What are my most practical and easy travel tips? It’s a question I’m asked by my fellow travelers. I pride myself on being a very practical traveler with quick, cost effective solutions to challenging problems.
Here are my battle-tested and most practical travel tips:
Soothing Tired Feet
After hours on your feet, even the most comfortable and breathable footwear will start feeling like Frankenstein shoes. Here’s my trick….when I’m going to be on my feet all day say at an amusement park or sightseeing, I always pack a thin pair of flip flops and baby powder. Sprinkle the magic and let those babies breathe I say! Your feet will get to stretch out, get some air and the baby powder will absorb moisture and make ’em feel powdery fresh. A great time to do this is at lunch…then when I put my shoes back on they feel comfy again. When you travel, love your feet and they’ll love you back.
Ear plugs. My 20 cent solution to a major problem. I find most stress from the airport comes from the noise: crying babies, barking CFO’s, and 43 announcements about flights you don’t care about. I slip these ear plugs in, and though it doesn’t block out the noise completely (you still do need to hear things) it does create a more placid existence while in the hurly burly world of an airport terminal. Next time you’re at a Home Depot or Lowe’s pick up a box of them. You get like, 80 for $15 as opposed to 1 measly set for 6 bucks at the airport. Also, I prefer the safety cone orange compared to the boring beige tone. I feel like it gives me street cred.
Jet lag bites. When I first started traveling to Europe every month it took me a few days to get used to getting up at 2am my time and being “on” for the next 14 hours. Jet lag without a doubt impairs you physically and mentally. Depending on what time zone I’m going to my strategy changes to fit the situation. However, the most important thing I do to beat jet lag no matter where I’m going is to abstain from all caffeine two days before I leave. No tea, coffee or soda. This way all the caffeine is out of my system. When I arrive in the country and start feeling like a bag of cement that’s when I head to the nearest cafe and order a double espresso. It hits my system and turns into jet fuel.
And whatever you do. DO NOT FALL ASLEEP. Do you hear me? You HAVE to get on their schedule ASAP. And don’t think I don’t know you. You’ll tell yourself you’ll take a half hour nap only to wake up four hours later in a worse state of grog. Trust me…get outside, feel the sun on your face, enjoy the fresh air and grab a cup of coffee.
Baggage Check: Destination
Before my bag is whisked away at check-in I always make sure the correct airport code and flight number is on the baggage tag. In this case JFK is my destination airport (New York Kennedy) and I’m on United Airlines flight 912. It’s my last chance to notice if there’s a human or computer error. It’s a simple way to ensure you and your bags end up in the same place.
Bring Your Own Mug
Europeans just don’t get us. When it comes to enjoying coffee they drink theirs in a cafe. Either a quick shot of espresso at the bar or a long afternoon at a table with a newspaper and a Cafe au lait. But we Americans like our coffee to go! I really love the whole cafe culture of Europe and now with the advent of free wifi, more and more Americans are parking it at their local coffee stop or nearby Panera. But while I was in Italy, I kept thinking how nice it would be to take my demitasse cup of cappuccino, dump it in a paper cup and take a morning walk through the streets enjoying the sculptures, fountains and antiquities. There’s just nothing so comforting than a cup of coffee in your hand. So now I bring a travel mug with me so I can do just that.
Social Media Skills
When summer storms disrupt your travel, put your smartphone to work. Summer has its share of freakishly bad weather that can completely derail travel plans so if you’ve got a smartphone take a minute and sign up for Twitter and then follow the airline you will be traveling on such as: @Delta, @Southwest Airlines, @United. When you are left stuck somewhere without a flight, tweet your airline for a Hail Mary. Basically more airlines are pulling their customer service to tend to social networks and yet not everyone is on Twitter so you almost have personally dedicated help. Take advantage of your Twitter skills to get yourself out of a jam.
Dining out can really stretch your travel budget. Here are a few tips that I follow for a great meal at a reasonable price.
Hit up the locals for advice:
The Nighttime Security Guard
The person working the night shift (security, parking etc, doorman) always knows the best place for breakfast, the kind that’s cheap, delicious and fills you up til 3pm. Have a light snack and then splurge on a good dinner. Beware hipster breakfast/brunch places with their homemade organic granola and Lemon + Ricotta pancakes. There good but a total money suck and you’ll be waiting in a long line wondering how 22 year olds can afford 15 dollar pumpkin waffles.
If I detect an accent I immediately ask where they are from. Then I ask “where do you go to get your country’s food? A Hotel staff can give clues to the cultural aspect of a city that maybe too small to be noticed or mentioned in travel guides. For instance Orlando has a very strong Vietnamese population and therefore they’ve got some pretty good Vietnamese restaurants. Also where the hotel staff eats is where the locals eat which means it’s going to be less expensive than the popular spots recommended by Concierges.
Head to the Strip Mall
They’re not just for China Panda anymore. Ethnic restaurants have migrated out of the cities as their owners have left for a better life in the Burbs taking their wonderful cuisine with them. You can find these tiny restaurants of the American dream in strip malls because the rent is so cheap. I know it goes against every instinct to pull into an unknown restaurant located between a TJ Maxx and a Sally’s Beauty Supply but you can find really good food for next to nothing. Chinese, Mexican restaurants and Pizza by the slice have given way to Peruvian, Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese and Ethiopian.
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