Travel Tips

Having spent two weeks in Europe on a little family vacation – it made me think a bit about some travel tips for those of you who might need to travel for work or holiday.

I’ve logged nearly 2 million miles in the last 15 years – and have gleaned some experience from all that travel.

In no particular order:

Camera StrapBlack Rapid’s RS-4
This strap is a new way to carry your D-SLR camera. Instead of a strap going around your neck, making the camera bounce along in front of your stomach – this strap is designed to mount to the tripod mounting hole in the bottom of your camera – and then go over one shoulder/neck, thus the camera rides easily off your back/hip and yet is still very easy to bring your camera up to eye level for a picture.This was a fantastic upgrade to my old Nikon camera strap. Much easier to carry a large camera all day – yet still very user friendly and easy to learn. Highly Highly Recommended!

Travel Clothing
When teaching – I just wear dockers and a long-sleeve button-down shirt. But then again, those days are spent all inside teaching. But when traveling, or doing sightseeing I like to wear specially made travel clothing. A shirt with two front pockets (passport/tickets/iPhone/glasses) for flying and sight-seeing. Pants with more zipper pockets to help deter pick-pockets and are very lightweight.I’ve found it to be very difficult for pick-pockets to access shirt pockets that are buttoned – a person is much more protective of the front chest area – especially in a crowded area like the subway. Even with extra zippered pants pockets, I’ve found pick-pockets now how to work the zippers. So the wallet and cash go in the right front shirt pocket! (and the camera strap also covers right over that area for even extra security)

It might cost a bit more, but it is made for easy care, functional, and nearly wrinkle-free.

Apple iPhones are Everywhere!
I thought our family was a bit on the edge with most of us having iPhones. But more and more I’ve been seeing iPhones everywhere. They do have a distinct look, so they are fairly easy to spot. More people on planes, hotel lobbies, and now even all over Europe the iPhones have really taken hold. I really enjoy mine, and find it to be not only a great phone, but a game platform, contact lists, calendars, to do list, Internet access, alarm clock, GPS, iPod for music and portable movie player.
No wonder they are everywhere!

This is also very highly recommended.

Big Zoom Lens
I’ve got an older body Nikon D40 as the base… but put the extra money into a very nice lens. The Nikkor 18-200 VR lens is a great single lens to take on a trip. Not only can it let you capture wide-angle panoramic scenes, but lets you zoom way in. As a single lens it does just about all you’d want. And with the Vibration Reduction elements, you can shoot in much lower light conditions, even taking hand-held shots.Some of the shots inside the Cathedrals of Europe where made with just this lens in a hand-held position. A great addition to your camera bag. I’d opt for this upgraded lens and save money on the camera body – oh yeah, I already did that.All the pictures on my personal blog as well as my son Ryan’s facebook were taken with this lens.

England, UK, Britain Confusion
Check out an earlier blog that answers these questions.

– the ONLY way to call
I pre-loaded Skype on the iPhones before heading off to Europe. On previous trips, I’ve used a variety of methods to call home. Small WiFi phones, Skype specific phones, headsets and Skype on my laptop. But Skype on the iPhone was very easy to use. My wife Jill and daughter Alysha both have iPhones, and it was a simple transition to just use the Skype App rather than the normal Phone App.This saved us $$$ – especially with the daughter calling home to her boyfriend (they liked to talk…) At only $.02 per minute (an hour-long call only cost $1.20) it was great.In order to make the Skype phone work – you need to have Wireless Network Access. See following note.

Bring your own Access Point
I travel with an Apple Airport Express – little guy – but packs a pretty good punch. I have it programmed with WPA for security, and it is easily 110v-220v capable. And it is 802.11n to boot!This just plugs into the hotel’s Internet – then you do everything via WiFi. This lets us all share WiFi in the hotel. 4 iPhones and three laptops all using one Internet connection.

I’ve tried 5 other ‘travel routers’ but this is the smallest, simplest, and easiest to use. At only $99 – don’t leave home without it!

Pack only what you need
You can usually get just about anything you might need locally – if you need it. If you don’t need it, why schlep it all over the world?

I use a very nice bag from RedOxx out of Montana. A single bag is a great way to travel. Easy, you can (if you have to) use it as carry-on. (see additional item below on carry-on luggage) – but it can easily hold a week’s worth of stuff.Minimize the ‘extra’ stuff you ‘think’ you might need. Just learn to live with what you have and be glad for it. If you *really* need anything else – buy it locally.

Know you own bags!
Another little pet peeve of mine with regards to luggage. At the baggage pickup, when people pick up and check bag after bag, trying to find their own. You just put in on the plane a couple of hours ago, you’ve already forgotten what it looks like?

If you need to easily identify your bags, just tie a piece of colored yarn or ribbon to the handle (or buy those ridiculous large luggage tags in bright green)

Airline Carry On
Just because you *can* take a bag on carry on doesn’t mean you *should*! Be a bit considerate of others on the plane. The overhead compartments need to be shared by everyone. And me, for one, ALWAYS put my backpack in the overhead compartment. I’m not going to travel uncomfortably with my feet wrapped around a piece of luggage. Don’t ask to put your second carry on under my feet – just don’t bring it on the plane. They have an entire baggage system to get your bag to where you are going!

Out of 2 million miles of travel – I’ve have the airlines loose my bags on 9 times, and 5 of those were on my way home. So out of hundreds and hundreds of flights I’ve had to do without my bags 4 times. This is not the risk you are making it out to be. Pack an extra set of underwear in your carry on and be done with it.

Always have pen and paper with you
I was taught by my father – and hopefully I’ll pass it on to all my children – to always carry a pen with you! It is a sign of maturity and preparedness!

Also, within the last couple of years I’ve also started to carry 3×5 cards in my pocket. These have also been invaluable at times. Someplace to write little notes, take information down, jot down a phone number or address.

Even in the age of iPhones – an index card in your pocket can be a great thing.

Always have a Pen and Paper with you!

Get money locally
When you travel to different countries – it is so much easier (and way cheaper) to just get money locally from an ATM. They are everywhere. Don’t waste your money, nor your time at the money changer places.

You use an ATM for cash at home, use one abroad as well!

Don’t Stink
This is to all the folks in Europe (and a couple in the States) – It is possible to have personal hygiene and not STINK! – Alysha would cover her nose with her hand when on the subways in Europe because all the body odor, and smell of unwashed clothes.

It’s not that hard to clean yourself and your clothes! Just do it!

I think I blame the women in Europe. If they wouldn’t have anything to do with these stinky men, the men would soon learn to change and worry about personal hygiene. The European women must like that smell of old sweat and wool… yeck!

If you haven’t washed up your person or your clothes – don’t travel! Sitting next to one of these on flights is nearly unbearable. They don’t even seem to notice.

Have stuff with you
If you need medicines, take them with you in your carry on. If you like to read, have a book with you, watch movies? take along an iPhone of iPod Touch. Just be prepared. Worried they won’t have food for you, bring your own.

Kindle & iPhone
Between these two little devices I can keep myself occupied for hours, even days.

My Kindle has hundreds of books just waiting to be read – waiting for me to have some ‘down time’ to read them.My iPhone is full of great games, audio books, Internet, and videos. If I’ve got time, I’ve got a way to spend it.

There is usually nothing you can do to change travel fiascos around you – so just be prepared with media of some type and just enjoy the extra time. You can’t change anything – so don’t let the stress get to you.