Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Baby Boomer Travel Tips

Though I wouldn't pretend to be a world traveler, I have traveled to Europe many times, as well as taking many little hops, skips and jumps domestically.  But as a Baby Boomer, I have been around the block a time or two, so I know some things about life and travel, so I thought I would share some of my travel tips that might help those of you who are "of a certain age" and those you love.

Burford, England

Nexus card

I mentioned this in my last blog. 

Having a Nexus card not only allows you to get across the Canadian or Mexican borders more easily, but it qualifies you for the TSA Pre-check at the airport.  I can't tell you what a relief it is to avoid long lines, not have to take off my usually inappropriate shoes, pull out the cosmetics and liquids or my computer or remove my coat.  It's just a hop, skip and a jump and you are through security. This doesn't mean you won't get spot checked from time to time and get sent into the regular line.  This has happened to Hubby the last two times we flew. 

He must look like a terrorist.

Victoria, B.C.

Grab & Go Bag

I have one dedicated bag that contains my phone and IPad chargers, arm band for my phone when exercising, ear buds, book holder for exercise equipment, curlers, reading lights, adaptors, wine bottle opener, all of those things you might forget to pack.  I don't have to think about what to take. I keep it current and then all I have to do is grab it, stash it in my suitcase...no worries.  I won't find myself at my destination without those essentials.  Likewise, I have my airplane ready bag of acceptable toiletries that I keep refilled. 

I grab them and go.

Sienna, Italy

Content for your IPad or other Mobile Device

I make sure my IPad is full of content for that long airplane ride.

I download magazines, Ebooks and Talking Books from my library's website (many libraries subscribe to Zinio, which supplies full-text popular magazines and Overdrive and/or 3M for Ebooks and talking books).  I also have HBO To GO and other downloaded TV and movie content (though maddeningly HBO To GO does not work in other countries nor does Netflix).  I can keep myself occupied for practically the entire flight this way and I do. 

Hubby gets lonely and bored because he doesn't do this.  He is forced to read the airline magazine...more than once.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Take only a carry-on

Yes, if you are able bodied, you can do it. 

I have gone to Europe for almost three weeks with just my airplane size carry-on.  The trick is to wear the heavy stuff such as a jacket and boots onto the plane and pack lightweight items.  I am as big a clothes horse as anyone, but I can manage with a few pairs of slacks and then change them up with several very lightweight tops that don't take up much room in my suitcase and a dress

Of course, my other "personal item" is a humongous purse that can practically hold another purse, and sometimes does.  I carry my toiletries, IPad and that grab & go bag I mentioned which leaves as much room as possible for my clothes in my carry-on.  Another reason to take just a carry-on is having to schlepp it all over - up and down escalators (and they move fast in Europe), up onto trains, in the subway...I once had a guy yell "Andiamo" at me as I tried to drag my bag onto the vaporetto in Venice.  You don't want that! 

I recommend Rick Steves' bags.  I have used mine for years.

And speaking of Venice, it's romantic to think of having a room on the Grand Canal.  Just remember, the Grand Canal is the "main drag" in Venice and it all starts at 4am!

Take a coat no matter where or when you are going

Last year we went to Europe in late May. 

Who could possibly think it would rain THE ENTIRE TIME and be COLD?  I froze.  Then and there I swore I would take a coat with me on my next trip even if I was going to Tahiti in the hot season.  If worse comes to worst, you can always use it as a blanket on the plane since those are becoming as scarce as hen's teeth and the plane is always cold.

I had to wear this outfit practically every day because it was the only one warm enough.  Not  easy when you are in Paris and you want to be tres chic!
Note the hair:  rain!

Get to the airport early

They are not kidding you when they say arrive at least an hour before a domestic flight and two hours before an International.  I would get there even earlier.  One time we arrived almost an hour earlier only to discover only one TSA was checking ID's.  We missed our flight by a hair when they changed gates at the last minute.  Planes wait for no one!  However, now with my Nexus card...

Dress Nicely

This use to be the norm in the early days of airline travel. 

Flying was an event and people dressed up for it.  Nowadays, planes are full, the food is terrible (and costly) and there are few amenities, but do you really have to wear pajama bottoms and flip flops to fly?   If you want an upgrade and don't we all?  I suggest putting on those cool, but comfortable, designer duds you have and swan about the airport a bit.  If you look nice, you might get it.  Those people at the gate do have the power.

The Toilet of Modern Art, Vienna, Austria
And I used the toilet!

Be Nice to the Flight Attendants

Just think about it.  These folks are really on the plane to help save your life should an emergency occur.  But they also have to serve you drinks, answer your buzzer and put up with bad behavior on those packed flights.  I always greet the flight attendants with a smile as I enter the plane, I look them in the eye when they are serving me drinks (and compliment them if appropriate) and thank them when I exit.  This has resulted in free drinks on domestic flights, and once, even a whole bottle of champagne to take home. 

Just in general, it never hurts to acknowledge people and be nice.

Take extra contact lenses

If I lost or injured my contact lenses and had to wear my glasses, that would literally ruin my vacation. No way am I wearing my damn glasses. Sorry, I know, but I admit it.  I am vain, even at my age.

And here is another tip.  Keep you contacts case with a little contact solution in your glasses case.  Makes it easy to switch back and forth when needed.

Bruges, Belgium

Travel in Spring or Fall

We went to Paris for Christmas one year thinking, "Who goes to Paris for Christmas?" 

Everyone, apparently.  It was packed, especially with families.  I guess I am alone in thinking people like to stay home with their families for Christmas.  No, they like to travel with their families for Christmas.  And don't even think about Europe in the summer.  It's a zoo!

People everywhere

Avoid hotel rooms near the elevator, ice machine or maid's storage area

Someone has to get those rooms, but it's not going to be me!

If you are a light sleeper or like to sleep in, you do NOT want to hear people getting on and off the elevator.  Even worse is if your room is NEXT to the elevator and you can hear it going up and down.  Likewise, ice machines and snack areas are noisy gathering spots as are where the maids go to get ready to clean rooms in the morning.  Some travel maven once said, I always ask the clerk at the hotel for his third best room, meaning she knows it's going to take three tries to get it right.  Jacob Tomsky in Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-called Hospitality, suggests, to get the best room, tip the person checking you in, partly because no one ever thinks to tip them.  I would, but I haven't figured out a way to do it with finesse.  What do you do?  Slap a twenty down and go wink, wink?

Don't be a lame American tourist

Do your homework and observe your surroundings.  Try to be a local. This keeps you from becoming a lame, American tourist which just perpetuates the stereotype and we don't want that. The Europeans already think we are lame enough.

What are your travel tips?

See you Friday
for the Week in Reviews.

Thanks for reading!
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