Plan your eco-trip two or three months before your departure date. Too much advance time for you? It may seem so now. However, when you’re looking at a revolving electronic board at a train station, trying to check into your backcountry B&B, figuring out how to dress for hiking and a relatively formal dinner later, or confronted by a Cash Only bistro, you’ll be glad you did.
Choosing your accommodations
Book your rooms by seeing what other travelers have said about it. So that means social media. Expedia, TripAdvisor, and many other, lesser known sites offer good values, descriptions of amenities, and reviews by previous travelers. Know what you’re getting into. Plus, if you use a site like Expedia, you’ll have a running record on your account of your itinerary.
Reserve a room with a small refrigerator
And while you’re booking, see if you can finagle a room with a mini-’fridge. If so, once you get all settled into your accommodations, walk to a local market. Stock up on fruits, yogurt, granola bars, and bite-sized veggies. Having some nibbles that you know you like to eat is important when local time differs from your own. It can also help you to avoid standing in long lines for bad-for-you fast food at popular events.
Do you know the PIN to your credit card?
Exchange rates are most favorable abroad at banks. Cash withdrawals from bank ATMs, though, need a PIN for your credit card. Call your credit card company before you leave to make sure you know your log in. Also, now is the time to cash in on those reward points you’ve been saving up. Use them on an expensive flight, and you won’t be so shocked at your balance when this month’s credit card bill arrives in the mail or in your electronic online bill payer.
Your state driver’s license isn’t quite enough
Planning on renting a car while you’re there? You’ll need an international driver’s license. I got mine at AAA with my membership for $20.
Buy a travel wallet
It hangs on a long cord around your neck and tucks inside your waistline. That means your passport, credit cards, cash, and cell phone aren’t on display for potential pickpockets to grab and run. It’s nice when traveling to have all the important items in one place, all the time, too.
If you can do it, only pack carry on luggage
Yes, you have to pack a 4 oz. container of Woolite and hand wash in your hotel room. Yes, you’re limited to two colors of clothes which complement each other and can be remixed into a variety of outfits. But carry on luggage saves time waiting at the airport check-in and at the carousel prior to going through customs. I’ve had more than one flight rerouted and still had my stuff with me— there’s no better feeling.
Walk, walk, walk
When you’re traveling, you’re walking. It’s inevitable. As a result, you’ll need each and every pair of your shoes to be utterly comfortable. Easy to walk in. Stylish and probably flat. If you’re like me, you’ll dedicate one entire day to sneaker store mall hopping. I stopped at seven different stores and pre-tested a couple of possible choices in each. Then I started over again, narrowing, gazing at my feet in front of those low shoe store mirrors, and bouncing to gauge comfort from heels to toes to arches. I decided on a brand with which I had no previous familiarity but that offered me pillow-like comfort as well as contemporary style. And then I broke them in on a couple of flat hikes before I left on the trip, just to minimize the inevitable blisters.
Count out your medicines and over-the-counter items
Finding your exact anti-inflammatory tab or poison ivy cream isn’t as easy abroad as it is from home. So think ahead. How many of each pill do you need? Also, do you have special creams, ointments, or lotions that you prefer? Get a traveler’s clear plastic case at any pharmacy. It comes with a variety of teeny containers to create your own travel-sized portions of anything from tums to hair gel.
Read ahead about your destination and practice local phrases
Do you know who Rick Steves is? He’s a travel guy who writes how-to books that are realistic guides to what you need to do, see, and act like when you visit other places. Purchase two small paperbacks: The Rick Steves Guide to (fill in the blank), and a phrasebook for the language primarily spoken in the country to which you’ll be traveling. These two little books will become precious as you journey around.
As you can see, there is much more to an eco-trip than deciding if you want a yurt or campground, or all-inclusive versus a la carte. Careful planning ahead can help you to save time when you’re on site and really savor the natural experiences your destination offers.