Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4034 posts

Thanks Ken! Yep, it's the same advice that's been given here 100's of times over the years... although I still quibble with #8... it all depends on what it is.... on one trip I could not find the equivalent of what I needed and wasted most of the day looking everywhere for it, so now, if it's important to me, I bring enough for the whole trip.

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1839 posts

Thanks, Ken - interesting read.

The author makes some good points, such as women should research possible challenges when traveling alone (or in a group, but without men) to certain countries. I have a friend who went to Saudi Arabia for business maybe 8 years ago and tried to rent a car at the airport. She didn't know that even foreign women aren't allowed to drive in that country.

With regard to other points - I disagree with #8. I bring enough "feminine products" on a trip because I don't want to have to buy them in other countries. Use them up and you have a little more room in your luggage for souvenirs. I also bring OTC medicine, bandaids, and antibacterial cream in case of minor illness or injury. I enjoy looking in pharmacies or convenience stores as an additional aspect of exploring life in another country, but I wouldn't want to waste vacation time looking for something I needed, unless it was an emergency.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13894 posts

I don't disagree with a single word in that article. Not one.

Edit: Well, a few. I have no knowledge of Asia and what circumstances there are like, but I do have knowledge of bits of Europe and the UK. Number 8, if particular products are important - and I can understand that some would be, is not completely right on. It certainly is true that all the products he mentioned in the article are extremely widely available in the UK and Europe.

We all have preferences. All the major brands of toothpaste, for example, are available just down the street from me at any of several supermarkets and pharmacies. I don't buy there though, I buy toothpaste every time I go to or through Switzerland at the Migros supermarkets because I prefer it.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14146 posts
  1. Women, N/A for western Europe
  2. Street food, N/A for western Europe
  3. Travelers cheques, true
  4. Pizza, who cares?
  5. Have you ever seen a "nothing planned" tour offered by Rick's or any other tour website? There is a reason.
  6. Facebook in China, who cares?
  7. Bringing more clothes means more weight to carry. Wash, you lazy ... .
  8. Stuff you know you'll need, yeah. Anything else, buy it over there, only IF you need it.
  9. Knife, you're kidding
  10. Deceptive. I no longer rely on anyone's guidebook, but, other than online train schedules, I find the information online before I go. Come to think of it, I usually have some alternative train schedules stored on my laptop when I go, just in case I don't have access to the Internet.
Posted by Devon
833 posts

Great advice Sarah. If you're a woman and picky about feminine supplies - like plastic vs cardboard vs no applicator - you may find what you need but you may not, so it can be better to bring your own. And man or woman, you should always do research on where you're going, whether in a group or alone - any general search of Saudi Arabia would describe the limitations on women there.

Overall I thought the article was good advice on the bad advice we hear. I laughed when I got to #9 (the knife one) because when I was traveling from Italy to Turkey I had a wine opener with the little "knife" on it in my purse. Security in Fiumicino caught it and asked me where I was going. When I said Turkey, he said "Okay," and handed it back to me. He apparently thought I needed protection!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7735 posts

The part about Facebook in China was spot-on as well. Was in Beijing week before last and it took all of five minutes to permanently bypass China's internet blocks. I'm sure the locals are experts as well.

...and the photo of the guide book "Climber's guide to the Shawangunks" refers to the mountains right here in my hometown of New Paltz NY. Fun fact if you don't know how to climb and the local volunteer fire dept. has to be called to rescue you (which happens every weekend) they're gonnna charge you about $1000 bucks for their services. I'm sure that's in the guidebook as well;)

Posted by Karen
508 posts

I agree with everything except number 8 as well. I usually only go for two weeks and it is just as easy to take the supplies I need for that amount of time. Also, you can always find the product, but not always the particular brand or version of things I use. Since the personal care supplies I use take minimal room in my luggage, I would much rather have the particular deodorant I use, contact solution I use, etc. than to have to spend time shopping and end up with a version that I don't think works as well for me. If I forget something-no worries, I'll buy it there, but otherwise I bring what I need.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11070 posts

2: Fine advice for most of Europe, malpratice for other parts of the world. "street food is arguably the most direct and inexpensive route to a country's identity". It can also be a very direct route to a country's emergency medical system. Yes, that Tony Bourdain axiom that street vendors would never wouldn't stay in business if they caused illness in with their clients is somewhat true. But most westerners simply don't have aquired immunity to some of the pathogenic strains of E. coli that the locals are resistant to.

