FLY Travel Tips

Woman standing in front of numerous cows in a country setting, divided by an electric fence. Woman is smiling.
Visiting a dairy farm in Hampreston, East Dorset, Southern England. Moooooo!

*** Due to the current state of the world, it seems necessary to mention that we are not in a time of pleasure travel until it is deemed safe to do so. Should you have to travel, please check your government website for travel advice and protocols during COVID-19. And remember, we will travel again one day.

As I have mentioned, I am by no means a travel expert. I am also not a medical practitioner. With that out of the way, here are some random travel tips that I have acquired from my own adventures that may be of use. Read on for my subjective pearls of wisdom.

  1. Stay on the other side of the electric fence.
  2. Compression socks? Yes. As a forty-something woman with the heart of a nineteen-year-old, I have succumbed to wearing compression socks on long flights. No one wants a blood clot. That does not spell F-U-N.
  3. Bring anti-bacterial wipes with you on the plane. Wipe everything down before you settle in. Tray table, movie screen, seatbelt, armrest. Anything you are going to touch or come into contact with needs a good once-over with a wipe, now more than ever! (Good COVID-19 tip.)
  4. Wash your hands before you eat. If this is not possible (as sometimes when travelling, it isn’t), ensure you have a steady supply of hand sanitizer at the ready. (Good COVID-19 tip.)
  5. Avoid checking a bag. Discovering the Osprey backpack was a game changer for me. It will give you an unbridled amout of freedom moving in and out of airports, and it will force you to become a minimalist for a while. Nothing wrong with that. Better yet, it will save you money. Checking bags can cost almost as much as the plane ticket these days. Not quite, but you catch my drift. There is also no chance of your bags not making it through. If you need more convincing, read on. (Note: airlines may no longer be allowing cabin baggage due to COVID-19. Check with your carrier when travel resumes).
  6. If you simply must check a bag, and I know a few of you for whom the sky would fall if this was not an option, make sure you have a spare change of clothing and essential toiletries in your carry-on should your luggage not arrive. If you believe that this will never happen to you, I have a friend who also believed this would never happen to him, until he was stranded in the Amazon without his particulars. Rushing to the only market available, he purchased a neon green mesh tank top and red silky go-go shorts that he wore religiously for several days until his precious cargo arrived. Imagine this spectacle on an Amazon river cruise. Not that this doesn’t make for a great story.
  7. Flip flops. Always pack them. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Not every floor and shower can be eaten off of, dare I say more.
  8. Leave your precious gems at home. No one needs to know that you have a rock the size of a bowling ball. It screams unwanted attention.
  9. Research the customs and cultural practices for the country you are travelling to. Ensure you pack the appropriate clothing.
  10. Make photocopies of your passport and credit cards. Email them to yourself, should you need to access them on the road.
  11. Try to have the first night booked somewhere. While it can sound adventurous and fun to wing it upon arrival, fiction is better than reality on this one. Arriving tired, disoriented and unfamiliar can result in a perfect storm when trying to find a place to lay your weary and cranky head in the dead of night. There will be plenty of time for not knowing where you are going the second you wake up.
  12. Eat in local restaurants and food stalls, especially if other locals are eating there. That means the food is gooooood! Eating is part of travel. Don’t be afraid.
  13. If you are going on a hiking trip, blisters are the WORST. They now have amazing bandages specifically for heels (and toes!). The second you start to feel the burn, slap one of these on. I often just put them on anyway, proactively. They are a miracle. Also, get sock liners. These are special socks that you wear under your hiking socks to avoid friction. Also a miracle. So are trekking poles. Use those too!
  14. Bring electrolytes and drink lots of water. I cannot stress this enough for active trips, ridiculously hot destinations and for people who are easily dehydrated, like myself. I got very sick in Thailand and most definitely should have been hospitalized, not sure why that didn’t happen after drinking 12 litres of Gatorade and not being able to produce even a dribble, although there was more than a dribble evacuating another known orifice. It is quite something that I survived, only to find some rehydration salts hidden away in the bottom of my backpack the next morning. Dehydration is awful. Your whole body seizes up and your organs basically want to leave you. That is how it felt to me anyway, I could barely walk. Since then, I always take electrolyte tablets with me. If I am on a hiking or biking holiday, I take at least one of these a day in my water. I also use them in excessively hot countries where you have a large white salt and sweat stain on the middle of your t-shirt by 8:15am. I cannot stress this enough.  Again, I am NOT a doctor, but these tablets have worked wonders for me. I use all things Nuun.
  15. Bring a water filtration bottle with you. There are lots on the market these days. I am still searching for the one that is best for me, but I know it is out there. We simply must stop contributing to the bottled water epidemic when in countries with non-potable water and no recycling services. Excessive water bottle consumption is synonymous with travellers. It is more and more imperative that we leave no trace.
