Category Archives: Travel Advice

What I’m Thankful For as A Traveler

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Creative Commons photo / credit cea+

Recently, for an assignment, I compiled a list on what travelers should be thankful for, and it got me thinking more about the subject. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what as a traveler I feel most grateful about.

Here are my five examples.

  1. Ride sharing services. I was skeptical of using Uber for a long while, and didn’t sign up for it until this summer. Mainly it was because while I’m in New York City, my transportation options are plenty. In other places, it’s a different story. Two assignments this year took me to cities where spotting a cab was a challenge or not even possible. Plus what I like about Uber is that I can see who’s coming to pick me up (I’ve had drivers pulling over, claiming to be my ride, when they weren’t) and get an estimated rate.
  2. Free or discounted museum admission. I love visiting museums – even planning time for them in my trips – but after a while their price of admission can eat through my budget. So I appreciate museums and other public attractions that don’t cost a thing to see, or even have pay as you wish options. There are also ones that offer free days or evenings to state residents (like ones in Chicago such as the Field Museum) or extend these offerings to everyone (my favorite is NYC’s Museum of Modern Art’s free Friday nights.)
  3. Third-party search engines. Flying can get expensive, but we’re got some outside options. Thanks to sites like Google Flights, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia, we can search for rates on flights and most likely get a price break on costs. For example, this summer, I used one site for booking my return flight from Stockholm back to New York and got a good deal ($598). At the airport, I discovered that I was able to check in my two bags at no additional charge. (I didn’t know they were included in the fare). What a good surprise. Also consider sites like Secret Flying, which publish flight deals and error fares (computer glitches resulting in our price favor).
  4. Hospitality workers. Flight attendants, housekeeping, and front desk clerks have probably encountered just about every type of traveler out there – good and bad. But they keep us going. I’ve made it a habit to not just say thanks but to show it. I always acknowledge good customer service, via Twitter or in person. At hotels, I always make sure to tip too, leaving a few bills on my nightstand. People I know who work in hospitality tell me that this simple gesture can make a staffer’s day, so let’s show all these hardworking people some love.
  5. More voices in travel communities. As a travel writer, nothing makes me happier to see more content being published by experts in various niches. From women travelers, to accessible travelers and budget travelers, to even baby boomers and LGBT, these sources are showing that travel is not restrictive. Our styles vary, and these writers, bloggers and vloggers get it and are giving solid advice on making our dreams of seeing the world happen.

Let me know what you would give thanks for.

When Is It the Best Time to Book Holiday Travel?

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With holiday travel plans, I tend to jump on booking flights and hotels quickly (such as with a planned post-Christmas trip to Atlanta this year). Yet my method is probably not full proof. In dipping into my e-mail bag, last week I got this press release from Skyscanner about the debate over best time to book predictions for this year.

Apparently, being last minute pays off.

Based on data compiled from more than 50 million users’ booking habits during the 2015 holiday season, Skyscanner’s findings apparently show that the highest savings are available no more than four weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, with potential savings even available to those booking flights the very same week.    

 In breaking down the results, Skyscanner listed the best time to book travel for possible savings, around each of the major holidays coming up this year.

  • Thanksgiving: Skyscanner found that October has the best opportunities for savings, with the week of October 17 offering savings of 5.10 percent and a mere four weeks out, the week of October 31, offering the highest potential savings of 7.7 percent. Last minute bookers will also be in luck and could find 1.98 percent in savings the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas: Historical data indicates that Thanksgiving week (November 21) will be a prime time for the best deals, offerings possible savings of 6.41 percent, as well as the week of December 5 with savings of 4.93 percent. After Thanksgiving will also be a peak window for booking, with savings of 2.17 percent the week of November 28.
  • New Year’s: While travelers could score the highest savings of 10.57 percent the week of December 5, the holiday looks to favor last minute decision-makers with 6.72 percent of savings one week before and 6.67 percent of savings two weeks out.

