Travel – Know Before You Go

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​It may be the aspect of traveling with children, but I have always found that planning for a vacation is practically a full time job, and if you already have a full time job, whether that’s out of the house or in the house, it’s even worse. I have also found that it doesn’t matter if the vacation is a weekend, a long weekend, or a week long holiday. It still takes the same amount of work for the preparation of a short time away or a long rest.

Some items may seem obvious, but we’ve all gotten halfway to our destination and wondered about leaving the stove on, and that thought continues over the entire course of the vacation regardless of how many times we absolutely, positively know that we turned off the oven. One way my family avoids this is that we get our coffee and morning drinks out of the house. NO COOKING! No oven, no stove top, no toaster, no coffee maker. No argument.

Our last three vacations have been to foreign countries (twice to Canada and once to the United Kingdom) and those take on slightly more planning prior to leaving. I’m including those details to eliminate missing items. As you read this (and other writings that I have on traveling), you’ll weed out what you don’t need or will not use, and hopefully you’ll comment on things that you did need that I haven’t included. I love the community we have here online so we can collaborate and advise each other. We are in a wonderful time, and we should embrace to positive aspects of it. This networking and sharing is one of those positive things.

We have three children and the youngest are teenagers. While they are certainly [th] more independent [th] and actually better able to help with packing than they were during their elementary years and younger, it is almost more work to get them ready for a vacation. They never think they need as much as we parents think they’ll need…like underwear and socks. Some people do laundry on vacation; I do not. I prefer my vacations to be vacations.

Where to start?

1. The first thing is to use timers for lights so they go on. Many of them can be set to go on and off randomly. Another option is to set one to turn one off in one room and then turn the light on in another room, so you’re showing movement as well as the lights aren’t in a set pattern.

2. Hold your mail. Do not let your mail pile up on your front porch or in the mailbox. You could have your neighbor collect it for you or you can go to your local post office or set it up online to stop your mail until you return. They will deliver it on the day you request. Go to usps.com, click on Quick Tools, and then click Hold Mail.

3. Same for your newspaper delivery.

4. Unplug your toaster oven and your other electronics that aren’t quite off when they’re “off”. Some of those items are computers, wifi routers, remote control televisions (who doesn’t have these?), chargers that are not being used. Mentally walk through your house and figure out which plugs need to be unplugged.

5. Set your thermostat higher. We usually set it for 79/80F in the summer and lower it to 65F in the winter.

6. Do you have pets? Will they be coming with you? Will you be kennelling them?

7. I go to Starbucks on a regular basis, and have their card. Will I be able to use it in Canada? I couldn’t use it in the UK, so I left it home. A small thing, but I still need to find out.

8. Will you be driving? Even in the UK, we rented a car and drove. Will we be using the rental company’s insurance or your own? We couldn’t use our own in the UK, but we can use it driving in Canada, including using a rental car. However, we did need a special insurance identification card for use in Canada (Canada Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card). This can be obtained from your insurance company.
9. Cell phone service. The last time we went to Canada (2015), we were in Niagara Falls and for the most part, our phone calls and texts bounced off the Buffalo cell towers so we didn’t pay roaming charges. Now, for the most part, roaming charges don’t exist in North America; at least with Verizon Wireless, Canada and Mexico are included in our regular wireless plan, so no roaming, no long distance, no fees. Check with your carrier.

10. Call your bank about using your credit and debit cards. You will be able to use them, but you’ll have to notify most banks so they don’t flag your cards as stolen. This is important even if you don’t leave the country. If you live in New York, and you’re visiting San Francisco, your card will be flagged and if it’s the weekend it will take time to sort out. There may also be usage fees. Again, check with your bank.

11. Currency Exchanges can be done at airports, most large banks, and AAA offices. Often, however, they need to be ordered and will take a few days to receive. There are more than likely fees.

Thursday Travels – Trip Tips

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​A few years ago I published a travel organizer. It did pretty well for awhile, but over the years since, I’ve realized that it’s not really what would be helpful for people traveling today. It’s hard to believe that so much has changed in so little time.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks creating a do-it-yourself trip planner. I had the thought to sell the download, the buyer would print it themselves on sticker paper and fill in their own journal book/notebook of their choice to use as a planner. It worked great for me, but the look of it really isn’t marketable. I will continue to work on it though; maybe something will come of it in the future.

