1. Unforeseen calamities
Anticipate thefts, etc, and do not carry all your money in cash. Carry travelers’ cheques which can be exchanged as you need. Make sure your money and belongings are insured. Wear clothes that are comfortable to sit in when you are flying and make sure your shoes are comfortable too, as feet swell when you are airborne. Take with you a loose jacket or cardigan just in case the air-conditioning works too well, and have any pills and medicines you need within reach. Organize your handbag and avoid clutter, so that you can find your important documents and essentials without too much fumbling and panic. Carry your jewellery in your hand baggage. Make a list of all the items in your suitcases, just in case there is a loss. Don’t eat fatty or fried food before you travel and avoid fizzy drinks on the plane, if you are inclined to feel queasy. In your hand luggage on the plane, you should pack your passport, tickets, money, a small towel, toothbrush and toothpaste, your make-up to freshen up before landing, or if you are delayed en route. As a rule, the airline takes good care of kids, and provides special carry cots for babies up to 1 year.
2. First aid and medicines
Medicines are often expensive abroad, so take a supply of everything you have on prescription. Often the names vary. You may be glad of travel sickness pills (don’t take them if you are driving as they can make you drowsy). Medicines for tummy upsets, aspirin, lotion or cream, insect repellent cream and something for bites (aerosols are though now allowed on planes can explode in extreme heat), bandages, plaster, safety pins, scissors, antiseptic cream and needle and thread are essentials to carry.
3. Food abroad
Don’t be faddish about foreign food. Some vegetables and fish may be unfamiliar, but if you get acquainted beforehand with the names and dishes of the country you are visiting, you should be able to recognize your purchases. Buy home-produced food, fruit, etc as they will be much cheaper. Tummy upsets are most likely in hot climates. Play safe and always wash or peel fruit and salad vegetables; make sure everyone washes hands before eating and see that they avoid underdone fish and meat. Abroad, it is advised to have meals in the shade, and not be tempted to lie in the sun after a big meal. Don’t let the children go crazy over ice-cream and make sure what they do eat is from a reliable source. Go easy with ice-cream, cakes also, and don’t let the children have cold drinks when they are feeling very hot, as these could give tummy trouble.
4. Drinking water
If you feel anxious about drinking water-buy bottled water. There are water-purifying tablets available in some places or add a tiny amount of alcohol. (Not for children though!)
5. Your car
If it is a long and lonely road trip, and your car may not be able to take it, have it serviced before you leave. Check battery, radiator, oil and tyres in advance. You may need increased pressure for heavy loads. Headlights should be re-aligned for driving on the right. In France, for night driving fit yellow headlamp filters or bulbs. Make sure if an international driving permit is required. Seat belts are, as a rule, required by law. Stock your car spare parts, as they may not be available everywhere or will need a lot of hunting. A small baby is safest in a carry cot secured to the back seat by a carry cot restraint strap.
6. Leaving home
Poor old doggie’ There are no neighbors to take him and he cannot join you. Do not take him abroad. The stringent rabies rules may mean 6 months in quarantine before you can get him back home again. Take pity on your plants. Sneak a look at your neighbor’s plants before you ask her to come in and water yours. Some people just don’t have green fingers! Otherwise, leave all your plants indoors in the shade, supported by canes and covered with plastic bags. Then plunge the pots up to their necks in wet peat — and they should be fine for about 2 weeks. Better to be safe. Have you ever spent 2 weeks away worrying if you have left the upstairs window open? Well, this time have a check list. Take it with you to avoid sudden panic as you have ticked off all of the needful. The list can be: cancel milk, bread and papers; lock front and back doors, garage, windows; empty fridge; turn off taps, gas and electricity and such chores. Don’t invite intruders by forgetting to cancel milk and don’t leave empty milk bottles out the morning you leave as they won’t be collected till you come back — a sure sign for any would-be thief that the house is empty.
Again you are asking for unwelcome visitors it you cancel your newspapers when the shop is full of people. Also give your news agent plenty of time and notice as he orders your paper in advance. He may have a rule about minimum notice and you must stick to it, or pay up.
Long grass is another give-away. If your lawn is always neat, cut it at the last moment.
7. Packing and loading
Remember you will never be able to carry your whole wardrobe. Mix-and-match separates are best for evening and daytime. Cut down on heavy items like shoes.
