The Odyssey
Tony's Travel Tips


Get Ready for 2023
    A new year is coming and it looks a lot better than the conditions we faced a year ago. With the Coronavirus vaccination and the removal of the mask wearing and social distancing, many of us see this coming year as a new beginning. Now that we've been able to get around people again, we look at the past year as the year we finally got back into our so-called groove.

     The new year is looming before us, and whether it's by losing weight, improving our health, changing our appearance, improving our living conditions, or better educating ourselves, we try preparing ourselves for it. And that includes travel and visiting distant friends and relatives if your year includes planning trips in the New Year as well. Now is the time to look at your travel gear (suitcases, backpacks, cameras, travel documents, etc.) and determine their condition.  Now! Not three days before your planned departure. This is the time to make sure your gear and equipment are in top-notch shape. 

Your Luggage: The most important single piece of equipment is your luggage.  Since it hasn't seen any attention in the past few months (or years), pull it out of storage and give the outside a thorough cleaning.  Check it for tears (if it is canvas), of scuff marks (if it is plastic).  Give it a good cleaning and make sure all zippers and clasps work properly.  If there is any damage, have it fixed now while the wait time to get it done is minimal. Don't try fixing your luggage yourself (unless that's your profession); you may make things worse. And don't rely on duct tape. 

     Open your luggage and check the insides.  Again, give it a thorough cleaning.  Those insect eggs that stowed away in the corner should have hatched by now, so clean out any dead bodies and other waste materials you may find.  If you find receipts and ticket stubs that you want to keep as souvenirs, remove them and place them in your scrapbook.

     Usually all you will need to do is give it a good vacuuming and wipe the insides down with a damp cloth.  Leave it open for an hour or two to make sure it dries properly.  If it has rips or tears that need repair, get it to a luggage repair facility.  Any city with a major airport should have one or you can search the web to locate the closest one to you. Some shoe repair shops can fix certain luggage problems too, so give them a call if there is no luggage repair shop in your town.

     Before you put your suitcase in storage again for what may be months, throw a few cedar chips and inside your luggage.  Place them in a cheesecloth bag to keep them contained.  They will prevent any little critters from making your travel gear their nest, and it won't smell bad either.  (Remember, the last things you packed were probably dirty clothes, socks, and underwear.) 

     Repeat this procedure with all your luggage, including your camera bag and carrying case for your computer.

Your Travel Documents: The most important things you pack on you trip are your travel documents; your passport, vaccination records, packing check-list, etc. If you pack a passport, make sure it is not about to expire! You may need to renew it before your travel adventure. You could be denied boarding a cruise ship or entering a foreign country if you travel with a passport that may expire in the middle of your journey. Or your return trip could be delayed for any number of reasons (including the outbreak of a new variant of the virus) that prevents your return on the date you expected.

     Another document you'll want to take with you is your vaccination record that shows you are current on you Covid immunization. Countries will shut their borders to travelers who are not properly immunized. Even if you stay in your homeland, you will want to make sure that you don't spread or bring back the virus. Travel safe and travel smart; talk to your doctor, get the booster shot, and make sure you can stay healthy during your travels. Make copies of your vaccination certificate. Take one copy and the original with you, and leave the second copy in a safe place at home. If you lose the original, you still have proof of immunization readily available.

     Finally, if you know where you are going and when you plan to travel, find out if a travel visa is required. In these days of political uncertainty, countries may require a visa to cross their border when there was no need for one before. Make sure you verify the need and make your application well before your departure date. Do not expect to purchase your visa when you arrive at your destination. Your flight may be delayed for any number of reasons, and by the time you arrive, you may find that the visa desk at customs entry is closed for the day. Get your visa at least a month before your intended departure.

Your Camera: I cannot think of any serious traveler who does not have a camera (not an I-phone, but a real camera).  Now that you are going to give it a rest for a few months, consider giving it a good cleaning.  If it has been in a harsh environment with lots of sand or salt water, you may consider taking it in to a camera shop and giving it a professional cleaning.  This is something you should do every two or three years anyway (especially if it gets a lot of use). 

     If it doesn't need a major cleaning, you can to the job yourself.  Look at your latest images on your computer monitor.  Are there black spots or light grey blobs in your image?  Do they occur at the same location across multiple images?  If so, there is probably dust on your lenses or camera sensor.  If it is the sensor, get yourself a proper sensor cleaning kit from a good camera shop and give it a good cleaning.  Make sure you have a good hand blower (a rubber squeeze bulb with a long snout; don't use the small blower with the camel-hair brush), and read your camera owner's manual for proper directions on how to clean your sensor.  Whatever you do, do not use the canned air that you commonly use to blow out dust from your computer!  This can damage your camera's sensor.

Your Clothes:  These next few months are the time of sales.  Replace whatever clothing you need for any upcoming trips.  If you need new walking shoes, get them now and break them in before your journey.  Your feet will probably be your primary mode of transportation, so keep them healthy and comfortable.  Look at clothes that you may want to throw away in a couple of months and consider setting them aside to take with you on your trip.  If they are in relatively good condition you can wear them on the outward leg of your trip and dispose of them as you travel.  This makes packing for your return trip home that much easier.

     Check the price of clothing at your destination.  If you find apparel is less expensive at your destination, then consider shopping there instead.  Then you'll pack even less and have a lighter load to carry with you.  Regardless of where you purchase your clothes, make sure that they are easy to clean and care for. 

Put It Away: After you've completed your pre-travel work, store it someplace where you can get easy access to it all.  There is nothing worse than not being able to remember where you stashed away something you planned to take with you on your journey.  And, when you are ready to finally pack your gear, you won't have to deal with any last minute emergency (and possibly expensive) fixes.