Top ten travel tips is not my favorite subject because as far as I can tell, it matters to WHOM the top ten list is intended.
Travel is an odds game with so many factors working (or not working) at the same time, it’s impossible to have an end-all list. The ideas here are not hard and fast RULES, just my top ten suggestions that I follow when planning and taking a trip.
Go someplace you want to go
I love to explore new places, but don’t plan a trip (or agree to go on one with someone else) just because you find a cheap fare or a great hotel. Be sure to travel to places you personally think you would find interesting, stimulating or fulfilling. At the same time, manage your expectations and the expectations of others on your trip. Destinations always look better in print or online. No matter what, the place you’re traveling to will, in fact, be a little rough around the edges.
An ounce of planning goes a long way. That means, when you’re shopping for travel, look at travel websites, ask your friends, read the newspaper and listen to The Travel Show (of course). But, to the best of your ability, get educated about your destination selections and then narrow them down.
Make a “Leaving Home” checklist
On a recent trip overseas, I packed all my broadcast equipment and no microphone. This could have been avoided if I had made a list. Now, I have a packing list and an “on the ranch” checklist. Items like “stop newspaper delivery” are on the list.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to only pack only what you can carry by yourself. Also, be aware of weight restrictions of the airline in which you are flying. Also, you may want to bring home souvenirs, so leave room in your checked luggage. I never pack valuables in my checked luggage and I always have bag tags on the outside and business cards with the phrase written on the back: “if this bag is found, please call the number on this business card”.
Arrive at the airport EARLY
I follow the general rule of arriving at least 90 minutes for domestic flights 2 and ½ hours for international departures. I know it seems excessive, but missing your flight or stressing through the entire airport process can really do a number on your mood. Al so be sure to have all of your documents…passport, frequent flier number etc. Also, use the automated kiosks (if possible). Once you’re all checked in, you can wade through the security procedure with ease.
At the gate, ask for your preferred seats
If you are not happy with your seat or think you have a better chance of getting a different one (window…isle…exit row etc) then ask when you arrive at the gate.
Buy a bottle of water after security-trail mix-mints or gum
Staying hydrated is very important on airplanes. I always buy a small bottle of water (in the terminal (after security), some almonds and some gum. This way, I am prepared for whatever PANG hits me while confined to my cramped coach seat.
Plan to have something go wrong and set your positive mind set in advance
With more planes in the sky, antiquated air traffic control equipment, more people flying, the high cost of fuel and the weather, something is bound to get all fouled up on your next airport experience.
Don’t plan a set schedule on your air travel days
Because there are so many things that can go wrong, it’s a good idea to not schedule appointments on your travel days. Always try for the earliest flight of the day and then leave it nice and (fluid) upon your arrival.
Vacation is a time to spend an extra couple of dollars guilt-free. I’m not suggesting you go into bankruptcy, but you’ve earned the privilege of ordering the steak instead of the chopped steak. One caution, don’t “charge” your vacation. Any good financial analyst will tell you no vacation is worth digging yourself into a larger hole. Be sure you can afford the trip and then, have a great time!
My fellow travel adventure-seekers, just a quick note today to remind you to tip your housekeeper. That's right, the brave men and women who venture into multiple guest rooms and suites every day and pick up after us deserve a gratuity. But how much? I can shed a little financial light on the subject.
As a general rule, between $1-5 per day (per person) is completely acceptable, although anything is always appreciated. There's no need to perform a Google search, but their is plenty of sufficient data that supports this figure. A similar figure is suggested by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
We remember to tip the valet, the bellmen, the front door attendants because, well frankly, they are standing right in front of us. But the housekeeper's job is to work in the background. Therefore, sometimes people simply forget. If the housekeeper is exceptional, then a little more is also appropriate.
I always tip about $5 per night when I am traveling for business (in a three star or better hotel/resort). If my children are with me, I tip a little more. In addition, I leave the money on the table with a note to the housekeeper, thanking them for their hard work.
Oh, and saying hello to the housekeeper is also a nice touch. Most housekeepers work hard and, frankly, its a thankless job cleaning up after people. So spread the love and show them you care.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!