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BEFORE YOU GO
Call tourist bureaus for country travel planners and information. They are a wealth of knowledge and are happy to send incredibly helpful information. www.worldtourismdirectory.com Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory
Make sure you have a valid passport and that it meets your destinations requirements. http://www.travel.state.gov
Find out if their are any immunization requirements or recommendations http://www.healthytraveler.com
Make copies of all pertinent travel documents and itineraries and give them to a friend and carry an extra copy in your baggage
Have some foreign currency with you and don't exchange when arriving in the airport as they charge hefty fees (See travel tips relating to currency exchange)
Have travelers checks with you and keep the original #'s away from the checks and leave copies of the check #'s at home
Get a good nights sleep before traveling.
Drink orange juice on the plane to help avoid jet-lag. (It has always worked for me)
Set your clock to the local time of your destination the day before to start acclimating to the new time zone.
Check with your credit card company to see if you have travel insurance if you use your credit card for payment
Purchase Travel Insurance (See travel tips relating to travel insurance)
Create business card sized cards to pass out to fellow travelers you will meet. Make sure it has your name, mailing address, phone number and email address.
Get enough passport pictures for all of your visas and carry some extra overseas in case you need them upon entering a country you were not planning on.
Start making a list of all the necessities you think you will need early on so you can add to it later.
Lay out everything you will be taking and start a packing list. Make columns including what you will keep in your: Wallet, money belt, carry on, day pack, bathroom bag, medicine bag, clothing, etc.
Think of items like duct tape especially if you will be crossing swamps and rivers known to have leeches.
Always carry a folding pair of travel scissors and scotch tape to put tickets and cards and money from each country into your journal.
DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT...
Personal cards to hand out to fellow travelers you meet (name, address, phone, email)
Neck pouch, money belt or my favorite, a leg pouch for your money and passport.
A journal to write in daily
Depending on your destination - find out if trading goods is acceptable when souvenir shopping. Bring bandanas, country pins, local coins, t-shirts, keychains, Stickers, anything with flags, etc. I have traded these items for wood carvings and local handicrafts in many destinations. Research first, you don't want to be insulting if that custom is not practiced. You can check with your local travel agent.
Pens, pencils, crayons and chalk to hand out to children. Again, make sure this is acceptable for your destination.
Plenty of film or memory cards
Take only essentials
Put everything you want to take next to your suitcase and then put half of it back.
Roll your clothes to prevent wrinkling.
Take small bottles of everything. You can always buy more. (I do bring my own toothpaste to last a whole trip)
Select a color scheme and stay with it. You'll be able to mix and match and have many more outfits that way.
Check the forecast for your destination and be prepared. Always carry a light sweater or windbreaker.