I travel A LOT: Usually at least one long-haul trip a month, and several shorter European and British trips too, by car, plane and train. Mostly I am on my own, which suits me just fine and, whilst I was away this week in South America, it occurred to me that there are certain things that I now do automatically when I travel which really do make my travelling life easier. Of course these are things that work for all travellers too – but they are particularly relevant for those of us who have to cart our own luggage and watch our own backs…
Invest in some nice large headphones. (Noise-cancelling if you can afford them because they make all the difference on red eye plane journeys). People LOVE to chat to solo travellers on trains and buses, not always the prowl-y men but often the prowl-y men, and I’ve found that pretending* to listen to music heads them off at the pass. *pretending because I like to keep my wits about me, and also hear any tannoy announcements. Mine (above) are Bang & Olufsen’s BeoPlay H6 Headphones, and I wrote about them here.
Always lock your hotel door. Sad to say but there ARE rogue employees with passkeys out there. And, as a side note, remember to use the Do Not Disturb sign when you are in residence if you aren’t leaving your room before 9am for meetings/sight-seeing. This avoid being awoken by overly-efficient first thing housekeeping calls, plus I’ve been caught naked one too many times.
Don’t look confused or lost when you hit Arrivals. You’ll be catnip for all the touts. Research onward transport options before you leave home, especially if you are arriving late at night: sometimes it’s pretty cheap to have a driver meet you, or you can book onto an airport shuttle service in advance.
Maybe there’s an authorized taxi service, or it’s just touts – in either case find out how much the journey should cost. (You may end up paying a little more than you’d planned, but at least you’ll know the ballpark figure.)
True story: Whilst I was waiting at the baggage claim in Cusco airport last week, my sister managed to garner a ‘best price lady’ quote of US$20 for the 20 minute journey into town from the taxi stand. I baulked at this –and rightly so as it turned out, because the opening price from the touts outside was 25 soles – $7.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have tip money in small denominations easily accessible for the driver at journey’s end (so you don’t flash the contents of your purse to everyone whilst searching for bills).
Limit your luggage: I know it sounds obvious but don’t be the person strung about with bags and cases like a tantalising Christmas tree laden with presents for the savvy thief. It makes you an immediate target. And, if you get into trouble, you can move a lot faster with fewer bags. One case/backpack/duffle, one carry on. And leave enough room in your case for the clothes that you wear to travel to and from home – it’s a pain to always have to lug your jacket or coat at your destination because it doesn’t fit in the case.
On planes, trains and buses always travel with a very small handbag/purse strapped crossbody so your money, travel documents, and passport are always very close to hand. This saves time faffing about in your larger carry-on (although it should be small enough to fit in there if necessary), and negates the risk of someone whisking off with your entire life when you momentarily place your carry-on on the floor to check your ‘phone.
I like this Cambridge Satchel Company small leather Scallop Edge Cloud Bag.
(I found it a nightmare in the years when all the airlines – not just Ryanair – were insanely strict about only one piece of cabin luggage, because I usually had a carry-on wheelie with no exterior pockets and I used to drop my passport all over the place.)