Monday, August 10, 2015

How We Travel

As you may have noticed: We travel. A lot. We love new places, new people, and new experiences. It has taken YEARS to, what I consider, perfect our travels. Many of you are asking, so here is how we roll. Note: This does not apply when we travel for special occasions like home leave or weddings and such.

  1. The first rule is THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE (besides really liking your travel partners): NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER check luggage. Ever. If you need to check a bag, you are taking too much. 
    • It costs extra money
    • It is extra weight and hassle to cart around
    • Having the airline lose it will seriously disrupt your plans
    • Waiting to pick up bags wastes time AND gets you stuck in the customs lines with everyone else who had luggage
  2. Clothing:
    • Pack to wear layers
    • Purchase things that dry quickly (overnight). Cotton does not meet this criteria.
    • Roll it to maximize space
    • Use packing cubes to further organize, compress, and maximize space
    • Plan on washing clothes where you are at. We have a portable collapsable bucket that we carry (it weight a few ounces and takes up nearly-no place since it lays completely flat) along with powered laundry soap. Sure, you repeat outfits for the longer trips, but it is clean, so who cares?
  3. Shoes:
    • Two at most
    • Pair #1: Always flipflops, nice pair- For the beach, for around the hotel, for "fancy casual footwear"
    • Pair #2: Sneakers or comfortable walking and hiking shoes
  4. Business Lounge Access
    • Either get a credit card that provides you with lounge access OR pay for it. Anyone can pay for lounge access at any time, and it has never been more than $30USD.
    • It is worth is for the:
      • Extra quiet
      • Comfortable couches and chairs
      • Free food (You will spend more buy food at an airport than lounge access costs in an airport, so be smart about your money and get more benefits!)
      • Free drinks (including good alcohol)
      • Lots of good magazines and newspapers
      • Ample plugs for charging electronics
      • Free wi-fi access
      • TVs with whatever you want to watch
  5. Travel Credit Card
    • I only advocate for this if you can pay off the credit card EVERY SINGLE MONTH, because, if you can't, you a negating the cost-saving benefits of having it
    • Gets you lounge access, depending on the reward program
    • No foreign transaction fees....this is HUGE, because when you don't have this, you get charged the exchange fee by the country you are in AND then your bank or credit card fees
    • ****Also, let the card company know when you are traveling, providing them dates and general locations. WARNING: If you don't do this, you risk getting your card frozen by the company due to location. We learned from this first time this happened to us
  6. Souvenirs
    • Don't buy crap that you don't need (we are minimalists)
    • Don't by crap that other people don't need 
    • The caveat to this is buying something that is useful and leads to further experiences, which is the entire point of traveling 
  7. Don't plan too much, or too little
    • Too much: If you have every moment or even every day planned, you will miss a thousand random opportunities you didn't even know existed until you arrive, and trust will want to experience them
    • Too little: You may not be able to get tickets for what you want (we missed the overnight train to Paris that we needed in 2011, because we didn't book ahead of time and they were sold out, lost out on 3 days pre-paid hotel and everything....)
  8. Read reviews
    • When you are traveling, thousands people have had the experience prior to you, so why not see what they have to say?
    • This helps you prioritize thing from the "absolutely MUST see", "want to see", "check it out if we have time", "don't want to waste my time"
    • This includes restaurants!
  9. Eat Local
    • I really try hard to not judge people, honestly I do, but I will NEVER understand why people spend thousands of dollars, travel thousands of miles, and I see them at McDonald's or some other chain restaurant that they can get back home....what's the point?
    • Food is a major culture point, wherever you go. It was brings people together, it is what you share and laugh over, so why not see what that looks like for the country/culture that you are in?
    • Even better: Take a cooking class! Just know that whenever you make it in the future, it probably won't take nearly as awesome as it did in the class, but it is a nice trip down memory lane.
    • Yes, some of the countries that we travel to, food safety is a concern, but following some key rules we have never gotten sick
      • Know if the water is safe before you go. We have a water filter we travel with if need be or we stick with NON-LOCAL bottled water
      • If the water is not safe to drink, don't eat uncooked vegetables or fruit because that water is what they cleaned them with
      • Street food is the best food, just get the things that are cooked and you watch them be cooked.....God, I still dream about those noodles in Cambodia.
    • That being said: TAKE SNACKS. 
      • Dark chocolate McVities Digestives are our personal favorite- It doesn't matter how sick I am from flying, jetlagged, or just hungry without good immediate access to food, these hit the spot and stay down
  10. Stop being so judgmental and try new things!
    • Yes, it is different, and that is AMAZING
    • No, it is not American or Western, and that is a good thing
    • Unless it caused immediate risk to your personal safety (and yes, this sometimes does include food), if a local is trying to share an experience with you, please go for it!