 Skyscanner also did a Twitter survey, which found that 44 percent of respondents shared that their plans are made six months to one year in advance; 17 percent between three to five months out; and 39 percent said they prefer to book their travel four to six weeks ahead.

So tell me, when do you book holiday travel? Do you think Skyscanner’s study is right or not?

Why I (Might) Eat at McDonald’s When Traveling

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Due to broadening my palette and getting more food writing assignments, I’ve made a vow to try as many local dishes and dine at non-chain restaurants as I can while traveling.

However, it’s a promise that I can’t always keep.

Part of that reason is because I travel about once every two years with a relative of mine who is strictly a meat and potatoes person. When traveling, his go-to meal plans often involve heading to the famous Golden Arch. I follow along, but I cringe. I rarely, if any, eat at McDonald’s at home (okay, maybe Wendy’s or a good fried chicken joint instead). But I join him, and I place my order. And at times, under certain circumstances, I find myself doing the exact same thing.

Though I do make eating locally a priority in my travels, going to a fast food or chain restaurant is acceptable. Here’s why it’s okay to eat at McDonald’s (or insert your favorite place here) while traveling.

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Menus can vary.
When glancing at the menu at a fast food chain location overseas, you might be surprised to see some items. Depending on tastes, diets, and even government regulations, menu offerings can look different. There are similarities – fries, sodas, ketchup – but you’ll probably find a few twists. With McDonald’s, I’ve seen fried shrimp in Amsterdam; jalapeno poppers in Stockholm; and a chicken sandwich with what I swear was oregano or some other kind of herb on the bun in Windsor, England. In Lucerne, Switzerland, I saw what was claimed to be an All-American burger, a Californian style (I’m not big on burgers, so I didn’t validate that claim.). In Prague, a small can of pilsner came with my combo meal, and I saw one guy there having what was called a McBox. Yes, in a box. Likewise with Starbucks, I tried smores-flavored lattes in Stockholm, matcha-flavored ones in Kyoto. Both were different.

It can save you money and/or time.
Fast food is, well, fast food. Maybe you’re arriving right before the doors close or have to grab and go to get to your next stop on time. Though the level of service can vary, one good thing about fast food chains like McDonald’s is that you have a sense of what you’re ordering, and what it costs. When I was Lucerne, a few days after my wallet was stolen in Cologne, I was forced to curve my spending. I had to stretch out my Swish francs, and food became one budget area that required some wiggle room. Plus, if you know Switzerland, you know it can be a pricey destination. So for my remaining two days in Lucerne, I was able to get a sandwich and a small drink from McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch or dinner.

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Getting help if you need it.
Like at home, fast food chains are where locals and even visitors go. So if you need directions or have a question that a native might know the answer to, these chains might be where to turn. Although it’s presumptuous to assume that workers behind the counter may be fluent or conversational in English or another language, chances are that they can understand and answer your questions. Or at least try to help. If not, there could be a customer who can assist you. One more thing: if you have food allergies, fast food is more than likely a safe bet. Also, based on my experience, these fast food chains might provide free Wi-Fi, which you can access while having your meal or drink. Log-in registration may be required.

Sometimes you want a taste of home.
From fries to ice cream sundaes, familiar food can be comforting. Like I wrote before, for the most part, you know what you’re ordering from a fast food restaurant. Menu boards are also pictorial, so you can have a better understanding of what’s available. Also, if you’re close to being “hangry,” you probably want to get something to eat. Or maybe it’s what you feel comfortable with eating at that moment. On the final morning I had in Tokyo, I couldn’t venture too far in search of breakfast. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s right around the corner from my hotel, where I was able to order a McGriddle Cake combo. I was able to sit and eat there with enough time left over to run back, shower, pack and check out. Plus, I had extra yen left over to get my final sushi meal at Narita Airport before heading back to the states.

So tell me: what’s the most interesting fast food meal you’ve had while traveling?

How to Maintain Relationships While Traveling

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Photo by twentymindsomething via Flickr.com

“And you’re never around.”

