“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Unknown
Many moons ago British Airways asked its followers on LinkedIn for their favourite travel tips. The post got me thinking about what travel tips I live by to make my own journey smoother. I began to craft my thoughts into a blog post, only to have it go missing and I needed to start from scratch. A lesson in the importance of being prepared for your journey.
My family holiday rule growing up was always “If you could carry it yourself, you could bring it.” I learned at a young age to carry a lot. With March, Spring and Easter Breaks as well as Summer holidays on the horizon, I thought this would be a timely post to share the tips I have learned over the years to hopefully streamline someone else’s future travels.
Before your Journey
• Before booking any travel, check to see if your passport is valid for a minimum of six months. Every country has different travel rules regarding passport expiry so do your research. This is not something you want to be stressing about right before you are embarking on your holiday. Also double check you have packed your passport when you are leaving for the airport. Be prepared.
• Sign up for e-mails to keep informed of seat sales and airline promotions for airlines you like to travel. On my last holiday, I lucked out with a World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) seat for less than World Traveller (Economy) on a long-haul flight when booking during a British Airways seat sale. Much to my surprise upon boarding at London Heathrow that I found myself with an upgrade to Club World for my homeward journey. Thank you BA for the lovely experience.
• Enrol in a frequent flyer program and always book through that airline even if the flight is operated through one of their code share partners. By committing to one or two airlines, it may help you build flight status quicker. Depending on the destination, I book my flights with British Airways and Air Canada – both members of different airline alliances. The One World Alliance includes British Airways as well as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and SriLankan Airlines. Star Alliance includes Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Asiana, Austrian, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS and United among others. Traveling via one alliance helps with a smooth transition for both passenger and their baggage during flight connections and the entire journey.
• Find a carry-on and suitcase perfect for you. This sometimes takes time. I know many people love the mini suitcases. All great when you are going from home to car to terminal to car to final destination. After years of trying various bags, I finally found my perfect carry-on – the LeSportSac Avery bag. This bag has a back sleeve that unzips to go over a suitcase handle and makes my life easier when navigating the terminal, train or tube. My suitcase also has the ability to expand at the end of my voyage if additional room may be required.
• Print all travel documents, confirmations, medical insurance and photocopies of your passport. Sometimes technology may fail at an important time. Always be prepared. I place all these documents in a waterproof file folder where I can safely find everything I need. It is also a great place to add receipts of purchases made on your holiday including meals and hotels so you can easily find them.
• If you don’t have health insurance already in place, make sure to buy it before your travel. Even travelling outside of your own province in Canada requires different health insurance. Don’t ever take the risk and travel without it. One mini fall could end being a very costly adventure.
• Email your family and/or in case of emergency contact all your flight and hotel details, important telephone numbers and your known iteniary. I also leave my family with a copy of my passport page with my photograph and details just in case it goes missing.
• Charge your mobile, tablet and laptop computer before leaving for the airport to ensure all are fully charged for inspection. I also travel daily with a portable charger by Mophie to ensure I am never without a charged mobile.
• If you want to use your mobile or smart phone away from home, check with your mobile plan provider about data usages prior to leaving on your travels. There is nothing worse than coming home to a shocking bill. Thankfully more affordable plans have been introduced in Canada and with the new laws to unlock mobile phones, one can purchase a SIM card at their destination.
• Pack all technology power cords as well as adapters in your carry-on luggage. I place mine in a little pouch so they are all in one place. Make sure to buy your adapters in your home country so they fit the prongs for your appliances. If you are planning to travel with a hair dryer or flat iron, ensure they are dual voltage appliances so you don’t fry them or set your hotel room on fire. I almost once learned this the hard way. If they don’t have dual voltage appliance, save the space and just leave it at home.