10: Yes, use a guidebood, but don't become a slave to the advice, or rely on it for up-to-date information. For me, there's no better travel resources than Google Maps, Wikipedia and You're simply missing too much if you rely on only one guide series for all your travel recommendations.

PS: I just learned something about this website. Don't put a "#" sign next to a number, or the font of your response becomes huge.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1753 posts

Yeah - learned the hard way with #8 (which I disagree with). We now take the big bottle of contact lens solution instead of the little travel size - nothing like wasting a few hours wandering around Milan trying to figure out where to buy lens solution. And really, as a woman who uses maxi pads (and I'm sure the same goes for tampons) - they barely take up any room - you take em out of the bag and stuff them in the nooks and crannies - easy peasy! They weigh nothing...I'd rather have my toiletries from home that really don't take up much room in my carry-on, then waste time hunting it down. But is was interesting shopping for shaving cream for hubby...but everything else in the advice, I pretty much agree with.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5068 posts

On having "stuff" at hand, whether it's going over for 10 days or 10 weeks, I pack it, bring it, which is an entire check list....batteries, shaving creme, travel mirror, clock, umbrella, flash lights, bandaids, vitamins, 3x5 cards, shampoo, paper clips, extra tooth brushes, maps, spare toilet paper, travel books (not more than two), clothes and underclothes, razors, asprin, plastic knife, spoon, forks, insect repellant, and more . I don't want to waste time and money having to divert to a store buy "supplies", even though in Germany at the train stations that's easily done, still it's not necessary if you have it on hand. In the end, as along as all this "stuff" is under 30 lbs in that roller suitcase, it'll pass and doable for train travel.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Interesting article.

I think the travelers checks comments sort of dates it.

  1. Women should never travel alone - im not a female nor do i play one on TV. but if shes Laura Croft or Sam Carter, i dont see why she would to what she wants to do. I sure wouldnt tell her no.

  2. Don't eat the street food - that would depend on what for dinner.

3.Take traveller's cheques for emergencies - sorry, i use US green backs. But if thats all you have, it maybe better than nothing.

  1. Italy has the best pizza in the world - i call Bull hocky. "best" is sooo subjective and many people use "best" for everything.

  2. Plan everything/don't plan anything - thats the extremes. I guess theres no middle? People do what fits their needs/wants and such. ALso, its not to say they cant change their mind or way of doing things.

  3. You can't get on Facebook in China - i havent been there, yet so i dont know. also, since i dont FB, its not important to me.

  4. Bringing more clothes means less laundry - i can see this being true for "less frequently". Also, who says you have to do laundry. you may not have many friends after 2 or 3 weeks w/o laundry, but it may work for the better.

  5. Bring enough contact lens solution/sun block/tampons/over-the-counter medicine for the entire trip. - this i have to do since im taking prescriptions for the first time in my life - getting old sucks. I know i can get what i need probably anywhere i travel with some exceptions, but i prefer to "have and not need than need and not have". also, my prescription bottle is smaller than one of my BMs.

  6. Bring a knife for protection when you travel to [REDACTED] - if its required for entry into a place im all for sharp and pretty accouterments. if i had to use one, i would rather not.

  7. Don't bother with a guide, you can find whatever information you need online - this will depend. When i look at posts i always try to find a date it was posted so i know how current it is. Also, the world is dynamic and is always changing. so what is current today, may not be tomorrow.

i think there are some points to examine, but maybe in 10 years, it maybe out of date or more spot on.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11070 posts

Oh, I missed the part where he says that internet information may be irrelevant or out of date. Coming from someone who contributes to Lonely Planet... Pot, meet Kettle. Some Lonely Planet editions go several years before they're EVEN PROOFREAD, much less re-researched.

