My travel do’s and don’ts

Every SINGLE time we travel, I have the jitters. It starts about three hours before our flight, and lasts until we have landed and cleared immigration (if we have to). We need to catch the right bus, at the right time, get to the airport on time, or find parking for the car at an irrationally priced parking garage, check in luggage, and oh, what if the flight is delayed? Will we miss our connecting flight? And what about the multiple security checks? Don’t even get me started on those!

In recent times I feel like I have gotten better with my preparation, and my jitters (though H will probably vehemently deny this). Just so I have a structured flow to the myriad thoughts that come to my mind, let me classify the tasks involved, and my thoughts on those in chronological order.

Booking tickets

In recent times, H and I are subscribed to a number of travel mailing lists. We get excited every single time there is an airline sale or a Travel sale from one of the websites we follow. It is a given that the trips we book on a whim are the ones that turn out successful! I believe this is because we have somewhere to start once we have made the bookings!

Having said that, every travel experience comes with woes of lost luggage, adverse weather conditions, visa troubles, vacation times during peak office workloads and transit timings. My blood pressure peaks every single time our flight lands on the nick of time at our connecting airport, too close for my comfort. I hate running around the airport, between terminals, trying to make it to the next flight! I still haven’t figured a way out to get around the delayed flights and weather conditions, but here are a few suggestions for booking travel and to minimize damages:

  1. Invest in a good travel card. Credit companies have travel insurances that cover lost luggage, refunds for last minute cancellations (for valid reasons), and double charges by the airline people. All of these has happened to us, and we are wiser now with every mishap. You could even earn points with every travel purchase, car rental and restaurant.
  2. If you have multiple lay overs, make the bookings with the same travel company. Yes, their customer care numbers have long wait times, but it is well worth it to have a single ticket number. This helps with tracking luggage better, and through check-ins. We have booked it on separate websites before, and either travel company will not take responsibility for any delays to the flight, or delayed luggage that makes you miss your next flight. Sometimes you have to deal with the hassles of double check in and security!
  3. Always get duty free purchases on your last leg of travel, especially for international destinations that require double security checks. If that cannot be avoided try checking in the duty free bag during your last leg of travel. We had to throw away our duty-free Punta-Cana rum as we entered the US. The only way we could have avoided this is quickly put our duty free bags into our cabin bags and check them in. So sometimes, unforeseen things do happen!
  4. Be aware of travel rules in countries that you only have a lay over at! What is allowed in the USA may not be permitted in another country- including in checked in luggage. This includes pepper sprays for starters.
  5. If you don’t want to travel off-season when some great travel rates are available for some unpleasant weather conditions, try to get to your destination just before the peak season. In most cases, it is a win-win situation.

Itineraries

After the trip to Paris, I decided that international trips are not to be winged! Yes, you do chance upon some amazing things on your trip if you have an open mind and are open to changes. But I decided that “no plan at all” is simply not going to work; especially after all the effort put in to secure visas, making reservations, and making time for the vacation. So this time around, on our trip to Azores, I planned everything.

Digging into blogs by others, and doing some research before the trip felt like digging out treasure. Input from others to decide on places, pinning them on google maps, and working out timings, such that you are never rushed, and most importantly, having an open mind to be FLEXIBLE all make the trip more fun.

Packing Chronicles

I am notorious for leaving behind at least one essential on each trip. On our Puerto Rico trip, I decided to set that straight, and packed one bag for the short trip to Vieques and back, and another carry-on suitcase to be left in the trunk of the car (in the parking lot of the small airport) with clothes and necessities for the rest of the trip. Once it was done, and after an impressed nod from H, I pat myself on my back. Two days later when we were in Vieques, I realized that I had left H’s sandals in the other suitcase that was in the car’s trunk! So much for my effort!

Are you one of those couples that always forgets a certain something? Well we are that kind, too! On every trip we make, we end up buying an SD card. Somehow we always seem to run out of space (also read ‘H doesn’t get all the previous pictures transferred on time’).

I am usually one to give up easy, but surprisingly, not when it came to packing! I put together several pins from the life-saving Pinterest app, and decided to implement them on my next trip. Implement, I did. I have some thoughts and a newly devised method to share, that seemed to work for me this time.

  1. The itinerary is a good place to start, and work backwards on. I start with my last day activities, and put the associated items in, then the last but one day, and so on, and finally the first day. That way the first things you need always come out first.
  2. I avoid unpacking on trips that are less than a week long, because I am notorious (once again), for leaving stuff behind if I put them away in cupboards.
  3. I have several pins on my Pinterest account, on minimalist capsule wardrobes, that help me decide what to wear and maximize outfits based on what I take.
  4. I maintain a note, where I add to the essentials I realize I need for every trip. So I can keep a tab on what I need to start packing, when I start packing. This list has been growing with every trip, so I am still not perfect, but I have gotten better!
  5. This time around on our trip to Azores, I printed all my itineraries, travel tickets, reservations, folded them, labelled them, and arranged them by dates in ascending order. This hardly took space in my hand bag, and helped me access information in a  foreign country before I got access to Wi-fi and a sim card. I even went to the length of printing out directions to the BnB from the airport, lest we had no internet/ GPS.

The travel and the trip!

Oh this is always the fun part, so my only comment on it is to “JUST HAVE FUN!”.  Only in recent times have I learned to not brood over something missed. There is always a next time, you can say to yourself! The itinerary you put together, is just to give you an idea of where to start. It is just an outline for when you are clueless about what’s next. If there is a nearby attraction that wasn’t part of the plan, go for it! Having too much fun trying new food? No worries, there is time! What you are doing is a part of the trip too.

Having said all this, let’s see how our next trip goes! I am sure I will have more tales to be told, and  SD cards to be bought! 🙂

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