Those words stunned me. To be on the receiving end of them was both confusing and painful. Although the backstory is not entirely mine to tell, out of respect for the other party involved, what I can say is that the sentence probably was directed toward the fact that I travel often. I do so for work, for fun, for vacation itself. Some people get it, others don’t.

Being the road can take you away from those most important in your life for a period of time, but it doesn’t mean that relationships would be put on the back burner. Based on my experience, here are my suggestions on how to maintain relationships while traveling.

  • Bring back souvenirs. Think about picking up a small token or treat as a gift for someone or some people. It doesn’t have to be pricey, like a magnet or candy. Or perhaps you will come across what can be referred to as “a found object.” For example, in Copenhagen, I bought licorice for about roughly $2.50 USD each to give to relatives and friends. In Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Sweden, licorice is popular but comes in a salty version – opposite from its American counterpart. Or if someone I know wants learn more about a country or city I’m seeing, I grab an extra map or brochure for him/her.
  • Use technology to keep in touch. Unless you’re totally off the grid, it’s a given that Facebook, email, IM, Skype, and texting apps keeps you connected. So use it. I try to go online at night (especially if my time zone is earlier) and check and comment on friends’ posts or just drop a quick note to say hello. I email and, if I can, text people like my folks or sisters (or potential boyfriend) to see how their day is going and tell them what I’m up to.
  • Schedule some solid time at home. For now, I make it a point to be around home during holidays, personal milestones, and family events. I also try to schedule lunch dates, dinners, or outings with friends at least monthly or biweekly. Also, consider offering a hand or doing a favor. If a friend needs some help – like a house sitter – be open for it.
  • Accept personal differences. Like other topics, people can react to traveling differently based on their perceptions. Drawing from my humble opinion, I’ve learned to provide the basics of my trip (where, when, and what for) before I go and save more details for when I get back. I take reactions as they come, and try to avoid feeling the need to explain if necessary. Those who genuinely understand will. Those who don’t, for their own reasons, won’t.

Book Review: National Geographic Guide to National Parks, Eighth Edition

 

National Geographic Parks

Though its release marks this book’s eighth edition, National Geographic’s Guide to National Parks of the United States is a timely one. 2016 marks the centennial of the U.S. National Parks, which Nat Geo seemed to have a bit of a hand in.

The introduction to this latest version shares a story involving Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, National Geographic’s first editor, who fell in love with the beauty of the sequoias in California’s Sierra Nevada. His vacay inspired him to dedicate the April 1916 issue of his magazine to America’s natural wonders — and give copies out to elected officials in Washington. Apparently, D.C. got the message. That August, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service.

Now, the 2016 edition of National Geographic’s Guide to National Parks of the United States has been updated with on-location research to determine the best spots in each of the 59 national parks for views. Other additions include travel tips, itineraries, contact information, and a list of places to stay. Geographically, the guide is broken down by regions: East, Midwest, South Central, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Pacific Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. Plus, of course, the scenery is shown through 80 full-color maps and more than 220 photographs. It’s priced at $29.95.

For youngsters, The National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A. Centennial Edition (ages 8-12, $14.99) offers a minor take on exploring these parks. Produced in partnership with the National Parks Trust, the book is designed to encourage readers to put down the iPad and go through photos, lists, maps and other attention grabbing pages. Plus: through the Every Kid in a Park program, every fourth grader can visit any national park for free though August 2016!

 

 

Can You Find Love While Traveling?

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Around Valentine’s Day, there are travel stories that come out about couples that have found love while on the road. Some have happy endings, others not so much.

If you think about, it’s easy to have a romance while on the road. You’re in new surroundings. If you’re open to striking up conversations with new people, like locals or fellow travelers, you can bond quickly over similar experiences, interests, and maybe itineraries. Plus, you’re on vacation.

So, yes, I think it’s possible to find genuine romance while traveling. But you can also meet someone while passing through or encounter the exact opposite. Here are some suggestions on whether a travel romance could just turn out to be a fling or the real thing.

