Traveling abroad? Don’t leave home without these items

On a trip to Thailand not long ago, hubby and I went to an ATM to get cash. We knew there were approximately thirty Thai baht to the U.S. dollar, but as we stood in front of the ATM, we went brain dead. The machine gave us options of withdrawing 1,000, 3,000, or 5,000 baht.

One thousand baht? Five thousand? We’d never withdrawn 1,000 anything from an ATM. We punched in “other” and withdrew 300 baht for a fee of about $6 U.S. After the ATM spit out our money, our brain function returned and we did the math.

We’d just paid $6 to withdraw the equivalent of $10 US!

The need for a quick monetary comparison when traveling is why we carry a pocket-sized “cheat sheet” that gives us currency conversions for some standard denominations ($1, $5, $10, $50, $100, etc.). We use an online site and print out a copy to carry with us when we travel. A calculator is handy and recommended, but the cheat sheet works better when you’re in a rush. The site we use for the cheat sheet is: 

 http://www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates

During our travels we’ve found these other simple items to be useful:  

  • A magnifying glass – A must for reading maps in foreign languages that are printed in type small enough to be contained on the head of a pin.
  • A handheld scale to weigh luggage – You know what your suitcase weighs when you leave for a trip, but what does it weigh when you’re ready to return home after you purchased all those souvenirs? Excess baggage fees are quite hefty.
  • A lightweight tape measure – Useful to determine if souvenirs will fit in your suitcase or to see if that handmade lace tablecloth is the right size for your table!
  • A few spare envelopes – Hotels often have them, but you can’t count on it. Envelopes are handy for storing receipts, business cards, tickets and small trinkets you want to keep track of. Tip we learned the hard way: if you collect foreign money, don’t put the bills in an envelope, label it “money” and put it in your suitcase. It may not be there when you get home.
  • Ziplock bags – Good for storing things that have gotten wet or dirty, keeping track of small  items you buy or collect on the trip, or packing a lunch to go.
  • A bath “scrubbie” – People mark their luggage in various ways so they can easily identify their bags, but one thing that works especially well are those nylon bath scrubbies. They come in a variety of colors.

Finally, if you send postcards, send one to yourself! You’ll have a stamped memento of your trip AND you’ll know when the folks at home start to receive them. We started doing this after a trip to China when no one we sent a card to received it.

What items have you found useful when traveling?

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1 Response to Traveling abroad? Don’t leave home without these items

  1. Thanks so much for this list! I put envelopes and the scale on the list for RWA.

    I did exactly the same thing at the ATM in Hong Kong, and ended up with enough money to buy myself lunch, and that was about it. 😉

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