Fairfax media's Ben Groundwater has published his Ten unwritten rules of travel. My personal favourite on his list is about not reclining your seat on planes during meals. His article started me thinking as to what are my rules for travel. In no particular order here is my list.
Attitude: Smile, keep a sense of humour and be open to new things. Smiling comes from Ben's list and along with keeping a sense of humour and being open to new things are probably my most important 'rules'. Travelling is about broadening horizons and learning but it is also about enjoyment and fun. If you are not prepared to make the most of things - stay at home. Expect the unexpected and you will not be disappointed.
Don't overplan: My first extended trip to France was a 6 week car trip starting from Paris. I had a spreadsheet which showed not only every nights accommodation but the restaurant or café for almost every meal. Museums and monuments were included as were details of any day excursions. Ratings were shown from each of the guide books I had consulted. I even had a column with the nearest automatic teller machine for every village and town. Our maps had plastic flags (post-its) of different colours to differentiate accommodation, must sees etc. I am so embarrassed when I look back at this obsessive behaviour. I didn't want to miss out on anything and I thought this was the best way to do it. Last year, we had 3 months in France, 2 months in the one location. Most of the time was unplanned. We talked to locals and did what they suggested. There is no doubt that there are benefits to some planning but some of our favourite times were definitely from impromptu encounters and discoveries.
Pack light: I usually travel by myself but even if I travel with my husband I need to be able to lift luggage in and out of trains, cars and buses. There may be escalators and lifts in some metros and railway stations in France but in my experience there is a direct relationship between the size and weight of my bag and the likelihood of any lift of escalator being out of order. If visiting a place for the first time, I leave space in my bag for any items that I buy at my destination. I fill this space with bubble-wrap which stops items moving around and then can be used for any fragile items on the return trip.
Change of clothes in hand luggage: I tend to take two changes of clothes with me when travelling between Australia and France. This then allows for luggage being lost and spilling food or drink on myself. When returning from Europe I usually have a 17 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore so I also carry my bathers with me so that I can make use of the swimming pool.
Packing of clothes: If my husband and I are both taking luggage we split our clothing over the 2 suitcases. If one goes missing then we both have a reasonable amount of clothing to get by when arriving at our destination. (I haven't completely passed the obsessive phase of travel.)
Keep a journal: This is wonderful not only for reminiscing but also for sharing information when friends ask for a recommendation for a favourite restaurant in some way out place. These days this information can just as easily be captured online on a blog or in a smartphone application. With the blog, your friends and family can be kept updated at the same time. It is important though that this not become a burden or a chore.
Zip lock bags: I place all my toiletries and cosmetics in zip lock bags. This limits the mess from leakages of liquid and cream toiletries from containers that are otherwise considered leakproof but behave rather differently with the pressures in the luggage hold. Once at my destination it also allows me to group products by usage and easily identify them without needing to search through various bags.
Basic language knowledge: I believe it is only courteous to be able to at least greet and thank people when visiting their country. My very bare basics include: hello, please, thank you, goodbye, yes and no.
Walking: It is not always possible or wise, but where it is, use walking as a way to discover your new surroundings. It gives you the chance to really see, hear, smell and feel your new surroundings. You may just happen to meet some of the locals at the same time. A true bonus!
Copies of important documents: I keep photocopies of passport, drivers licence and bank cards separate from the items themselves. I have been known to also have electronic copies of these in secured online accounts but I am not sure if this is still considered advisable these days. I do however take precautionary measures such as 2 step verification for my Google account.
I no doubt have missed some key travel rules. What are yours?