra bags.
SO ask stores if they ship (they often get better rates) OR maybe you want to buy it online when you get home and take advantage of free or better shipping rates. In a global world, getting Irish lace in the U.S. isn’t a luxurious improbability like it was 40 years ago.
Also consider what you have to claim when you get home. Keep in mind if something will REALLY bring you pleasure in 20 years and remember that sometimes photos and videos are the BEST souvenirs.
It’s easy to be patriotic or opinionated when talking with others about your home country. Yet, when it comes to many subjects and depending on the place your visiting, it’s often better to stay quite or neutral on a subject. Rather, stay respectful, don’t drink too much, and don’t argue for the sake of it….I will not admit guilt.
Last but not least, learn a few things about where you are going. Ask questions. Learn some culturally important things, and keep your ego to a minimum. The best part of traveling is that it’s one big immersion into a research project and it’s awesome!