Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Art of Travel: Part 5 - Gearing Up For Your Future Trip

The other day I was speaking to my business partner, who is getting ready to do more traveling. While she relishes the opportunity to be on the road - networking, meeting and greeting; she has a difficult time gearing up for the actual traveling. I imagine that she is not alone. Many people love to travel, but the actual preparation and gearing up for it can be a different story. There is always so much to do and prepare for, that it can oftentimes become overwhelming. I offered her a few tricks to help with that sense of urgency that can overtake you while you are thinking about everything you need to do before you leave.
  • The number one recommendation I made was for her to make a list of everything she needed to do before she left. That way, it's written down and she can "scratch" it off of the list once it's been completed. 
  • If you have animals, make sure that they will have someone to take care of them while you are away, or that they will be properly boarded.
  • Sometimes when traveling for a significant length of time, it is a good idea to have your mail service stopped so it does not build up in your mailbox. A lot of people have friends or services who take care of this, but if you don't have the luxury of having someone stop by your home on a frequent basis, it's best to just have delivery stopped until your return.
  • Depending on the time of year and where you live (especially in colder regions during the winter months), you will want to make sure that any sources of possible water damages (ie, water hoses, pipes), are taken care of prior to leaving. The last thing you want to come back to are broken water pipes and several feet of water in your basement. Many services can advise of what you can do while you are away to stave off any of these types of issues. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention..."
  • Bills...yes, the dreaded bills. Fortunately, most people can do their bill paying and banking over the Internet; however, for those individuals who are not comfortable with that, it is advisable to ensure that all of your bills are paid prior to your departure. It's better they are paid early, versus late; especially with most companies charging hefty late fees. This is an often overlooked item, but it's important.
  • Clean out your refrigerator and have some food in your freezer for your return. I can not tell you how many people have returned from their vacations to find piles of molded food in their refrigerators, and nothing to eat. When I travel, I always like to clean out my refrigerator and get rid of anything that may go bad while I'm away. Also, I like to have a frozen pizza or some food in my freezer, so when I return I don't have to worry about going hungry. Sometimes you may get back from a trip later in the evening, and after schlepping from the airport, etc, you are just not in the mood to go to the grocery store, or even stop and pick up food. Having food in your cabinets or freezer will ensure you have something to eat upon your return. 
  • Adding on to that last one - take your trash out. I think that one speaks for itself. Most people aren't as neurotic as I am, but I always like to leave a clean house. I launder my bed linens and make sure my house is clean. It makes me feel good - 'nuff said.
I could go on forever, but I think this is a fairly exhaustive list that can help you out while you are getting geared up for your travels!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Delicate Situations While Traveling

I was at one of my favorite little restaurants a few evenings ago, and (unfortunately) I overheard a gentleman shall I put it, a "tummy" problem he encountered on his most recent trip abroad. I believe he said he had been in some part of Africa, and through his elaborate description of his "issue", I heard more than I ever wanted to hear; however, it did get me to thinking about traveling and what happens when your body rebels against you because of something you've been eating or drinking.

I have a small pack that I always carry with me when I am traveling; especially internationally, because there are some items you can not readily obtain while you are abroad. My little medical travel container holds: antibacterial cream, pepto bismal tablets, alcohol pads that are pre-moistened, band-aids, aspirin and ibuprofen, benadryl, cough drops, cold medicine tablets and alka seltzer. I may toss in other items too; however, the aforementioned products are always standard in my medical travel container. Since I rarely check luggage, I do have to place any of the wet items into my little zippy bag that holds the liquids you are allowed to check on, but once I arrive at my destination, I move the items back to my medical travel container so that all of the products are together in one place, and I slip it in my bag while I am foraging around in the new city.

I can't tell you how many times people who have been traveling with me have used the products, because they never thought they would need any of those items, so they never thought to bring them along. Yes, most people will bring any of their prescription medicines, contact lenses solution and vitamins, but rarely do they have other items that can come in handy while traveling.

There are a couple other "rules of thumb" that I try to abide by when I am traveling. First of all, I do NOT prefer to use the airplane restroom, and I typically only have to use the airplane restroom when I am traveling on an international flight; otherwise, I always use the restroom just prior to boarding, so I don't need to use the restroom on a flight. I am fortunate, in that, I do not have any medical conditions that require that I have to use the restroom frequently, and I don't have a small bladder, so I can do very well. Second, I caution all of my friends when we are traveling together that they probably shouldn't over indulge in the libations the night before we are to get on a plane the next day, because hangovers and planes just don't mix. Some heed the caution, and some don't, but those that don't aren't very happy that they didn't heed the warning. Also, while I may love to try exotic food when I am traveling, and I tend to try a variety of foods, I am hesitant to try anything too exotic when I know I'm going to be on an airplane for 7+ hours. If there is something I really want to eat, I'll do it at the beginning of my trip, so that if something doesn't agree with me, I have a few days on land to work through it, versus being stuck in a tiny airplane bathroom. And it sounds like the gentleman (who was the catalyst for this blog entry) did not enjoy his time being stuck in the airplane bathroom from Africa back to the U.S.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Art of Travel: Part 4 - Paying For Your Travel

The Art of Travel: Part 4 - Paying For Your Travel

Now we are getting to the part that makes people cringe - the money. Yes, it takes money to travel, but with a little planning and ingenuity, you can make the relinquishing of your hard, earned cash a little less painful. I've listed a few ideas for your consideration:
  • Budget - Once you've determined where and when you want to travel, you can begin budgeting for it. Take the total (estimated) cost of your trip, and divide it into workable amounts that you can sock away until you can pay for your trip.
  • Work With a Travel Professional - Travel professionals work on building relationships that benefit their clients, and they have specific suppliers they work with that only require a deposit to secure their travel arrangements (oftentimes there are terms and conditions around the airfare with these types of travel arrangements, so you may still have to pay in full on the air portion). Once you've made the minimum deposit, you can pay monthly, or just a lump sum when the final payment is due. Many travelers who cruise a lot are familiar with this aspect of making a deposit and paying a final balance later; however, you can do the same thing for trips to Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, etc. 
  • Volunteer - There are a lot of programs out there that are looking for volunteers to work abroad.In some cases they provide a small stipend, and pay for your travel to and from that destination. While this volunteering could be in some far flung places, hey, you're going on a trip!
  • Have a Garage Sale - It may sound unrealistic, but you'd be surprised how much "stuff" you may have that you could sell in order to finance your travel. I've known people who've made several hundreds and thousands of dollars by selling items on eBay, garage sales and Craigslist. If you have the time and patience, this may be a way to pay for all or most of your travel expenses without touching your "real" paycheck or credit cards; which leads me to another alternative...
  • Get a Part-Time Job - If you have a vacation that you are planning, and you have the time and energy, you may want to get a part-time job in order to defray some of the costs, or even pay for the full costs associated with your travel. I had a client who did just that! She didn't want to have any credit card payments; nor could she afford to take money from her full-time job in order to pay for a trip, so she got a part-time job and saved enough money to pay for her trip in full - to LONDON!
  • Go Somewhere Less Expensive - Sometimes it isn't the destination, it's just the need to get away! Perhaps a nine day European vacation is too expensive, but a long weekend in Napa Valley is doable.
  • Stay for a Shorter Time - If you just have to be in Paris (which I can COMPLETELY understand); maybe you can't comfortably afford seven days, but you can afford four days - do it! While I am not a fan of traveling so far away for a short period of time; I've found that in most major cities, you can hit the "do not miss" places within a three or four day period of time.
I hope some of these ideas are beneficial for you, and that you have seriously started thinking about where you want to go this year!

*photo used from: