I love escaping abroad and I encourage you all to travel as much as you can. Which is why I have written out my savvy travel tips for you here.
As you know, I have travel dust in my shoes. There is nothing I like more than to be on the open road in a country I have never been to before. To see and meet and eat with the people of that country. I am a bit like Mole in the Wind in the Willows when he says, looking around wondrously, “And …. This…… Is … A river!” That’s exactly how I feel. Excitement and wonder. So I hope I can spur a few of you on to see a bit more of this wonderful world we live in, allay any fears you might have, and start you on a new adventure!
It’s true to say you can travel on a shoestring. I don’t spend huge amounts of money on flights or indeed my accommodation. For a start I always travel economy. I don’t see the point in paying thousands of pounds more to get to a place at exactly the same time as the other passengers! Even on a journey to New Zealand can be accomplished in economy. However it is worth learning the configuration of the different kind of planes. For example, if you are on a 380 try and get one of the top floor economy seats. It’s quieter. I always go for an aisle seat so that I can get up and walk around when I want. I immediately make friends with my steward or stewardess. Humour is the best icebreaker. And I seldom talk to the stranger beside me. It is fine to talk while you eat but after that it is a no no.
I have a travelling handbag which has masses of pockets and I have a ritual as to where everything is, so I never have to look for my glasses passport etc. It contains many things – contact lenses and glasses, medicines – all very handy in case your suitcase goes missing; it does happen and can take a couple of days to get back. It also includes extra knickers, a bathing suit and another set of clothes all rolled and taking up very little room. Then there’s a book in case the inflight entertainment doesn’t work. I have stopped carrying food – a dear friend of mine was recently fined 200 dollars for having a ham sandwich which he had forgotten about in his bag when he landed in New Zealand. I do travel wearing support socks – they are very unglamorous, but I think they do help.
I take absolutely no notice of all the blurb about not drinking alcohol. On long haul I make sure I have at least three bottles of red wine… the little ones I hasten to add. Then watch as many movies as I possibly can. When dozing takes over and I realise I have missed most of the film, I cover my head with the blanket and put the pillow in the small of my back: it makes the seat more comfortable and I SLEEP! Usually three or four hours.
Often friends stare in wonderment at the size of my suitcase. I can travel for three weeks with just a cabin case. The secret? You have colour coordinated clothes for a start. Everything should be able to mix. I personally have navy blue, white and shades of beige. Shoes are heavy and you really shouldn’t need more than two pairs unless you are a gym fanatic, in which case travel in your trainers. An old pair of deeply comfortable sandals are very important. I have walked across several continents in mine and had to finally put them in the rubbish bin in Belize earlier this year. I still grieve for them! Just in case you get lucky and get invited to something really posh, I would have one pair of heels which you will probably never need, but they make you feel glam if needs be. Only one dress for best and it needs to be roll up, non crushable. In all honesty I have been to Embassies and lots of smart do’s in trousers and tops. A really good pair of white and black trousers will get you a long way. The rest of the time you just need layers – that’s why it’s got to colour coordinate. A chemise, a wrap, a long cardigan/jacket and a few scarves to ring the changes. If you are going somewhere cold, thermals are a must. If you are going somewhere hot, fine cotton is. Anyway it’s always fun to buy a few things on the way.
Forget curlers, hairdryers, potions and lotions! Most hotels have them – even two star. I only take lipstick, mascara and an eye pencil. Scent makes things bite you! Your medicines should be in your handbag and include stoppers and starters – for tummy upsets, possibly a syringe, plasters and headache pills. Jewellery? Leave it at home. Have copies of all your documents, passport, jabs etc and keep them in different places. Insurance is a must – SAGA are quite good and if you are under 65 your bank probably gives it to you anyway.
A previous blog post covered my guide to squat loos so I won’t go into that again. Remember the smaller the country usually the more red tape and the larger the visa. Immigration and customs people seem in general to be rather glum. Do not try to find their sense of humour – they may not have one. If in grave difficulty, try and have something in your bag which has a coat of arms on it… I once managed to get into lots of places with my Kensington library pass; but sadly nowadays with the internet it’s definitely more difficult to bluff your way through.
I have derivesd so much pleasure from travelling. I am still in touch with two orphanages I visited fifteen years ago in Thailand and Cambodia. I have swum with dolphins in Mauritius, eaten sea slugs in Hong Kong, and made love on the red earth of Africa while a giraffe looked down upon me. I have made so many friends along the way. Next week I am meeting an American chap I first met over thirty years ago on a plane. He is a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington and we have been pen pals ever since I started talking to him in Miami when my plane was delayed. I could go on for hours about all the fun I’ve had. Of course some of it is not printable! But it’s time for you to look at the atlas and get going. There are millions of websites to help you… be adventurous. I’m off to Southern India in two weeks – and I write this to you from Marbella!
So happy travelling… BackPacking Granny x