Travel has always held an allure for me. As a child, I read everything possible and dreamt of soaring off to exciting destinations. Since then my dream has come true.
Fortunately my husband was also a travelholic. We preferred striking out on our own instead of an escorted tour. Most of the vacations were wonderful. A few times things didn’t go as planned but they made great party stories, of course slightly embellished.
Everyone views a vacation differently. Dru, my daughter, would say most of her trips were “rear view” travel. The poor kid was dragged from Des Moines to Salzburg behind her loving parents. Dad navigated the maps while Mom rummaged through an obnoxiously huge pink tote that was later thrown out due to pure ugliness.
Our family has traveled most of the world. We frequented the standard vacation hot spots then chose to explore the remote, exotic locals. With each trip we discovered ways to make our valuable time more enjoyable. These are the tips I’ll share with you. New info will be added monthly so be sure to check back . Please feel free to email me your own travel advice and opinions, I’d love to incorporate them in this section.
As lives change, children grow up, loved ones depart, and grandchildren arrive, one travel tip remains unsurpassed, “You make your own fun”. Take your vacation in stride and enjoy every moment.
Planning Your Trip
• Research is imperative. Pick up several brochures from a travel agency. The books will detail what is feasible for your time frame.
• Don’t cram too many destinations into your vacation. It’s too exhausting.
• Call or email the tourist boards for the cities/countries which interest you. The free literature will aid in narrowing your choices.
• Book your trip early. Airfare and cruise rates are cheaper when purchased months in advance of the travel date.
• Use credit cards for your purchase. It offers security.
• All domestic flights require a photo ID upon airport check-in.
• Be sure to have the correct proof of citizenship when traveling outside the United States. Passports must have at least 6 months validity beyond your reentry into the U.S.A.
• Visas are compulsory to enter some countries. Contact your travel agent or the country’s tourist board for the current requirements.
• In general travel agents are a wealth of information. The agent will compare rates from many suppliers to guarantee you the best possible price. Should a problem arise, an agent is a powerful person on your side.
• Always interview an agent. Inquire about their experience and expertise. Be sure the agent is knowledgeable on your destination, airfares, visas, and shows enthusiasm.
• Travel agents should never charge a fee for tours or cruises. The travel provider pays them commission. Trip costs are the same whether you use an agent or book directly with a supplier. However, if you are requesting bed and breakfast accommodations, map planning, or other intense planning, be prepared to pay an hourly labor cost.
• The agent should provide you with a printed invoice which lists all your plans and their costs. It should also include your deposit, balance, and the date final payment is due.
• An important part of travel, which most vacationers ignore, is insurance. Tour operators and cruise lines offer a program of some type, however their interests are not for you. Many companies do not refund in full. Travel vouchers are issued as a big part of the refund. Consider an independent travel insurance company as they will return all your money for valid cancellations.
• Research your options on the Internet. Don’t purchase until you’ve compared the data with a travel agent.
Before You Go
• Ask a family member or neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers. Don’t notify the post off ice or newspaper. Too many people with too many buddies will know your home is vacant and for how long.
• Connect a few lights onto timers. It gives the illusion you’re home.
• Disconnect all unnecessary electrical items.
• Place all your valuables in a safety deposit box.
• Give the family a copy of your itinerary.
• Let’s face it, crime is everywhere. To make your life easier in the event something adverse occurs, I offer the following;
• Photocopy your credit card front and back. It’s important to have the emergency number if the card is lost or stolen.
• Photocopy your driver’s license. International travelers photocopy your passport. Do not pack the copies in your checked luggage. Do not carry the copies around with you once you’ve arrived at your destination. Put the copies in the hotel safe.
• Never leave your luggage unattended.
• Know the reputation of the area you’re touring. Stay away from unsavory sections of any city.
• Always be on the look out for pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas. Be thoroughly aware of your surroundings and the people next to you.
• Ladies, carry a shoulder bag with a strap long enough for the purse to cross your body. Keep one hand of the purse/strap connection. I prefer clothing with pockets. It’s convenient to slip in a lipstick and a coin purse holding my credit card, room key, and $100. Frees up my hands and it’s a lot lighter lugging around a purse.
• Gentlemen, sounds insane but…use a child’s sock or small soft pouch to store your money and credit card. Pin it to the inside of your slacks waistband.
• Don’t ever open your hotel door without looking through the peephole. If the person claims to be a hotel employee ask for identification be held up to the viewer then call the front desk to confirm he or she should be at your room.
• Antibiotic ointment / Band-Aids
• Books – Purchased in foreign locals will shock your vacation budget.
• Camera batteries / instruction booklet
• Can opener / Corkscrew
• Washcloths – Most foreign countries don’t use them. Purchase a cheap bundle at a discount store. Discard as you use them.
• Duct tape – Don’t laugh, its great stuff.
• Extension cord
• Film you think adequate plus 2 rolls
• Lightweight gloves – Great for unexpected weather changes.