  • Take your moments together as they come.
    It’s very easy to get caught up in what’s happening, but sometimes it’s best to keep your mind and heart in the present moment. Maybe you and the guy/girl you met are enjoying a night on the town or paired up to hang out on a beach or head to some other location. Just see how it goes. While I was on a walking tour in Berlin, my group included a young hunky South African on a yearlong gap. My friend and I invited him to join us at our table and he was very fun and sweet. He and I ended up walking together, and he got very chummy with me. When the tour was up, he lingered for a while and then gave me a kiss and walked off. My friend pointed to out to me that he seemed keen on me; I chalked up to just having fun.
  • Follow your heart, but trust your gut. Generally, most people you meet while traveling are basically good. But remember to keep your head. Along with common sense rules like watching your belongings, and even drinks, if something doesn’t feel right, pay attention. Keep an extra bill of the local currency on you in a separate place so if you need to get away safely via a cab you can. Also if his/her behavior seems off — doing one thing but saying another, being vague about himself/herself, or just emotions flying — it’s a good indicator that there’s more to him/her than willing to show. I hate to say this but I’ve found that some who’ve really put on the charm upfront (very out of the ordinary charm) were quite the opposite later on.
  • Think about where you from and what’s at home.
    Maybe you’re from one part of the globe and he/she is from the other. Most likely, you’re either both going back home after your trip is done or your locally-love interest is staying where he/she is. Or if possible would you both continue on together? When I was in Athens, I met a charming Greek guy who after helping my awkward self figured out which subway stop would get me to the Acropolis Museum. He ended hanging out with me at the museum, and our night continued on in the Plaka. He invited me over to his place afterwards, but my hesitation kicked in (plus I thought about my then-BF back home). But it was nice to be flirty, at least for one night.
  • Weigh how you’ll stay in touch.
    Facebook, even email, makes it a lot easier to keep in touch after travelers go their separate ways. So mostly likely you’ll keep in touch somehow, or initially. Circumstances can change, and people can change. With my Athenian, we became Facebook friends, and I would Facebook message him when he was online. But after a while, it felt like I was more interested in chatting with him than he was with me. But it happens. At least, you’ll have made a new friend, right?
  • If it’s right, then go for it!

    In all, traveling is the one of the best ways to judge someone’s personality. If you decide to go jaunting together for a while, here are some questions to think about. Are you both open to compromising on where to go, what to see, and how much to spend? Do either of you sulk or stay patient with each other? How do you handle conflicts together? And mostly, are you both committed to having a relationship or it is more casual? If all your answers sound right for you, then see how love unfolds and take that leap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signing up for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

 

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Photo credit: danjo paluska via Flickr

Recently, I got approved for enrollment in both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. If you’re not sure what these programs are, they relate to airport security. Frequent fliers often register for them so if you fall into this category, consider getting which one applies to you. Or both.

Mainly, they are expedited security screening programs for traveling within or out of the U.S. I’m sure you’re familiar with waiting your turn to go through the security detectors, taking off your shoes, belt, and coat, pulling out your laptop and your clear bag of 3-1-1 compliant toiletries, and putting them all through the scanner. TSA PreCheck and Global Entry changes this scenario. If you’re considered to be a low risk flier – i.e., no questionable background or history – and fit with certain citizenship requirements, being a member in these programs eliminates these necessities. And, in most cases, you avoid a lengthy wait. You still have to go through security, but usually in a different line, and you don’t need to do all the required clothing/luggage removals.

Here’s what each program is about:

TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck is for fliers that meet certain citizenship requirements and departing from the U.S. and is valid for five years. To apply for the program, you can either do so on online or through scheduling an in-person appointment. There’s also a third option of going straight to an application center, but your chances of that happening depend on how busy the day is. I lucked out at JFK with a walk-in appointment, but that’s probably because the TSA security checkpoint was surprisingly quiet. Plus I tend to go to the airport early. Screening appointments can run behind, so you want to make sure you allow enough time to avoid stressing out about making your flight. Mine lasted maybe 30 minutes or so. Also, at your appointment, you need to have certain paperwork on you like your driver’s license or passport and other requirements. There is an $85 non-refundable processing fee as well.

