The first time I ever travelled overseas (from Nairobi, Kenya to London, England) I was two years old. I don’t remember the trip but my Mom said I was screaming “Daddyyy, Dadddyyy!” the whole time. We had just said goodbye to my father and were headed to see my mother’s family. We were only going for a week or two but in my little mind, it was the end and I was never going to see my father again. My ears hurt and I was a huffing and screaming and blubbering mess. I cried so much that my mom said she began to cry too.
I have made many trecks across the seas since then and I’m happy to report that I have never been as bad as I was as a teething toddler! But having said that- traveling can be tough stuff! So here is my summer traveling survival guide. Whether you are going across the country or across the world these small tips might help you out!
1.Pack some sunscreen…and a jacket too
Weather can be tempermental- no matter where you go. This I have learned from experience. The last thing you want is to have sun poisoning or find yourself freezing your buns off. Even if you think “there’s no way it will be cold” or “we won’t see any sun” you are probably wrong.
2. Use a colorful suitcase…or at least a bow
My Dad taught me this one. Everyone and your mother has a black suitcase and they can get lost in the crowd. Whenever I travel you won’t miss me because I will be strolling around with a pink or purple or polka dot suitcase. If you don’t want to buy a new one an easy way to spruce up a black suitcase is to grab a red ribbon or some stickers
and decorate it/personalize it! Either way you want to make it easy to spot so you can swoop in and swoop out of the airport as fast as you can!
3. Check in Online…and Get Your Seat On
If the airline allows it, get online the night before and check in. You would be surprised how much stress and time this saves you. If you can pick your seats online do this too- especially when traveling with a partner. It’s much nicer to sit with your traveling companion than to listen to babies scream or be leaned on.
4. Travel Light or travel lift!
Seriously ladies, I know you don’t want to hear this but- you do not need a different pair of shoes for every day of vacation. Most likely you will find some shops at your destination and fall in love with some more shoes- then guess what? You won’t have any room in your suitcase. Or you will be lugging a heavy bag all over the country. Its not cute and its not fun!
5. Don’t Drink The Water…Seriously, Don’t.
I have made the mistake of going to foreign lands and drinking the water. Ooooh man, soooo sick. Not a good idea. The key here is to only order bottled water or soda. Remember to check the cap to make sure the seal is not broken too because once I was served bottled water that tasted like sea water…blegh. Some places will do this to cheap out on buying more bottled water. Also- beware of salads or raw veggies…most likely they were washed in dirty water too and there is a chance of you getting sick. Just be careful.
6. Do Some Research Before You Go
If you are going to a new town get online at sites like YELP or Trip Advisor and see what people are saying about your hotel, local restaurants, clubs, bars, parks, attractions. I love reading what other people have to say because sometimes you find some places you wouldn’t usually have gone. Where do the locals like to have breakfast? What are the best attractions? Where can I get the best ice cream? The other good thing about checking what other people are saying is to make sure that you are not staying at the biggest dump in town. This almost happened to me once: I booked a hotel online in San Francisco. The hotel looked nice and was super affordable! Thank GAWD I checked online and read what others had to say about it. It turns out it was a real dive in the red light district. People had complained of bed bugs, doors that didn’t lock and a management team that barely spoke English!! While I wasn’t able to get my money back, I was able to find another place that was much nicer and super affordable. I really think user ratings are awesome and a really good marketing opportunity for businesses.
7. Long stay? Cook for Yourself
If you are going somewhere for a week you would be surprised how much money you spend eating out for three meals a day! Its way more affordable to stay at a villa or efficiency and cook your own food. We have done this several times and it is actually quite fun finding a local grocery store and saving quite a bit of money. All you need is some salad ingredients, pasta, cereal, some eggs…this way you can really enjoy some more classy meals while saving on lunch and breakfast!
8. Pack a Pillow…and Some Knickers
SOME airlines are notorious at losing your baggage. It makes me just GRRRRRRR. When you check in your bags at the airport make sure you tell the person behind the counter to check your bags, once, twice, three times. This is especially important if you are transferring somewhere or if you are on an airline that has a bad reputation (don’t need to get into a name game here but you know). In your hand luggage be sure to carry a pillow if you are going on a long flight. Those pillows they sell at the airport are serious life savers!
I read somewhere once that airlines do not change their pillow covers or blankets during the day. So if one airplane has flown 4 or 5 different flights in the day- they have used those SAME pillows and SAME blankets with numerous, numerous passengers. GROSS!! All that drool? All that hair?? AAAAH! That is why I learned fast- I like my own pillow and I can sleep in peace and without the ickyness.
The other good idea is to pack a spare change of clothes with you in your hand luggage. Just in case you get stranded at the airport of stuck at a lay over. It really is nice to have some fresh clothes to wear.
Some people when they go to foreign lands really want to immerse themselves in the culture. I want to go out in the wild! I want to drink at the local dive bar! I want to get an authentic tattoo from the tribal chief!
Ok these all sound like great ideas, and sure, you will probably learn a lot about the area, but you also have to be careful!
You really don’t want to end up on the news after heading into a shady neighborhood, or falling down a ravine, or getting lost in the woods, or being eaten by a bear. Just saying…don’t do it! Stick to the touristy or even semi-touristy things.
10. Don’t Do the Drugs
Ok I am not trying to be D.A.R.E. here but I have gone on vacation on friends who have decided it would be a good idea to go out and buy drugs from the locals. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………..no. Do NOT do this. Firstly, who knows what you are actually going to get. Secondly, who knows what kind of people you are dealing with. Drug lords? The Cartel? And thirdly, Locked Up Abroad. Enough said.
11. Ask And Thou Shall Receive!
You will be surprised what discounts, deals, upgrades and swag you get just by asking for it. I have been upgraded on flights just by going up to the counter and asking. You can simply say “hey, I was wondering if you have any business class seats left. Is there a deal or discount to upgrade?” This is especially true if you are a long time customer with the airline, hotel, transportation company. When you are in foreign countries (especially in Africa) it is totally normal to barter. NEVER take the first price. Traders see tourists a mile a way and they start you out at a price that is seriously unreasonable. Keep chipping them down until you get the price you are comfortable paying.
12. HAVE FUN!!
Finally- remember to have fun! Relax, don’t think about work, talk to people and enjoy your surroundings!
Happy Summer everyone!!