- Getting Ripped Off in "Tourist Areas"
Almost always, restaurants and shops around the areas most frequented by our countrymen are over priced. They know how to play the game and they will often try to hassle you or talk you into making a purchase.
Don't. Be polite, but firm and walk away if you don't feel comfortable.
Look around some. Chances are you'll find the exact item for cheaper in a grocery store or likewise elsewhere.
If you don't, go back and get it. No big deal.
- Getting Mugged
Be aware of your surroundings.
Movies like "Taken" were based on SOMETHING. It has happened and it could happen.
Don't go out alone at night. If you do it anyway, always let someone know where you are going, for how long and how you are getting there. Walk in well lit areas, near large groups of people.
Walk with your eyes directed straight ahead. Walk with purpose. If someone harasses you, keep walking like you have serious business to get done. Your confidence and direct path will (usually) steer the hecklers away from you. You clearly mean business, I ain't gon mess with that.
Attend your bags. Don't leave them slung on a chair at a restaurant or absent mindedly unzipped at the museum. You are a pick pocket's wet dream. Rich stupid american with all your fancy gadgets. Don't let em be right! Happy to report that I bought this bag for our Europe trip and it is fantastic. I use it every day now.
- Paying Insane Luggage Fees
The Europeans do not have the same carry on dimension bin sizes as we do in The US. They are much smaller....annoyingly so.
I bought a standard carry on size roll-y hard case bag to take with us to Europe and ended up having to check it on every flight we had over there.
This cost a lot. Don't do this.
Now I know, to carry a back pack and not over pack a million clothes into a suitcase. Just take the basics. Mix and match. Buy something if you need it while over there.
- Having Your Identity Stolen
I was worried about this when we went to Europe as I had heard of people using RFID scanners to scan your unprotected passport and glean your info off it to be used to commit dastardly deeds of evil in your name.
This is a giant load. The only info on your passport they could get IF they could (the scanners only work from about 10 inches away) would be the info already publicly available. They can't get your social security ID because it's not in the passport...
That doesn't mean you shouldn't still worry. Keep a close eye on your passport and don't leave it laying around in your hotel room.
Photo copy it and store it online on dropbox or a similiar cloud application in case your real passport is stolen, so it can be accessed from the embassy or a personal computer (assuming they didn't make off with that too...)
- Paying Too Much for a Hotel
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, do your research.
Don't just assume you got the best deal. Continue to watch hotel rates until the night before your stay. Compare on different sites. If you see the rate go down (significant or not) call the hotel and let them know that you'd like to take advantage of the new rate you saw. Usually, (so far) they will have no problem. Sometimes though, you might have to cancel your reservation and re-book under the new rate.
Also, Don't be afraid to ask for free upgrades!
When we went to Disneyland last year, we stayed off property at a hotel called The Desert Palms right next to the park. When we arrived to check in, I (being friendly, not insistent) asked if they had any free upgrades available. We were upgraded to a suite facing the parks so we could see the fireworks for no extra charge.
Being friendly went a long way, and I never expected her to give us anything. I just took the chance and asked. I should note that we were there in what is considered the "off season" in September, so it's likely this will not work during the peak of summer time when rooms are more likely to be full, but go for it anyway!
- Getting Sick
Don't eat pre-packaged, cooked food from the little foreign super market that's on sale at the end of the day...
I did this. It was a chicken and veggies dish made in a supermarket called Sainsbury's in London. I didn't cook it long enough in the microwave, since I am accustomed to eating food not molten lava hot at home. BIG MISTAKE.
Within 6 hours, I was violently (and painfully) ill. I puked and shat my guts out for 2 more weeks before getting home and finally finding out I had gotten a type of Salmonella poisoning that was eventually treated by an antibiotic used to kill ANTHRAX... Yeah.
See your Dr about necessary vaccinations & antibiotics before leaving.
We are going to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico in September. Internet sleuthing has shown me that the area is at risk for Malaria and Yellow Fever. We are considering Yellow Fever vaccinations, but Malaria is rare (unless in the jungle at Sun rise or Sun set when the nasty skeeters are out.)
- Bringing Kids (Unless it's Disney, of Course)
Look, we're just going to let this out of the bag now. I am not a fan of kids. Now, with that said, I'm sure you love em. You squeezed em out and somehow, it's gone from a little lumpy potato to a zany mini-you that can be pretty cool sometimes...and pretty uncool sometimes. We all know, it's ok.
Don't bring your kids to the ultra adult oriented spa getaway. You're gonna have a bad time. The facilities were not made for them and I'm willing to bet that the other adults would not appreciate your kid, even though I'm sure they're an angel, they won't be one 100% of the time. Why do that to yourself?
Take a vacation away from them sometimes. It's cool, nobody will think you're a neglectful, evil parent. In fact, the time away can help you re-establish the bond with your partner (or even yourself, sans partner.) Which can only be good for the little ones.
- Getting Busted in (US) Customs
This is not very hard to do whether you've done something wrong or not.
Not declaring food is a big one. Fresh or no, if they catch you with it, that's a $300 fine. Yes, they're fucking serious and no, they don't have a sense of humor about it (trust me on this one.)
Coming Home with too many Souvenirs.
The US Govt. doesn't allow you to come here with more than $800 in souvies and merch "duty free" from another country unless you want to pay taxes on it. Keep an eye on that.
Visiting a Farm or Being around Livestock
They don't want you tracking in germs with you, especially if your hand was in any animal orifices. They will ask, and I hope to whatever deity you revere that you tell them the truth. I'm not dealing with a Zombie Apocalypse because of you, man.
- Getting Arrested
Ask to speak to a consular officer at the American embassy or consulate. It is your right under international agreements to receive assistance from your government. So, be polite, but insistent, and keep asking until you are placed into contact with an American official.
Please note that the Embassy can get you assistance, but they cannot get you out of Prison or give you preferential treatment. You are in another country and must abide by their laws, regardless of your citizenship.
Here is a full version of what the US will do for Incarcerated Americans Abroad
- Not Taking A Chance While You Can
Travel is a gift that so few take the opportunity to afford to themselves.
I always told myself that I wanted to travel while I was young. I wanted to experience the world first and then carry those experiences with me into my old age as my battle armor. When you are on a trip, you worked so hard for it! Don't waste that opportunity to step outside your shell. I'm not saying go bungy jumping on that sketchy ass rope bridge outside Bangkok or run from the bulls like a crazy person.
I'm telling you to learn something new about yourself or the world.
My first attempt to step outside my shell was to try (very key word here) to get over my extreme fear of heights by crossing the Carrick a Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland last Christmas.
I didn't know this before I crossed it obviously, but I was fine until I got to it. You descend a little staircase (let's be honest, it was a thin slippery steel LADDER welded into the side of the rock face and I started crying on the 3rd step down when my foot just barely slipped a half inch, but I continued on) to the thin slat bridge. Sure, it's steel wiring, but that doesn't comfort you much when the gusts pick up and you're left bobbing and swaying like a kite in the wind 98' over a watery grave.
I cursed at and moved inch by inch towards the other side while my husband (very kindly) tried not to burst out laughing at me.
Took a lot of my courage to go back across it. I scrambled up the fucking ladder on my hands and knees and RAN away in the opposite direction hoping to never set foot on it again.
It was scary, but I lived to tell you all the tale of how (much of a pussy) brave I was for 5 minutes in Ireland.