Upon approval, you’re assigned what’s called a Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you give when buying a plane ticket. (Currently, most major carriers and airports participate in TSA PreCheck. Check online for confirmation). Your KTN will appear on your boarding pass. Although you can save your KTN to your frequent flier account, it’s best to type it in every time to be certain it’s correctly placed in the system. Plus, be sure your name is exactly listed on your ticket as it is for your TSAPrecheck (for example if you go by your full name, it has to match), as a slight difference can cause a slight problem.

Global Entry
Global Entry involves admittance into the U.S. and extends to other different citizenship requirements. When coming back in and going through customs, you often would head to what’s called a Global Entry kiosk, to process your passport and have your fingerprints scanned for identification. Plus, at the kiosk, you fill out a customs declaration.

Applying is done online only. You have to create an account through what’s called the Global Online Enrollment System or GOES. Through your account, your application will require certain personal information, so be thorough when filling out the requirements. You also pay a $100 non-returnable application fee.

Once officials approve your application, you’ll get an email about scheduling an interview. To set one up, you have to go back into your GOES account and select a date, time, and location (there is a list of processing centers, depending on the state you live in, to click on and choose from). On your interview day, bring certain documents like your passport or resident card, a second form of ID and a print out of an email saying that you’ve been approved. And don’t be late! You’ll have an interview with a DHS official, who will ask you certain background questions. Your photo and fingerprints will be also taken. With your approval, a Global Entry card will be sent to you in the mail. (I also got a paper copy with my number on it before leaving.)

Another Global Entry member bonus is that you will be eligible for getting TSA PreCheck. (Editor’s note: I didn’t know this information beforehand. If I did, I would have applied for Global Entry first. Oh well). Like its counterpart, Global Entry approval lasts five years.

 

Either way, having membership in both programs helps if you’re a serious traveler. But the choice is up to you. Learn more about them plus other options here.

Where to Go in 2016

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Photo credit: Ken Bosma via Flickr

Is travel part of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016? There are many “where to go” lists out, and here is another one. I reached out to various travelers with their own respective blogs and expertise for ideas on what places they’re encouraging people to head or where they’re going. Here is what they had to say.

Germany, as suggested by Charles McCool of McCool Travel

“Berlin, Germany is one place I really want to visit in 2016. Sure, the city has a vibrant social and art scene, with attractive cuisine and architecture. The main reason I want to visit, though, is because it is a part of my ancestry. My grandfather and his family fled to the USA from a small village near Berlin in 1926 and I would love to visit his childhood area, and maybe learn some more about my family history.”

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Photo credit: Rebecca Holland

Jordan, as suggested by Rebecca Holland of Curiosity and a Carry on

“It’s the first place I ever traveled outside of the U.S. six years ago, and I’ve gone back every year since because of the welcoming people, incredible food, stunning natural beauty, and variety of things to do–from Roman ruins to floating in the Dead Sea to canyon hikes, camping in the desert, and, of course, Petra. Though it might not be the best time to visit surrounding countries, Jordan is still pretty safe, and right now needs tourism more than ever. Plus, it opens your eyes to a culture that is not as scary or different as you see on the news, which is something people (especially Americans) could use right now.”

Mexico, as suggested by Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift of Goats on the Road (tip provided by Dariece)

“I don’t mean the typical cities of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Puerto Vallarta, I mean the real Mexico. This is a country filled with gems for travellers to discover. Check out the little known island of Isla Holbox, the UNESCO listed city of Guanajuato, or the mountainous town of San Cristobal. Mexico’s cities are stunning, its beaches are beautiful, the people are welcoming and the food…oh, the food! This is a great destination for 2016 because the U.S. Dollar is very strong against the Mexican Peso at the moment. This already affordable destination will be around 35 percent cheaper to travel to than this time last year.”

