Travel Tips

- SCAN or take a picture of your passport and email it to yourself (plus all other important travel documents, or better yet use a more secure method of online storage such as Dropbox).  This way as long as you have internet access you can access a copy of your ID.

- TRAVEL INSURANCE IS A MUST! (see Travel Insurance)

- Always bring at least two pieces of ID and at least two credit and/or debit cards, and if you carry cash split it up.  Keep one set on you at all times and keep one set back at your accommodations (or one in your bag and one in your pocket if you're moving around), that way IF something happens you have a backup (you get pickpocketed or lose your wallet for example).  If I'm traveling with cash, I usually keep a small amount in my wallet with one credit card and my drivers license, and the rest is either locked up in my room or in my money belt (goes under your clothes).

- Your carryon LIQUID ALLOWANCE is one clear quart sized bag filled with max 100 ml bottles (see Liquids)

- NEVER leave your bag unattended or unattached!  I know of a young traveler who had placed their backpack at their feet, someone came over and started asking them questions and waving a phone in their face (to keep them distracted), and in the 10 seconds they were looking at the person, an accomplice came in and swiped the bag from their feet.  Which contained EVERYTHING (see above point on keeping one set of ID/cards/cash separate!).  If you're standing there, have your bag hooked around your foot or keep one hand on it at all times.  If sitting, you can hook your bag under a chair leg.  

- NEVER ever ever place anything of value inside your checked bag (if you check a bag).  

- ALWAYS keep at least one change of clothes in your carryon.  Sh*t happens, don't be stuck wearing the same underwear for days until your suitcase (maybe) shows up, which brings me to

- LABEL your bags!  In multiple places.   This means at the very least a luggage tag on the exterior, and at least one but preferably two or more tags (or even just a piece of paper stuck inside a Ziploc bag in case the bag gets wet) inside the bag that has your email, phone number, destination, and home address (or at least home airport) on it.  I place one in an exterior pocket and one in the main compartment of my bag.

 

- ALWAYS double check the expiry date on your passport!  We had a group trip booked to Mexico from Canada leaving on a Friday morning, and I went to check us all in for the flight - only to realize that one of our group had not checked the expiry on their passport!  They had checked their partners expiry date and had *assumed* that they had renewed them at the same time.  I rebooked her on a Saturday flight, we dropped her off at the passport office at 6:30 am on our way to the airport, & *fingers crossed* that she'd get her passport that day.  She had to pay extra for a rushed passport, a change fee on the flight, and had to make a connecting flight instead of direct, but she managed to have the new passport in hand *that afternoon* and only missed out on one day of vaca!

- When searching for FLIGHTS, I always use Momondo for my initial flight research because I like their search options and filtering tools - you can do one-way, return, or multi-city searches, plus you can filter by arrival and/or departure times, maximum flight duration, and maximum number of stops.   I sometimes will sign up for those irritating Price Watch emails because you just might get a deal you can't refuse in your inbox.  If you have a favorite airline(s), sign up for their newsletters or follow them on FB etc, because they often publish seat sales that way first.  If you have flexible dates, use a site like Hopper to search entire months or seasons or even the next year for low fares.  

 

- I have read that the best time to buy is approximately 6 weeks before your flight, however the sooner you can start watching for seat sales the better, as you might just find a deal you can't refuse!

- I love Rome2Rio for COMPARING trains, planes, and automobiles throughout Europe!

- ALWAYS check the airlines weight restrictions and allowable dimensions for your carryon (and your checked bag if you have one).  These vary from airline to airline, but especially from North America to Europe - European airlines are notorious for having extremely low weight limits and ridiculously overcharging you on every kilo you may be over.  Some even charge you for having a "large" carryon bag (which is a load of crap, it's not a "large" carryon, it's a normal sized carryon. If you can pack two weeks worth into some of these airlines free 'small' carryon bags please let me know your secret! ;)

- On that note, BRING A PORTABLE SCALE with you, this can help you avoid paying excess baggage fees as you can weigh your bag before you head to the airport! 

 

- LEAVE EXTRA ROOM (& extra weight room) in your carry-on and/or your checked bag so that you have room for souvenirs and gifts on your way back home.  Alternatively, pack an extra foldable/scrunchable/zippable bag that you can fill on your way back, but keep in mind that you may have to pay for an extra bag if you go this route. 

