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What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Traveling

Remember the movie Up in the Air and the scene with Natalie (played by Anna Kendrick) in the airport dragging her uber-heavy luggage? That used to be me! I didn’t carry a pillow in my luggage, but I had everything else – travel coffee pot, shoes, electric hair rollers, shoes, hair dryer, more shoes and twice as many clothes as needed. I shudder to think of what I used to pack!

Up in the AirThroughout countless flights, hotel stays, dining experiences and taxi rides, I’ve learned a thing or two and am always learning more. Here are some of the top travel tips I wish I had known at the beginning (all things I’ve learned the hard way):

  • You can go through an entire week with just a couple of pairs of shoes. You do not need to pack your entire shoe rack and buy even more shoes during your travels.
  • You can wear the same pants twice in a week. Even the same jacket if you switch up the blouse underneath or add a scarf.
  • You do not need to bring every color of eye shadow or lipstick you own. You can get by with one of each.
  • You do not need to iron clothes before you pack them. Roll them, or layer them in plastic bags. Then you’ll only be ironing as a last resort.
  • Do not plug in appliances (a stick blender in my case) in a foreign hotel without the proper power converter. The room very suddenly gets very dark. Know the power outlets and voltage for where you’re traveling to.
  • Take at least two credit cards on every trip. One may be declined because you forgot to let the credit card company know you were traveling abroad (or forgot to pay the bill since you weren’t home to get the statement). It’s very embarrassing to have your credit card declined when you’re taking a client out to dinner.
  • Take more cash than you think you’ll need. Between tipping, places that do not accept credit cards, and small purchases, cash is often needed. Any excess can be deposited once you’re back home.
  • Keep a list of all credit cards in a safe place at home, along with the number on each and the phone number of the credit card company. And have a set place for each credit card in your wallet so you don’t misplace them or not realize when you’ve lost one.
  • Don’t wear lots of metallic custom jewelry on air travel days, nor big billowy skirts. Both end up with more airport security inspection, and the latter can get very personal.
  • Keep track of your travel itinerary. Online, on paper … doesn’t matter. But know where you’re staying when you show up in a city.
  • If a cab driver doesn’t seem to know where he’s going, and won’t admit it, ask him to stop at the nearest hotel. Then get another cab.
  • If you ask a cab driver to take you to Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) and he asks ‘Which one?’ – get out of the cab.
  • For foreign trips, always have the hotel name in writing and preferably in the local language as well as English. Give this to the cab driver rather than try to explain in a language they do not speak.
  • Ask a cab driver if they take credit cards before getting into the cab. Many do not (and hence the need for additional cash). If it’s not a metered cab, agree on a price before the cab takes off.
  • Always have your airline’s telephone number in your mobile phone. With any cancellation of a flight, immediately call the airline – even if you also get in the line with 200 other passengers awaiting rebooking (might as well get a meal voucher, right?)
  • Speaking of meal vouchers … for any airline-caused flight delay of a significant length (maybe two hours or more?), ask for a meal voucher. It doesn’t buy much, but it offsets the stress a little bit to enjoy a coffee or dessert on the airline.
  • Try to fly one airline (or it’s codeshare partners) until you reach their premium status. Spreading your miles around ten different airlines won’t get you upgrades or priority boarding, though it will get you a wallet-full of airline cards. Same goes for hotels and car rentals.
  • When traveling somewhere really exciting for you, plan an extra day or two for enjoyment. Don’t go to Hawaii for work and not leave any time for the beach.
  • Do squats and lunges to keep your thighs strong. This is very helpful in places without western toilets. And always carries tissues for when there is no toilet paper.

So many more things come to mind, especially around traveling with young kids at home. That’ll be the subject of another article … What I Wish I Knew as a Traveling Mom.

What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

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