Most photographers like to travel and with good planning and the right frame of mind, your travels can be a fun and enriching experience. We've just landed back at home after two weeks with photography groups in Ireland. Here are some of our suggestions for a safe and fun travel experience.
Pack Light - Nothing drags down a trip more than trying to haul around bulging suitcases and overly stuffed camera bags. Take it from someone who knows, take half the clothes and twice the cash. Before you pack, make a list of everything you really need. Remember, you can always do laundry. Many hotels offer same day service and if that’s not available remember that a little detergent and a sink come in very handy. If you really want to experience the freedom of packing light, get everything you are taking into one carry-on size bag and a daypack size bag. It can be done.
Pack smart - Sure, pack light, but pack smart. Be sure that you have critical items like prescription drugs (in their original bottles with labels), eyeglasses, contact lenses, etc. You may even want to keep these items in your carry on baggage. Also, don’t take anything on your trip that you can’t afford to loose. Expensive jewelry can be an invitation to trouble. We’ve had some students cover the brand and model labels on their cameras with grip tape. No reason to advertise “expensive camera gear”.
Be aware of your surroundings - Most of the planet is safe for travelers but it’s a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and plan accordingly. I run a bigger risk of getting seriously hurt in my own home town than in many of the places we’ve traveled and I’ve strolled the bazaar in Istanbul, the Ginza in Tokyo and the Las Ramblas in Barcelona. But pickpockets abound in crowded areas in Paris, Spain, and many other areas.
Keep a journal - It’s difficult to remember all the details of your trip. Keep a journal and include the different locations and descriptions of the people and places you photograph. Journals not only help you remember details, but they also help you have a more enriching travel experience.
Reset the date and time on your camera - When traveling to a different time zone, don’t forget to change the date and time on your camera. That information is included in the metadata tagged to every image and can become very helpful in figuring out when and where different images were taken. And, if you keep a journal as suggested, you can easily tag your images with the correct information.
Notify your bank - You may not want everyone to know that you’re out of town but if you plan to visit a foreign country, you really do want to notify your bank. Credit and Debit cards used in a foreign land are a red flag for bank security and you may find your account locked until you can verify that the charges are valid. And this always happens at the most inopportune time.
Remember your PIN - If you’re going to use a credit or debit card for ATM transactions be sure to remember your PIN. You’ll get a sinking feeling when you put your card in an ATM in London and realize you don’t remember your PIN code.
Hotels are different - When traveling to a foreign country, don’t expect everything to be the same as it is back home. Throughout Europe, you’ll find many hotels and B&B’s don’t have air conditioning. They don’t usually need it. We visited Paris when a record heat wave gripped the city. Not a comfortable situation but you then have to rely on the last tip, be flexible. The same thing happened on a trip to London and we now have a USB power fan. Wonderful.
We often like to stay in hotels that are in the heart of the city. We get to really immerse ourselves in the local culture and like to be close to the area’s heartbeat. The downside is that on some night the area will be noisier. Couple that with open windows because of no AC and guess what. Take some earplugs and, again, be flexible.
Power Adapters - Do your homework and figure out what kind of electrical plugs and voltage are offered in the places you are going to visit. See our July 11 blog entry. Also, we’ve got a page on our website that explains about transformers and adapters.
Stay healthy - Extended travel can be taxing on your body. significant changes in time zone, sleep schedule changes, and changes in diet all tax your system. There are all kinds of suggestions floating around - some good, some Dr. Strangelove Elixir remedies. Our best suggestion is to get rest, drink plenty of water and try to maintain a healthy diet. Try new foods but keep it balanced.
Be flexible - Don’t try to plan every last detail. You can’t plan the weather, airline delays, hotel plumbing problems, or a long list of other things. Sometimes the best travel experiences come from getting lost in a foreign land.