Trinkets, tips, and tales to ease stressors on your next journey.
Like most people, I was grounded a year ago. Before that, I was either a road warrior or flew for work most weekdays. Admittedly, I am thoroughly enjoying the “new” reality of being able to meet my clients virtually, eat home cooked meals, and sleep in my own bed. The fact is that I am much more accessible now that I’m not running through airports or eyeing my buzzing phone while driving over treacherous mountain passes (no multi-tasking allowed). It would be a shame, however, to put all I have learned about travel to waste so in honor of one year off the road, this blog is dedicated to offering a few useful tips for fellow travelers.
The first thing I figured out was how many convenient and affordable accessories there are nowadays. Because my flights were often really early or really late, my go to’s included an inflatable neck pillow, eye cover, noise cancelling headphones and a collapsible water bottle (although I found out that if you freeze a water bottle you can take it through security). I also relied on a handy mesh cable organizer in my backpack and gear ties to stow my charging cords and accessories, so they are easy to put my fingers on in tight spaces.
Before TSA Pre-check, I had mastered the art of easy to remove shoes, and top of bag locations for electronics and liquids. Recently of course, lots of travelers have signed up and so the lines are a bit longer but still easier than pulling out liquid baggies, laptops, and walking in stocking feet through security. Just before the big “C”, we received Global Entry approval (expedited clearance back into US) so I cannot wait to put that to the test with some international travel.
Packing can be a huge challenge no matter where you are going. We had an epic tropical trip planned to celebrate our daughter’s graduation. We prefer carry-ons to checked bags – saves money, time at baggage claim, and we’ve never lost a bag. For this trip however, the clothing pile exceeded the suitcase capacity. That’s when I discovered the squeeze bags that allow you to compress a large stack of clothing into a very small, vacuum packed parcel. These bags saved the trip, at least for us girls. And for business travel, I’ve learned to never unpack. I have a spare for everything from deodorant to walking shoes. After my travel laundry is washed, it goes right back into the suitcase for the next trip. Saves on last minute packing decisions and I never forget anything.
Phone etiquette is an interesting travel topic. We are all addicted, I am just as guilty as anyone. My question to fellow travelers is, is it really necessary to put the person you are talking with on speaker and then yell at them to make sure they hear you? No matter how harmless the conversation is (and sometimes I hear things I wish I could unhear), we do not need to listen to it. Headsets are a wonderful invention.
And speaking of phones, do you ever have trouble remembering where you parked after a long trip or maybe even your hotel room number once you separate the key from the cardboard holder? Take a photo! This is a great way to never get lost and easy to delete after the trip. I also take a screen shot of my boarding pass so if the internet locks up as I am going through the gate, I can board without holding up the line. By the way, boarding passes and hotel keys contain credit card information for clever thieves, so put a shredder or scissors to good use before trashing.
Years ago, when I started traveling for work, I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t get my first rental car started. Not because it wouldn’t start, but because I didn’t know where to put the key. My niece who is in the rental car industry assures me that I’m not the first customer to struggle with a push button ignition. Once I did figure it out, I became quite adept at the rental car scene. Big tip here, when they say any damage smaller than a dollar bill doesn’t count, write it down anyway. Maybe even take a picture in case you need to demonstrate the damage was there when you picked it up. Knowing that my car insurance and credit card companies have my back (check yours to be sure), I never purchase the costly rental insurance, but I still want to avoid the deductible at all costs. Gassing up before returning the car is cheaper than letting the rental agency do it so I always scope out the nearest gas station as I am leaving the airport to make the return trip less stressful.
Travel exercise is sort of an oxymoron for me because I get off my routine. The good news is, sometimes it just happens. It’s not hard to rack up 10,000 steps a day in an airport but if you are driving and in hotels/offices it can be a challenge. I love swimming and most of the time I can get a few laps in before the day begins but my favorite thing to do is ditch the rental car and simply walk to explore my destination. This is a great way to find unique shops, dining options, coffee shops, hiking trails, and scenery along with experiencing the local vibe.
Hotels are great. The problem is, they are not home. I try to “set things up” like my bedroom and bathroom at home to create a comfortable and familiar vibe. If possible, I get rooms on the highest floor so I don’t have to listen to people walk around above me. Same for avoiding elevators, vending and ice machines, stairwells, and other noise creators. I do find that the small white noise machines are worth the suitcase space to cut down nocturnal interruptions.
Food is always an interesting challenge when traveling. It amazes me when the person next to me on the plane brings smelly, and sometimes messy food on board. Don’t get me wrong, if you are hungry you should eat but are onions and garlic really necessary? And no, I do not want to “hold this for you” while you get seated. Two hands, two objects, it’s pretty simple.
My co-worker got me into some healthy dietary choices, but it can be difficult to maintain without a home kitchen. Packing nutritious snacks is a must, along with sticking to the kinds of foods I would be eating at home as much as possible. The best option is to find lodging with a kitchen. While some hotels are doing a nice job with this option, more and more people are turning to vacation rentals. What was once largely a vacation industry has become a serious “workation” option for many who are now working remotely.
Most vacation rental travelers find that cooking at least a few meals in the home makes for more relaxation, healthier options, and affordability. This can be a little challenging because you won’t know exactly what your destination kitchen offers unless the listing is really detailed. As owners of Cherry Creek Guest House, we encourage our guests to ask us questions and you’ll likely have a better experience if you seek out answers before your arrival. It’s helpful if you thoroughly read the listing first but if you really need something, like a workstation or a crockpot, make sure and ask so you pick the property that will meet your needs.
Given that lots of folks aren’t dining out these days, we find our vacation rental guests looking for other options. Consider having your groceries delivered. Jump online and cue up your order to coincide with your arrival. The trunk drop works well also. Just load your virtual cart, place the order early in your travel day, and swing by the store on your way from the airport. The plethora of food delivery services and participating restaurants has really opened options for travelers as well. For special occasions, splurge on a personal chef (we maintain a referral list for guests). Often this is just as affordable as an upscale restaurant.
The long and the short of it is, take advantage of the many travel accessories on the market, plan ahead for healthy food, work in some exercise, pick a restful lodging option, and be creative with dining alternatives. Safe travels!
The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away.