My top 5 travel tips

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Travel | 0 comments

My top 5 travel tips

1. Stay in apartments not hotels

By staying in private apartments in areas where locals actually live you get a much more real and authentic experience of a place.  Think about it, the hotels are always in the tourist trap parts of town – in Sydney they are at Darling Harbour not Surry Hills or Darlinghurst, in New York it’s Times Square rather than the West Village.


Apartments are bigger so more comfortable, as well as feel much more homely which is nice when you’re travelling.  I love to come back to an apartment after a long day of sight seeing and kick back on the balcony / in the lounge room with a bottle of local wine and unwind.  This doesn’t quite work when you have a small hotel room with all of the space pretty much taken up by the bed.

Apartments allow you to experience the true character of a place.  Staying at a big hotel chain they are so generic you feel like you could be anywhere, which is not the point of travel!

It also often works out cheaper to stay in an apartment, especially if there are two or more of you and you are staying three nights or longer.  It is harder to find and arrange, although this has gotten significantly easier with sites like AirBnB, and ultimately it is so worth it.


Our apartment in Paris

Our apartment in the Marais, Paris


2. Take a pack not a suitcase 

You may think it’s easier to wheel your suitcase along, but once you reach cobblestones, gravel / dirt, or several flights of stairs you’ll be regretting that decision.  I have a great pack that I got from Kathmandu years ago that is good quality and durable.  The weight should sit on your hips rather than your shoulders, and if your pack fits properly they are actually quite comfortable.

Packs are also malleable which definitely comes in handy, for example in Beijing the taxi drivers won’t take you if your suitcase doesn’t fit in the boot (which a lot of suitcases with their square edges don’t), but if you have a pack it can be pushed down and made to fit.

My only word of warning is about going down steep stairs, there was an incident in Venice where I toppled over with my pack, but hasn’t happened since – I learned my lesson!


Me and my trusty pack

Me and my trusty pack ready to go!


3. Do your research 

Before arriving somewhere I like to know the basics like the best way to get from the airport / train station to where I’m going, e.g. is there a subway or bus that is convenient and will be running at that time, or should I get a cab.  Is the area notorious for black taxis, and how much should I be paying.  It’s always a good idea to have the address written down in the native language incase you need to ask for help, and to avoid any miscommunication.

I also believe in researching where is a good area to stay, where to eat, and what to do.  You might stumble onto something great on your own, but chances are if somewhere is good it’s got a reputation.  In saying this, it’s a fine balance as you don’t want to end up in a tourist trap eating with every other traveler in town!

I like to see which places the locals are eating at, where do the taxi drivers or gondoliers eat, because that’s probably where the food is cheap and authentic.  In this day and age there are many travel forums as well as sites like TripAdvisor to help you out, so use them!

Do your research but don’t make too many firm plans.  Not planning too much allows you to have the flexibility to take opportunities as they arise and do what you feel like.  If you make some friends and they’re going somewhere awesome – you can go too!  Arrive somewhere and it isn’t as good as you thought it would be and you want to move on, no problem.  We spent two months travelling around Indonesia with only our flights and first night’s accommodation booked, and it was an amazing trip (read about it here).


4. Keep your circulation going on long haul flights

This is something I used to think was only a concern for old people, or pregnant people, or anyone else but me really.  At the age of 22 on my way from Paris to Sydney I got a 12cm blood clot in my leg and discovered that I was wrong, and how serious DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is.  I now have the joy of giving myself injections whenever I fly, so if you’re not good with needles this is something you want to avoid getting.

People are always curious what my symptoms were and how I knew something was wrong.  I had pain in my leg that I initially thought was just a cramp from travelling in economy, and for a few days tried to stretch it out.  When it got worse instead of better I thought something was up, and when I mentioned it to my sister (who’s a nurse) she demanded I go to the doctors immediately.

I remember the (not so poker) face of the guy who did my ultrasound, and after that I was sent straight to hospital.  It’s a long process to treat DVT, to begin with I had to give myself an injection every day twice a day.  This went on for about a month while they tried to work out the right dose of warfarin (a medication I was also taking daily).  I was on warfarin for months, which is really inconvenient as you have to have a blood test every three days to monitor your blood, and as warfarin is affected by vitamin K if I ate some spinach it would throw my levels out.

That blood clot is probably the most life threatening thing that has ever happened to me (other than a close encounter with a truck while on a scooter in Indonesia, but that’s a story for another time..!)  It also gave me a bit of faith in what’s meant to be will be.  The day after arriving home (before I knew about the clot) I went to my local nail spa to get a pedicure (after two months of travelling I needed it!)  This place had plenty of staff and I’d never not been able to just walk in and get an appointment.  Whether by coincidence or divine intervention, that day I was not able to get a pedicure, which always includes a calf massage that would likely have detached my clot.

So, the moral to my story is that you need to take it seriously, don’t be paranoid, but be aware and proactive.  Things you can do to prevent DVT on a long haul flight are to stay hydrated (drink lots of water and avoid coffee and alcohol) and move your legs around, especially if you’ve been sleeping or sitting still for a while.  Get up and walk around when you can, and even while you’re in your seat move your feet and ankles around, bounce your knees up and down etc.  I also always wear knee length compression stockings and try to get an aisle seat so I can get up as often as I like.


5. Be medically prepared 

The first time we got food poisoning overseas we didn’t have anything, no panadol, no hydralyte, no charcoal, no gastrostop, no ginger tablets, nothing.  This was a severe lesson that we learned, you should always be prepared, especially if you are travelling somewhere (like remote islands of Fiji) where medication is not readily available.  I think the bare essentials when travelling are paracetamol, ibuprofen, band aids, gastrostop, and if travelling with Wayne, strapping tape (his shoulder has been known to dislocate).

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