Tips and tricks for traveling around the world!
As a destination wedding photographer I spend a lot of my time traveling both around the US and abroad. Over the years I have learned a lot. Most things I have learned the hard way. I hope this list will help with your travels in making your trip the best it can be! Lets start with the pre packing phase of the preparation and things you will always want to have… and other things you will never need!
When traveling, most people won’t bring all of the photography gear that I bring with me. That being said I try to travel as light as I can even when it comes to the equipment that I bring to destination weddings. Everything that I need to photograph a wedding I have in one bag. For me its a Lowepro Pro Runner 350 Backpack. I carry two to three bodies with me, several lenses, flashes, batteries, chargers, a laptop, and all of the other essential things I will need to shoot a wedding. This bag never leaves my sight when I travel. I never check my equipment. No matter how small the plane. Many photographers use hard cases when traveling. These are great, but for me i like to have one bag I pull with all of my cloths and essentials, and my gear on my back.
1. Once you have booked your trip: There are some things you will want to know that you have, the moment you have booked your trip. First would be a passport. You might laugh but you would be surprised how many people don’t realize they need one for certain destinations, or forget to bring it. When I start my packing process my passport is the first thing I put in. I always keep it in a safe and secure place in my bag so that no one with sticky fingers is tempted. I also leave a photo copy of it with a family member in the event mine is taken.
2. Money: Depending on what country or region of the wold I am traveling to I might buy currency before I leave. To be honest this isn’t something I really do unless I know I’m going to use it. I travel almost 100% with credit cards. I will always have at least a few hundred dollars of US currency on me which I will keep in a place other then my wallet and cards. If I need to get currency once I am in a different country I never use currency exchanges. They are a business and as such will be making a profit off of you. The best exchange you can get for buying currency is at an ATM. If I am going to use an ATM I try to get as much money as I think I will use for the whole trip. Every time you use and ATM you will be charged about$5, so you don’t want to visit them very often. That being said they will always give you the best exchange of the day. (PS) lesson learned the hard way. Make sure your ATM code is no more then 4 numbers and is numerical. Many ATMs out of the US will not accept codes longer then 4 digits, and often don’t have letters on keypads. Especially if you get to places where they use a different alphabet. Your best bet for paying for things anywhere, except for very third world countries is your credit card.
3. Credit Cards: Let me first be clear that not all credit cards are created equal when it comes to traveling internationally. If possible right after you have that trip booked, if you don’t already have one, get a credit card that is great for traveling. What does that mean? Well there are a few things you want to look for. First off leave your AMEX at home for most places. I love American Express but its not as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard. Visa being the best. Second, you want to get a Credit Card that has no (0) foreign transaction fees. Most normal credit cards will charge you as much as 3% or maybe more on every penny you spend. That can start to add up fast. Some of the cards to look at would be the Capital One cards, Chase United Card, British Airways Card. There are many out there with no fees so be sure to get one. Next I really like to have a credit card that gives me points back on everything I spend. When Im going someplace amazing and I want to bring my wife or kids with me, Airline Miles are usually the way I make that happen. If you don’t already have a card that gives you miles GET ONE! Use it on everything you would normally spend money on. Pay it off every month and enjoy the benefits of free travel. Many of the best cards will even give you enough miles when you sign up for a free trip!
4. Packing: When you pack, bring about half as much as what you were thinking you would bring. One pair of good shoes for walking should do it. Don’t overdo it in the shoe department! My wife would add that most places have great places to shop for shoes too, and bringing too many pairs limits your space. They weigh the most and take up the most space. Depending on where in the world I am off to I will pack accordingly. If its tropical I will have a couple pairs of shorts, some board shorts, sandals and a few shirts. Done. Cool outside? You really don’t need to have a different outfit or sweater or jacket for every day or occasion. Pack the minimum and make it work. You will be happier when waling along the cobble stone streets of paris with a light bag. Trust me!
5. A few more things to bring: A good small flashlight and battery are always a good idea. Electricity doesn’t always work as well everywhere else in the world as it does here. More then once I have had to grab my flash light. Know where you packed it so you can find it in the dark! Be sure to have at least one universal travel adapter. Your electronics will charge overseas but you need an adapter to plug them into the wall. They are only about $10 for a universal adapter and will be a life saver. If you forgot your iPhone wall plug, see if your hotel tv has a USB outlet on it. Most modern TVs do and will be able to charge your Phone! Speaking of your phone. If your iPhone is the camera you will be using for your vacation, be sure to empty all of the old photos and videos that are on it before you leave as to not run out of space.
6. Technology: With all of the apps available today we can go to any destination in the world and be prepared. A few handy apps to have on your phone are a conversion app, a translator app, and apps with walking tours of the major cities you will be visiting. When using your phone its a good idea to keep it on airplane mode with the wifi on. Use an app like whatsapp, viber, Skype, or Google Hangouts for doing your calling or texting via wifi. If you are on an iPhone you will also be able to text or FaceTime anyone else anywhere else in the world over wifi with no fees. I never need to turn my network on for calling or texting. Stop into a cafe or fast food restaurant for quick and easy wifi. Its also a good idea to make sure you have wifi in your hotel with a fast enough connection for FaceTime calling.