  16. I always take probiotics a few weeks before I go on a trip to get that gut flora up to snuff. I also bring all of my vitamins and supplements that I take in my regular life so that my body can be as solid and up to the task as possible. Travelling can be hard on the system, and getting sick is not the point of leaving your life behind.
  17. Bring a ‘bathroom kit’ if you are going somewhere where amenities may not be plentiful. For me, this kit contains toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I bring this with me often, and it has served me very well. There is no shame in carrying around a small bag of toilet paper, but there could be shame if you don’t.
  18. Pack a headlight with fresh batteries. You just never know when you will need this! I have used mine in both remote and urban settings while travelling. Remember, a city somewhere else in the world may not be like the city you are used to. Lighting can be sparse, so this can come in handy when navigating your way in the dark.
  19. Make sure you have a rain protector for your backpack. If it does rain, your gear will stay dry. Simple math.
  20. Bring wall plug-ins that go with the country/continent you are travelling in. We don’t universally plug our chargers in the same way.
  21. Wear comfortable shoes, Nothing else needs to be said here. Okay, maybe it does. I have seen so many people bring the wrong shoes when they travel, and then they wonder why their feet hurt and they are tired. A big part of travelling is walking and exploring all day, and sometimes all night. Think about this! As in point number 6, traveling is not a fashion show. Not for me, anyway. See cow photo above.
  22. Put your phone away. Be in the moment as much as you can. There was a time when people actually travelled without cellphones and the Internet, some even without a camera.  You can stare at your phone when you get home.
  23. While I think it is sad that we rarely use paper maps anymore, I have to say that the discovery of has saved me several times. You can download the maps to your phone in advance, and you don’t need to connect to wireless to use them once in that country. The GPS will pinpoint you immediately on the app. I have compared these maps to popular guidebook maps, and there is no comparison. While it can still be fun to get lost and to rely on old school forms of navigation, when you are really stuck, technology wins on this one.
  24. Don’t get too comfortable, despite how much you have travelled. Last summer, my partner Sean and I headed off to Europe. Between the two of us, we have both been on many planes. Sometimes you can be too relaxed. While having a pint in a terminal bar, things were happening outside of our pre-holiday bubble. Our gates got moved and times got shifted, all of which we were oblivious to until the last minute. Don’t let the fact that you have travelled often make you lazy. Some of the biggest travellers make the most mistakes due to feeling over confident.
  25. Ask questions. Navigating airports is not always intuitive. It is also not always clear what instructions are being given when there are delays, missed connecting flights, etc. When checking luggage in the past, (pre Osprey backpack), and my flight wasn’t direct, I always, always asked if my bag was going straight through or if I had to physically pick it up and check it again for the next flight. This can be a nightmare and it is my opinion that airports still have not mastered this situation. Even more reason to stop checking bags. Do not hesitate to ask at least one airport representative what you need to do if things don’t seem straight forward. You need to be proactive in navigating unforeseen circumstances when you travel. No one is going to do it for you, especially if you are having a beer in the lounge.
  26. Remember that you don’t always have to DO and SEE everything, and BE everywhere. Travelling can be EXHAUSTING. One of my best travel memories is saying no to an outing, pulling up a chair in a garden, reading my book, drinking a beer and watching the world go by. It is okay to do this now and again, without guilt. Release the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and encourage the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out!).
  27. Talk to people. You will find that people are people pretty much everywhere in the world. We all want the same things. Food, love, shelter, health, laughter, purpose, connection. Some unexpected interactions with local people can bring much joy to your travels. People usually want to help, so let them. Follow your gut instinct. You will know the difference between a healthy interaction and one you may want to walk away from. Be both open and vigilant.
  28. At the very least, learn how to say hello, good-bye, please and thank you in the language of the country you are visiting. Your efforts will go far.
  29. Travel in the way that is best for YOU. There can be a lot of unpleasant ‘one upping’ amongst travellers, with those who believe that the way they travel is the only way to travel. This is complete nonsense. As we are different people in our daily lives, we are also different people in our travel lives. There are many colours of this rainbow. Solo travel, couples travel, family travel, group travel, adventure travel, active travel, beach travel, cultural travel, foodie travel, health and wellness travel, people who must plan every detail, people who completely fly by the seat of their pants ……it doesn’t matter how or with whom you travel, as long as you are travelling in a way that speaks to you (and obviously is not putting anyone else at harm).  As Sheryl Crow says, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” You do not owe any explanations for what speaks to you.