Tips from the travel pros:

* Work with an agent experienced in the exotic, preferrably one who has been where you plan to go.

* Consider the climate and altitude of your destination. Not everyone's suited to the rarified air in La Paz or the humidity of a rain forest.

* Take along extra passport photos and identification -- kept separately from your travel documents -- to help speed the process of replacement should they be lost or stolen.

* Carry a personal first-aid kit, including any prescription medicines; also a stomach medicine recommended by your doctor; plus aspirins, band-aids, iodine, and a small bottle of disinfectant (for musty hotel rooms).

* Bring a Swiss army knife and a bottle opener; also pack a pair of gym socks to sleep in if there's a sudden cold snap.

* Pack a couple leather straps as emergency ties if your suitcase locks are broken. You could be hardpressed to find a Samsonite dealer in Canton or Katmandu.

* Take some paperback books along to help pass the time during those unavoidable delays. Not all airports or hotels stock English-language reading materials. If possible, arrange to swap books with fellow travelers before you set out (so everyone does not show up with the same best-seller).

* Above all, carry a good dose of flexibility and a big sense of humor.