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Travel Tips & Resources

Ryan’s Top Travel Tips

Volume 1

Ryan in Porto, Portugal

Over my years of international travel, I have learned quite a bit along the way and continue to learn every trip. It is important never to stop seeking ways to make travel more efficient and less stressful. From my own good and bad experiences, guidance from frequent travelers, and watching others, I have learned there is a wealth of information to gain to improve our travel experience. My favorite travel tips have worked well for me, and I am confident you will have positive results as well.

As I have traveled, I have gathered a list of travel tips that I believe are keys to my travel success. Family and friends often ask how I make travel seem so effortless. It isn’t effortless, but it is, for the most part, stress-free. If you take control of the aspects you can and stick to those lessons; you can start with a huge advantage.

My blogging partner and I come from very different travel backgrounds, bringing unique perspectives and insight that enhance our joint experience. We learn from each other, contributing to our overall knowledge. The more information we have, to more power we have to control what we can. In all the military travel I have done, where you have little control, it has exposed me to some strange, may I say at times miserable travel exploits. I have taken those hard-earned lessons and used them to complement my regular travel. This has made for smoother journeys, not just for me but for my fellow travelers.

I hope you will find these travel tips to be as invaluable as they have been for me. As a result, your next travel adventure will be the success you deserve!!

Dressing down

As I believe is the case for most people, I like to look my best in every situation. I feel it boosts your confidence, but from travel, perspective can end up holding you back. It’s great to prepare for any circumstance, such as bringing gloves, a hat, or a thin rain jacket, but too many other unnecessary clothing items can weigh you down when traveling and become more of a burden than a benefit. 

Dress Down Travel Tip #1
Ryan in Obidos Portugal

When traveling, bringing some jewelry and accessories is fine, but why wear them through the airport? I went through security on one trip, and I was in the Pre TSA line, and there was a long delay. Not for something I did. A woman in front of me had to go through the metal detector about four separate times. On the first attempt, she had to remove a jingly metal belt. Then some bracelets and a watch and so on. I do not even know how many large earrings she had in.

If you must wear jewelry, at least go minimal and not put on every piece you own. There were some unhappy customers behind her, including me. No one at the airport cares how spruced up you are, and I am not at the airport to pick out a date. I have a flight to catch, and that is my sole goal.

That brings me to one thing people overlook, belts. If your pants fit correctly like mine and only wear a belt to accessorize or carry things on it, don’t wear it. Pack it in your carry-on. It can save you time going through security, even in the Pre-TSA line. I have had to take mine off before because of a big buckle. I knew better, but it looked so cool.

If you are stuck in a hefty TSA line, prepare for the metal detector. While you are waiting in line before you have your turn, take your belt off, put your cellphone in your backpack, take that coat off during that time and pull out that laptop or remove the change in your pocket. You might as well expedite the process as much as possible.

Dressing Down Travel Tip #2

If you read my first tip on this subject, you know not to wear a bunch of jewelry because it can slow you down in security. There are many other reasons also. 

The more expensive jewelry you wear, the more you stand out to thieves. More jewelry makes it seem you have more money. A pickpocket will not skip a chance to grab a wallet, open a bag or snatch a bracelet right off your wrist. They could hold you up if you have a large diamond ring on. They pick their targets for many reasons, where they expect the biggest take.

Also, the less you have on, the less chance you have of losing something. I am not going to wear my grandpa’s cherished watch while traveling. It would break my heart to lose it, so why increase the odds of having it lost or even stolen. One other thing to consider when wearing rings or snug bracelets, when you fly is you swell, some more than others. It might not be the best idea to be wearing those pieces of jewelry for that reason alone. I have seen my share of seatmates remove their wedding rings during a flight and put them in their wallet; it seems way too big of a risk.

Dress Down Travel Tip #3
Ireland Ryan

There are two big things when picking out what to wear. They have to be comfortable and blend in with locals. Loose-fitting, soft clothes are always nice. Have some comfortable slip-on shoes (laceless if possible). I love my leather loafers from the Walking Company. Slip-on and off with ease at security and on the plane. Also, they get me through some long walking days. 