 

- Another option is to pack a box and some packing tape and ship any extra items home from your destination country, but be aware of their post office hours and check if there are any strange rules or customs surrounding the post office (we once shipped a large suitcase using a specific country's postal services, only to find out later that that particular postal service goes on strike every July - it took us nearly 6 months and a friend who spoke the language contacting them for us before we were finally able to track down the bag.  It did eventually arrive though and all in one piece so we were grateful for that at least.) 

 

- Wear your heaviest items ON the plane, especially if you're trying to keep your carryon weight down.

USE SeatGuru - it's a website that has AIRPLANE MAPS for most of the larger airlines (and some of the smaller ones)  - and it tells you the desirability of the seat location.  This is especially beneficial for long-haul flights when you want to know where the best seat on the plane is so you are not stuck sitting next to the bathrooms for 13 hours!!!

- USE a site like AirportTerminalMaps - it's a website that has AIRPORT MAPS which is extremely useful not only to know where your gate is but also to find the best food or shopping (or a smoking lounge if you are a smoker - I quit in October 2016 but here's a link to AirportSmokers which seems to have smoking rules for most major airports). 

 

- Many countries will recognize your drivers license and not require anything else (except a credit card generally) in order to rent a vehicle.  Some countries, however, will not rent to you without an international drivers license - be sure to double check before you depart whether or not you will require an International Drivers Permit (IDP).  The Canadian IDP is only valid for one year, does not require a test (just bring your valid drivers license and the cost varies depending on your location but appears to generally be between $20-$65) and can be picked up in a matter of minutes at your local AAA/AMA/CAA/etc.  Bring a couple passport sized photos with you or have them taken there.  Some countries (or sometimes just some rental agencies) have a minimum age requirement (often 21 or 25) in order to rent a vehicle or sometimes they will charge you an extra daily rate in order to rent.  If you are under 25 or over 70 verify before you look into renting a vehicle whether or not there are age restrictions or extra charges based on your age.  Rick Steve's has some useful country specific and age specific information here.  I won't make any recommendations based on vehicle insurance - I've used the rental insurance that comes with my credit card, I've used the rental agencies insurance, and I've used online travel booking sites for insurance, but I've never had to file a claim so I can't say whether one is better than the other.  Do some research and verify what each covers before settling on an insurance policy.

- NEVER leave your drink unattended!  This applies when you're at home as well, but can be even more important when you're on your own in a foreign city.

- ALWAYS check in online 24 hours in advance (or more if the airline allows it).  This gives you a better seat selection if you haven't pre-purchased your seats (that new BS that the airlines are doing now to try to weasel you out of more of your hard earned money) than you would get if you waited to check in at the airport.  Plus if it's one of those irritating airlines that is always overbooking their flights (I'm looking at you, United, plus many others), at least this way you (hopefully) will have a seat on the plane when you arrive.   

- ALWAYS check the style and voltage of the electrical outlets for the location that you will be visiting. See Electrical Outlets

- Check your VACCINATION records.  See Health & Vaccines.

- PassportIndex is a great website to help you determine whether or not you will need to apply for a VISA before you can visit.  In some cases this means sending your passport off to the nearest consulate office (which may be located in another province or state or even another country) and can take weeks to months to get approved.  Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for the visa to be processed, and preferably extra time in case your first application is denied (sometimes due to missing a field on the form or something like that).  DO NOT ship your passport via general mail - make sure you get a tracking number for your shipment (this won't guarantee that it'll arrive where it's intended, but at least you may have some recourse against the shipping company if it doesn't).  

 

- The Government of Canada releases country specific Travel Advice & Advisories; there is some valuable information on this site including entry/exit requirements and country specific laws and cultural information.   

- Some countries also require you to provide proof that you will be leaving at some point.  One time in London I was asked to provide proof of employment back home.  I've been asked many times in various countries if I have a flight home booked (although only a couple of times was asked to prove it).  Keep your travel documents handy (I generally take screenshots of my flight details so they are easy to access on my phone, very rarely do I bring printed copies - but this depends on the destination and how easily I could access the information if say my phone was lost or stolen).   

- BLISTER PREVENTIONI recommend taping your ankles before going on a hike.  I have heard that duct tape works, but you can also just pick up some sports tape from your local drugstore.  I would also suggest purchasing some dual layered 'runners socks', the extra layer prevents friction which in turn helps prevent blisters.   

