Get acquainted with your location. Once you are settled, ask the concierge for a map with your hotel location clearly marked. It is also a good idea to carry the name of your hotel in writing. In a foreign country, have a native speaker write it down for you, or take a matchbook with the hotel logo and identifying information.
Exchange most of your money overseas. The exchange rate is invariably better there than at home. Use travelers' checks and an ATN card. ATMs, or "cash machines," are widely available and can offer even better exchange rates than travelers' checks. Most international airports also have exchange counters open at all hours. If you want to be sure you have cash on hand, change a small amount (say, $50) before you leave. Once abroad, banks usually offer the best rate, much better than hotels or "exchange shops." Compare the fees for the exchange service - the rates are different for changing cash than travelers' checks. Change money, as needed, if visiting several countries. Many nations will not re-exchange. Take $25-$30 in American one dollar bills. You can use them almost anywhere for small items or for additional tipping.
Know some of the language. Bring a phrase book, or if you are on an organized tour, ask your tour manager for the basic courtesies: please, thank you, good morning, etc. No matter how widely English is spoken, it pays to learn a few basic words.
Keep a positive attitude. In most situations, having a positie travel experience is up to you. Annoying things may happen, but you can choose to focus on the wonderful aspects of the trip. Be open-minded, go with the flow, and don't be afraid to try new things. Did you really go to the expense and trouble of this wonderful adventure to have things be just the way they were at home?
Stay safe. Tourists anywhere can be targets of theft or harassment, especially if they stand out. Educate yourself to the local customs so you can blend in. On tour, there is safety in numbers - stay with the group. Keep cameras, jewelry, and other valuables out of sight - even in your hotel room. Put your passport, luggage key, and travelers' checks in a money belt under your clothing, but leave out a little spending money.
Shopping and shipping. Souvenirs can help you recall pleasant memories of your trip when you are back at home or be fun surprises for friends and family. Keep track of all your purchases, especially in other countries, so it will be easier to fill out customs forms. Get familiar (with the local currency). Consider shipping your purchases home - it'll keep your travels light and avoid worries about theft or breakage. Using credit cards for larger purchases often means you will get the very best exchange rate.
Tipping. If you are on an organized tour, check your tour brochure to see whether tipping is included in the price you paid for the tour. It is customary to tip the tour manager at the end of your tour. Depending on the person's performance, $1-$3 per day per traveler is sufficient. In another country, check to what the tipping customs are. In some countries, the tip or service charge is part of your restaurant bill. Check with your tourmanager or the concierge about local customs. In the U.S., tip as you would at home in a restaurant. In general, don't worry about whom to tip. If someone performs a service you appreciate, go ahead and tip.
Relax! Don't feel you have to see everything to get your money's worth. If your tour is cramming too many things in for your taste, sit some of them out - just be sure to let the tour manager know so the entire group isn't waiting for you. Remember, this is your vacation!
Taking photos. Photographs can make the best souvenirs and be the basis of a wonderful photo album. Bring plenty of film - it costs more overseas and you can get exactly what you want at home. Bringanextrasetofbatteries. When photographing religious sites in other countries or members of certain Native American cultures, be sure to ask permission first. Some subjects, especially in third world countries, may expect a little reward for their posing. Beware of airport x-ray machines. If you don't have a film-shield bag, hand your camera (if it's loaded) and film to the guard for a manual inspection.
Keep a Journal. Many folks like to capture memories of their trip in a lightweight travel journal. Record thoughts about your travels, compose an award-winning poem, and jot down the addresses of travelers you meet. Your notebook can include a copy of your itinerary, your sensational photos, a sample of currency, or a foreign newspaper article. Back home and in need of a break, you can take a mini-vacation by opening your journal and reliving your travels.
Kill two birds with one stone. Use your hand-laundered underwear and socks as washrags and get them really clean.
Germ patrol. Carry a small can of spray Lysol for germ control or to tackle unpleasant odors in hotel rooms.
Wrapping tips. Pack some bubblerap in your luggage to wrap around delicate purchases. Use it to safeguard fragile items in your suitcase.