Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache

musings, Travel

Probably the single biggest, and best piece of advice I can give to those wanting to travel, is that planning ahead will save the day. While it’s great to take advantage of a last minute vacation, it can also spell disaster for making the most of your travels. Of course one can over plan, more on that another day.

Essentially when it comes to traveling, especially internationally, planning can mean huge savings, better experiences, and a smoother journey than winging it on the last minute.

For example, if you are a foodie and you want to experience one of the best restaurants in the world, how likely do you think it will be that you can get a reservation at Central in Lima, Peru if you are leaving in two weeks, versus trying to make the reservation 45 days in advance? You guessed it, 45 days. This isn’t just the Michelin rated places, but Disney dining, and popular gems that bring in the crowds. If you know a place is a pinnacle of your journey, plan ahead, ask questions, and do your research.

Another example is accommodations. Unless it’s the off season, a lot of places book far in advance, meaning the crowds of people make finding a room hard. This also means that prices increase based on supply and demand (this is also true for flights). So unless you have cash to burn, booking a refundable rate well in advance secures your spot to sleep. If you get closer to the date and KNOW you are going come hell or high water, a non-refundable (if still available) can save money and secure your stay. Either way, it’s important to have something pinned and secured.

This also is true for excursions and activities. Did you know many places have a cap on how many visitors can come a day? This includes places like Machu Picchu and Yosemite. Beyond limits, many places have insane waits unless you book in advance (I’m looking at you Vatican and Uffizi). Meaning it’s almost vital to get a museum pass, book a tour, or work with a hotel concierge to get tickets in advance and this is especially true in high seasons.

I say all of this being the type A planner that I am, and being that I know from personal experience I have missed out by not planning ahead. However, if you are last minute taking off consider these tips to make it easier:

  • Use tour aggregators like Viator to find the tours/activities you want
  • Contact a tour guide or concierge service to see about getting help with details
  • Visit the tourism board websites of where you are traveling
  • Most importantly: check travel.state.gov to make sure that you don’t need a passport update or visa which could majorly foil your plans
  • Ask stupid questions of people that have been where you are going. With endless Facebook groups you are sure to get some information
  • Buy a travel guide! I can’t stress this enough for those trying to learn about a new place last minute. Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and many others offer endlessly valuable information, not to be missed.

Happy Travels!

Also: Don’t Plan Too Much

Traveling Sick

Travel

This is a fun topic than I know more than I ever expected to. Inevitably I get sick or someone in my family gets sick with a virus, stomach ache, or other annoyance. It’s part of life.

Traveling also means exposure to new germs, and viruses, and bacteria, that our bodies are not immune or adjusted to handle. It can mean annoying colds, at times it has meant stomach issues, and other times it is allergies. My trip to Europe in 2013 ended in me coming home with whooping cough.

  • Fun tip, you should get a booster whooping cough shot in your late teens or early 20s!

Regardless of how annoying it is and frustrating, I have come up with a few tips and ideas to avoid and treat the bugs of life.

  1. Bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer
    • I don’t want to contribute to the superbug problem, BUT for public areas such as planes, trains, buses, etc. it is a good idea to wipe down surfaces to get rid of lingering bugs.
    • Additional tip, these are life savers in case of a child puke party, as I learned a month ago.
  2. Plastic Bags
    • Also in case of puke parties, this is helpful with the clean up!
  3. Cough Drops
    • My favorite is Ricolla, as they are ideal for soar throats and some even have vitamins that are meant to improve the immune system. I’m not sure how accurate that claim is, but they do help with the throat and cough issues.
  4. Day Cold and Night Cold Medicine
    • Carrying a few packs of each of these can make a huge difference if an illness sneaks up on you.
  5. Allergy Medicine
    • If you are traveling in Spring and Fall, this helps immensely with pollen and dust that can irritate your system. My first trip to London I couldn’t breath due to plant life, and broke out in a rash all over my face, a little allergy medicine cleaned up the disaster and got me on with my travels.
  6. Stomach Medicine
    • I learned two things in Mexico my last trip:
      1. That I am totally okay with the food, water, and different bugs in Playa Del Carmen. However, my dear husband was not.
      2. Laxative is REALLY expensive in Mexico. Especially when bought at a resort.
    • The takeaway is that you should bring some stuff from home, just in case. Also, if you can find a local pharmacy, learn some of the local language to find what you need. Also, many people speak at least a  little English in popular American tourist locations. You’ll save a lot of money too!
  7. Translation Guide
    • To wedge into the last comment, this goes for any medicine you may need or anything else. Having some translation book, or the handy Google app makes life a lot easier to navigate language barriers.
    • Did you know that in some countries, like Italy, there is always a doctor on duty that can help employees find the medicine they need for their symptoms. If you can find one of these, life will be much easier!
    • My favorite story was in Rome, where I went into a pharmacy for tampons. I was at the counter and ready to pay when the woman looks at me, grabs my hand, and walked me to a display of mineral sunscreen. She announces “Blanca! Blanca!” and stuck the SPF 50+ in my hand. Maybe she had a sixth sense, because I DID need sunscreen, but couldn’t figure out the wording until someone pointed it out.
  8. Tissues and Comforts
    • I bring tissues with me regardless on if I will need them. ESPECIALLY with children around, you never know when you will need a makeshift napkin or something to clean with.
    • Sometimes a blanket and travel pillow can make a world of difference on a long trip and the need of something to relax with.
  9. Face Mask
    • I know our culture (Western that is) has not fully adopted this trend, but if you are sick and worried about being contagious, wear a mask. This is especially considerate if you are going to be sitting in a confined space where others can catch your cough germs.

 

Happy Travels!

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