Rule number one is to be prepared. People get into unnecessary travel trouble because they haven't prepared properly, and the pleasant traveler is the well-prepared traveler.
Take Pride in Your Appearance
Most people you will meet on your journey will be strangers, and their only way of judging you—at least at first—is by your appearance. The fact that you may be squished into cramped seats for long periods and may have to spend a lot of time in the same clothes does not mean that your attire should be sloppy or grungy. The way you dress represents what kind of person you are. If the way you dress sends out the signal that you are careless or unkempt, you don't have a prayer of successful, convivial travel. People will tend to shy away from you if you give the impression that you are poorly groomed. Close quarters demand scrupulous cleanliness.
Calculate Your Finances
In calculating how much money you'll need for a trip, be realistic about meals, tips, admission charges, recreation, and other activities. Remember that if your plans include a stay in a luxury hotel, tips can add another 25 percent to the final tab. More people are waiting on you there than at Motel 6, and anyone who “leaves the light on for you” wants to be compensated for it.
Mind Your P's and Q's
Pack metal items in a separate bag so that you can get through security metal detectors with a minimum of hassle. All luggage should have identification tags on the inside as well as the outside. Exterior labels sometimes come off during a trip.
If you're traveling to a foreign country, know its exchange rate and, if possible, carry a small exchange chart with you. Confusion over exchange rates and fumbling through different kinds of currency can be annoying to you and those around you. Make sure you have a small amount of local currency on hand when you arrive to take care of things like taxis and tips. If not, the currency exchange window should be one of your first stops at the airport. Hotels will exchange money, but they don't give the best rates. Banks are your best bet. The airport exchange window is often more expensive than the windows at banks and hotels.
Check to see whether you can use your ATM card to get cash in local currency while you are away.
In general, less is better, and that's especially true when it comes to packing. You don't need to be prepared for every possible emergency. Some people pack as if every necessity of life will have to come from their suitcases. An overabundance of luggage looks ostentatious and can make your trip unnecessarily complicated and burdensome. Remember, you will find stores at almost every destination.
Check to see whether your passport is up-to-date well in advance of your trip. You will need about six weeks to obtain one. If you apply by mail or during the peak travel season, allow even more time.
To get a passport, you need proof of citizenship—an old passport or birth or baptismal certificate will do. You also need two identical passport photos. If you're traveling with your family, every member of your family will need a passport. Most major cities have a passport office. Otherwise, your county courthouse or local post office can help.
Check at least six weeks in advance to see whether you need a visa to travel to your destination. You can find out from a travel agent or an airline ticket agent.
If possible, obtain an international driver's license. Your local auto club can help you. Whether you get an international license or not, carry your regular license with you, as well as other identification.
If you're attending any official functions during your trip, bring some documentation of that fact with you. For example, I arrived in London expecting to attend an international banking reception that evening. My luggage was lost, and the airline could not guarantee that I would have it in time for the event. As a result, once I showed them my ticket and luggage claim check, the airline gave me a voucher and sent me off to Harrod's to purchase a dress suitable for the occasion.
Live and Learn
Always read the fine print on the back of your airplane ticket. You will find out how much liability the carrier accepts for things like lost possessions. You also can learn about circumstances under which the carrier will cease to honor your seat reservation. (You might arrive five minutes late for your flight check-in and find that your seat has been given to a standby.)
Make sure you have copies of your eyeglass prescription and any medical prescriptions with you at all times when you travel. Keep them with your passport. Also, have records to prove that your inoculations are up-to-date. Your travel agent or board of health can give you the necessary information.
Some inoculations are mandatory, and some are merely recommended. Don't be so quick to disregard the “recommendations.” I was not required to get typhoid shots before going to Egypt. So I didn't. You better believe I regretted my decision once I caught typhoid.
Don't Leave Home Without It
If you do not have a printed itinerary from a travel agent, draw up one of your own. Take one copy with you and leave a copy at home (include emergency telephone numbers in case someone needs to reach you).
Also, make a list of items in your luggage. Take the list with you (but not in your luggage) and leave a copy at home.