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Some travel tips from yours truly

Technology has made travel a bit more efficient. I know we're all jonesing to get out there and travel, so here are some pro-tips and great apps I like:

1. Not everyone speaks English

I find it's a good practice to learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you're visiting. Contrary to what people might tell you, making a slight effort goes a long way I've found.

I usually create a "cheat sheet" of key phases in the notes section of my iPhone. IE "My address is ... " or "are you sure this is the most direct route" (for us know it all NYer types).

These days there are so many translation apps, technology is here to help us while traveling and attempting to communicate.

Lifewire recently ran an article on their favorite translation apps I thought I would share....

2. Plan for trouble

My philosophy is to travel care-free, but there are a few tips I'd like to share. I'm shocked I never hear this info on more "pro" travel blogs:

One of the worst things that can happen while you travel abroad is losing your passport or having it stolen.

If you travel a lot , you should have two passports. Make sure your passport has more than 6 months until expiration.

A lot of countries will allow you to have a shorter term passport as a secondary. Obviously don't carry them together, store separately. For US Citizens, here is a link to the state department's instructions to obtain one.

I typically use a service in NY called Passports Plus, and would recommend them. They are also helpful if you need a rush on a renewal.

The other tip is always carry 4x passport photos with you, and a completed passport application form. Keep the US Embassy or consulate numbers in your phone.

Time is everything, and if you've lost your passport , the last thing you want to do is take the time to find a place to get photos etc.

Photos come in handy. For instance US or EU tourists arriving in Cambodia are required to fill out a visa upon arrival and include a photo. They'll let you in without one, but charge you a fee. I had a spare in my laptop bag and it helped speed my arrival up.

I also recommend keeping scans of your passport, credit cards (front and back), birth certificate and driver license in dropbox or another place you can access remotely from any computer. Should you encounter a lost or stolen wallet, this could come in handy.

The other trouble of course is fight delays or cancellations. Especially if you are making international connections, never book the last flight out , and have a knowledge of what other options are available should you need rebooking. Call the re-book number (you can find these "secret" lines on a lot of frequent flyer blogs), rather than waiting in line at the airport.

We missed a return from Costa Rica to Germany a few years ago. We found a route on partners airlines and called the re-book number. While the rest of the flight's passengers were piled up around one over-worked gate agent, we were walking to the gate to get our re-booked flight. They agent we spoke to on the phone was helpful and told us it made a difference that we had the flight times and numbers ready, on one connection we got the last two seats. The airport desk agent had all our boarding passes printed by the time we got to the new gate.

3. Walk the city like a local

Any traveler will tell you they've stumbled onto some of their favorite places by getting lost in a city. That's part of the fun.

To get myself around in a new city, I rely on an app called City Mapper. This app generally works with live timing, so you know when the next bus, subway , ubahn, metro whatever is arriving and can estimate your arrival time. It integrates data for all urban modes of transport, including walking, cycling and driving, in addition to public transport.

The other tip is to download the app for the public transport in the city you're going to. Often you can purchase tickets on the app and avoid queues at tube stops this way.

Book a street-art tour! The first time we visited Cartagena, our friends brooked a street art tour. It was great way to view the city, and I would recommend this when you travel to larger cities.

4. Misc

- Download a currency converter application. I like the app Currency Convert.

-Pack what you can carry. The first time I went on tour, this was the best advice I got.

-US Citizens should sign up for updates from your embassy in the Countries you will be visiting. Other countries offer similar for their citizens.

- Do your homework! Are there national holidays that might impact your travel? Dress codes at museums or other sites you need to abide by?

-If you're not a savvy traveler and you're doing a "big" trip, use a travel agent. Even for savvy travellers, there are benefits to using a travel agent. When we went to South Africa, it was so overwhelming to plan, and we didn't want to miss anything. Our agent got us free room upgrades, complimentary drinks, and also tipped us off to things we would have never discovered reading lonely planet, and certainly not on travel youtube blogs. If you're looking for a great travel agent,I suggest you email my UK based friend Sarah Freeman on sarah.freeman@travelcounsellors.com.

Hopefully these are useful, and wishing you safe & happy travels.

Photos: Michael Kronberg

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