Probably my single biggest tip is the one I have the most trouble remembering. Travel is messy, unplanned, and you can’t control it. Those are reasons I love to travel, but also the reasons my nerves are rather bad at the moment. For all the planning, list-making, packing two weeks in advance, and generally obsessing, there’s nothing you can really do but roll with the punches when you get a staph infection, then a cold, then your kid gets an abscessed tooth, your beloved dog needs medical tests, then as you start to come out from under the cold your partner gets it. All of this a week before the biggest trip you’ve taken in 15 years. A trip you have planned for eight years. A trip that means more than a trip.
But we made it to Boston for our six-hour layover before we head to Dublin. So in an effort to make the most of that time, I thought I would share a few travel tips.
Google maps – if you aren’t sure where you are going, use street view to get a sense of the place and to look for landmarks.
Kayak – when I am looking for flights I often start by plugging dates and cities into Kayak to see what pricing looks like. Often there are tips about better dates and times to travel. I usually end up booking direct to avoid fees, but Kayak is a good place to do research.
Atlas Obscura – like weird places? This website is nothing but weird places and maps and directions to find them.
Roadside America – Like muffler men, giant balls of string, and other roadside attractions? Roadside America offers reviews and lets you know when you are near weird shit in the US.
Pinbox – this app lets you drop pins and information to create personalized maps. They can also be accessed offline.
Happy Cow – Looking for vegetarian food and health food stores when you travel? Happy cow lets you know what is near you, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or veg-friendly, and offers user reviews.
MAKING LIFE EASIER (or maybe just justifying my compulsive behaviors):
Documents – Make a copy of your important travel documents and contents of your wallet and leave them in a safe place at home or with someone you trust, just in case. I lost my wallet while traveling a few years ago. I was frantic, trying to remember which cards were in there and what needed to be canceled.
Maps – I know people love their smart phones and GPS devices, but nothing beats a real map. 1) the map will not run out of batteries, 2) a map doesn’t need a signal, 3) the map doesn’t sass you when you make a wrong turn, 4) maps tell you where you could go, not just where you are going, and 5) how else will you learn about places like Knob Lick, Kentucky? I’m a huge fan of the National Geographic waterproof maps; they don’t tear and they offer points of interest that are actually interesting.
Budget – about 10 or so years ago I was standing in a line at LAX waiting to pick up a car. I was worried I would grow old in that line. People with magical powers seemed to walk in, bump to the head of another line, sign something, and get keys. I wanted to be in that line. So I signed up for Budget’s FastBreak program and now I am the asshole with magical car rental powers. It is free and makes renting much easier.
Food – it is pretty simple, bring a little bit of food with you. There’s nothing worse than being travel-tired and hungry. Nuts, bars, whatever, but something of substance that will keep you going when lying down in the middle of the street or concourse seems like a good idea.
Postcards – I like getting postcards, I like sending postcards. If you are traveling domestically, buy stamps before you leave. Seriously, you’ll never actually buy them while you are away, no matter how well-intentioned you are. Also, make mailing labels before you leave. This means you know who you sent a postcard to and who you didn’t. It also means you aren’t asking mailcarriers to read your wretched, hungover handwriting.
Lists – I mentioned lists in my last post, but they really are a lifesaver. I create a few separate lists – things I need to buy, bring, make, and do and mark them done as the weeks pass. I also add to them as I remember things, like chargers, bras, instant Cuban coffee, cough medicine, and more cough medicine. For certain places I reuse lists because not much changes.
Toiletries – I created a separate set of travel toiletries and keep them at the ready. It makes packing easier and the likelihood of forgetting stuff diminishes.
Ziploc bags – I love Ziploc bags. They are great for toiletries, and other items that could spill on the rest of your luggage, but they are even more ideal for the trip home. Wet bathing suit, muddy shoes, and filthy laundry – this is where traveling with three sizes of Ziploc bags seems like a completely reasonable eccentricity.
I’m sure I have more tips to share that are just as random. Perhaps in a future post…