Sunday, March 29, 2015

Traveling Tips

We have been fortunate enough to travel 5 times in the past 8 months.  There have been a total of 19 flights in those trips and 4 trips through U.S. customs as well as trips into five other countries.


I am surprised to find that I still learn something on every trip.

Security

  • They aren't kidding. Don't try to be their friend and don't take it personally. Just shut up and do what you're told.
  • I have been patted down and pulled from security. Once I left my fitbit on because I wear it sunup to sundown and think of it as another limb. This past time I have no idea why they patted me down but it is always a same sex employee. I did have to resist the urge to ask for a hug afterward.  I was wearing a loose fitting cotton dress so I still have no idea why I was stopped but it is a quick and painless process.
  • Aerosol containers - this one has gotten my husband twice. First, we own a stainless steel whip cream maker...these take small CO2 cartridges. Somehow a cartridge was in his camera bag. Before you comment, no we were not using the whip cream container in conjunction with our camera...we wish we were that exciting after 20 years of marriage! This past trip he managed to pack the bug spray in the wrong suitcase absentmindedly. You can bring it but it has to be checked. Security was ridiculously nice both times.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off.
Things to bring
Every time we travel we realize things we should always bring (yet always fail to)

  • When leaving the country you might not easily (or affordably) find your favorite over the counter medication. For instance, employees in Jamaica had not seen sudafed before. 
  • bug spray
  • sunscreen-you need to reapply when in the Caribbean it is not what you are used to, but prepared.
  • Mugs for coffee. Disney gives you mugs with your dining plan but if you are going on a cruise or all-inclusive you will like having your larger mug for portability and tumbler to keep your drinks cold.
  • single dollars for tips
  • chargers-bring extras if you have them, it is not fun to replace your phone charger when yours gets a faulty wire.
  • We like to carry a sturdy backpack to get through airports with hands free.

Packing

    • As you just read, pack intentionally. Don't put liquids over 3 ounces or aerosol in your carry on.
    • 3-1-1 for carry-ons. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. The bag limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.
    • Luggage doesn't just get lost by the airport. I had mine accidentally taken by some fool that didn't see the need to read the luggage tag. I now have hideous luggage that no one would mistake as their own. If you are buying luggage do not buy solid dark colors. If you already own boring luggage you need to duct tape it with wild duct tape or tie handkerchiefs or ribbons to it. Do not expect adults retrieving their luggage to read the obvious tag!
    • Weigh your luggage at home before leaving so you don't have to open it at the airport and move things from one bag to another with panties flying in every direction for everyone to see!
    • Put everything you need immediately in your carry on. Your bags might go missing, keep medicine with you.

Don't be 'that guy'

  • No one wants to hear you yelling at the airport. Most people are out for a long day of traveling perhaps starting out with very little sleep.  There is always some idiot being obnoxious.
  • Look up and be aware. The airport security and customs areas are not the place to be texting, sleeping or oblivious. Be aware of others and announcements.
  • Keep your passport and boarding passes in a front compartment of your backpack or bag. Do not drop it into your purse. No one wants to wait for you to relocate it fifteen times.
  • Be ready when going through security to remove shoes, jackets, purses and don't be distracted. If you have children check as much as you can so your free to deal with the child.  

Culture

Don't fight local culture, embrace it and always be a student of the world. Sit near bus drivers and ask questions about their country. They are often excited to share and proud of their world.  We have learned such interesting things in our travels.  Get off of your electronics and OPEN your eyes when transferring to and from the airport. There are amazing landscapes and worlds to see. Ask your servers what their favorite dish is and what people like the most.

Tipping
It is customary to tip the people that carry your luggage to the shuttles. They can be pretty aggressive to take your bags because this is how they make their living.
This frustrated me initially as I felt it was a bit underhanded to take my luggage without asking then expect a tip.  Then I thought it through...honestly, you only tip $1/piece of luggage. We generally have 1 piece of luggage per person. So we would spend $2-3 each direction for their assistance and it helps the locals.

Even with a complimentary airport transfer like those offered by Disney and Sandals resorts you should tip the drive a few dollars. Again this just helps out the local economy. Expect it and have singles in your pocket.

Airport

  • I've heard nightmares about Atlanta airport for years. Now that I have flown through it. I understand the frustrations but don't let that worry you. The key to any airport I have been in is to look around, find someone in  clearly marked airport employee clothing and ask questions.  We had a great experience in Atlanta International airport. I think the key was having plenty of time to  change planes and asking questions so we did not go out of our way to reach our destination.
  • While there is often a fee with checking luggage there is a bit of a trick to it. If you have a carry on luggage and you take it through security to the gate they will generally check if for free because the space in the plan for carryons is limited. This is especially helpful with connecting flights because they will check it to your final destination when possible. Thus you will not have to carry it through the airports.
  • You 'clear' customs in Nassau, Bahamas when traveling back to the U.S. This is a great and efficient system making it a popular destination for first time or anxious travelers.



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