• Pack a ball point pen to fill out any customs and immigration documentation. Avoid flying with fountain pens which can cause a major ink catasphrole in flight or beyond. This happened to me when I opened my pen while attending a speaker event at the British parliament. Nothing prim, proper and graceful when your ink pen explodes navy blue all over your hands days after arriving. Even if you love fountain pens like I do, a simple old ballpoint is your safest travel friend.
• Pack all your prescription and non-prescription medication together in a Ziploc® sealed bag in your carry-on luggage. Always a good idea to get a summary of your prescription medications from your pharmacist and keep the list with them in case anyone has questions.
• Pre-pack your carry-on liquids at home in a clear medium Ziploc® bag to ensure you can fit everything you need for the plane. I always pack a few extra medium and large bags in case I need them for the journey home. I also take an step extra and pack my liquid products going into my suitcase in Ziploc® bags within my cosmetic case and then wrap it in another big plastic bag with ties. Yes this may be a bit extreme but it ensures no surprises of finding my clothes covered in shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer or nail polish.
• On the topic of skincare and makeup, this is one time to pare down your routine and/or decant your products into smaller travel size containers. I keep ones from makeup gift with purchase events, purchase small clear bottles at the drug store or re-fill purchased minis. Just remember to label them if they are in a different and/or unmarked container. If you wish to paint your nails, a neutral colour is best so you don’t see any chips that easily. Depending on your final destination and plans while you are there, your beauty haul may be pretty minimal. If you are travelling for an event like a wedding, you may need more. Regardless of destination and the time of year, don’t forget to pack SPF. It is an everyday essential.
• For clothing, stick with basics. My neutral wardrobe is mainly black and navy and I add colour through accessories such as scarves. Look at your holiday plans – will you visit cities, the country, mountains or the beach and plan ahead to find clothing that is multi-purpose and makes different outfits. I always take at least one skirt and/or dress in case I want to dress up for an evening out on the town. Always pack something for an unexpected weather change. I generally travel to cities and the countryside where jeans and layers on top work best. Pick a few pairs of shoes and/or boots that work with many outfits. Always leave yourself some room in case you may wish to shop for yourself or bring special gifts home for someone special.
• When preparing for my voyage, I always refer to a packing list for my outbound journey to ensure I don’t forget anything at home.
Airport and In-Flight Tips
• Since I was a child I have always loved the ritual of going to the airport even when I am not travelling. I will often go to the airport early so I can pass through security and enjoy a coffee and/or glass of wine, a pre-flight snack and for people watching. I love the hellos, goodbyes and personal interactions of the airport so enjoy the time to just be and take in the entire travel experience. Since I do not get to travel as much as I would like, I still find the experience somewhat glamorous and luxurious and likely always will.
• Check-in before you go to the airport. Generally you are able to do so 24-hours in advance of your departure. I prefer aisle seats on long-haul and overnight flights but love a window seat on a shorter flight. Airline configurations can be found on their website so you can pinpoint where you wish to sit based on the aircraft for flying. I am still fond of the Queen of the Skies – the Boeing 747 – and the newer Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
• Download your selected airline’s app to your smart phone so you can easily check your flight status and for any updates when you are on the go.
• While I love to look stylish, when I am flying overnight comfort is key. I always dress in layers. A t-shirt, sweater or long sleeved top, yoga pants or leggings, slip-on sneakers and a scarf or shawl to keep me warm during the flight or when one has an unexpected de-planning on the Tarmac. A t-shirt is a must as one can often get hot rushing through the airport. I may place a pair of jeans in my carry-on for a quick outfit change when I arrive at my destination if I am not wearing them already. Comfortable shoes are essential as it can be a very long walk to the gate, between gates for travel connections and in case of emergency. I also apply minimal makeup before the flight so I can I easily freshen my skin before I land and apply some makeup to get me on my way.
