Although I was going to write an entirely different post, Chris' recent return flight blunder (right after I hit purchase on a set of 4 movie tickets for tonight for us and the kids) connected the fact that everything that makes my travel go (generally) smooth comes from my Mom's sage wisdom. And, since it is Mother's Day tomorrow, I thought I would post this in dedication to my mom, Marianne Hunt.
Ten tips for world travelers:
When calculating how much time you need to leave ahead of time to the airport, you need to take the following formula:
The average time it takes for your chosen mode of transportation TO the airport to get you from door to door + At least 45 minutes ahead of time for domestic flights or 90 minutes ahead of time for international flights (my mom would say 1 hour and 2 hours) + A cushion of 15-30 minutes for any unforeseen mishap
If my flight to NYC leaves at 5 pm from Oakland, I need to leave to the airport by 3 pm. I know the BART takes 45 minutes on average and I want to build in my 30 minute buffer (I'd rather sit for a couple of extra minutes in the lounge than be running, panicked).
We use a couple of different sites to get us the best possible rates, while avoiding the most awful airlines (from experience). Kayak.com is great, lightweight and gives me lots of flexibility. I also don't get a gazillion annoying emails from them or 'options for packages' (hate those). We can book our flights through airlines we love like JetBlue (yes, they are still 1000x better than the others), Alaska, Air Canada and Frontier. We also heart Southwest Airlines a - lot. None of that guesswork in their ticket prices...it's always good. And I have really got the hang of checking in online 24 hours ahead to get the A seating. When traveling overseas, I tend to err towards the airlines from that country. It's not so much a problem flying over, but when flying back, it really helps as they have staff there to help out with issues.
Personally, we've had horrific times with all of the major American airlines like Delta, AA, NWA, etc.
- PACKING #1:
We all have the tendency to overpack (or at least, I do). One of the problems I've encountered is that I'll pack things I WANT to wear, things I SHOULD wear and things I MAY wear JUST IN CASE.
The should and wants are where we can cut viciously. Go with the wants over the shoulds. Travel is uncomfortable enough as it is.
- PACKING #2:
Speaking of the 'JUST IN CASE' outfits...bring them! These include a bathing suit (must), one evening outfit (must) and workout gear (optional, but really good idea). Nothing is worse than having to buy overpriced hotel bathing suits or dress shoes.
We encountered this just recently in Vegas, when Chris didn't pack anything but jeans and running shoes. He ended up buying shoes that cost way too much that killed his feet. My advice is to go shopping for shoes that are dressy enough to pass for dress shoes, but comfy enough to walk around in for a couple of days. Chris has a lovely pair of Rockports for this very reason.
- PACKING #3:
If you consistently find yourself overpacking, at the end of each trip, pull all of your items out of your suitcase and lay out in "wore" and "didn't wear" piles. Photograph them and upload them to Flickr. Refer to them everytime you go to pack.
I suffer badly from jetlag. Especially when we head to Europe. Crashing at 6 pm and wide awake at 3 am. Like clockwork. The third day is always the worst. A couple of things will make jetlag worse, though: alcohol and caffeine. Avoid at all costs. Instead, drink lots of water. Set your watch to your impending timezone right before you leave, so you know when you should be sleeping. Don't eat too much if you have to stay awake. Turn on your air jets as high as you can keep them. The fresh stream will totally help. And, from what I hear "No Jet Lag" is pretty good (although I haven't tried it). Others take melatonin.
I'm not talking about airsickness, I'm talking about how those of us who get on planes full of germy, sniffly, rude not covering their mouths when they sneeze people get sick. I mentioned the benefits of that air jets that most planes come equipped with for jetlag, but it also helps for avoiding getting sick. Also, travel with a small bottle of Purell and avoid touching anything in the bathroom as much as humanly possible. As every surface in an airplane is teeming with germs, wash your hands before you eat and don't rub your eyes.
- WHERE TO SLEEP:
We really hate the standard hotel fare and I don't consider W to be a boutique (sorry...it's just too much of a chain). We really like the actual local boutique hotels that are either decorated by artists and are well below the cost of the main chains. I have yet to find a central place that lists these specifically, but I've been having great luck finding gems through Wikitravel.org for finding those 'out of the way' places. If we don't need a hotel, we have had great luck with Couchsurfing. Yahoo!Travel has great stories by travelers that have been most helpful.
- WHERE TO EAT:
If you have your own business, being on the road is the time to order the better cut as the percentage of the write-off is way higher. Even so, you want something good, not just well advertised. The best way to do this? Ask a local! And not just any local, why not see if there is a BarCamper around? There seems to be a direct correlation between BC and good taste in cuisine whereever we go. Really, they are 99% of the time more than happy to hear from you. Hell, organize a geek meetup while you are at it!
Buy manilla envelopes. Pack one with you, labeled with the dates and place you are traveling. Put receipts in this envelope as you go. It will save hassles when you get back.
Thanks to my Mom, though, I grew up to be a pretty adventurous and well-organized traveler.