In hot and humid countries, if you are hanging wash to dry, allow at least two days drying time. Don't wait until the last minute to do wash or you'll be stuck with lots of damp or dirty clothes.
Bring a small nail brush to use as scrub brush on spots and stains. Bring a small bottle of woolite soap. A little goes a long way and it works very well for getting spots out and doing hand wash.
In many countries (especially in Asia) it is cheap and easy to have your laundry done for you. Allow at least one day to have it returned.
There are very few, if any, coin-operated laundromats outside the US,
New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. In Europe, self serve laundromats are
very scarce, and when you do find them, they tend to be expensive. Very
often there is no where to do it yourself.
Bring photos from home, even just a few. People you meet along
the way, especially those from other cultures, may want to see your family,
where you come from, what your house looks like, your car, etc. Photos
are a good cultural icebreaker and also help combat homesickness.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Don't be afraid to eat off of street carts, just be careful and aware. Don't eat food that was prepared earlier and is left sitting out. Eat food that is cooked in front of you and that has been refrigerated or kept on ice.
At first we were careful not to drink anything with ice, but we found that in many countries, they are much more aware now and boil or buy purified water and ice. We drank iced coffee all over Thailand. Most places don't have the facilities to make a lot of ice, so they purchase it and it is already purified. However, still be careful, especially with raw vegetables. We never bought or ate any fruit or vegetables that we could not peel.
Be careful not to swallow the water in the shower in countries where
the tap water is not pure. Learn to spit in the shower.
Don't suffer here, especially if you are traveling for a long time. It is better to spend a couple of dollars more for a nicer place, a toilet, or even a nice view. In many countries the difference between a $4 room and an $8 room is vast. If you are only traveling for a couple of weeks, it may not matter, but if you are traveling for longer, every place you stay becomes "home". If you always go as cheap as possible, you run the risk of staying in dirty, ugly, depressing places and making the trip a bummer. It's good to have a decent place to come back to in the middle of the day and rest for a while. Be aware that many youth hostels have mid-day lock out periods when you cannot access your room.
Always ask to see the room first, whether four star hotel or small guest house. Just because a place is expensive doesn't mean it is worth the money or will have phones that work.. Just because a place is cheap, doesn't mean that it will have basic facilities; check bathrooms for hot water, sinks that drain onto the floor, lights, look for locks on the door, electrical outlets if you need to plug in a computer or anything.
If you are buying a ticket, make sure you go through a reputable agency. Don't get herded to a place that sells tickets along with many other things. See our experience in Surat Thani, Thailand for an example of what not to do. In other areas, where there are many agencies all selling the same thing, sometimes the price varies little, like in Algecerias, Spain. Whenever possible, buy tickets direct from the companies at the train station, bus station, or port and save yourself commission, inflated rates, or at worst, useless tickets.
It pays to check out a few different travel agencies when searching for a good price on a plane ticket. Different agencies often have widely fluctuating prices on the same flight. Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore are good cities in Asia to get discount tickets. In Europe, London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt are all major hubs.
TOILETRIES AND MEDICINE:
Everything that came in a package I took out of the box, cut the instructions off the back of the box, and rubber banded it all together. This saved a lot of space. Then I grouped things together into plastic zip lock bags by type. All cold medicines in one bag. All fir staid stuff in another. David and I have all of our toiletries in one kit (and my make-up in a very small separate bag).
Leave it whenever possible, whether for short periods or long. Most train stations have some sort of luggage storage, but this is usually only for the short term. For longer periods, check with the hotels, especially if you have a reservation to return there. We did this a number of times in Thailand and it made our travel so much easier. Of course, this only works if you are returning to a city. For example, we left one big bag in a hotel in Bangkok when we went to Nepal; we left all our warm weather clothes and things we would not need for a month and shared a bag. We also did this when we went to China and Taiwan for a month and then returned to Bangkok. And we left both big bags in Bangkok when we went traveling for a week in Eastern Thailand.
Also, mail things home when ever possible. We sent home three times the equivalent in volume to all we were carrying with us while we were gone.
FOR WOMEN ONLY...
Here are some issues I never saw addressed while I was planning this trip. One is birth control. If you take birth control pills, how to get enough to last a year? My insurance company wouldn't cover it. However, many doctors have samples in their office and will be generous enough to give you a several month supply. Mine did. Be aware that condoms are not readily available in other countries. Also, remember that certain antibiotics will render birth control pills ineffective, so bring a few condoms with you.
Another tip is to bring tampons that do not have an applicator, like the o.b. brand. This will save a lot of space.
I have read that many women, even those traveling
alone, wear a wedding ring either real or fake. We both made a conscious
decision to leave ours at home and buy new, less expensive ones for the
trip. I recommend it, especially for couples like us who have two different