Cartoon courtesy of The New Yorker

 

 

It’s not even peak travel season yet and many places are packed. In fact, I just read in a report by IATA (Intl. Air Transport Assn) that 204 airports worldwide are running out of capacity to accommodate additional flights! Plus, as companies put in more technology, there are fewer people at hand to help out.  But if you love travel, you adapt, and “survival tactics” need to come into play. Here are some of my tried and true travel tips 2018, and others I learned after a recent eight city trip. Love to hear your suggestions and comments as well, as I know a lot of you out there are well traveled.

  • Buy museum tickets online in advance even for regular admission, or you might arrive to find they’re “sold out.  Plan on getting to the museum when it opens. Otherwise, you might not be able to get close enough to the trophy art works to see them because of the crowds.
  • Bring bubble wrap and some tape or rubber bands. You never know when you might want to buy a bottle of special wine, condiments, or anything else in a bottle. Some people swear by wrapping a bottle in a towel, but I find that risky. For wine there’s something called Wine Skin that works like a dream. Dogs are being increasingly used to sniff out drugs and food products so beware. I have friends who tried to bring in herbs, capers and honey, and everything was taken away from them. Plus, there were searched up and down.
  • When merchants ask if you want to pay in Euros or dollars what do you choose? I asked my oldest son this question since he’s a serious traveler and works in financial services. Here’s what he said: you should always try to pay with credit card in the local currency as long as your card has no foreign transaction fees. When you try to pay in dollars, the business usually charges extra (vis-a-vis a worse exchange rate) to give themselves a cushion because they eventually have to convert it back to their home currency.  Using a credit card when possible gives you the best exchange rate, prevents having to take out too much foreign currency at the ATM, and can even give you insurance and/or return protection.
  • Where to exchange currency in Miami before traveling? Hands down the best place is Euro Exchange USA downtown.
  • Want a farm to table meal, fresh food that’s cheap? Many more of the indoor European markets now have casual, very low cost places to eat in the market. And while you’re there, you can find gourmet items to take home at low prices.
  • TripAdvisor I’ve found is a very reliable guide not only for hotels, but also for restaurants and tours. I’ve gone to restaurants and  booked day tours and airport transfers found on their site from Milan to Moscow, Toulouse and Baku and they were total winners.  In fact, never gone wrong with them yet.
  • If you’re expecting a VAT refund, check online in advance if you have to show the merchandise in the airport tax free desk to get the customs stamp. In Lisbon, for example, they wouldn’t give travelers the stamp without seeing the merchandise in question.
  • I swear by my Rimowa luggage. It never ceases to amaze me how much it can expand though it’s made of Polycarbonate. It’s lightweight, has the TSA security lock, and very maneuverable. Plus, they will clean and service it for free and deliver it after the service. Here’s the writeup I did earlier on it (the store is no longer open but there’s a Rimowa store in the Design District).
  • Tripit is the perfect app for organizing your trip with all of your lodging, tours, car rental, restaurants and flight information. They send text alerts when check in is open, if the flight is delayed, the terminal, gate and baggage claim belt. Plus, you can send the information by email to friends and family (or the office). Most of the flight and lodging information can be imported directly to Tripit  via email.
  • Being able to go to an airport lounge these days is a critical perk. The best membership is Priority Pass because of the sheer number of airports the lounges are in. American Express’ Centurion Clubs and Admirals Clubs offer better food and drink, but are much more limited in number. The ideal is to have both Priority Pass and one of the other two if one flies American Airlines frequently.
  • And these two from a good friend who with her husband are in the know travelers
    “Saline nasal spray for long flights.  Keeps the inside of your nose moist and keeps it from bleeding.
    When seats are three abreast and we have the possibility, we always book window and aisle and hope that no one will occupy the middle seat. Of course it can get booked, but the occupant is always happy to switch.”

          Let’s hear from you. Any travel tips? Other travel questions? Remember I have a feature AskKaren you can find on the bar    at the top of the blog. Click on it and ask away.

 

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