In the meantime, as I was putting that together, I compiled a list of trip tips, which I will share here for anyone traveling this summer and/or fall.

Safe travels.

[Note: This is not geared towards very young children. If you are interested in that age group, drop me a line, and I can put something together. As at the time, I had young children, my original travel organizer had some great advice and an entire section devoted to children.]

1. Most important tip is to avoid putting personal information on things that can be easily lost. Do not put dates of travel on throwaway items. Do not put your home address on these items as well. That can be the perfect blueprint for thieves who check the garbage at travel sites like airports and train stations.

2. Keep your passport on your person. A document holder is a good organizational tool, especially if you’re responsible for your whole family’s or group’s important papers.

3. TSA – 3-1-1 – Even if you’re not flying, this is a good habit to get into. It saves space, and forces you to decide on what’s truly necessary. I would also recommend separating liquid toiletries from dry. For example, put your toothpaste in one pouch, and your toothbrush in another. This is especially helpful for airport security.

4. If you’re flying, keep liquids and laptops separate and easily accessible. If you’re checking a bag, try and put your liquids in there. Check the applicable websites – there have been recent changes to laptops traveling.

5. Print out a copy of the airport terminal map. This is so helpful for finding your gate, knowing in advance what restaurants and food is available, how close the restrooms are to where you’ll need to be, and how to get from point A to point B on layovers. In the last ten years, I’ve had layovers for all of my flights except the last one and the one that’s upcoming.

6. After deplaning and getting your luggage, use the bathroom before going through customs. Sometimes, the line can be quite long, and those drinks on the plane really do add up.

7. Dress in layers – works for airplane, museums, bus tours, beaches, and restaurants, etc. It will always be warmer than you expect outside, and colder inside.

8. Keep prescriptions in original, unexpired containers – do not check them; put them in your carry on. Pay attention to time zones so you can be sure you take your medications on time or near enough to not have any adverse reactions.

9. Same for packing your jewelry. Put it in your carry on.

10. Have some dry, non-perishable snacks for a long flight. It’s much cheaper than stopping at a convenience store or in the airport terminal. Avoid messy foods, like cheese puffs and nacho chips. The orange dust gets on everything.

11. Bring a pack of gum, and be sure to chew it before take-off and landing. It really does help your ears with the air pressure.

12. Packing tip – pack in a smaller bag. Then transfer everything to a larger case. This leaves you room to bring things back without an extra bag or bagging charge. Packing cubes are also great for organizing and keeping things separate (I like Eagle Creek).

13. Plan your outfits so you can match them to each other. This will give you more clothes options without bringing too much. Scarves and pins are two good ways to add some pizazz to an outfit and change it up a bit.

14. Pack in reverse order for clothes so you don’t mess up your bag searching for “today’s” outfit.

15. In the very front pocket of your suitcase, the larger accessory one on the outside, put everything you’ll need for the first night’s sleep. This will save you tearing apart your suitcase when youj’re exhausted from arriving at your destination. All in the front, sleep well, and begin the next day fresh. If there’s space in that front pocket, maybe put in your first day’s clothes also.

16. Some hotels offer breakfast. Continental or full at some places. Factor this into your price when estimating how much you’re willing to spend on a hotel stay. It may not be as expensive as it initially sounds when food is included.

17. What will you use for an alarm clock? I use my cell phone.

18. On that note, make sure your electronic devices will work where you’re going, and that you’re on a plan to cover your use of 4G or calling and texting. If you’re traveling internationally, get an adapter plug.

19. A mini surge protector is a great tool that I’ve been using for several years now. You can get a reliable one from Belkin.

20. I always use a list and I always forget something. I woke up in the middle of the night yesterday realizing that I forgot to put a laundry bag on my packing list. I haven’t seen it in awhile; it’s probably lost somewhere in the basement, hiding with my missing socks.