1. Bring loose fitting dry-fit clothes.
This applies specifically for those trips with lots of trekking or touring since most of them will be spent under the midday sun for a long time. Long haul flights also tend to make me feel bloated at the end of it all, not to mention the jetlag ruining my body clock for a few days. Dry-fit clothes also can be easily washed and dried and are very light – perfect for travel. In my trip last June which was for three weeks in UAE and Europe, I came back without using some clothes because they were uncomfortable and so were only dead weight in the luggage. As always, charge it to experience.
2. Bring a towel with you at all times.
I know. I never knew that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would actually be right. A towel can also mean a scarf or just a large patch of cloth that can serve as a shield from the sun, to wipe the sweat of your face, and some warmth from those chilly, brisk mornings. Note that other tourists or locals may find it odd to find a towel-clad figure walking along with them in the tour. Caucasians apparently desire to be tanned (hence I couldn’t find any of those from Europe or the North America who used, for lack of a better term, sun-shielding devices), and those in the tropics would rather get shade. The locals, however, may crack some jokes at the odd appearance. While in Capri on the furnicular, one of the locals below caught me in sunglasses and a scarf on my head and shouted, “Makhmout!” It was probably an reference to the Arab headdresses. Coincidentally, I actually got to try them one of them on and they were great at keeping your head cool from the sun. As a tourist, I was never going to see them anyway so I didn’t mind.
3. Beware of using a Eurail pass in France and compare local train rates before buying a Eurail pass.
Unlike Trenitalia, SNCF does not have an option for online ticket reservations using the Eurail pass. The best thing to do is to drop by the nearest SNCF boutique and reserve the tickets there. Luckily, my family spent some days in Italy before going to Paris so we could reserve the TGV tickets in Italy. It is also better to compare how much a full ticket would cost before buying a Eurail pass since it is not always cheaper. A full ticket for a local high-speed trains may even be cheaper than scratching off one day from a Eurail pass. Mind also the 12-25 discount and others when purchasing tickets.
4. If there’s a skip the line, ALWAYS TAKE IT.
This applies to going during the tourist season. In Paris I decided to check out Saint Chappelle but my attempt was thwarted by a line too long and too many people skipping it which only made the wait longer. Life is short and vacation life is shorter so there is not point in waiting in line when you could be busy doing other things. The line at Versailles was also unbelievable. Try to compare:
5. Do not buy GPS stamps. They are not the real national stamps.
On my visit to Rome I saw a sign next to a Tabacchi that said they had “Traceable GPS stamps.” I had earlier sent postcards from Athens and Santorini and they cost me only 80c, but these GPS stamps cost 2.20 euros. I had earlier thought that these were the national stamps but no these are NOT the Poste Italiani stamps. Apparently, GPS is a private company that just sends postcards. I had to find that out the hard way after I researched online. At the post office, the actual stamps cost me a total of 2.30 euros because of one 80c stamp and another one which was 1.50 euro priority. I didn’t inquire about why there was the 1.50 euro stamp though. Here’s how they look like: