Globetrotting 101 – Part 3 by Elaine Lee

The Devil is in the Details.

Once I settled on a route, I started getting in touch with friends and friends of friends in my destinations, as well as contacts I made through cultural exchange and homestay organizations.
In places where I didn’t have a homestay or personal recommendations, I relied on guidebooks, tripadvisor or the internet. I did not make hotel reservations in advance because I didn’t want to be tied down to specific dates and I also wanted to see the places before I agreed to stay there. It really helped to read at least two different guidebooks for each major destination, but since they are cumbersome to carry, I consolidated by writing notes from one into the other or I just tore out the parts I wanted. I mailed books for later destinations to myself via an American Express office or a friend in the preceding country. Sometimes you can also find the books you want in used bookshops, or trade with travelers going in the opposite direction.

Three months before my departure, I made sure all of my travel documents were in order. I renewed my passport, having learned the hard way on a previous trip that several countries do not permit entry with a “soon to expire” (within six months) passport. Dealing with your passport and visa paperwork early allows you to avoid paying hefty charges to speed the process if you’re doing it last minute.
Two months prior to departure, I contacted my local health department’s immunization division for information about required medications or precautions for each of the countries I planned to visit. I took malaria pills with me just in case but followed Bill Dalton’s advice in The Indonesia Handbook and never took them as a preventive measure for fear of getting sick unnecessarily.

I consulted Consumer Reports for the best companies to use for travel insurance and settled on Travel Guard International, Inc. I purchased their deluxe plan, which cost me $243 and included insurance for trip cancellation, $5,000 for medical insurance, $500 for lost baggage, and $50,000 for life insurance. (These days, a standard plan for a trip like I took runs about $250 and deluxe is about $500). Another good choice is Travelers’ Emergency Network (TEN).

Excerpt from “Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Book of Travel & Adventure.”