Travel magazines and the web are full of advice for those carrying their first passport to those who have no space left for the next stamp. Some tips are useful. Some, not so much. Some apply to specific types of travel. A few are universal in scope. These are the tips worth memorizing.They have been distilled from the experiences of thousands of travelers, many of whom learned these lessons the hard way. Smart people learn from their own mistakes. Brilliant people learn from other’s mistakes.

Spend money on experiences, not stocking stuffers.

Every experience is unique, because it is viewed through your eyes, your expectations and your values. Preserve these experiences through photos or videos. Narrate an eye witness account of what you see, smell, hear and touch, as it happens. At the end of each day, describe the most memorable, the most enjoyable and the most challenging experiences in a personal travel journal. Use bullet points in recalling as many details as possible. When you return home, revisit your notes. Think about the journey and write down your thoughts on how your life has been enhanced by these experiences. Armed with these memory aids, you will be able relive the highlights of your adventure for many years. Remember, unlike mementos, memories are non-taxable and won’t break if you sit on them.

Wear comfortable shoes.

No matter where you go, no matter what type of vacation you envision, nothing will enhance your experience more than comfortable shoes. That’s because you will, inevitably, walk far more often (by a factor of at least 3) and for much longer distances (by a factor of at least 2) than you anticipated. If you put fashion before comfort, your feet will demand reparations, like unrestricted freedom, massage and soaking, before returning to duty. Take shoes that have proven their comfort. Don’t place a bet on new shoes that promise comfort.

Rely on locals, not guidebooks.

Guidebooks are written to appeal to the broadest possible cross section of travelers. Unless you have multiple personalities, you are better served by seeking the advice of locals. Not from locals who seek you out, but locals whom you approach. Retail sales persons are the most reliable resources for a broad range of local knowledge. Ask sales persons who share as many demographic similarities to you as possible. If the sales personnel are appreciably younger than you, ask to speak to the manager or shop owner. The key to gaining access to their nuggets of local knowledge is to ask them where they dine, what they recommend for a cultural experience, where they take visiting relatives. They will be flattered that you asked them for advice.

Never carry a wallet or passport in your back pocket.

While you may have difficulty pulling your wallet out of your back pocket, persons who make a living by retrieving wallets and passports from other’s back pockets do it with ease. Avoid situations that place you in close proximity to strangers. Crowded subways, elevators, sidewalks and shopping malls are “All you can steal” buffets for those with an appetite for theft. The more important the documents and the value of the credit cards and cash that you take with you, the more important it is that they be carried securely. There are a dozen or more styles and configurations of secure travel wallets available on line. A small investment in a specialty wallet will give you piece of mind and foil even the most nimble fingered pickpocket.

Article written by Harvey M. Adelberg, Media Director
Q Media Works