• If you require corrective vision, opt for eye glasses vs. contact lenses as flying can be very drying for your eyes. Eye drops may be something you wish to add into your Ziploc® bag. Moisturizer and Lip Balm are other great items to include in your bag as they may be helpful throughout the flight. Limit your alcohol intake and make sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
• Try to get up and move as much as possible to keep your blood flow moving. At the very least move your legs and feet while seated especially if you are prone to swelling in your feet, ankles and legs after a flight. Legs up the wall and elevating your feet and legs once at your hotel destination may also be helpful too. If you have experienced this before and the symptoms are worrisome, you may wish to consult with your physician.
• Plan enough time between layovers especially if you are flying from a winter destination, need to make a terminal change, pick-up luggage, clear customs and/or security, need help physically between gates or are not the fastest walker/runner. Running for your flight and missing it is no fun.
• Always put your name and contact details inside your suitcase – either in the front slot or inside or both. My luggage tags once broke off my suitcase so when it got to my layover they didn’t know where to send it. It took two days and many telephone calls to the airline desk to figure out where my bag was and they only found it because I had a novel in the front pocket.
• I am a pretty confident flyer and throughly enjoy the wonders of air travel but sometimes turbulence can make me anxious. I find closing my eyes and taking deep meditative breaths helps a lot.
• This should go without saying but always wear your seatbelt when seated. Safety first.
• Remember to treat the pilots, flight attendants and airport staff as well as fellow travellers with respect and kindness. Commit to being a better passenger. While the airlines and airport staff aim to make your journey a comfortable and enjoyable one, their number one responsibility is the safety of all passengers. Having previously been on an Air Canada flight that had a medical emergency halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, I definitely have a better appreciation for their role as our care providers in the sky.
Far and Away
• If you use a DSLR or point and shoot camera, make sure to take two camera batteries so when you are out exploring, your camera does not die. An extra memory card may be helpful too. While I may a lot take iPhone photos at home, I love vacation photos taken with a real camera as it takes them to the next level. Thanks to digital technology one can take too many photos to produce the perfect shot.
• On the occasions I have travelled on my own, I have always done a lot of research to determine where to stay, to get to know the city in advance and will often get up early to explore and retire early to my hotel to ensure I am safe after dark. For a little bit of extra security, I lean a chair underneath the door handle behind my hotel room door. Just remember to be cautious, alert and aware of your surroundings even if you have visited your destination before.
• While they can be expensive, I love hotels with a hot breakfast included. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and on holidays this is definitely true. I find if I have a big breakfast, it takes me all the way to dinner with a coffee and sweet treat break mid-day.
• Check various websites including the actual hotels sites to find the best deal. Sometimes hotels will offer incentives for longer stays. Also worth enrolling in preferred hotel programs. While I have not used it personally, I have a lot of friends who have had great success with Air BNB.
• If you travel overnight, try to stay up during the day as long as possible to adjust to the new time zone. If your flight involves travelling over multiple time zones, adjust your watch when you embark on your journey to help. When I fly across the pond, I generally leave Canada at night to arrive in the morning and make sure to get outside and walk once I drop my luggage off and try to stay awake until 8 – 9 pm. This helps me get on track quickly and limits my jet-lag. For me, jet-lag is always worse travelling home and can often last an entire week.
• Many times you can purchase tickets in advance for tourist attractions through a city pass or buy exercusions as part of a bus tour. Definitely do some research before you leave, make a plan for things you may want to see and explore but be open when something new and amazing presents itself.
• My favourite way to remember my travels is to purchase a Christmas ornament in the places I visit. They are small and don’t take up a lot of space. I love how every December I am reminded of all the amazing travel memories.
Whether you travel by train, plane or automobile, near or far, try and enjoy the journey. Travelling for many can be stressful. Don’t let the little things get to you. Embrace these little bumps in the road as part of your adventure. Be kind. Enjoy the opportunity to explore new places and cultures, try foreign cuisines as well as to connect and engage in conversations with locals and other travellers. Most importantly create as many memories as possible that you get to hold close in your heart and bring home sweet home. 💗
Wishing you safe journeys no matter where your travels take you.