Being a savvy traveler is an exceptionally smart skill to have, easy to develop and hard to do without once you firmly establish the habit. When I look back at our initial travels, I shudder at the immature ways I went about them. I can almost pinpoint the day that my husband read an article on becoming a minimalist traveler, and overnight, forbid me from checking in luggage, regardless of our destination! (You bet I put up a fight!) Around the same time, he decided that if we were going to be traveling the world, it is imperative for both our sanity and our budget that we become expert travelers.
The last few years have proven to be a quick learning curve, a bit of adjustment, and an extremely rewarding experience, as we refine the planning and the approach to traveling to near or far destinations. So it is with great pleasure that I impart to you the knowledge that has served us so well. From the amazing experience of traveling no less than 100,000 miles a year few years in a row, here are my 10 Smart Tips for a Savvy World Traveler:
1. On Packing and Checking Luggage:
It all starts with “What on earth should I take?” and it can add up to just about everything. Avoid the temptation to take any more than you absolutely need! It is extremely helpful to have a Packing List before hand. Then find out the climate during your travel, the type of activities you plan to do, and depending on location (i.e., large city, island in Hawaii, Colorado mountains) and local culture (i.e., sexy elegance for Paris and Rome) start a packing list with categories of Clothes, Toiletries, Shoes, Accessories, Documents, Luggage, and Wearing during Trip. Think not only about what to take, but how many wardrobes you can create with the smallest quantity. Print the list and follow it exactly. On trips of up to 10 days, you can easily get by without checking luggageand still manage to look fashionable! The best and most durable of our luggage has been a large Patagonia (in the top photo). Think about not having the paranoia of delayed or lost luggage when arriving at your destination, not paying the airline fee these days for checking luggage, and being in control of your time and possessions at all times! Nearly priceless!
2. On Planning ahead – Research and use trusted Sources:
The best and most important part is the planning phase. You cannot underestimate it. The more time and effort you put into planning, the more you bask in your travels, worry-free. I can hear the arguments against spontaneity, and I argue that you can always plan more but choose to do less of it on vacation, but not the other way around! It is a double blessing if you have friends who have already visited the destination, and of course Google, Blogs, and TripAdvisor forums are filled with tips from savvy travelers to every corner of the world. In particular for Italy and other European destinations, RickSteve‘s free audio podcasts served as the best virtual tour of the Pantheon and the Roman Forum. Spend at least 1 week of planning, and do so at least 2-3 weeks ahead of your trip so as to give time for response to when you contact local people for information.
3. On Organizing everything with TripIt:
Coordinate, schedule, and organize everything in the fantastic tool called TripIt. It is free, and integrated fully to Expedia, Travelocity and major hotel, airline, and transportation websites. You can easily import all of your reservations from other websites into TripIt, and it updates any changes automatically. With the foundation of Arrival and Departure in place, you can then attack the daily schedule and add plans to your trip, down to Activities, Tours, Restaurants, Shows, and Notes, and Maps. You can then print it and access it all the same from any smart phone.
4. On Lodging and Loyalty to a Hotel Chain:
Being faithful has its rewards. When I was traveling nonstop to Northern California, staying at the same Hyatt seemed far from boring. It was my home away from home on those ungodly business trips. But comfort and familiarity took a back step when I realized all the perks and bonuses of acquiring status! Being a Diamond status with the Hyatt has more been so ridiculously rewarding that we do a mattress run during the last few months of the year only to earn enough points to splurge for free at the Park Hyatts of the world. I like the Hyatt far above the Hilton and about the same as Sheraton. The point here is finding a hotel with locations nearly all over the world, and accumulating points. Every now and again, you will go off to a B&B or a local resort, sure! But as a rule, have loyalty to one hotel chain.
5. On Flying and Loyalty to the same Airline:
If you are going to have one loyalty, Airline loyalty is the one with highest return. Acquiring status with an airline means upgrades to Business or First, and boarding the airplane first. It could mean faster security lines depending on the airport, and access to certain lounges without membership, which after a long flight is a sweet escape from the noisy terminals. As far as which airline, I refuse to fly Delta airlines, who gets the prize for the most crammed coach seats and most awful rewards program (You have to pay a fortune to donate your miles to someone else!)Southwest airlines runs great direct flights that sometimes I opt to fly for mere convenience. Also note that airlines have partnerships with each other so your miles add up. American Airlines has one with the fabulous Qantas for flying down under. For those of you who are serious about acquiring status with American, see my post benefits of the Executive Platinum life with American.
