I’m a travel nerd, one of those people for whom the packing and unpacking is a thoroughly enjoyable part of the trip. Just back from a trip to Peru with a group, mostly women ages 18-80, it was clear that the most important item to have in one’s knapsack is a good attitude, especially at high altitude. Beyond that, there are many ways to organize yourself for travel to make transitions between time zones, climates, altitudes and cultures more fun.
Be independent. Even when traveling with a guide or a group, keep a copy of a detailed itinerary and review it well before departing. If, for some reason, you are separated from your fellow travelers, you will still be able to take care of yourself.
Carry a minimum of electronics, but have what you need. It may seem obvious, but make sure your wristwatch is working and that it is simple enough that you can set it yourself in the new time zone. Put your cell phone on an international plan for the duration of the trip so that you don’t sweat it if you have to make a call. Your cell phone can also be your alarm clock, helpful when you are on a schedule. Prevents having to figure out the hotel bedside alarm clocks or relying on wake-up calls, which in some hotels are not available or reliable.
Travel insurance for big trips is a necessary expense — the best outcome is that you don’t have to use it and the added stress relief is worth every penny. Do your part: Review your coverage and carry a copy with your luggage as well as on your person.
For exotic or long trips, ready your body. Feeling good physically is the best foundation for orderly travel. Start training, get your vaccinations and fill any prescriptions well in advance. Take cold prevention, supplements and remedies in case you catch an airplane cold.
Know the quirks and customs of your destination. For example, luckily our guide told us that Peru, a cash country for the most part, does not accept worn or torn U.S. dollars. Even though we all reviewed our currency carefully with our banks, even a $20 bill with the most microscopic tear was rejected. I can’t imagine the hassles we would have had if we’d have arrived with the typical wads of American cash that’s been through a wash cycle or two.
Do plenty of research on your destination before you leave — it’s worth it not to wing it. Being a bit of a travel nerd, especially in the post 9/11 era when even domestic travel is more rigorous, pays off.