Birder's Guide

MAR 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 45 of 95

44 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2017 Travel Tips about their own experiences and are happy to share the good and the bad. I wish I knew how important that information was before I agreed to accompany my friend on our last trip! —D. from Cherry Hill, NJ ■ Talk with other birders. It's personal. Some may prioritize a relaxed schedule while you prioritize pounding for endemics, but the information and impressions they share can be helpful. —Jude from Bayside, CA ■ Experience. We prefer guides who are local to the area. We want to make sure we're contributing to that country's econ- omy—not to someone who swoops in, profits, and leaves. —Lisa from Austin, TX ■ Every destination has a particular price range; some companies are known to be expensive due to the quality of services or reputation. Do not be tempted by a really cheap tour price. This usually means the company is "cutting corners" somewhere. It could be uncovered meals, small, tight vehicles, or unworthy accommodations. —Jonathan from Tel Aviv, Israel ■ We ask lots of specific questions about is- sues that are important to us—how much time will be devoted to observing other wildlife, how flexible is the schedule, are changes to the itinerary made by a group decision, etc. —Debbie from Philadelphia, PA ■ When we're on a birding tour, we don't like to waste too much time on non-bird - ing activities, so plans for shopping ex- cursions, city tours, or "free time" count as negatives for us. We also prefer for all meals and tips to be covered so that there is no confusion and chaos when it's time to pay the dinner bill. The best predictor for future tour success is past tour success, so once we've found a birding company and a guide that we're happy with, we stick with them. —David and Judy, Durham, NC ■ Details in the lists added to eBird are a good way to assess the guides and sched- ule. —Fabio from São Paulo, Brazil Hard-and-Fast Rules When it Comes to Packing for Adventure Travel ■ Less is always more. Pack what you think you'll need, then remove one third of it. You can live without the rest. ■ Carry all your optics and valuables on the plane with you. Also carry on anything you'd miss for two days if your luggage gets held up. Use the handy packing list at ■ Try to fit all your belongings into two carry-ons: one carry-on and one large per- sonal item. Checking a bag takes longer, costs more, and increases the chance that the airline will lose your belongings. Chris from Nashville said he and his wife man- aged a 17-day trip to Papua New Guinea with this combo. They are travel rock stars! ■ Buy travel insurance. Insurance can save you money in case of trip cancellation, flight changes, or medical evacuations. Medical evacs are infrequent, but they do occur; without insurance, they will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Advice for First-Time Solo Travelers ■ Just do it! It's wonderful, you meet so many more people when you travel solo. —Elsa from Miami, FL ■ Just go. I began traveling alone after my husband died. I've had some marvel- ous adventures and met some wonderful people. —Linda from Corrales, NM ■ Go on group tours, or hire bird guides by the day wherever you go. —Elaine from Grafton, WI ■ Some tour companies will pair you up with another solo traveler. —Michael from Trenton, NJ ■ Join a birding organization. ABA tours are flawless! —Susan from Cascade, CO Travel Sustainably The key to sustainable travel is to leave a place better than you found it, whether through money or good deeds. Remember that you are a guest in a foreign land that owes you nothing, so be giving rather than demanding. Your tourism dollars have the potential to show communities how valu - able their natural resources are, so try to support sustainable travel practices and operators in all its forms. Here are some ways to travel sustainably: ■ Travel with companies that support, through donations or volunteer hours, a local conservation organization. Many n Worried you'll forget something important? Use the handy packing list at Photo © Tara O'Leary n Be sure to keep your passport on you at all times. In many countries, you will be asked to provide it at immigration check- points while inside the country, and you may even need it to check into a hotel or exchange cash. Photo © Laura Kammermeier n Make sure to check rates with your wireless provider before using your phone abroad. Photo © Tara O'Leary Continued on page 46

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