My favorite example. I was reading the 2010 Lonely Planet Benelux edition. It noted that the Rijksmuseum was scheduled to begin rennovations "sometime in 2007". Did they even read their own text before slapping a new cover on it?

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1549 posts

Ken, thanks for the great read and laughs; Kim, hahahaha! Thank you too! The Helpline, as always, is a great way to start my day with a cup of coffee!

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Generally great advice all the way around.

I will say that the health products you use every day aren’t always widely available or cheaper, though. For example, try finding deodorant anywhere in a big Asian city. Even the local equivalent of Wal-Mart won’t normally have any, and if they do, it will cost you $8-$9. Even if you go to the international part of town where western stuff may be found, it will still be $8-$9. You may wish to leave home with a new stick. :)

And it’s also true that women aren’t normally going to want to leave something like the make-up kit at home and shop locally for these things when they arrive…too expensive and time consuming & make-up is such a personal thing (although he doesn't address this one specifically).

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

There are many places I won't drink the water; Western Europe isn't one of them.

I prefer street food. If you're going to get sick, it's going to be on uncooked food - like salads. As long as it's cooked and still hot, you're good to eat it.

We took our kids on trips by bus in Mexico. My whole family was grossed out at some of the street food I ate (they're picky), I never got sick because I followed the rule to eat cooked food that is kept well-warmed.

The less I pack the happier I am. I've had some less than pleasurably experiences finding and doing laundry, but those are the exception not the rule.

I do carry a swiss-army knife when I travel - not for protection but for the flexible options (cork screw, scissors, tweezers, blade to cut bread/cheese/meat, etc.)

Posted by Rosalyn
1777 posts

I've gone on at length, in the past, about bringing my own otc meds, etc, so I'll just say that I'm firmly in the camp of bringing what I think I might need. As to plan/don't, I'm also firmly in the "do" camp. We usually travel in shoulder season, which is becoming more and more a preferred time for those not constricted by school schedules. I don't want to spend any of my precious vacation time searching for lodgings.

Guidebooks: yes, of course they're subject to being out of date because of the nature of the medium. I've never used LP, but I think RS is a big sinner in this respect. After staying in a couple of his recommended lodgings, all I could think was, " how many years have passed since he rechecked this one?" Ditto when we searched for restaurants that had gone out of business. Using Tripadvisor and reviews gives me better, more recent info in these categories.
To me the value of a good guidebook is that it acquaints me with possibilities I wouldn't otherwise know about. Some of our most delightful travel experiences have come from visiting places we knew about only because they were mentioned in a guide, Cadogans being the ones we prefer, but Insight Guides are good, too. I still check on line for current info on opening times, closures due to renovation, etc.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5068 posts

I've seen people carrying around Lonely Planet in Europe, we've all seen that as well as the famous blue books. I carry a guide book, only one now, Rough Guide, used to be two: Let's Go and Rough Guide.

Posted by Kim
1605 posts

I love guidebooks (Cadogans and Rough Guide being perennial favorites of mine, although I haven't bought a Rough Guide since they updated their format a couple of years ago, so can't vouch for them in their current iteration) for being able to see the whole picture at once, putting a place in context, seeing how it relates to other places.

Posted by christa
alameda, ca, usa
585 posts

As a woman who travels alone, I do a good amount of research on the places I want to go, to get a sense of how comfortable I'd be. This year I'm traveling from Vienna to Budapest via train, and yes, I've read up on what to expect. I bring a small RS guidebook. I make an itinerary for each day because some things only happen or are open on certain days, but I always allow plenty of free time for wandering and things I discover en route. Obviously I book hotels in advance. I do bring a well-stocked toiletry bag (that doesn't mean enormous), because I don't want to waste time looking for stuff--if I wake up at 3 am with stomach distress, why be miserable until stores open in the morning?