6. On Efficiency at Airports and Security:
Please get over the rules on what you can and cannot take through security, come to terms with it and do not look for common sense. I used to get furious, and what wasted energy! One ziplock bag of tiny liquids, have it ready to pull out of your luggage in a moment’s notice. Take your shoes and coat off fast, hold on to the boarding pass, watch your belongings like a hawk as they go through the xray, especially if you have a Mac (a hot item for those thieves!) Be fast and efficient during security lines and use the “Expert Traveler” lines if you feel confident that you won’t slow down the line. Know the system, the rules, and please act and be like a pro traveler.
7. On your Diet in days prior to and on the flights:
This may sound unconventional, and not necessarily worth the trouble, but avoid sugars, heavy meals, and eat tons of raw vegetables, avocado, salads (see my salad recipes) and fruits before long airplane rides. Take your supplements and vitamins, drink plenty of water with lemon and lower your intake of caffeine, and drink Oolong tea or Green teas with raw honey. Your body’s immune system needs to be at its optimal before boarding a flight and you need to be paranoid about one thing: Keeping your health at its best during your travels, for it is a miserable thing to be sick and away from home.
8. On How best to Manage Long Flights:
If you have done everything in the previous tip, you could go the extra mile with me. I take a large ziplock bag with several Romaine (or other dark leaf) lettuce leaves, carrots, cucumbers, an apple, avocado (and sometimes, Kale!), and squeeze fresh lemon over it all to eat on the plane. (I take great joys knowing that while I can’t get my filtered water past security, I can get my lettuce through, even at 90% water content!) I always carry my loose leaf tea in tea sacs and stop at Starbucks for a large free cup of hot water to make it in. I remain notorious about airplane food even in Business or First, and stay very cautious until arriving at destination. You can even go hardcore like Natalia Rose, my juicing hero, and carry frozen green juices on the plane for a mid-air snack! Do invest in a pair of nice BOSE Noise Cancelling Headsets. It will make a marked difference on your fatigue level when you arrive. Stay very hydrated. Of course, take the usual precautions with germ phobia by using hand sanitizer, brushing your teeth and tongue, washing hands with soap often, and avoiding contact with others much as possible.
9. On best Leveraging Technology:
Technology has made our lives remarkable in the last 10 years, and it has made traveling so much easier and more accessible to everyone. Use it for savvy traveling. Digital cameras are an absolute must, and take extra batteries and multiplesmall flash cards to store photos, rather than one large one (if damaged, you lose at most partial photos). I hardly take my laptops along on vacation but if I do, backup is imperative at the end of the day. If not, you can backup photos to your iPod with the right adapter. Always take a mini portable tripod rather than depending on strangers for photos. Our latest best friend is my husband’s iPhone. In terms of applications, start first with the obviously fantastic Google Maps which is our walking and driving GPS, then use Yelp for the best directories to locate anything anywhere, and we also like the AllSubway app for its detailed metro maps. For a copy of your passport or other easily accessible documents, use DropBox or EverNote, the world of cloud computing that allows you to access your documents from anywhere. Free WiFi access and Skype make it easy to skip those fees to giant service providers and stay in touch with home when on international travel.
10. On Journaling your Experience:
Write during your travels. This is no “Dear Diary” entry. This is about committing to memory the experience that you have worked so hard to create. Write on paper, or a small Netbook or on your smart phone, but do write. We forget so quickly, and time only becomes more cruel as we grow old. Yes, this is for my male audience too. My husband penned some impressive journals of our first London & Paris trip over 6 years ago. And it is the very reason On The Road by Prolific Living was created, a space to commit travel experience to memory and to impart the experience to others.
There is a very specific reason I chose this topic as the very last post with which to wrap the first year of blogging at Prolific Living. One of the visions of Prolific Living is to embody the essence of vitality and bliss through the well-established habit of ruthless traveling. I think traveling is my way of expressing, and fulfilling, my need to connect with the world, its cities, its cultures, its people. I travel far only to find how small and connected this world really is. My goal is to aspire you to travel outside of your comfort zone and close-by destinations. To leave home now and again to explore this beautiful world we live in for such a short while. To create fantastic memories that, on both a simple budget or a luxury ride, will warm your heart and make for authentic conversation for years to come.