• Medications – Pack them in your carry-on no matter what the quantity.
• Notepad and pen
• Phone numbers of family members or friends for emergencies.
• Pillow – Make it from a tube sock stuffed with shredded foam or cut up nylons. Pin the end closed. Very comfortable behind your neck on long flights.
• Plastic bags / cups – Handy when there’s only one glass in the bathroom.
• Playing cards
• Pocket calculator
• Pre-addressed labels for post cards
• Raincoat – Great as an evening coat in cool weather.
• Shampoo to do laundry
• Toiletries – They’re very expensive outside the U.S.A.
• Travel alarm
• Wire hangers – Most hotels never have enough.
• Use suitcases you can handle by yourself. Porters and nice guys are far and few between. Personally, I prefer a garment bag for the checked luggage. A garment bag is easy to pack, the clothes have fewer wrinkles and re-packing is a snap.
• The wear and tear of travel is grueling to suitcases. Don’t run out and buy new bags unless yours are one flight away from luggage heaven.
• PACK LIGHT! Easier said then done. Make a list of your vacation days. Fill in the clothing you plan to wear. Garments can be worn 2 or 3 times before laundering. Gather your clothing in a central location, a closet rod is best. Seriously look at your list and garments. Remove at least three items. Upon returning home you’ll be glad you did.
• Men should pack a sport coat and tie to wear to dinners.
• Ladies should pack a dress, suit, or dressy pantsuit for dinners.
• Travel with two cases, a carry-on and a checked bag, only. International flights will charge a hefty fee if the checked suitcase weighs more then 44 pounds.
• Be sure the checked case has sturdy wheels and a built in handle for pulling.
• A 28” case holds a huge quantity of clothing. Scale the suitcase size to snuggly hold your belongings as this diminishes wrinkles.
• Recycle plastic dry cleaning bags. Place your garment inside to reduce wrinkling.
• Pack all heavy items, i.e. shoes, hair dryer, books, at the bottom of the case; include socks and items that can be crushed. Cut a lightweight piece of cardboard to size for a great platform to pack the remaining clothes.
• Slacks go in next with the legs hanging over the case rim. Alternate the waistbands from side to side. Pack bulky and heavier weight clothes on top. Fill the case completely from edge to edge. Fold each new garment as packed, stacking atop each other. Fold the extended pant legs over the lot. This method holds the garments more secure during travel.
• Luggage tags are required for plane travel. Tags are available at the airline check-in counter. Print only your name and city on the tag. Crooks hand around airports reading luggage tags.
• Be sure to put a slip of paper inside your suitcase with your name, address, and phone number inside your checked suitcase.
• Every traveler is now the proud owner of a black suitcase. Distinctly mark your cases. Remember the duct tape you sniggered at? A strip of colored tape or a yarn pompom will make it easier to find your baggage on the conveyor.
• Coin operated laundries are virtually nonexistent in foreign locations. Hotel laundry services are ridiculously expensive. So “home” laundering is the only choice.
• Bring along shampoo or use the hotel supply to wash out clothes. Shampoo rinses out much easier than detergent.
• Wring out the excess water. Lay out a towel, fit in the garment, fold over the edges, and roll up. Squeeze out the moisture. If the roll is large, stand on it to squeeze out the moisture. Shake garment and hang to dry.
• Travel with knit clothes. They show the least amount of creases and wash well.
• Steam wrinkled clothing in the bathroom. Fill the tub with hot water and hang the garments on the shower rod or whatever hook is handy. Close the bathroom door and leave for two hours.
• Use moist towelettes to remove stains.
• It’s possible to borrow an iron and board from the front desk.
• Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours prior to departure. Airlines have the right to deny boarding within 35 minutes of flight time.
• Drink plenty of water on your flight. DO NOT drink the water from the bathroom or the drinking fountain on the aircraft. This is not fresh water. It’s loaded into canisters at every airport the plane lands, including foreign countries. The water may carry harmful bacteria.
• Wear comfortable clothing. Select something soft and loose. Your shoes should be broken in, not brand new. Ladies, consider support pantyhose, they help with the swelling.
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol on the day of flying. Both beverages cause dehydration. If you love either or both beverages don’t drink them 3 hours prior to your flight, and never during the flight.
• Airlines provide dinner and breakfast on international flights. I have found most of their food isn’t to my liking. Therefore a sandwich and a bag of chips are in my carry-on for such an emergency.
• Airplane seating is very crowded even though the major carriers have added a pittance of legroom. Exercise is imperative to avoid blood clots. Alternately raise each leg while stretching your ankle. Rotate your feet in circles, first one direction then the other. Do this throughout the flight to keep your blood flowing.
Slowly rolling your shoulders forward and back will relieve muscle tension.
Move your head slowly to the right then the left. Always stop your head movement when you’re facing forward before proceeding in the opposite direction.
• Most foreign airports have luggage carts in the arrival hall. Frequently their use is free. Secure a cart before approaching the luggage carousel.