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Photo credit: Chris Backe

Colombia, as suggested by Chris Backe of One Weird Globe

“Break out your high school Spanish. Between improving tourist infrastructure, a historically awesome exchange rate (for tourists, anyway), and a number of places worth visiting, there’s plenty going for it. Start with Medellin, Colombia’s second city, for a modern, First-World introduction to the country. Ride the modern metro and cable car, meander around Poblado’s trendier side, explore the Laureles neighborhood, or see the grittier (but still safe) side in the Envigado neighborhood. Bogota is also worth visiting as well, but requires a bit more carefulness on your stuff.”

Photo credit: Two Monkeys Travel

Photo credit: Two Monkeys Travel Group

Naples, South Florida, as suggested by Jonathan Howe and Kach Medina Umandap of Two Monkeys Travel Group (tip provided by Jonathan)

“Much more than great weather and beaches, this beautiful little corner of the USA is surrounded by some of the densely packed mangrove and swamplands in the world, the Everglades. Hiking, swamp walking, kayaking and paddle boarding with alligators, air boats, fishing, wildlife photography and loads more. It’s also one of the greatest foodie destinations we have ever discovered. Now that we’ve found out for ourselves that this part of South Florida is much more than a ‘snowbird’ winter escape for retirees, we’ll be going back for more!”

Copenhagen, Denmark, as suggested by Caroline Coupe of LoveLiveTravel

“The city has a fantastic vibe and there is always something happening; whether you have two days or two weeks, there is so much you can experience. The most famous sights here are the Nyhavn canal with its colourful buildings and tall ships, The Little Mermaid perched on her rock in the harbour. and the charming, historic Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Another popular spot is the Strøget pedestrian street packed with shops, cafés, historic buildings, and fountains, perfect for shopping and browsing. The city also is home to three palaces: Amalienborg Palace, where the Royal family still live today and you can watch the daily Changing of the Guard, Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish Parliament, and Rosenborg Castle, which is surrounded by the gorgeous King’s Gardens.”

Iceland, as suggested by Valen Dawson of Eating the Globe

“It’s where I’m going next. It seems to be a hot spot right now. It attracted my attention because of the natural beauty there and the cheap flights from the U.S.”

 U.S. National Parks, as suggested by me

“In August of next year, the U.S. National Parks system marks its one hundredth anniversary. Some of the most incredible national parks to set foot in are based in the western part of the U.S. – Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and so forth. Get out your best pair of hiking shoes and go exploring.”

Where do you want to go to in 2016? Let me know.

10 Basic Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers

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Photo credit: m01229 via Flickr

If you have a traveler on your holiday shopping list, the best present to buy him or her is one that can help make the journey a little easier. From advanced trip planning, to last-minute preparation, here are some general suggestions for finding that perfect gift for the adventurous person in your life.

1) Portable Battery Charger
With cellphones now being used for snapping and posting travel photos instantly, it’s easy for batteries to go quicker. Having a portable external battery charger can help them out in a pitch. Consider getting a two-port charger, if your gift recipient also takes an iPad or another electronic device along, or even look for a solar-powered one.

2) All-Weather Purpose Clothing
Clothing is a travel necessity, but the lighter the weight, the easier it is to travel with. For example, a windbreaker is good for rainy days but its material should be breathable. Think durable but comfortable! If unsure what applies as a base layer or outer shell, head to an outdoor gear store and get solid employee advice.

3) Luggage Lock
Are they – or more so, you – worried about items being taken from their bags? A luggage lock can give piece of mind. From keys to combinations, these locks can encompass everything from including a cord to secure a bag in place to just keeping zippers from being opened. And in most cases, they are TSA friendly, built with a button that indicates if officials have opened up a bag for inspection.

4) Carry-On Luggage
With airline fees for checking in even one bag becoming more commonplace, travelers might consider using a suitcase that complies with carry-on standards. Though carrier restrictions on sizes can vary, carry-on limits are usually around 21 inches for height, 15 inches for width and 9 inches for depth, with overall weight not exceeding more than 20 pounds. Travelers can be good about watching space limits, and you’ll help them avoid potential add-on costs at the airport.

