Local Currency

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I don’t speak French, Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic – but I know a handful of insults in each. My map-reading skills leave much to be desired, and I’ll only rent a car in the simplest of cities to navigate.

Instead, I rely on the navigation tools that have never lead me wrong: research, a friendly smile, and a pocketful of the local currency.

In Jakarta, Indonesia when navigating the airport shuttles became overwhelming, I hopped in a taxi and let the professional sort it out. And, thanks to my pocketful of Rupiah I didn’t have to pay the $6.00 exchange and ATM fee in order to finance the $2.00 transaction.

Street snacks, vending machines that sell wine, bathrooms, un-posted airport fees bring it on. I’ll be ready, I’m heading to the bank this morning to pick up some Turkish Lira.

My Travel Items: The Holy Grail

Everyone who travels eventually finds their must-have travel items. These are mine …

Shoe Fresh Sachets

1. Dryer Sheets – I love the way dryer sheets ensure everything comes out of your suitcase smelling fresh and clean.  I use them when packing, then store my empty suitcases with a few dryer sheets tucked into their nooks and crannies so they smell clean even after a muggy trip to the tropics.  I also recently discovered Downy Unstopables for making shoe sachets.

Passport Cases

2. Passport Case – I keep my passport in my purse or day bag and travel with it at easy access when going to other countries (it’s amazing how often you need it: booking trains, checking into hotels, exchanging money).

Monogrammed Beach Bag

3. Day Bag – I use this as my airplane carry on (make sure your purse will fit inside the bag so that you have one, easy-to-carry item for the airport). My day bag becomes the beach bag, my filing cabinet, and in a pinch a pillow during long layovers in lousy airports.

4. Lounging Clothes leggings make the perfect lounging pants, they can be paired with a nice tunic to make an outfit, and they can also take you to the gym (if you get ambitious). I don’t like to fly in leggings (for airplanes I like loose-fitting clothes) but they can roll up easily and tuck in your carry on if you have a long lay over and might want to change your clothes.

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5. My Tried and True Travel Outfit

Passport Case and Travel Book

6. The Book – I always buy a book on the place I’m going.  I prefer Rick Steves Guides when available (A lifetime of watching his travel documentaries on PBS and the amazing value-adds he brought to my trip to Italy – skip the line at the Sistine Chapel, yes please – have made me a life long advocate. Plus I can hear his voice in my head when I read his travel guides and it makes me feel like I have a buddy traveling with me.)

Recessed Outlets

7. Phone Charger – this goes without saying, but it’s one of those last-in items that can result in an expensive airport purchase if you forget.  Be sure you have the right adapter (they’re expensive for what they do, and every country is unique do your research).  My tip, get the smallest adapter you can, sometimes the outlets are recessed and although you ave the right adapter, you still can’t plug in because those American-bought adapters won’t fit. It’s hard to describe, but I gave you a picture for example.

Universal Adapter

Do not buy the universal adapter, they almost never fit into outlets in airports and low-end hotels, and even in high-end hotels it’s hit and miss.

8. Carry On Essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair tie
  • Swimsuit or one critical wardrobe item so that even if your bags are lost your trip isn’t ruined (this has been a life saver)
  • Print outs of the hotel you’re going to first, and the name of the car service you’re using for the first stop (I book a car for the first location on international travel; it makes landing and transitioning simpler when arriving in unfamiliar places where the difference between legitimate taxis and gypsy cabs can be hard to determine – hence the gypsy cab-tastrophe that happened to me in Qingdao, China in 2011.)
  • A good book that travels well (don’t take Anna Karenina through 18 hours of travel, it’s a door stop, not a travel read)
  • A notepad

9. Local Currency – Always have at least enough $$ in the local currency of where you’re going just in case.  My just in case turned out to be the Jakarta, Indonesia airport where I had to take a taxi from one terminal to the other.  It cost about $2.00 and I would have paid $6.00 to pull money out of the ATM, then would have had a hassle getting change.

10. Print Outs of the Itinerary – Often enough I’ve loaded my luggage in the back of the taxi, climbed into the back seat, then realized the address of where I am going is sitting in my suitcase in the trunk.