Travel Tips

20 Apr

With a new wave of travelers on the horizon, I wanted to share a few tips that made our life on the road easier. This is not really a “pack list” but more of a collection of helpful ideas, that may or may not be helpful to you. Everyone’s experience on the road is different but hopefully these gems will make your experience the best possible.

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General living
Document your days. I cannot stress this enough. I created a simple excel spreadsheet and wrote every day: where we ended for the night, the route we took to get there, how much we spent, a brief description of what we did, what we paid to camp and any exceptional circumstance we encountered. It takes 5 minutes to do. Not only does it keep you mindful of expenses, it was really fun for us to go back and see where we were 6 months earlier. And years from now, we’ll have this awesome list of everything we did.

Pack light and minimally. You can find anything on the road you forgot (clothes, sunglasses, kitchen items…) unless you like a very specific shimmering silky body wash (ahem).

Use quick dry camping towels. Real towels get smelly really fast. All 3 we had kinda sucked but the Aquis Adventure Microfiber Towel lasted the longest. Buy a few varieties before your trip and test which you like best. They are all really different with varying textures. And pricey.

Be a smart shopper. Grocery store prices south of the border are higher than the open air markets, mainly because you can’t barter. Produce was often better at the markets too. Bring a calculator (or your cell phone) into the store and do the math–a lot of times it’s cheaper to buy 24 individual cans of beer than 2 12 packs (stupid packaging).

The first few months south of the border were spent filling our water tanks with purified water. That proved to be both annoying and difficult because the purification centers were usually on tight one way streets. We quickly learned that the easiest place to fill up our water tanks are at a gas station or fire station. Fire stations typically had good drinking water.
Banking
Budget $100 a day but you’ll spend a bit more in the U.S. and less south of the border.

Find a bank that reimburses you for ATM fees, as you will accumulate a ton of fees living on the road. We banked with Charles Schwab. A person always answered our calls, it’s very easy to deposit with the mobile app and just all around a great bank. We were reimbursed hundreds of dollars in ATM fees over the course of our adventure.

Because ATMs south of the border are unreliable (they aren’t in every town or out of cash, especially on holidays or max you out after 2 transactions), keep about $400 cash on hand, but not on your person, in case of emergencies. No one takes checks.

Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. We used Capital One and got cash back for our purchases.
Safety
Make a copy of everything important from your passport to credit cards and hide them. If you are privileged enough to be pulled over, NEVER present your original documents. That’s just setting you up to have to pay a bribe to get it back. Always give a copy (or say you lost it or left it somewhere a few towns away).
Techie
Get an unlocked iPhone, download the iOverlander app, and thank me later. You really can’t beat the ease of an iPhone on a trip like this. iOverlander was created by fellow travelers Song of the Road and tested by yours truly, among others. It is a map database with camping locations and other helpful landmarks GPS marked. Some other useful apps were Whatsapp (free, text over data so you can text any phone number in any country), magicJack (another free app that uses data and allows you to call the US for free, worked much better than Skype calls), Google earth and Google translate. With the cell, just load local SIM cards (about $2) when you arrive in a new country.

A wifi extender is a must! We had the Alfa extender and it worked fabulously at grabbing a far away wifi signal.

Put all your movies on a hard drive (DVDs take up so much space). The drive also is key at backing up your travel pictures. We bought a 1T hard drive before we left and that was plenty of space for our thousands of pictures and hundreds of movie, music and tv files.

Bring a small thumb drive to easily grab movies from a friend’s computer to yours. Because not everyone has a Mac (oddly enough).

I am a huge fan of my Kindle. While Hani is partial to paper books, they really just take up so much space. A Kindle or eReader is much more practical and an easy way to store guide books. Except the Church and Church Guide to Camping in Mexico. That book is a must for Mexican camping. And paper maps if you are lucky to find good ones. We didn’t.

Get a good camera and learn how to use it BEFORE you go.

Now you are all set! Happy travels!

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3 Responses to “Travel Tips”

  1. Van Nomads April 20, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    Very helpful! I didn’t even know that banks that reimbursed you for ATM fees existed.

  2. this abundant life April 20, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    These are really great tips. I would have never thought to give copies if you get pulled over. Very smart, thanks!

  3. John Fazio (John & Mandi) April 21, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    We were fortunate enough to get these recommendations in person. I wasn’t sold on ripping our DVDs to an external hard drive due to how much time I thought it would take. The space savings and ease of use are just two of the benefits, I’m glad I listened and didn’t just shrug this off, great job counselor. Having all of our movies and TV shows in mp4 makes it really easy to move on and off our iPad for viewing, the iPad uses a fraction of the power a laptop does. We didn’t load them all into iTunes, we have a separate external drive for them. We have another external drive we back everything up to.

    Your brain dump has been one of the most valuable things we have received so far!

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