Making your travel enjoyable and easy!!
I have done my fair share of long distance traveling by bus, train and plane. To get to the truly unique parts of the world requires enduring long travel times, less that optimal conditions and a little knowledge! For the traveling amateur there are several tricks of the trade that should be known when planning your next adventure destination.
1. Know the Baggage Policy
One of the biggest unknowns of every trip is how much in baggage fees I will sustain. Its like a roll of the dice, as it is often at the discretion of the ticket person. When you arrive at the airport this is usually the first face you see. That face has probably endured many less than pleasant travelers. I always greet them with a smile and ask how their day is going. At the very least, I do not want to be the burden of another traveler with attitude! Being nice always goes a long way too. Recently traveling to Tibet, I had a huge hard case containing my bike and much of my gear. Reading up beforehand on sports equipment, I learned that unlike all other gear, golf clubs did not count against your allotted baggage pieces and was free! So, when the woman asked what was in the case I joked and said my free first piece of golfing gear? She laughed, smiled and allowed my bike through without charging me a dime. This isn’t always the case as I often travel with my kayak which is restricted on most airlines. Wrapping it up and filling it will gear ensuring its under the allowed weight, I have never had a problem when presenting it as a kite surf, an allowable piece of gear with dimensions large enough for my kayak. Knowing the baggage policy of your airline will only help your airport experience go smoothly and with minimal charges.
2. Seat Selection
Every airline has its prime seats and less than optimal ones. Last row seats on some don’t recline as much, while other airlines back row provide a seat without someone jamming your seat from behind. Picking the right seat for the long haul ahead can make or break a flight. Now, preference definitely plays a part, but I always prefer an aisle seat. The reasoning is because frequent walks about the cabin will help minimize leg swell. If I am in the aisle I don’t always have to bug the person next to me to get up. I also can extend my legs in the aisle at times to move them around. Most head rests of seats can adjust to mold to your head, so I don’t need the window for a head rest. From there, I typically use www.seatguru.com. On this site, you can enter your exact flight number and it will come up with a seating plan with all the positives and negatives of each seat. Don’t get caught surprised about the noisy gallery behind you or loud jet engines across from where you’re trying to sleep ever again!
3. Embrace the layover!
Many people quiver at the thought of a long layover, needlessly spending much more on tickets to avoid them. Ticket prices are usually much less with long layovers and it’s a chance to explore another city for a day. Many airlines also have services designed for just the traveler. In recent travels on Turkish Airlines, I learned they offered a Free City tour including food! They also offered free hotels and shuttle to the hotel and dinner all for free. Many will offer a free hotel for layover over 24 hours. At the very least, lots of airlines will provide free food vouchers if you have a longer layover at the airport. Instead of travel days wasted, capitalize on the chance to extend your vacation.
4. Take care of your feet
I can survive for a day or so in the same clothes, but your feet are a delicate part of the body that we don’t realize. Bringing extra socks will be a pleasure you never knew you wanted so bad. I also like to take a pair of flip flops to wear on the plane, in order to let my feet air out. We don’t realize how much our feet hate confinement until traveling. Taking care of our feet helps us endure the long distance much more.
5. Your carry-on matters
With long layovers, or tight calls to the next leg of your trip, what you carry with you will matter. Too many times I see people Ttrying to use their carry on as a way to get past baggage charges. If this is the case, please re-read number 1! Utilize the free baggage allowance and keep your carry on easily transportable. This means that roller suitcases are a no-go. I always use a hiking backpack as a carry-on. A 35 liter bag can hold quite a bit of clothes and gear, and strapping it to my back makes walking around the airport or city easy. Having a backpack will also be useful during the trip if you are wandering around for a day, or decide to take an overnight excursion somewhere, so you don’t have to lug all your belongings (most hotels hostels etc. will let you put things in locked storage).
6. Cash is King
Be sure to know the currency exchange rate. Many other countries will charge a percent to use a card, if they accept them at all. Having the local currency is very important and exchange rates change depending on where you exchange your money. Some places will negotiate a better rate if you are exchanging a substantial amount of money, always try! Also, be sure ask for small bills. This is so that you can negotiate things like taxi fares or prices (which is acceptable in most countries). It also will reduce hassle. If you pull out a bigger bill, many places will claim not to have any change and they will just charge you much more for the item you want to buy. If someone does say they don’t have change, push them on the matter. They usually do, but are trying to scheme to get a higher price out of you, or for you to just say keep the change. There are also places that don’t accept cards. When I was at the international airport in Kathmandu, the ticket counter for the airline only accepted cash. Be prepared so you aren’t stuck begging for them to slip that extra bag on free of charge.
Traveling is a great experience and can be done with ease if you learn the “rules of the road.” Any questions or more tips feel free to shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org