The more I research places to go and how to plan for my visits to 50 places I’ve never been the year I turn 50 the more I realize I have a lot to learn when it comes to the actual process of traveling.
Traveling is more than just picking a place to go. It’s getting there quickly, efficiently and with minimum hassle. It’s also getting around while you are there and navigating the local culture which likely looks a lot different than your day to day experience.
I consulted 3 frequent flyers to help me learn a little more. Let me introduce you.
Rich calls himself a road warrior who travels for work and play spending more than 100 nights in a hotel room each year.
Emery has been to more than 70 countries. His travels have taken him to the far corners of the world in in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Mideast, Asia, and Australia.
Rachel is a busy mom who travels frequently for work. As I am also a mom juggling work and family, I thought it would be good to get her perspective.
I asked each of these seasoned travelers for their best advice and they didn’t hold back.
Let’s start with getting there. Before you can step foot on that far away sandy beach or grab dinner at a trendy spot in that never-before-been-to city you’ve been dreaming about, you have to do a little planning.
If you are like me and price is a factor, using something like the Hopper app or setting a price alert on Google Flights can help you find the best deal. Flying mid-week will almost always save you money.
Rich who takes a lot of spur of the moment trips says, “ I always look at the low cost carriers last minute. The traditional airlines tend to have higher last minute fares.” Southwest/Frontier/Spirit will discount seats 24-48 hours in advance if they have a surplus of them.
Surprisingly, my travel pros also suggested building in a little extra time to your trip outside of work duties or family obligations.
Rachel often flies in earlier or stays later to see the sights or catch up with friends who live nearby. “I took advantage of a free afternoon in Portland recently,” she says, “and did a tea tasting solo… it was GREAT!”
Most seasoned travelers recommend traveling light. I have a long way to go on this one.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the advantages: no extra fees, no waiting around for your bag, no lost luggage. Not to mention, it’s easier to get around if you aren’t weighed down with bags that leave you looking like a pack mule.
Emery says he NEVER checks luggage. He picks one color scheme so everything goes with everything. “If I need it, I can have the hotel do my laundry,” he said.
The only time I’m good at packing light is when I go home. There’s a joke in my family that I just shop my sisters’ closets while I’m there.
Rich has a novel way of saving space in his bag. He always travels in jeans, unless he’s going somewhere tropical, because he can wear them several more times and that means one less thing to pack. However, he actually prefers to check his bag, acknowledging he’s in the minority among veteran travelers on that one. “I love walking onto a plane with nothing but my backpack filled with camera equipment and other electronics.”
CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT…
Speaking of electronics, one of Emery’s must takes are noise-canceling headphones. Rachel and Rich put a charger on their ‘can’t travel without’ list.
Rich’s pick for a charger is the Anker Powercore Fusion500.
As he said, “So much is on our phone these days, from event tickets, hotel keys, obviously maps while driving or walking in an unfamiliar place. If my phone goes dead it could ruin my entire day so I just don’t let that happen.” This model can plug directly into a wall and recharge.
Rachel loves her AWAY bag because it allows her to pack everything she needs in her carry-on and still have her charger all the time(it’s built right into the bag!).
Also on Emery’s list ‘Pepto-bismal, and 1 pair of comfortable shoes.” Emery couldn’t be more right on that one! I went to New York earlier this year with a new pair of totally cute but untested new shoes. Big mistake!
Rachel also takes “a scarf so I don’t get cold on the plane.” Good point. Planes do get cold.
One of the things I’ve been contemplating is the TSA Pre-check.
All the pros agree it’s totally worth it. “It’s more than not having to take off your shoes… not having to take out all your technology is helpful. You’re also amongst people who fly a lot so the process tends to be more seamless,” says Rachel.
Emery says the same about Global Entry ($50 for 5 years).
“My wife and I have gone to the next step and use “CLEAR”, which is super fast even vs. TSA pre-check,” he said. CLEAR? I hadn’t even heard of that before. See, I have a lot to learn. CLEAR handles the identification verification with crazy cool technology.
All of that is just getting there! What about getting around? Navigating foreign languages, where to eat, and money? What do you really have to know? I’ll tackle that in the next blog.
Until then, safe travels.