Take the stress out of international vacations with these tips from a local world traveler

Barbara Mellin in Thailand hotel lobby.

Take the stress out of international vacations with these tips from a local world traveler
April 25
05:00 2019

By Barbara Mellin

Here are a few travel tips I’ve learned from visiting 47 States, 24 countries and 5 continents. These have worked for me and may work for you, too. 


Travel for a weekend or several weeks with just a carry-on suitcase and a pocketbook or small tote. There’s no waiting at baggage claim when you land, and it’s so much easier to board a train or walk to your hotel. Remember, many hotels have laundries.

2. Roll and go

Roll clothes rather than fold them. Place heavier items, such as shoes, in the bottom, and place socks and small items inside. A shawl or scarf takes little room but serves many purposes. Be sure to keep personal items such as medications and travel documents with you at your seat.

3. Color coordinate

Limit your basic wardrobe to two colors. Then, mix and match: black and white or navy and red for example. Go for layers and classic items that look neat, not touristy.

4. Wear and discard

It’s fun to buy new clothes for a trip, so indulge with new under garments. But leave them at home for when you return.  Pack your “old” underwear and discard it after wearing. This keeps your suitcase fresh and gives you space for any items you purchase as you travel. 

5. Make room

Carry this concept even further by packing other clothes to discard along the way. If you have something wearable but not ready to keep, pack it. If the item is too good to throw away, leave a note in the hotel to donate or recycle. By the end of your trip, you’ll have plenty of room for your vacation shopping.

6. Unwrap it

Plan to purchase a souvenir tee shirt or other clothing item, but don’t bring it home still packaged. Instead, wear it!

7. Pack it in

Rather than bulky, made-for-tourist souvenirs, think local and flat, such as handmade jewelry or scarves. Pick foldable items that take up little space. Instead of decorative pillows, pillow covers; instead of mugs, an unframed etching that will remind you of your destination whenever you see it.

8. Email yourself

Scan your passport, license and travel documents. Email them to yourself.  If your passport is stolen, you can get a temporary replacement by easily retrieving the information. 

9. Stay centered

Book a hotel in the heart of the city or historic district, within walking-distance to restaurants and shops for the “real” feel of your destination. Hotel dining might be convenient, but go for the local places and eat the local food.  That’s why you came.

10. Don’t drink the water

Even water that is perfectly good may not be good for you. Drink only bottled water and avoid ice. And brush your teeth with bottled water, also.

11. Hop on/ Hop off

Yes, this is a very “tourist” thing, but these buses allow you to travel to the “must see” destinations on your own schedule for a reasonable price, with an audio description along the way.

12. Don’t lose it

Replace your phone photo with the name and number of your traveling partner or hotel, so it can be returned if lost even if the finder doesn’t have your password.

13. Sleep in history

To preserve some of their historic structures, Spain and Portugal have turned many into B&Bs (Posadas and Paradors). Stay in a palace carriage house, a medieval castle or a converted convent, all equivalent to 4-star hotels but at lower costs, thanks to senior discounts. 

14. Plan ahead/ order online

Reserve hotels, order train tickets and make reservations online. Often this allows you to enter museums or events without waiting in long lines. Always check for senior discounts.

15. Be flexible

Enjoy the experience, even if not as planned. Embrace the unexpected. There is more to a destination than landmarks and photo ops. Slow down. Interact with the people. Plan ahead, but go where your instincts lead you. Let yourself just be there.

Barbara Rizza Mellin, is a writer, artist and world traveler. She invites you to view her May exhibition at Artworks Gallery, 564 Trade St.  “Ciao! Italy,” features linocut prints and paintings based on her recent trip to Italy.

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