9 BRING A POCKET CAMERA. When I travel, I always bring a pocket camera. These small cameras are unobtrusive, create stunning images, and allow a lot of control. Thieves are less likely to be interested in a point-and-shoot than a $5,000 SLR.
If I'm shooting in a very busy market or a place where subtlety is required, I use my Nikon P7000. This attracts a lot less attention, and allows me to get closer to shy subjects. Many pocket cameras have no shutter noise, making this camera more stealthy. I really enjoy taking my pocket camera out for dining. I don't want to bring my big SLR with me to dinner, but I still want to have a camera to capture those unexpected moments.
10 COMMUNICATING ABROAD. Today, the world is a much smaller place due to improved communication and infrastructure. I can download images to Facebook of my fine Italian meal in Tuscany, and people can see the pasta before I even finish eating it! Communicating while abroad is critical to facilitating your trip, staying in touch and dealing with emergencies.
You have three basic choices to communicate while on your trip. One option is to use your existing phone. I'm an iPhone user and have an international plan in place. For most countries I visit, I simply turn on my phone, let it find the local network, and I'm ready to go. I need to use the appropriate country codes, but these are simple to add to the number.
If my phone won't work on the local network, then another option is to buy a local cell phone. Buying a local phone with a set amount of usage minutes can be cheaper than using your existing phone with long-distance rates.
What if you're going into a remote region with no phone service? Then you need to rent or buy a satellite phone. I use an Iridium (www.iridium.com) satellite phone. I can be photographing caribou in the Brooks Range of Alaska while talking with my family at home in Colorado. Sat phones work great, as long as they can get unobstructed views to satellites overhead. I buy a set amount of minutes before my trip. Using sat phones is expensive, but being able to communicate when you're off the grid is worth every penny.
11 GET THE RIGHT PLUG ADAPTER AND TRANSFORMER. I'll never forget traveling to St. Vincent in the Caribbean. We were staying at a "rustic" hotel with dubious electrical power. I had checked before leaving, and found that not only did I need a plug adapter to use my computer, but I also needed a transformer for the high voltage.
I plugged in both the transformer and plug adapter, and things worked great, but a workshop participant plugged in her laptop with only a plug adapter, and the computer got fried. Another lesson learned—always check the plug configuration and voltage of the country you're visiting.
Many countries have power that stays within the normal 120-220 volts, and all you need is a plug adapter, but some countries may require a transformer, as well. I check the Global Electric and Phone Directory (www.kropla.com) to see what I need to power up my batteries and computer at my destination.