You never really know where your travels will take you. Some stops are planned and others just happen. We travel for work, pleasure and sometimes we just need to hit the road, Jack. I am an Army brat and wife and a former flight attendant. I have logged my fair share of miles over the years. Travel is part of who I am, and through time, experience and dumb luck I have learned a few tricks of the trade. Below are my must-dos when adventuring.
1. Pack light, people. You do not wear 12 pairs of pants in an average week. Do you really need them on a weekend getaway? Leave your walk-in at home. Grab your tried, true and comfy favorites. Remember, new scarf= new outfit.
2. Pick a color scheme. I wear a lot of black. Think Johnny Cash. I choose black not just for the slimming effect, but because it is easy to mix and match. Plus, when I only need black shoes it opens up space for treasures I find along the way. I am not saying you have to join me in mourning attire, but pick a base color and build your wardrobe.
3. Leave contact information inside your suitcase. This tip is compliments of Oprah. I have been doing it for years, and I have not lost a bag yet. Thanks, O. Truth is, I do not want my undies getting auctioned off at lost luggage land in Boaz, Al. Write out your contact information and place it inside your suitcase. If your bag is ever lost they will easily find the rightful owner, and your unmentionables will be returned safe, sound and unsold.
4. Pack a snack. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but get stuck on the tarmac for 4 hours with no cabin service and that granola bar, Twix and pack of Trident will look like a three-course meal. I try to pack snacks that I like, but do not love. It might seem counterintuitive for those with will power, but I am more likely to devour a favorite in the blink of an eye. That trusty granola bar has staying power and will be there in a pinch.
5. Put your hotel information in your back pocket. This works for children and adults. I always fear losing a kiddo, so I grab a business card from our hotel and add my contact info. I instruct my kids to give the card to an adult if they are ever lost. I stick a card in my pocket too. It is easy to hand to a taxi driver or show a friendly local for directions. After doing a few loops around downtown Kitzbuhel, Austria on a cold, snowy night many moons ago, I swore off schnapps and vowed to always carry my hotel info in my back pocket.
6. Be nice. You get more flies with honey than vinegar. Trite but true. The gate agent you are wagging your finger at is the exact same person who can give you an upgrade or move your seat. They have to work within safety regulations, and flight requirements. Believe me, that gate agent is equally upset you did not catch the earlier flight out. The same goes for flight attendants. Their main focus is your safety. Be kind and ask nicely. You might even get extra peanuts and the entire can of Coke for your efforts.
7. Cover your passport. There are adorable passport covers available. Check out Etsy and other online outlets. I am proud to be an American, but I always feel vulnerable when I stand in line with my family’s pile of blue USA passports in hand. I am sure my North Face jacket and Kansas State baseball hat instantly give me away, but I like to keep people guessing. It also helps when each family member has a different design, and you are not fumbling through all your passports at the check-in counter. Another passport related hint is to carry a copy of your passport in a separate bag. If your purse or pack is ever lost or stolen you have a copy on hand, and it can help expedite getting a new one issued. It is fun to roam but everyone wants to get home.
8. Always carry a jacket. Whether you are headed to Miami or Manitoba, have a jacket handy. You never know when you will need a jacket. It can be used as a blanket or pillow, and airplane temps range between meat storage lockers and saunas.
9. Ear plugs are a travel bag necessity. The small cheap ones are perfect. They are lifesavers in a noisy hotel room or help protect you from your sweet but chatty neighbor in 15D. Nothing says, “Sorry, can’t hear you” like earplugs sticking out of your ears.
10. Hallo! Bonjour! Hola! Learn how to say hello, please, thank you and goodbye in the local language, and know how to dial the equivalent of 911 in the country you are visiting. No need to be fluent, but a few basic pleasantries can come in handy. We are lucky, English is the international language, but who doesn’t love watching someone stumble through their native tongue?
11. Check your departure gate when you arrive. Then check it one more time. Did I mention checking your departure gate? Aircraft get moved, and flights constantly get canceled or delayed. I always walk to my gate, do a visual check and then find a way to entertain myself till boarding. I love a few unadulterated hours of people watching or I Spy.
12. Only bring essential debit/credit cards and identification (make sure you notify your credit card company that you will be traveling). Empty out all the excess and leave your coffee punch card behind. The same goes for jewelry. Leave your heirlooms at home. If you lose a cubic zirconium stud in the ocean, no worries and no police report. Losing the diamonds you inherited from your Aunt Diane? That is another story.
13. Drink your water. Water is a wonder drink when you are traveling. It helps with jet lag and the recirculating air in the plane’s cabin is notoriously dry. You won’t catch a buzz, but your skin and head will thank you in the morning. Bottoms up!
14. Scout out empty seats. Once you hear the announcement that the cabin doors are closing, make your move. After the cabin doors are closed all ticketed passengers are in place, so open seats are first come first served (within your cabin class). Pick a winner.
My final tip, and the most important piece of advice I have to share is to enjoy the ride. A wise friend gave me a bracelet I wear often; the words engraved in silver and wrapped around my wrist are ones I try to live by each day. . . Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the moments.