Don't Buy Useless Stuff
Whatever it is, think before handing over your money. Is it worth the hassle of having to carry it around for the rest of your trip? Is it worth the expense of mailing it home? A year from now will you be asking yourself, "What the #&%! was I thinking?"If you need a little more convincing, read Stuff : Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee.
Invest in a Digital Camera
Photographs make much nicer mementos of a trip than cheap junk, and memory cards are easier to deal with than rolls of film. Be sure to bring a spare memory card or two, as you will go through them much faster than you'd think.
Is Your Cell Phone "Unlocked"?
If you have a GSM cell phone (you do if your service provider is AT&T or T-Mobile, or your provider uses their networks), check to see if your phone is unlocked. If it is, you can use it with any SIM card. This is a big advantage when traveling overseas, as the international roaming charges set by your home service provider can be quite high. Once you've arrived at your destination, just go to a mobile phone shop and get a local SIM card. Depending on the rates set by the local service provider, as well as the currency exchange rate, you can save a significant amount of money.
These are reasonably priced and make fun treats for family and friends. Even in the age of the internet, people still love getting postcards. You will be a big hit with everyone at home.
Get Some Religion
I have a fondness for medieval cathedrals, and if one of the items on your must-see list is a famous place of worship, consider going to a service. Admission is free, and while you won't be able to wander around and poke your nose in every corner, you'll experience the building as a church rather than as a tourist trap. Just remember to dress appropriately (don't be that person, the one who turns up at Sunday Mass in shorts and a tank top), don't take pictures during the service (it's rude), and turn off your phone. Keep in mind that the operating and upkeep costs for these buildings are very high, so make a donation if you possibly can. For instance, it costs Ely Cathedral in England £3,000 a day simply to keep the building open. Get a head start and watch Cathedral, a DVD that highlights the famous cathedrals of France.
Go to the Library
As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, the local public library is an oft-overlooked resource for the traveler. You can get free or low-cost internet access, local newspapers and magazines, and information about the area. It's also a place to get out of the rain that doesn't charge admission.
Get a Job
If you have a lot of time to travel, are between 18 and 30 years of age, and want to go to Australia or New Zealand, you may be able to get a Working Holiday Visa. These are good for one year, and allow you to pick up short-term work to finance your stay. Information on Australia's program can be found at Visa Options: Working Holiday, and New Zealand's program at United States of America Working Holiday Scheme.
Remember, no matter where your travels take you, only try to work if you are legally allowed to do so.
Always remember to take your good manners with you on vacation. Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect. To get prepared, read I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society by Amy Alkon. Or if you know where you are going, know what to expect by reading one of the Culture Shock books. If you will be going to India, try Culture Shock! India : A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Gitanjali Kolanad..
When Erin M. is not at the library, she is either traveling (actual or armchair), playing with wool, or keeping an eye on pop culture. With the occasional bit of something completely different.