- ZIPLOC BAGS are your friend.  I always put my liquids in one, and have at least a couple extras with me for just in case situations.  You can also use the larger sized ones as 'compression' bags for your clothes.

- Bring a couple disposable PLASTIC BAGS (like the ones you used to get from the grocery stores).  These are useful for dirty shoes, or as laundry bags, or as garbage bags along the way.

- Bring things to make your flight more COMFORTABLE.  Airplanes are not comfortable to begin with, but with reduced legroom and less perks than they used to have they're even less comfy than they used to be!  I use an inflatable backpackers pillow from MEC - while they take up more room than those U-shaped neck pillows, I find them much more comfortable (for the American readers MEC is basically the Canadian equivalent of REI, and for others try to find a local camping/hiking/outdoorsy type store).  I'm currently on the hunt for a backpackers pillow that takes up less space and weighs less than my current one.  For the plane ride I also bring headphones & a music device to help block out the noise of the engines and/or screaming babies, plus an extra battery pack in case it dies and the airplane doesn't have a charging port (some do, some don't).  

 

- Bring FOOD on the plane.  Snacks like granola bars or protein bars are light and easy to pack, and some airlines aren't even providing meals on longhaul flights (I'm looking at you, Westjet).  Speaking of Westjet, they have dropped the TV's from the headrests on the seats in front of you and have gone solely to an app based system, so if the airline has an app available I download it beforehand while you have access to Wifi so you're not using your data (sometimes this will give you access to things like movies and TV shows while in the air).  

 

- You can't bring a *full* bottle of water with you through security, but who wants to pay airline prices for water once you've hit the other side?  Bring an empty WATER BOTTLE, or pick up something like the Platypus collapsible water bottle and fill it up after you've gone through.

- I always wear pants and a hoodie or sweater on the plane because airplanes can be COLD.  Better to have it and not need it than vice versa.  And if you're not chilly, you can always roll the sweater up and use it as a lower back pillow so you're not unnaturally compressing your back the whole flight.  

- Travel delays are inevitable, but how we choose to deal with them is a completely different ballgame.  I had an accidental extended layover in Athens a couple of years ago where my incoming flight was delayed by a few hours do to inclement weather and I missed my connection to Barcelona - rather than get frustrated and upset about this I took it as an opportunity to see the city!  I found out that there was a luggage storage facility in the airport and I left my bag there, hopped on the train, and climbed up to the Acropolis!  It was amazing, and I never would have made it up there if it hadn't been for the delayed flight!  

- On that note, be careful booking layovers with different airlines - I do it quite frequently, but... if you miss your connection due to a delayed incoming flight that was not booked through a "partner" airline, the other airline is not required to compensate you and they will not give you a seat on the next flight.  I will sometimes do this if the flight option is too good to pass up and is going to save me a few hundred dollars.  I figure for the amount of times it has worked if I have to spend a couple hundred or so to make up a missed flight then it's still worth it in the long run.  The other area this can get tricky though is if you have either a short period of time in your destination and you've now potentially lost a day or so, or you have a connection to make on the other end (for example, arriving at a cruise port at a set date/time).

- Take the money!  Or the travel voucher if you travel frequently.  If you get bumped off your flight, make sure you are compensated fairly.  I was offered an 800 euro travel voucher or 600 euros cash if I was willing to give up my seat on a direct flight and take one with a layover that got me in about 4 hours later.  With the exchange rate that was nearly $200 an hour just to sit there for a little while!  Plus, the airline screwed around for so long getting us on to the next flight that I convinced them to upgrade the entire bumped crew to first class (there were 6 who got bumped, I was the only one who had done so voluntarily).  With all the awful things that have been happening lately to bumped passengers, the one good thing to come out of it is that many of the airlines have agreed to increase their compensation to bumped passengers, and if you can get a manager on the scene they are authorized to provide even more compensation.  

Stain removal on airplanes: Accidents happen, and I'm not 100% sure which of these worked or if it was the combination of the three, but on a trip from Canada to Europe once in some turbulence I accidentally spilled some red wine on my seat neighbor, and she was wearing white pants!  I immediately got my Tide pen out and we rubbed that on her pants, and the flight attendant suggested club soda, and someone else suggested salt.  We tried all three, and by the time we arrived at our destination her pants looked good as new!  

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