If you do need a coat or a heavy jacket, do not pack it in the suitcase but wear it for traveling, taking it off as you sit.
Saris are not always practical, but do take a couple or so for special occasions. Salwar-kameez can be a delight, protecting your legs from bites and providing decent coverage.
Pants and tops are ideal if you are used to them. They can be worn repeatedly. If you are flying, luggage is limited anyway —4 suitcases for 2 weighing not more than 30 kg each and a handbag each in the USA but you have to take less in Europe and UK.
8. Beauty in small packages
There is nothing worse than glass bottles of your favorite toiletries, shampoo or make-up breaking and spilling all over your suitcase. So transfer each into small light plastic jars or bottles and secure tops with tapes.
You can double up too. Use a cream like Nivea as hand and body lotion and a face moisturizer. And, If possible, take only as much as you need, like a half- used toothpaste tube. You usually find a big variety of attractive cosmetics where you travel.
In your big suitcase, put shoes in polythene bags at the bottom with small Items like rollers and panty briefs rolled up inside to act as shoe trees.
Put in other heavy items and wedge smaller things like bikinis in between to make a flat surface and pack lightweight dresses, shirts and anything creasable last of all with tissue paper between folds.
Stick name and address labels inside and outside case and make sure it locks. Have a special place for keys in your handbag and stick to it. Leave a list of the contents at home — helps later if you find you have to claim insurance. Take a copy of the list with you too.
If you have the standard suitcases in ordinary colors, it is all too easy to pick up the wrong one. Stick on something that really stands out for easy identification such as large colored initials.
Wrapping handles in dark colors or prints out of your dresses a good help while picking up suitcases from the conveyer-belt.
All this involves a lot of organization and only a fool would try to pack up at the last moment. Better to begin early and keep adding items as you remember.
While loading your car, if you are not going by air, remember to keep the heavy items low; so put heavy stuff in the boot, filling spaces with small items, so it doesn’t move on bends.
Lighter luggage can go on the roof rack packed neatly, and covered with polythene sheeting and rug (to reduce wind noise), all tied down with a rope or elastic luggage cords.
Don’t obscure the rear window if you need to put bags inside the car with the passengers.
9. Traveling by Car
Make sure all the children are in before you do your final check. Count the kids if you have a large family.
An amusing incident is worth repeating. Just as the father was about to start the car, he happened to look up and saw his small kid waving bye-bye from the top window!
Always put children in the back of your car, never in the front, even sitting in your lap — they would be the first to go through the windscreen if anything happened. In some countries children must, by law, sit at the back.
Buying meals while traveling makes a big hole in your holiday money. Better to pack something simple and tasty to take with you. Make lots of sandwiches with your favorite fillings, wrap n plastic or foil and put in the fridge until the last minute. Other suggestions are hard-boiled eggs, cooked chicken joints, crisp rolls from the baker. Of course puris and potato vegetables are hot favorites, so also parathas with mince or kababs. In the hot weather, avoid meat items.
Remember to take small damp towels, paper napkins and spare plastic bags for disposals. Bananas are ideal fruits as also apples, as these are not messy to eat. To keep irritation to the minimum, in case it rains and you have to eat in the car, pack each one’s share in a small plastic bag and hand over to eat.
Be strict about not throwing peels and shells in the car. If you are taking a young baby, pack a supply of filled milk bottles plus complete meal in jars, and bananas, in case you are delayed. For older children pack canned drinks and straws and fruits. Biscuits and pakwan are good stand-by. Of course water is a must for washing and drinking.
10. Self -catering
It is worth taking a few provisions to help tide you over. Even with the best intentions and early starting, you can never be sure of shops and restaurants.
No one can forecast breakdowns and mistaken routes — and a cuppa is just what you will be gasping for if you have a setback en route. A few tea bags, a packet of soup, eggs or a loaf of bread will ease the situation for you. Milk powder and sugar is a good idea.
All who travel a lot must invest in good flasks that can carry boiling water. A frying-pan, if you try a lot, a pressure cooker and stove can save a lot of money. Many hotels allow their use. Perhaps if you freeze butter rock hard, then put it in insulated bag for the journey, it can remain non-runny (if it is not too hot). One alternative is canned butter.
11. Friends on the way
Many lasting friendships are made on journeys, but always be cautious of complete strangers and do not be misled by sweet talk. Children too must be warned, but at the same time do not frighten them and destroy their natural trust in people.