We caught up with seasoned travel writer Jeanine Barone to learn more about her savvy skills when it comes to preparing for a trip, flying, sleeping, staying safe, traveling via train, car or boat and utilizing the myriad gadgets and hi-tech clothing that only a gear head could know about.
Whether you’re a newbie traveler, or someone who has seen much of the world, Jeanine’s new e-book, The Travel Authority: Essential Tips for Hassle-Free Travel, is THE resource to have. Just shy of $3.00, this handy book of tips can be downloaded to your e-reader, smartphone or computer. As you’ll learn in the interview below, Jeanine has been involved in almost every unimaginable, unpleasant travel mishap, which is probably why she doesn’t miss a beat in her Essential Tips for Hassle-Free Travel.
Culture-ist: After reading The Travel Authority: Essential Tips for Hassle-Free Travel, I’m quite sure that there is no better travel tips resource that is as compact and easy to navigate as this clever e-book. How did you manage to comprise such a thorough resource for travelers?
Barone: I thought about all my many trips, both domestic and international, and all the myriad unpleasant surprises that occurred and how I could prevent them. For example, in Tunis, I suddenly woke up one night in the wee hours of the morning to find a stranger in my hotel room. Yikes. (Luckily, he fled after I began screaming.) I contracted Giardia in Agadir, Morocco; had my passport, money, credit cards and driver’s license stolen in Madrid after a faux bird poop scam; and found out that no one took the American Express card (the only card I brought with me) on one island in Turkey where I planned to spend four days. Most of my tips come from these personal experiences. I’m also a gear head. I love checking out new high-tech clothes that’ll keep me dry and warm, as well as all manner of gadgets. That’s how I found out about the SteriPEN, a device that uses UV light to sterilize water. (Perfect when you’re traveling to developing countries.) And then I also did tons of research and reporting. I also have a medical background and that’s why the health and safety section is so extensive.
Culture-ist: Approximately how many countries have you traveled to?
Barone: I’ve traveled to around 55 or so countries so far. There are four countries that are specialties of mine and I return to these again and again: Spain, Portugal, Israel and Iceland.
Culture-ist: Top five savvy packing tips?
“¢ Pick one color palette for your clothes and stick with that. As a New Yorker, I’m all about wearing black. And when I travel, wearing black makes it easier to mix and match and then I just bring along a colorful cardigan, scarf and a belt as accent items.
“¢ Choose light, quick-drying clothing like those made by companies such as Nau or Ex Officio. For example, I have a Nau dress (the Chrysalis) that packs extremely tiny and its water repellent! And, the sleeves snap off. So this one item acts as a shell when it’s windy, a long-sleeve dress or a sleeveless dress with a hoodie.
“¢ Bring items that can serve many purposes. For example, I always carry along a Buff that becomes a cap, headband, neckband, balaclava (perfect if I’m in a snow storm), and much more. Another item, the Versalette, looks like a wide tube scarf but it becomes 20 different items of clothing! That’s what savvy packing is all about.
“¢ Instead of carrying along a lot of bottles with shampoo, conditioner, or body wash, bring thin sheets of these and other toiletry items. (They dissolve when you add water.) You can find these products at Travelon.
“¢ Most women have a thing about shoes, but I don’t. Toting more than two or at most three pairs of shoes (including the one you’re wearing) wastes a lot of space in your luggage. I wear my bulkiest shoes on the plane and then I pack only one other pair, usually a Mary Jane-type that lays flat or can roll up. If I’m heading for a destination with nice weather, I usually wear a Chaco Toe Loop sandal on the plane. (It works great on the beach, urban streets, light hiking trails, and even a kayaking trip.)
Culture-ist: Three items you never travel without?
“¢ My tiny Victorinox wallet that attaches to my belt. And once I’ve pulled my shirt, cardigan or jacket over it, you’d never know that I have all my valuables in this little wallet.
“¢ Mary Jane-type shoes by Keen. This is the only pair of shoes I pack because they pack super small, look good at night, can be worn in the health club, but they also are good for walking around town.
“¢ A pair of Mountain Hardwear pedal pusher pants — they’re like loose-fitting capri pants. They’re made of a quick-drying, water-repellant material. I wear them on the plane because they’re comfortable for long flights and they have hidden pockets where I can keep my passport when I’m at the airport, as well as credit cards and cash. I wear them over black leggings if it’s chilly or if I need to dress conservatively. They’re great for walking around town or for bicycling or hiking trips because of its sweat-wicking ability.
Culture-ist: Which “essential tips” would you advise travelers to read before a long flight (10+ hours) that will help mitigate jet lag and health concerns?
Barone: Preventing jetlag is complicated and depends on so many variables, including whether you’re flying East or West, how long you’ll be staying at your destination and whether you’re a morning or night person. The easiest thing you can do is to immediately set your watch to the time of your destination. That means if it’s 1 a.m. at your destination, you should go to sleep rather than sitting up eating dinner and watching movies. Things you can do to stay healthy during long flights include drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, taking time to do exercises that require you getting you out of your seat — try doing toe raises or quarter squats or just walking — every hour. (This can reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs because of long hours of sitting.) Another thing you can do, if you can tolerate and are able to take aspirin, is to take a baby aspirin before you take off.
Culture-ist: We love that parts of your e-book covers essential travel tips for women. As a woman who is constantly on the road and in the air, what is your biggest concern when traveling solo?
Barone: I’m most concerned about getting into any uncomfortable person-to-person situations, whether in a bar, on a dark street or even in a hotel hallway. I go to bars and clubs and I walk down dark streets alone often when I’m traveling by myself. But, as a native New Yorker, I have pretty well honed street smarts. So I’m always aware of my surroundings and I try to anticipate any trouble. For example, I was walking on a path in a park in Athens when I heard some very raised voices along this path. As I got a few yards away, it looked like a fight was going to break out. So I veered way off my path to avoid this. After I was past, I looked back to see punches flying. I also always dress culturally correct so that I don’t attract unwanted attention. When I knew I’d be walking through a very traditional part of Turkey one summer day, I made sure to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeve shirt that wasn’t low cut. (These garments were all made of light material so I was comfortable yet I presented a reserved appearance.) I rarely carry a purse because I find it often becomes a target for pickpockets. Instead, I wear a very cool scarf (a light one in summer) that has hidden pockets. When I’m near the door to my accommodation, I always look around before I put the key in the door to see who’s around me. If there’s someone I perceive as suspicious, I might walk past my door until they’re gone. When I’m at a bar alone, I never drink to excess because I want to be well aware of my surroundings. I also never let my drink sit unattended because — ok, let’s face it, I’m the suspicious type — you never know if someone might put something in the glass. Finally, I believe you need to trust your instincts.
Culture-ist: We know that you’re always thinking up new and inventive ways to make traveling more enjoyable, safe and efficient, so what is the best way to keep abreast of your latest tips?
Barone: Anything cool or new I discover can be found either on my blog: J the Travel Authority or on my Twitter feed at @JCreatureTravel.
About Jeanine Barone
Jeanine Barone is a New York City-based travel writer who is always seeking out under-the-radar or undiscovered sights, whether it’s in her own backyard or halfway around the world. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including National Geographic Traveler, the Boston Globe and Travel + Leisure. She blogs at JTheTravelAuthority.
Photo by DMU Viv’s Biology Courses