Everyone wants to stand out and be themselves, but when in foreign countries, you often want to blend; of course, depending on where you go, that could be essential. Do not wear a baseball hat and a jersey from your favorite team. Get a polo or plain V-neck t-shirt and jeans/slacks. You are less of a target, and you will not be portraying that negative American stereotype. 

The last thing is the weather. Taking the time to learn what the weather will likely be and plan appropriately. I despise being very cold, and it impacts my comfort, so I prepare for it. One way to deal with that is to think layers. Dressing in layers helps you adjust to the varied weather you see at each location and even plane temperature changes. It is as simple as donning a light jacket or taking it off if needed. Sadly you can’t do that with your pants; please leave your pants on at all times.

Packing and Luggage

  • Do not have your information showing on your bag. Have any addresses and names inside a luggage sleeve or on a covered luggage tag.
  • Put a card in your luggage with your name and contact information.
  • Mark your bag with something to identify it easily, such as s bright-colored ribbon or string or a luggage tag that is unique and colorful.
  • Get a bag that stands out or a cover for it that will draw your attention.
  • Remember to take a picture of your bag before each trip. In the event it gets lost or misplaced, this will help the airport baggage office find it.
  • Put a GPS tracker in your bag. You can find one on our Travel Essentials page.
  • Put liquids in a clear bag. Never put any liquids in your luggage without a sealed container around it. This can apply to powder as well; it may be as damaging but messy nonetheless.
  • Put dryer sheets in the shoes you pack. Because shoes tend to have unused spaces inside them, you don’t want them to stink up your clothes. I also put bottles that I don’t want to get smushed in those shoes because they help make a protective layer to avoid breakage or leakage.

Check out our packing list on our Packing Tips page.

Carry-on Know-How

  • Bring a travel pillow, whether an inflatable one you can put in your pocket or a memory foam one you carry; they make flying so much more tolerable.
  • Keep things organized so you can take something out at security screening fast: such as computers, liquids, cameras, cellphones, etc. 
  • Bring only a carry-on if possible when traveling. Though now, with many airlines having strict carry-on weight restrictions, that has become almost impossible with international travel with an economy ticket.
  • Have some basic hygiene items in your carry-on in case you have flight delays, or your checked luggage is lost.
  • Bring an empty collapsible water bottle so you can fill it with water after security and not have to pay for expensive drinks at the airport. Many airports now have water bottle fountains to make it easy.
  • Bring and take vitamins/airborne. Getting sick on vacations sucks. Build up that immune system.
  • Pack hand sanitizer and/or wipes. Read the line above.
  • Bring snacks, coffee, tea, oatmeal, etc., if you want something healthier than airplane food.
  • Do you have a sweet tooth? Pack a small baggie with several Halloween-size mini treats. That is often just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth but not be as big of a calorie burden.

Check out our carry-on packing list on our Packing Tips page.

Flight Attire

  • This should be an obvious travel tip, but you should dress comfortably. Clothes that expand and aren’t binding. That breath well and keep skin dry. Avoid clothes that don’t retain odors if you are wearing them for a long time. Travelers in the seats around you will appreciate that.
  • Wear compression socks. On long flights, even young people’s feet will swell. The risk of blood clots is real at any age (Joelle’s knowledge.) Compression socks will reduce that risk. Check with your doctor if you may have any contraindications or if they want a certain pressure level for you.
  • Dress in layers to quickly adjust to the temperature of the plane. A plane can go from hot to cold quickly. If it is sweltering outside and the plane is at the gate, it is being cooled while on auxiliary power, which is limited. Be ready to save yourself the misery by having layers to remove or add as the climate around you changes.
  • Wear slip-on shoes for easy removal both on the plane and in security lines. Tying to tie shoes in an airplane when you are tall isn’t fun and can lead to back spasms. Make it easier on yourself while flying.
  • Have a pair of flip-flops in your carry-on. Planes can get warm, and if you are prone to foot swelling, it is good to give your feet some air. (While being mindful they don’t smell, please!) Switch over to flip flops after takeoff, and if you get cold, have some socks available to keep those tootsies warm.

Before the Airport

  • Get Global Entry which comes with Pre-TSA. This is a travel tip worth its weight in gold. It only costs you $15 more than Pre-TSA but makes going through customs on your return a breeze. You also do not have to remove your computer, liquids, shoes, or coat when going through the security screen. Still, be mindful of the correct-sized containers. You also don’t have to go through the body scanners. Well worth it for the $100 for a 5-year price tag, but the true joy is skipping the long lines.

