Travel Tips

Travel has always been a passion and my dream is to one day write about this, in a book or better yet a travel column. The gemini in me might not have the patience to finish a book whereas the demands of short articles in a column would fit me to a T.

Since I don’t have either of those chances, I decided to share some travel gems in this blog for the meantime.

Europe has always been a favorite region, for its culture and history. Most of those travels were in groups that my dad used to organize locally but many of our unforgettable adventures were during our solo trip (as in with my dad and mom or at times with a few friends).

Some of learnings from those trips are :

1. Always expect the Unexpected (A favorite saying of my dad)

No matter how far and detailed your travel plans have been, you must expect that something may turn bad or not the way you planned it to be. Strikes are normal during late spring to summer when tourists start arriving. We have experienced this often in France and Italy. From the airport porter (no one to carry the luggages), to the plane crew (pilots deliberately slowing down the taxi so that passengers from connecting flight will not catch the next plane) to bus drivers going on strike so missed the motorcoach which will bring us to our hotel.

Farmers also often go on strike so they sometimes block the highway and traffic would surely mount.

Other unexpected moments would be:

the famous Tower of Belem in Lisbon was under construction when we visited. Fortunately we were able to come back the following year to have a better appreciation sans the coverings.
  • A beautiful monument was under consturction so you wont be able to get in or even take a good photo
  • A museum happen to be closed on the day you arrive,
  • There are no eateries on that part of the highway you are driving through so miss lunch (usually in Spain)
  • Losing all the photos you took because of the xray machine or thief or all of sudden your camera just chose to conk out
  • Lost or misrouted suitcase

2. You can lose everything except your PMT – Passport, Money and Ticket (plane)

Usually its best to keep in tucked somewhere inside your clothes. I keep them in an inside money belt. I have another money belt for loose change which is either over my blouse (if I wear a jacket) or inside but outside my jeans so I can easily get whatever is inside, which usually includes a ballpen and some paper plus some credit cards.

3.  All valuables must never be checked-in 

Keep all your valuable stuff in your hand carry (eg. jewelry, impt papers etc). Never check them in just in case you lose your suitcase.

4.  Keep Hotel’s business card at all time. 

Always bring your hotel’s business card with all the contact numbers. In case you get lost esp when you are with a group, it will be easier to show this to the cab driver.  Immediately ask the front desk after check in so you don’t forget.

5.  Ask more than one person

We kept asking several people how to get to Giverny as we were in Vernon then, a tiny village in France.

When you try to ask for directions, or flight connection details in the airport, or ask an important question related to your travel whether at the airport, hotel or anywhere during your journey, don’t be content with asking only one person. They sometimes give different answers. It is imperative you double check.

6. Keep luggages always locked 

Keep your luggages locked inside the room when you get out even when you are sleeping. Put a chair on the back of the door just to make sure no one gets in while you sleep.

You never can tell if chamber maids will start snooping on the contents of your luggage when you are out

One time while one of our companions was asleep (in a four star hotel), maybe someone sneaked in and tried getting her passport. She found this when she woke up right outside her door.

It would be best to get a key with the TSA mark specially if you will be travelling to the US. After 911 airport security may need to open luggages and TSA locks can be opened via their master key otherwise they may need to destroy the lock.

It is also wise to lock your hand carried luggage if you leave the hotel.  I also bring extra heavy duty locks.  In case you will need to travel alone and take the train, it maybe difficult to keep lugging along your luggage if you need to go to the toilet or eatery. It maybe dangerous to just leave it in the train car so best to lock it to a chain.

7.  Keep valuables out of the public eye 

Don’t display your valuables on top of a table in a public restaurant/place eg videocam, digital stuff. Keep it inside the bag.

We were eating in one of the Wienerwald restaurants in Frankfurt one time, my mom and i stepped out to check some of the items on sale in a nearby market when we went back inside, the waiters were all upset and running around and one approached me saying all is under control for the police are coming. Some guy grabbed my video on top of the table and ran!

8.  Identification Tags

Make sure your name and contact numbers are written outside and inside your luggage.  There are all types of luggage tags you can use for this.

It is equally important that you also have these info inside your luggage in case the tag gets lost and airport personnel need to open and identify your luggage.

It is also wise that you put some sort of unique identifier outside your luggage for instance ribbons.

Sometimes luggages look similar when they are in the baggage carousel and it may prove difficult to determine which is yours.

One thing my late mom does is twirl a couple of ribbons of different colors and we ask the passengers to tie this to the luggage handle.  This makes it easier for us to identify suitcases in the hotel and airport.

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