In travel, both the destination and the journey are equally fun; that is, if there are no major hiccups along the way. Here are some tips and reminders that we’ve compiled based on the more recent visit to Europe. Feel free to add more tips through the comment section below. Have a safe and fun travel!
In the same way that each one is unique, people also don’t travel the same. Some don’t care about agreed schedules, others prefer to be at the designated rendezvous at the designated time. Some wake up late, so you have to say goodbye to early morning schedules. Others prefer to spend more time in restaurants, others in the mall or on the beach. To avoid friction, agree on a few common schedules; go your separate ways the rest of the trip.
Mode of transportation
Many times it’s a matter of budget, sometimes a matter of availability, but regardless of the mode of transportation, there must be a general idea on logistics. How large and heavy baggages should be? Trasfer stations? Food in terminal? Time zones and sleeping time? Jet lag? If planning to use rails in Europe, book tickets in advance.
The largest portion of travel cost is airfare and transportation. Travel offpeak and check for promos. Do research and go the path less travelled, which could mean availing of interconnecting trains instead of airplanes. Of course, this involves extra traveling days and more effort but, hey, you can’t have everything. [If you want help in stitching those wonderful travel arrangements together, let us know at GoTravelBliss.]
This is among the most overlooked part of travel preparations. Budget airlines will have lower weight allotment and more strict on hand-carried baggage size. Vacuum bags help a lot in maximizing bag space, but be mindful that while this scheme saves a lot of baggage space, it does not reduce the weight and actually tempts you to pack more into the bag. Have a weighing scale handy (yes, even a bathroom scale). Airline security is strict on prohibited objects like liquids and sharp objects. If you need to hand-carry liquid, 100 ml. containers are usually required, tucked in clear plastic that can be separated from the hand-carry bag at the x-ray machine. Baggages do get misrouted or, worse, lost, so have a one-day supply of clothes and necessities in the hand-carried bag. Also, it’s better to be equipped for minor cuts and bruises — small doses of pain relievers, band aids, betadine, etc.
Bags and trains
There’s a pace for everyone — no travel company can possibly claim that a particular travel package fits one and all. The unbearable baggage mountain of some travelers is possible because, for them, money is not an object and, more importantly, they choose to. For the rest of us mortals, we travel within reasonable means. This means, in many instances, the ability to move around with ease — person and baggage. A single roller backage for each person is ideal for trains and train stations. Check-in baggage in planes takes time to retrieve.
Prepare to walk
If you want to see AND fully experience a place, be ready to walk the streets. Prepare to get lost because that’s the only way you’ll encounter surprises, welcome or otherwise. Get an idea of the local peace and order. Wear comfortable shoes. Say that again — wear comfortable shoes. There’s a reason why fashion is done on the runway.
Kids in travel
Kids are designed to destroy plans. They get sick, grumpy when sleepy, too tired to walk. They will wander off even if you tell them a million times not to wander around. Assume they will mess up your plans. Plan for contingencies and have a flexible schedule. Tell them about plan b or c, but assume that they will most likely forget your instructions. Pace your travel accordingly. When walking, we usually have kids sandwiched between adults.
Time is gold
Kids are also designed to consume all the time in the world. They will want to drop by the restaurant when you drop by the gas station for, what else, gas. Make them understand that if you guys are supposed to be in one place by a particular time, then members of the group should be there. Delays are inevitable, but delays are always incorporated in the plan.
Time per stop
For sightseeing tours, it’s tempting to stay longer in each stop to soak the view and get to know more about the place. When sitting in a major monument, for instance, some people read each inscription and look at each design. This should be the way it is done, if only you have all the time in the world. For our part, we prefer to breeze through and check all the details later in the internet. Now, it’s a different matter if we’re on the beach or some quiet mountain top — we’ll spend all the time there.
It’s amazing how we can get lost when detailed maps are available online. Street-level travel requires a prior study of maps. Google/Maps is good, but that presupposes you have continuous data coverage when roaming abroad. Paper maps would do. Download the maps in advance and get those nice printed ones at the destination airport. Remember that there are also maps that show the modes of transportation and how to use them. Use buses, trains and other available public transport. Riding in taxis should be a last recourse.
Second to airfare, food constitutes the second largest portion of traveling expense. Shopping is not counted in our book, sorry. Yes, shopping is probably more expensive, but you have no business reading this budget article if you’re into shopping as a sport. Also, food adventure is perfectly fine, but listen to your tummy for first signs of trouble. One more thing, have enough calories for the planned activities for the day. There’s a reason why chocolate is a convenient and effective ration during wars.
We can hold off eating, but not drinking. Dehydration is always a serious business. So, if we choose not to trust tap water and when hotel/restaurant water is naturally expensive, we need to source the cheapest water. We usually find “buy 1, take 1” promos or similar saving schemes at the local supermarket. Avoid the convenience stores.
Call of nature
No matter your excuse, we can safely say that call of nature can be anticipated. It’s normal that if you drink a lot, you pee a lot. Kids have habits and schedules. Pee in short intervals — even if they say they don’t feel like it — whenever there’s a toilet or comfort room at airports, stations or restaurants. This is particularly true when you have kids in the group.
Accomodations can be very, very expensive — an insanely lovely bed and other fabulous room facilities could be treat. But expensive. Here’s our simple principle — the purpose of travel exploration is to go out and explore. You spend a few hours in the hotel to sleep and you should be off again to see new sights, taste new food, experience new adventures. An expensive hotel — which you don’t actually use much — is a total waste of travel budget. Also, many hotels have no family rooms and some apartments have common toilet/bathroom. Lastly, choose a hotel that is most accessible to your points of interest (we love hotels within walking distance to/from train stations).
Enough sleep and rest
You can’t go out if you’re sick, can you? It’s tempting to cram the most number of travel plans in a limited travel time. Boost your physical condition if you anticipate a lot of walking. Exercise ahead of the scheduled travel. When crossing time zones, take a week or so to adjust your sleep pattern to be nearest the sunrise/sunset of the destination; you don’t want jetlag to ruin your first day.
The internet added a new dimension to travel, which used to involve only the physical sphere. With online transactions and social networks connected to personal accounts, any breach may mean a lot of trouble. The problem could be deceivingly simple as a loss of a cellphone, which usually holds pre-logged accounts and other precious data. Make sure that plan B is available, like the immediate change of passwords when units are compromised.