    Learn more here about Global Entry.
  • Get a red-eye flight. There are smaller security lines and less packed flights. Open flights mean a higher chance of getting bumped up to a better seat or having a row to all yourself. Even if it is a small fee for a seat with extra legroom, it’s worth it on long flights. 
  • Check-in online gives you more chance of getting on your flight if it is overbooked. If you are running late and only have a carry-on, you won’t have to spend that extra time checking in. You can head strieght to security.  
  • Pick a seat close to the front of the airplane if you can. That helps you get on and off faster and with tight connections. Ask to get moved up when checking in if possible. 
  • See if you get Lounge access or other perks from your credit card. We have had lounge access on every trip with Joelle’s amazing Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Visa card. It comes with free Priority Access to airport lounges all over the world for you and a guest. Several offer this on their cards, so inquire as you may already have it.
  • Avoid short connections, especially in huge airports you are unfamiliar with. If you are flying somewhere where there is only a flight or two a day, you may be around for another whole day while your luggage is who knows where. You can’t rush border patrol and customs. If you look anxious, they will likely pull you out for a full search. You can’t rush the shuttle bus taking you from the plane to the terminal. Give yourself plenty of time; it is worth it to get to your destination as planned.
  • Weigh all your luggage before leaving for the airport. We always have a hand digital scale for suitcases. With Joelle’s issue of overpacking and bringing back lots of gifts, we use it often. Don’t be that person who is unpacking at the check-in counter to shift weight between their checked and carry-on.
  • Uber or anything like that charges extra for airport drop-off and pick-ups; if you can walk a block and get the ride from there, do so. 

You are at the airport, now what?

In the British Airways lounge
  • A fun travel tip that most people don’t know is how to get your luggage just a bit faster than the others after your flight. As you are checking your luggage, ask for a fragile sticker. It will be put on the top and increases the odds your luggage will come out first at your destination. 
  • Check out the airport lost and found if you have time. Find phone chargers, headphones, and more. If it has not been claimed in ninety days, you can get it for free. Often it is thrown away if not claimed, so you are giving it a new loving home.
  • If you can attain airport lounge access, go for it. We try to arrive three hours before our international flights. As a safety net if there are any issues on the way or at the airport. It has saved us many times. The bonus is that if no issues arrive, there is more time to enjoy the lounge. They all include free Wi-Fi and food, which at times can be full of delicious meals, an open bar with free alcohol, and a place to relax. Take a nap, watch TV, and take a shower if your wish, as some lounges even have shower facilities. A glass of champagne before a flight? Well, yes, I will thank you.
  • Be calm, polite, and appreciative at all times. Greet gate agents, your flight attendants and ask them how they are. Make eye contact and wish them a good day. Simple effort can make a stressful day less harsh. What we present is often how we get treated back. If someone is rude, move on. They may have missed a flight, lost their luggage, or are flying due to a family emergency. Show kindness and give them a gentle smile. Traveling is hard for many, be patient, and you are often well rewarded.
  • Suppose your flight is delayed or canceled. Call the airline while standing in line. Whichever comes first, you can interact with. Often the call center can do more for you, and it may be faster than a long line. This applies to when your flight is coming in late. If you know you will miss your connection while still taxing to the gate, call the airline. More than likely, most people on that plane have missed connections, and the airport lines won’t be fun. One practice for many airlines is they automatically rebook you, but that does not mean you have to accept it. Ask for a supervisor or senior gate agent if you feel you need to have a person with more experience or authority involved.

In The Air Travel Tips

Avoid Dehydration

  • Dehydration is a frequent issue on flights. Multiple factors contribute to this. In the days before a trip you are so busy you forget to drink water. The humidity on the flight is that of the Sahara desert. This is rough on our bodies and skin. Finally, not knowing if you will have frequent access to the restroom on the flight due to turbulence, you avoid fluids. Then if you drink alcohol and coffee, you have even worsened your situation. What can you do to help? Drinks lots of water, avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, avoid high sodium food and snacks.
  • Here is a tip to prevent dehydration that might surprise you, drink milk. Milk is more hydrating than water because it contains some protein, sugar, lactose, and fat, all of which aid to slow the emptying of fluid from the stomach. This keeps hydration at bay over an extended period of time. So ask for a cold one, a cold glass of milk.
  • Other ways to help with dehydration are using a skin moisturizer, lip balm, moisturizing eye drops, or saline nasal drops to keep nasal passages moist during your flight. Use these items often if needed.

