Our globetrotting experts, Jane E. Fraser and Michael Gebecki, offer their advice.
I LOVE the feeling of leaving everything behind when I travel - and that includes most of my belongings.
Lugging big suitcases around is not fun and I always figure if you've got a passport, some money and a travel insurance policy, you'll survive.
Which is why my No.1 piece of advice is about learning to pack light. You'll thank me when you don't have the right coins for a luggage trolley at the airport.
Or when a taxi driver drops you three blocks from your hotel.
Pack light, buy local
Toiletries can be the killer when you're trying to pack light. For longer trips, I usually take only what I need for 24 hours and buy the rest on arrival.
I also swear by two multitasking skincare products: Cetaphil for a face and body wash and Bio-Oil as a head-to-toe moisturiser (both inexpensive and available from chemists).
Buying local can also be a good policy for clothing and shoes if you're going to a different climate. Try to travel with only one or two pairs of shoes - yes, you can do it - and make sure all your clothes mix and match, no matter how boring it might seem. For women, beads and scarves can transform a basic wardrobe and for men, a polo shirt is a versatile option if a collar might be needed.
Never carry an item that only goes with one outfit or will only be worn for one occasion.
Water is life
Staying hydrated makes a huge difference to how you feel but leaving a trail of plastic bottles is far from ideal. I recently discovered a water bottle, Fill2Pure (alkaway.com.au) that removes 99.9 per cent of contaminants, including heavy metals and bacteria such as e-coli and giardia.
I haven't tested the claim that you can safely fill up from a muddy puddle in India but the bottle has been tested by laboratories and armed forces.
Each filter works for hundreds of litres of water so it is a cost-effective way of sanitising your water and you don't have to put up with the taste of iodine or other chemicals.
The right shots
Carrying a bulky SLR camera can be a pain but sometimes the snapshots taken on your mobile phone don't quite cut it. Unless you're planning to publish your holiday photos on billboards, there are happy compromises between size and quality.
All the major camera manufacturers make hybrid models that take quality images and give you some ability to be creative. Some people dismiss them because they don't look the part but for most travellers they are more than enough. You can play with aperture, filters and shooting modes or just set the camera to automatic and shoot.
If you are buying a new camera, look for one with GPS technology, which pinpoints the location of each photo and can help you identify and organise your shots later.
Talk to the real experts
It always pays to do some homework before setting off to a new destination, to understand basics such as local customs and what amounts things should cost. However, once you're on the ground, the best source of information is locals.
If you want to know where to eat, what to see, the best markets or why everyone is dressed in a certain colour, stop and ask people in the street. Most people love being asked about their home town and in many countries will jump at the chance to practise their English.
Locals can recommend places and experiences you won't find in guidebooks and may invite you to their home.
Just a word of warning, though: in many Asian countries it is considered rude to say no or not provide an answer, so people may say yes or make something up just to be polite.
I would never leave home without a good supply of reading matter and these days you can carry a library if you use technology.
I have fond memories of slicing up Lonely Planets to only take the sections I needed (lessening the weight); now I would just download the guides onto my iPad. Likewise novels. You can have numerous books at hand on a tablet-style computer, as long as you can find somewhere to keep it charged.
If you prefer to stick to the paper versions, book exchanges are the way to go; you don't want to be lugging books home again.
I still enjoy having a glossy magazine to read on a flight but I always aim to read it on board and then leave it behind.
"I STUFFED a shirt or two into my old carpet bag, tucked it under my arm and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific," Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick. And travel is still the great adventure. Even when the wonders of the world are beamed into our homes courtesy of David Attenborough and the National Geographic channel, nothing beats the moment when you set off along Venice's Grand Canal on a vaporetto or get a hug from an orphaned orang-utan in a Borneo rainforest sanctuary.
But travel can also be stressful, damaging to wealth and health and full of pitfalls. The fact that you can do most of the organising yourself using the internet to plan and book your travels might be empowering but it also means you have no-one else to blame when things go wrong. Every trip is different and so is every traveller but here are a few ground rules that will help you glide through the world with a song in your heart.
Don't leave home without it. If you can't afford it, you shouldn't be walking out the door.
If you're heading to Bali for a couple of weeks, just about any policy that covers medical expenses, baggage loss, legal costs, personal liability and cancellation or interruption of your holiday plans will do the job. If you're planning to go trekking in Nepal or scuba diving in the Red Sea, you might need to beef up your cover.
Search the web for the best deals but make sure the cover you're getting is adequate to your needs.
Compare Travel Insurance (comparetravelinsurance.com.au) is a handy site for one-stop shopping. Choice (choice.com.au) has useful articles devoted to travel insurance, available over the internet.
Make air travel as pain-free as possible
A blow-up cushion, quality earphones, reading matter, games if there are kids in the picture and maybe chocolate to release that feel-good serotonin will help you get to your destination wearing a smile.
Even in economy, some seats are better than others.
If your airline allows seat pre-booking, log on to SeatGuru (seatguru.com) and locate the premier real estate. Many international airlines now sell their exit row seats (those highly desirable places with lots of stretch room) and the cost can be minimal.
On Singapore Airlines, a "preferred seat" costs $US50 ($47) a sector - even if it happens to be the 13-hour haul from Singapore to London.
Scan all documents and email to self
If you lose your passport, your travel vouchers or your flight tickets while you're away, life will be a whole lot easier if you can access a copy via email. Include every document you might possibly need - travel insurance policy, the numbers on your travellers cheques, any passport pages with visas - and while you're at it, might as well add driver's licence and credit cards. The second-best choice is to photocopy all of the above and leave them with someone you can contact in an emergency.
About half of all Australians who travel overseas will face some health-related problem. It might be mild such as sunburn but on average, one in every 10,000 international travellers requires medical repatriation. Different food, different climate and exposure to exotic and unfamiliar microbes can breach your body's defences and lay you low. Know before you go.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has a useful website (cdc.gov/travel) with a comprehensive rundown of the health risks travellers face in more than 200 countries.
If you're healthy and heading offshore for a short holiday in a country with advanced medical facilities, you probably don't need to see a doctor before you go. If it's somewhere weird and wonderful, you might need specialist medical advice such as that provided by the Travel Doctor (traveldoctor .com.au).
At the very minimum, your medical kit should include headache medication, a small cache of sterile dressings, a tube of antiseptic and a small bottle of antibacterial gels to use when you sit down to eat - and don't forget the sunblock.
Manage your expectations
There's nowhere else like home. When you leave it, much will be different. The coffee won't taste the same, the Japanese idea of a pillow is probably not what you're used to and the concept of an orderly queue is unfamiliar to most of the planet. But that's why you're going, right? Because it's not like home.
Yours is not necessarily the right way, or the only way, of dressing or driving. They do things differently in other places for good reasons.
Make the effort to figure out why and your travels - and life - are richer. If travel convinces you there's no place you'd rather be than home, among people who eat, drive and think as you do, that's where you belong.
- The Sun-Herald