5) Small First Aid Kit
Aches, scrapes, accidents, and illnesses can happen while on the road. And finding a drugstore or pharmacy requires a trip of another kind. A good first aid kit should include at least a mix of bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain/stomach relievers. Plus hydration powder and an antihistamine can be good extras.

6) Water Bottle
Buying bottled water can add up, so a water bottle can save on money and be reused. Aside from a BPA free design, consider getting one with a chemical-free filtration to remove potential waterborne bacteria and contaminants such as protozoa. Usually, these bottles are said to have continuous use before needing to be replaced.

7) TSA Friendly Toiletries
With 3-1-1 TSA rules still in effect, a traveler’s choice of beauty/grooming products is down to ounces. From shampoo bottles to toothpaste tubes, picking up travel-sized versions of his/her fave products or something a little fancy will enable your adventurer to pack them with ease. Head to the drugstore or places like Sephora that stock flier-friendly beauty products.

8) Headphones
From earbuds to on-ear models, a pair of headphones can block out any noise or for listening to tuneage while on a train, bus,  or plane. Plus, they might come in handy for getting the audio for that in-flight movie – if the airline’s headphones are so-so.

9) Packing Cubes
Some travelers swear by them, others might not. Found in stores and online, these cubes are actually various sized fabric containers that can aid in keeping clothing, toiletries or other items packed neat and tidy. If your gift receiver is very organized, this gift idea might be a winner.

10) Wrist Watch
A watch, you say? How seemingly outdated is that! Well, for starters, it’s a good alternative to relying on your phone for your clock. Plus it’s also easier to reset the dial to fit whichever time zone you’re entering or returning from.

What item would you give to a traveler as a holiday gift?

When You Should NOT Drop Everything and Travel

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Photo via Les Haines via Flickr

Like me, well-meaning travel writers and bloggers promote why you should go off and travel. And, more like me, at times you have to weigh the balance of measuring spending money on experiences – and what your decision can cost you.

Recently, journalist Chelsea Fagan penned a great piece about the notion of choosing the experience of continuous travel and financial risks that come with it on her personal blog, “The Financial Diet.” Fagan examines the viewpoint that (especially younger) people have about long-term travel as being a must-do, don’t worry about money experience. Whether they have it or not.

In her piece, Fagan talks about an internet, well-to-do acquaintance that decides to get her master’s degree in Europe because it’s an “opportunity to learn and expand her mind. Fagan also points out that her friend’s “opportunity” won’t really guarantee anything but that her friend can take that risk due to having a financial safety net.

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Photo by frankieleon via Flickr

While Fagan does admit she has done some modest travel, she is pretty sound about how putting yourself in a monetary bind to travel “just because” adds up. I definitely agree with Fagan about not putting your financial future in jeopardy, yet I have to challenge her on this sentence: “Traveling for the sake of travel is not an achievement, nor is it guaranteed to make anyone a more cultured, nuanced person.”

As someone who travels for business and personal reasons, my experiences have been rewarding and enlightening. They’ve also resulted from choices; not privilege. Having come from a hard-working family, I fund my travels through different means of income. In my twenties and thirties, I held part-time retail jobs along with my full-time office one, did a unique but well-paid pet sitting gig, and parting with unneeded but still valuable junk. I gave up weekends to work and spent money when necessary (like toothpaste and gas).

Now in my forties and more self-employed, I have to admit that travel can cost me in some ways. Sometimes I’ve had to pass on a freelance assignment due to being away on one. Or as I give my ongoing clients my travel schedule, I do worry that maybe a day might come where they won’t need me anymore. Plus there’s the other side of this debate: regret. Or maybe FOMO. Or my fear of looking back as a sad, old woman who wished she did more with her life.

And though I’m dealing with a financial pinch right now, I have to say that I wouldn’t trade in my experiences for anything else. I also agree with Fagan in that being able to travel, or not, doesn’t mean that a person is any less, but I do think people should pursue this opportunity if they have the chance, and means to. Maybe it can’t be right away or in the way that you want, but do what you can without breaking your bank.

Just don’t sound like this person.