Getting Hungry in the Air

Airplane food Travel tips
  • Most international flights allow you to order a special meal up to 48 hours before your flight. It is custom-made for you. You get it first, and it’s better quality. You can find this on the airline website.
  • This is good advice, but I don’t follow my own advice scenario. As a rule, it is best to avoid airplane food. It has lots of sodium and can increase swelling if you have issues with that. That said, I love airplane food. I know, weird. I even ask to be woken up so as not to miss a meal. Never avoid it, and I paid for it, so I’m going to eat it. However, if it isn’t your thing skip it and eat healthy snacks.
  • Do not eat off the tray table. It’s not a plate; it holds your plates. Keep your food on the service tray you are given.
  • Do not drink caffeine, carbonated drinks like soda or alcohol (unless in first class, then take full advantage, HA!) It may upset your stomach or keep you from sleeping on long flights, as well as dehydrate you.

Sleep or not to Sleep

  • International flights have some amazing entertainment options of the flights. You may find it hard to sleep when that movie you hoped to see is on the list. Take advantage but set limits. Watch a movie, then sleep for a bit, and if you wake at some point and feel pretty rested, then go for it. We all have sleepless nights, don’t over-fret about it. You will sleep harder the first night of your trip then. Don’t forget as well these movies will be here on your return flight.
  • It is ok to nap but do not sleep the whole flight unless it corresponds with the day’s correct time. For example, if you land early in the morning, you can sleep on the flight, so it is like starting the day when you wake up. I always nap a little but stay up for most of the flight.
  • When I get to the destination, I get my luggage, a good coffee and hit the ground running. Enjoy a long full day and end it with a good dinner and local drinks. These tips have always helped us avoid jet lag because you crash mid-evening and sleep a solid 8 or 9 hours and start early and fresh the next day. We are now adjusted to our new time zone and ready for adventure.

Hotels Are More Than A Room

  • After checking in, ask the desk for local maps and places to visit near the hotel. They always have good maps that will clearly show you where the hotel is and what is within walking distance.
  • When checking in, it doesn’t hurt to ask kindly is a nice spacious room? Is it a room you would be pleased with? Does it have a nice view? I like higher floors. Was I able to get one? If they have space, they will often reassign you to a room that will be an improvement to your first assignment. If you treat people well, they will often reciprocate.
  • Beware in Europe, especially in older buildings, the elevators are small, like really small. They hold 1-2 people and maybe some luggage. Similarly, so are the rooms. You aren’t in your usual rooms, so adjust. It is just different there.
  • As a rule, in most hotels, the front desk staff speak excellent English. If there is a barrier, ask nicely if they can get someone that does. Sometimes the night desk staff may not be quite as good with English. You can bring your phone to the desk and use Google translate to help out.
  • I suggest that you research hotel reviews carefully. If there is something you would find especially disturbing, someone will surely have commented negatively about it. It is not just about the stars they are given but why they gave the bad ratings and the issue. If someone has a bug phobia seeing it as a common complaint could be all it takes to go elsewhere.
  • Pick the brains of the hotel staff; they can offer some wonderful local travel tips. This is likely the city they live in and may have spent their lives in. They are a wealth of info. When asking about restaurants, emphasize you want an authentic local place known for its exceptional regional cuisine. Ask for their personal recommendations or their favorite places they go to.

Final Thoughts

Ryan in Lisbon Port Tasting

When traveling, we are seeking adventure and lifelong memories. We don’t always control many elements of our trip, so when you do, take advantage of it. Your journey will be only enhanced by the energy and efforts you saved by mitigating some of the many issues that can arise. I will continue to add volumes to my travel tips as I learn during travels and gain insight from our readers.

Your input and experience are always welcome. I am sure you have your own travel tips we could learn from. It is when we share we grow. Feel free to comment below or connect to us privately here.

Happy Travels.

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