for Tropical Travel
Prepare for your trip by considering
is the best time to go to the Tropics?
Any time is a great time somewhere
in the Tropics. The Tropics, by definition, extend from
the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. The
Tropic of Cancer is the latitude north of the Equator
that runs through southern China, northern India, North
Africa, Cuba, and the northern end of the Hawaiian Island
chain. The Tropic of Capricorn is the latitude south
of the Equator that runs central Australia (near Alice
Springs), Madagascar, Namibia, and Rio de Janeiro. That's
a considerable portion of the Earth.
In the humid part of the Tropics,
the best time to go is generally whenever the rainy
season is not happening. For example, in Central America
you would be more comfortable from November to May when
the weather is drier. In Fiji, which is in the Southern
Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed: the driest time
is from May to November.
The closer you are to the Equator,
the less difference there will be between times of the
year relative to weather.
The higher the elevation, the
less the time of year matters: in the highlands of Costa
Rica, for example, San Jose enjoys almost perpetual
In the arid parts of the Tropics,
you would be much more comfortable when it is winter
and thus cooler. For example, in the Outback of Central
Australia, winter is April-September. In North Africa,
winger is October-March.
There can be local factors which
affect the timing of the best time to go. For example,
you might want to be in Hawaii during the annual whale
migrations which occur in March-April. In the Amazon,
you might not want to go during June-August when the
Amazon is in flood.
Hurricanes dictate the best and
worse time to go to the Caribbean part of the Tropics.
For more information, see Hurricanes
& the Caribbean.
For a summary of best times to
go to the Tropics, see
When is the "best"
time to go? Or ask for advice in the planning of
your passport current?
Every country requires US visitors to possess a valid
passport. Generally, most countries require that the
passport have at least six months left on it after the
date you expect to depart from the country. That's because
they don't want you to be stranded without a valid passport
which could happen if your passport expires before you
leave. Some countries require your passport have a year
left before expiration. Check
with your travel agent to find out.
you need a visa?
with your travel agent to find out.
to be safe - With
a bit of forethought and awareness during your trip,
you can increase your safety and have a much more hassle-free
jet-lag - It can be done; let
me tell you how.
matters - For
almost everyone traveling anywhere, using your ATM card
is the best (and least expensive) way to obtain cash.
Prepare by checking with your bank to make sure your
ATM card will work in where you are going. It may not
in some destinations, such as French Polynesia. If your
PIN is not four digits, change it so that it is only
four digits as that is the standard at ATMs throughout
most of the rest of the world.
you need an International drivers licence?
Check with your rental car company. The purpose
of an International drivers license is to translate
what is on your US drivers license in places where the
Roman alphabet is not used or where English is not widely
understood. In most tropical destinations neither of
those factors are issues. But some rental car companies
may insist you have an international drivers license.
If that is the case, go to AAA and get one.
your doctor - Wherever
you travel, you want to make sure your health is optimal
to allow you to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Since
exotic diseases, such as malaria, flourish in some tropical
areas, you need to find out if there are any particular
health issues where you are going. A good source of
information is the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention website. Regardless,
visit your doctor for medicines to prevent you catching
a nasty bug and to make sure your normal vacinations,
such as tetanus shots, are up-to-date.
light! - Your goal
should be to have only a carry-on bag and no checked
luggage. Even on a cruise you don't need to haul all
your possessions with you. No one ever returns from
a trip saying, "I wish I'd have taken more clothing."
Rather, the opposite is true. If you think you might
need something, leave it home. Take only those items
that you know you will need and be miserable without.
If it turns out you really do need something, use that
as an excuse to buy it while on your trip. That way,
you will have a wonderful souvenir when you return home.
And you will get a chance to shop like a local. But
most of all, you will save your back, you will have
fewer bags to watch out for during your trip, you will
be able to go sightseeing while lugging your bag with
you (there are very few luggage storage facilities any
Send an email
to Carole to request a packing list to help you to pack
ready to go through airport security -
You can reduce the aggravation of going through the
security checkpoint at the airport by paying attention
to what you pack (nothing that could be used by a weapon
if you had sufficient imagination) and how you pack
(make it easy for your bag to be inspected by putting
your belongings into clear plastic bags or packing cubes).
Make sure your shoes are easy to remove and that you
are wearing socks without holes. Carry your boarding
pass and passport in a readily accessible, secure place.
A pouch that hangs from your neck works very well. A
small "fanny pack" worn in front is a good
alternative. At the very least, wear a jacket or sweater
with pockets so that you can easily reach your boarding
pass and passport when necessary. Being prepared will
speed up the process of going through security so you
will have less chance of missing your plane, will have
time to relax before the flight, and will generally
start the trip off right.
Lotion - countless thousands of travelers
are delayed at U.S. airports every year by the most
unlikely of culprits: hand lotion. Some hand lotions
contain glycerides, which trip alarms on one kind of
explosive detection machine that is widely used to screen
checked luggage at U.S. commercial airports including
Los Angeles International Airport. Federal security
authorities are aware of the hand lotion issue, said
Suzanne Luber, a spokeswoman for the Transportation
Security Administration. "It does delay the process,"
Luber said. But the TSA has not asked people to refrain
from moisturizing before packing or handling their bags
because not all luggage goes through the machines that
react to the glycerides, she said.
Decide for yourself if you want
to risk delays passing through airport security by using
hand lotions containing glycerides.