10 Travel Tips That Help Keep You Sane

Travel can test your sanity

I've traveled around the world twice, and from above the Arctic Circle all the way down to Antarctica. Believe me when I say that traveling can sometimes test your sanity. You may have crossed many time zones, gone without sleep, be dehydrated, and have no back up resource to help you when there's a cancelled flight. Your kid may have gotten sick. Your partner may have twisted an ankle hiking down the beach or up a mountain. Even for experienced travelers, travel can be a strain as much as it can be a joy. So here are 10 travel tips that help keep you sane, no matter where you are traveling in the world.

10 Tips to take the worry out of travel

  • Use a travel advisor to do your research and book your travel. And I don't just say this because I am one. Here's why.
    • We know what's going on behind the scenes. I'm a member of at least a dozen travel advisor groups and we share the good, the bad, and the ugly with each other every single day. I can check on a travel company I'm not familiar with and get the skinny in an hour.
    • We all have our own lists of "do not recommend" and "do not sell" for a reason. And here's a tip for you. If you are using a travel advisor to book travel and they try to steer you away from a certain cruise line or land tour operator, trust that.
    • We know the cruise lines that will sell out your ship to a charter after you've booked and paid, and leave you hanging to find another cruise date that fits you.
    • We know the "sales" that aren't sales at all. We also know the really good deals, and we typically know them before you do.
    • We have connections to sales managers for tour operators and cruise companies. When something goes wrong we have someone inside to call.
    • We know who is understaffing their resorts and ships. We also know the hotels that will walk you when you've booked a cheap online rate and the hotel is full.
    • We know the brands who will fix an issue without your being on hold for 2 hours to a call center half the world away.
  • Let your travel advisor quote travel insurance for you, and buy it. If you want it to cover pre-existing medical conditions make sure that you purchase it within the required time frame after you've booked and deposited or paid for your travel. Travel insurance provided by credit card companies is rarely as comprehensive as travel insurance from an outside provider. The same is true for trip insurance booked through the travel company - it often reimburses you with a credit toward another trip, not a cash reimbursement. When you are traveling far from home and you've invested thousands in a trip, protect yourself.

Be smart with your time and money

  • Cheap prices mean the worst seats and the worst rooms. If that's OK with you, you're good to go. Don't book a super-cheap hotel room and then think you'll get upgraded to a suite. 
  • Hot tip: Pay for travel bookings (whether on your own or through a travel advisor) using a credit card. In most instances, the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act will protect you by crediting your account for the amount of the trip if the supplier does not provide the services contracted for and has no resources to reimburse the traveler. There is no Federal protection for the use of debit cards.
  • If you are doing a long haul flight book premium economy at the least and go for business if you can afford it. We define long haul as anything over 5 hours. And avoid booking the lowest tier "economy" tickets. You'll be at the back of the line should any problems arise with flights, and these days that's more often than it used to be. 
  • Get a credit card that doesn't charge you international exchange fees, and use it to get cash from ATM's outside the United States. That's usually your best exchange rate. Avoid money changers in airport and at hotel desks. 90% of the time, their exchange rates are not in your favor. Some of these cards (they may have an annual fee) also include access to airport lounges. This could be helpful for you if you're traveling with extended layovers. 
  • Accept the truth that when you are travel your time is precious. You've spent good money on this trip, don't waste half a day trying to figure out how to get into a city from a distant airport using slow bus lines with 2 connections. Spend the money for a private car or a small group shuttle that will quickly get you where you are going, so that your trip can get started smoothly. Saving $70 when you've already spent $5000 on a trip makes no sense.
  • Don't bother getting traveler's checks - they are rarely used anymore and many hotels will no longer accept them due to fraud. 


travel tips

Don't walk in fear, but be prepared and aware

  • If you are leaving your vehicle in a parking lot while you travel, take a photo on your phone of your claim ticket. If you misplace the ticket while you're away, you can show the parking attendant your photo. And don't leave stuff in your vehicle while you're away.
  • Always take a good photo of the main page of your passport (and any visas you've had to purchase ahead of time), print them out, and keep them with you separately from your passport. If you loss your passport or it's stolen, those pictures are worth their weight in gold. Ask me, I've been there before! Before you leave get an extra set of passport photos made and carry them with you. And make sure to email or text a copy of your main passport page to your travel advisor - she'll have it on hand should you get into a fix.

Bonus Tip: Travel light. Your purpose is to see the world, not impress the people around you. Especially if you are doing independent travel, that luggage is going to become a burden very quickly. Rolling luggage is often useless when you're overseas and on cobblestone streets, so you'll end up having to lift and carry your bag when you didn't think you would have to. Look for a travel tote that's easy to carry, or use a rolling duffel that you can also carry. If you're on your own and traveling in hostels or lower end hotels there will probably be no elevators, so plan accordingly. My rule of thumb is not to travel with anything I will be upset to lose. If you insist on traveling with expensive jewelry, use the safe in your hotel room, behind the hotel desk, or in your cruise cabin.

Travel changes life, in a good way. You want to position yourself to have as smooth a trip as possible.

  • Direct, non-stop flights if at all possible.
  • Premium economy seating (or better).
  • Safe lodging that is well located and doesn't make you walk miles to the things you want to see.
  • Comfortable clothing and shoes. (or if you prefer sport sandals, I like these)
  • Safe ways to carry credit cards, passports, and money. You can use an RFID blocking travel pouch and passport holder if you feel safer.
  • A travel advisor to call if you get caught in a delay or cancellation.

All these things help you relax, look forward to your travels, and benefit from the investment you've made in your trip. 

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