We leave for Rio de Janeiro Brazil tomorrow morning, Wednesday, at “o-dark thirty” (military-speak for very, very early in the morning).  Here are some travel tips I will implement that I’ve learned from my previous world tramping:

1. Make at least 3 copies of your passport, ID, and credit cards.  Hide them as securely as possible in each of your bags and/or keep at least one on your person at all times.  Lock up the actual passport once you get in country.

2. Even if you’re not backpacking, I recommend keeping things in plastic bags.  Weird things happen to luggage and things can get soaked.  Plus, if you’re paying attention while you’re packing, having items grouped by bags makes it easier to find things in your suitcase/luggage when it’s rummage around time.

3.  Turn off data roaming and data pushing for your phones after you leave the US.  Do not leave your phone on while in country, because you will incur costs for phone calls whether you answer the call or not.  If I’m going on long trips (which this one is not), I put my account on hold altogether and don’t mess with trying to keep up with a cell phone.  Rely on texts if you must; they’re $.50 with AT&T no matter where you are and you don’t have to do anything special to enable your iPhone or Blackberry to work for that or for phone calls.  It’s not worth buying a temporary international phone plan unless you’re going to make a bunch of calls.

4. However, if you plan to call home, rely on Skype.  It’s cheap (or free if computer to computer) and super easy.  I even used it while I was in country to call ahead to places to make reservations or to call friends.  There are enough internet cafes around these days that you can find one somewhere so you can jump on a computer to use Skype when you need to make a call.

5. Bring sunscreen!  I don’t care where you’re going in the world, sunscreen is always a must.

6. Pack light: one pair of jeans is plenty, two dresses (dresses are way easier than pairing multiple pants and shirts for “going out” events), one or two shirts,one or two shorts, etc.  Underwear and socks are super easy to wash in a sink and hang dry – don’t bring a pair of socks and undies for every day you’ll travel!  Ultimately you only need two, one to wash and one to wear, but I usually throw one or two more in for good measure 😉

7. Bring a personal towel.  I’m a budget traveler, but I bring one with me everywhere I travel unless going to a personal friend’s place.  You can make due with a small, microfibre type one that dries quickly, is light, and easy to pack.

8. One pair of running/walking/hiking shoes is enough.  Be versatile/flexible; you really don’t need options for every day and you’ll find that you’ll end up just using what’s on the top of your suitcase the most anyway versus digging through your clothes all the time.

9. Bring mini toiletries.  No brainer.

10. Be willing to not blow dry or straighten your hair for awhile.  Ok, so I had a bit of a “froberg” (as Jamie Andrews would say) kickin’ for awhile the last time I was in South America, but it’s kind of fun to “rough it” and have to bring ALL of your creature comforts from home.

Sarah FroBerg: Argentina, 2009, excited about Andes excited about life

11. Keep your head on a swivel.  This doesn’t mean be paranoid, it just means don’t be naive either.  No matter what country you’re in (to include the US), people get jumped and/or robbed in crowded public places.  When I travel, I utilize public transport much more than I do in the US, so I’m frequently in crammed situations.  This is where keeping your money, ID’s etc in a front zip pocket or a money belt under your shirt becomes key.

12. Bring shower shoes (I guess regular people call these flip flops?haha).  Again, you never know what you’re gonna get, and with a budget traveler for sure you know you’ll need these wherever you stay.  Don’t use a community shower barefoot! that’s just asking for trouble

13. Back to the towel and clothes thing…..after you hand wash anything in the sink, wring it out, then lay it on your microfiber towel, roll the towel up, squeeze it,and then hang your stuff out to dry.  It will dry much quicker than if you just hang up all soaking wet or a little rung out.

14. Bring a small package of detergent.

15. Check in with family members when you arrive if possible.  Also, check in every few days if you can. 

16. Register at the State Department so the Embassy knows you’re traveling in that country.  If anything happens, they’ll know you’re there; if worse comes to worse, it’ll help in an evacuation scenario.

17. Email/call your credit card/debit card companies and tell them you’ll be traveling.

18. Set up an away message on your email and phone.

19. Don’t pay silly fees at change bureaus.  Get cash from an ATM once you arrive in country. USAA (see www.usaa.com) has super cheap rates and it’s better to get cash straight from ATMs than changing money. 

20. Also, use your credit card when possible.  Again, USAA only charges like 1% per transaction for international fees.  In the long run, it’s cheaper to use your card than constantly pull out cash.

21. When using a credit card internationally, it’s often best to see the server physically run the card in front you in your sight.  Stealing credit card numbers from patrons when they are out of sight is much more common abroad than in the US.  Most places will offer to do this for you, even somewhere “first world country” like the Netherlands.

22. Travel books I recommend: Rick Steve’s (mostly Europe, though, I think) and Lonely Planet for the younger crowd, but expect a “young” leaning in those books.  Nowadays there’s so much you can get online for free, start weeks in advance if you can and just print stuff out and bring it with you.

23. Be organized, but be open.  I don’t have that luxury on this trip (haha), but when I travel alone, I often only plan my first few days and last few days of a trip, have ideas for what I want to do in between, but leave it open to surprises and new experiences.  Prioritize your must sees, really want to sees, want to see, wont die if I don’t see, and don’t want to see to reduce the chance that you get overwhelmed by sights, day trips, or salesmen pushing an agenda.

24.  Don’t wear anything with USA on it.  Ok, so I totally DON’T have that option on this trip, as we will be USA gear clad the entire time since we are there representing our country and our military 🙂  When in Rome 😉

25. If you don’t speak the local language, bring a pocket dictionary with you or at least try to learn some basic terminology before you go.  It’s rude to show up and expect everyone else to speak only English, even if they’re able.

Alright, I gotta stop for now.  This is not an exhaustive list of tips by any means, but I really need to take a quick nap before practice tonight. Just wanted to get some stuff outta my head beforehand! 😉 

Feel free to contribute travel tips you may have. 🙂