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Monday, January 5, 2009

Top Ten Things to Remember when Traveling

Here are the top ten things to remember, especially when traveling abroad:
  1. If traveling overseas, be sure your connecting flights have enough time built-in especially if you have to link to a flight where you are going through customs. In the winter months, consider the weather and choose airports that are not prone to snow or sleet so flight delays are mitigated
  2. Be sure all passengers have a passport when traveling outside the U.S. We were surprised to meet an unhappy family in the elevator of an airport. My husband asked the other dad innocently enough "Bad day?" when the other dad said gloomily, "I had no idea our 4-year old had to have a passport to go to Europe." Ouch.
  3. Bring snacks. Because you cannot carry your own bottled water anymore, I often forget that you can still pack a few snacks like candy, granola bars or even your lunch! On an outgoing flight to Chicago, we were delayed by 4 hours. We were getting so hungry, I spent 5 dollars on candy that I could have bought for less than a dollar at home. So pack a snack and tell your kids to pack one and carry it in their own backpack.
  4. Pack light. Most people I know who pack for vacation pack way too much. Pack what you think you need, and then cut it as much as 50%. Friends and family cannot believe how light we pack. When going where we know we can use a laundry machine, I always pack extra light because I can always wash a load on the road. When we don't have a chance to do a full load of laundry, I wash a few things by hand at the hotel. The air at the hotel tends to be so dry in the winter months our items are dry the next morning. Also, if you can think of it, pack items you may only wear one more time but still have one more wear out of them, then toss them during the trip so you lessen your load along the way. If you plan on purchasing some souvenirs which include t-shirts or sweatshirts, which we usually do, consider that when picking your clothes for a trip. Teach your children early on how and what to pack. We give our children their own suitcase for clothes, and they also have their own traveling backpack to keep things to entertain them during the trip like a gameboy, iPod/iTouch, books, drawing items.
  5. Keep a journal. Last summer, on the spur of the moment, we went to a bookstore where we found these wonderful bound books of blank pages to keep a journal. We bought one for each of our children and they find it ideal to recap the day and write about their adventures. They often draw what they saw that day. We've already had the chance to read about their recollections and laugh heartily and realize some of what they wrote would have been long forgotten otherwise. It teaches them the discipline of writing and it makes them think about what they do during the day so they remember to write about it later. We include funny things we saw, did or other funny things they saw other people do or say.
  6. Check your flight, train or other departure/return times. We were surprised to learn when we were in Paris that our Eurostar train had been cancelled altogether. No word of warning, it was a complete surprise. It meant that our 3 children would not sit together, and my husband and I were not even on the same car train. We asked for assistance, but were met with "I cannot help you" words from the conductor. Other British passengers had the same problem. So we all went to one car and tried to find seats together. But stop after stop, other passengers boarded and we were left in different cars. That was our only real problem on our trip to Europe. Our youngest is 10 years old, which is old enough to be given instructions on where to meet when the train came to its destination. But the British couple had a 3-year-old who was in a seat in a different car. So word of warning - try to double check all tickets and departure times in case you can mitigate any disaster ahead of time.
  7. Get a Capital One credit card when traveling abroad. This is a tip I learned from a good friend who went to Europe 3 years ago. Capital One is one of the few if not only credit card companies that does not charge a currency conversion fee. This is key as you can get charged 3% or more from other credit card companies when they convert Euros or Pounds (or other) to US dollars. Also, for cash, either exchange US dollars at a foreign currency booths in the city you're visiting - they typically don't charge a commission or fee when converting cash. Or if you have time to join an ATM at a bank that does not charge a fee such as Charles Schwab. It all adds up.
  8. Pack a small first aid kit. Include Airbourne or other healthy vitamins to take daily. When traveling, the chances that you'll come across some coughing passenger will make you want to ensure you stay healthy. In my first aid kit I include band aids, neosporin, hydro cortisone cream, Kleenex, aspirin or Tylenol, Imodium AD or Pepto Bismol, Bonine for nausea, cotton balls and q-tips. It helps especially when you travel with children who seem prone to getting a cut or complain of nausea if you travel by car a lot.
  9. Pack ear plugs or carry and iPod. For those flights where you seem to sit near a crying baby, ear plugs or an iPod will keep you sane. Often when traveling with your family, someone is bound to be a snorer and kids are not used to all the noise their dad makes. So pack a few extra ear plugs so everyone has a good night sleep.
  10. Pens and paper - always pack a few extra pens and pads of paper to keep kids busy if there are traveling delays. They can play hangman, connect the dots, or draw. It will help keep you sane too.

What are your top 10 things to remember when traveling?


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