Top Ten Travel Tips You’ve Never Heard

1. Make sure your suitcase is within your lifting capabilities. There is nothing worse than heaving and grunting under excess weight, the suitcase’s not the owner’s. My problem is that I am such an expert at rolling and bagging all of my clothes that I can fit in twice as much as I should. The items might fit but it makes for a suitcase I cannot lift from the airport baggage carousel, cannot lift onto the bus or lift onto any surface for unpacking. My husband dropped it on his foot trying to hoist it out of the trunk of the car and had trouble walking for days.

2. Never read “What to Pack” lists. They inevitably suggest an item or two that you never would have thought to bring. Now I absolutely need a bandana, inflatable hangers and a universal sink stopper! (See I have never removed an item from my list after reading these helpful aids.

3. Do not accept the little gift packs some airlines give you. It’s free, I know, but takes up unplanned space. Who needs flimsy earplugs and extra eye masks? Be tough. Just say no.


4. Bring a book you don’t mind leaving behind. Never bring a library book. Not only will you have to take good care of it but you will have to lug it back home. A cheap paperback you can leave behind is your best bet. You can even join and perhaps see who picks it up.

5. This tip is mostly for men but can apply to women. Do not bring all of your shirts (tops) in the same shade. Blue is nice but no one will notice that one has micro stripes in red or that the other has tiny checks in grey. It all looks the same in a picture. Vary the colour scheme. And, please remind me to read this pointer to my husband on the next trip.


 6. Never try to crack a joke with either a border guard or a French waiter. Both are humourless and can make your life miserable.

 7. Never promise any one back home a specific souvenir. I looked all over South-western France for the perfect scarf for my mother. I could not find one the right colour, size, price or fabric.  I came back with a bracelet.


 8. Never have raw oysters on an empty stomach and a half-hour before going for a boat ride on choppy waters.

Dune de Pyla

9. If you have a rental car that is manual, please try out every manoeuvre before heading down the highway. At our first pit stop, we couldn’t figure out how to go in reverse, i.e. get out of the parking spot. Thanks to a kind Spanish tourist, and my smattering of Spanish, we managed to learn how to go backwards in France.

10. Finally, here is the last and the most important tip: put your house keys in a safe and reachable place. Do not throw them recklessly at the bottom of the largest suitcase and then forget about them. The worse place to think about how to enter your house is when you are in a taxi, five minutes away. Leaning into the trunk of the taxi, searching through suitcases while your husband holds the umbrella over your backside, is not the best way to end a vacation. Fighting about who has, or had, the keys is not pleasant either. The only one who gets a good story and laugh out of this experience is the taxi driver. Oh yes, it’s also very expensive to drive across the city to go to that someone’s house who has a set of your keys.

Questions: will you remove one item from your list after reading this?

Do you have a secret tip you are willing to share with us?

© barbara bunce-photos

19 thoughts on “Top Ten Travel Tips You’ve Never Heard

  1. I won’t be removing anything from my packing list, because it’s already pared down to the minimum, but I think these tips are great.

    I have one to add: Always bring a small zippered case containing a scissors, boot laces (they’re longer and stronger than regular shoelaces), and several extra large safety pins. The laces can tie back a curtain that won’t stay open; the safety pins can hold the edges of one that won’t stay closed.

  2. Great tips, Barbara!

    I can SO relate to tip #1. Last fall while in Europe, we had tremendous difficulty running for trains with our heavy luggage, trying to heave said heavy luggage onto the trains and stow in the appropriate places — with no assistance from the staff. Even in First Class!

    One tip I’d like to add is to always pack an umbrella in the front pouch of your suitcase so that you can grab it easily if req’d. I was surprised when our visitors from BC came to Manitoba without umbrellas! They thought they were coming to “sunny MB” but we (and almost every place on the planet) get rain, too!

    Glad you had a great trip, and thanks for sharing it with us.


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  4. Barbara – love your tips and I have one – learned the hard way – to share: Never ever rent a stick shift car in a country where they drive on the left unless you are ambidextrous. I spent the better part of the morning in a roundabout before leaving the environs of Heathrow.

  5. Here’s another one:
    – Never bring a clementine in your briefcase across the border to the USA without declaring fruit on the customs card. Almost had my Nexus account revoked!

  6. I unfortunately disagree in part with #3. Flying 80,000+ miles per year, disposable mini-toothbrushes come in handy, as do the travel socks & moisturizers. One year Air Canada had these wonderful socks with nylon undersoles – perfect for walking around the cabin.

    Air Canada’s “Deservingly Thyme” series of business-class goodies is usually nice. The “soothing temple balm” sounds corny, but relaxing. I hear that Etihad Airways has a killer gift-bag.

  7. Thank you for the tips, and the laughs. As the wife of a man with many blue shirts, I agree wholeheartedly, but will still need to argue this point on our next vacation.
    Also agree with tip #4; I left a wonderful paperback in Maui this summer, but then promptly bought two for the plane trip home. So much for trying to lighten the suitcase!
    Sir Thomas: am also guilty of a clementine fiasco at the US border. Never again…

  8. I look at travel packing like playing a game of Tetris. I especially agree about the key tip. Though, I prefer to pack my keys elsewhere. One tip I like to do is go the backpacker route. It helps you to focus on what’s important. Usually, unless you’re going somewhere really exotic, you should be able to find what you need.

  9. Going next week to japan, Tokyo and Kyoto; maybe will have some interesting tips!! Thanks Barbara for your top ten list of travel. I loved the last one: My last day from some trip, paking my suitcase, I became completely mad because I just couldn’t find my home keys…… The only place I wasn’t looking for….. was in the suitcase….. at the far bottom…….

  10. A wonderful post!
    In regards to renting cars, I’ve found that it can be less expensive to buy a GPS in a country than to rent a GPS with the rental car, especially if I or someone I know may be heading back to that country. I just need directions to the nearest gadget store to buy one, and then I’m good to go!
    Carol Margolis

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  14. The gift packs are awesome. If you forget a gift overseas, just give them an airline gift pack. Too easy :-)
    Great list!

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