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I’ve been mainly offline for the past week (except for the occasional personal posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) enjoying a VACATION!
Traveling 38,000+ feet in the air, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my earlier tips for traveling and see what else I could add to it after spending a week on vacation. So here are additional tips for travelers based on my experiences this past week.
Research your travel packages carefully.
The SigO and I were excited to save some money using JetBlue Travel packages. Overall we had a positive experience, but because we booked everything together, we didn’t research each individual facet of our trip as carefully as we might have done otherwise. Instead we relied on the idea that the travel company had somehow curated our packages to give us a great deal. Somehow we convinced ourselves that a dedicated (but unknown) agent had carefully chosen options that we might have picked for ourselves…but this was not always the case…Read my next post (coming soon) to find a complete review of our flight, hotel, and car rental.
Eat before coming to the airport - ESPECIALLY if you have any food restrictions.
As you’ll see in my review of JetBlue (coming soon), I lucked out for the most part on flight. However the LAX terminal had EXTREMELY limited options for a vegan like me; especially one who also tries to reserve her sugar intake for special treats. My options were a seafood restaurant who offered french fries, Burger King (gross), Starbucks (almost all sugar), and the La Brea Bakery stand. Although there were a few salad options, a girl can only eat so much sad looking lettuce! (Plus some of the options came with meat and/or cheese which I would have needed to pick out, or just give up and eat…which I had no intention of doing.)
Bring SOMETHING to do on the plane.
I cannot stress this enough. A six hour flight is L-O-N-G and B-O-R-I-N-G. Our airline offered free TV and movies you could pay for (but the selection was limited). Fortunately we had free wi-fi (thank you JetBlue) and so I had all of you to keep me company! (Plus on the flight home I balanced our budget, paid our bills online, and caught up on emails thus knocking several items off my “to do” list!)
Research your car rental company to see whether they have any rewards programs, to save you tons of time at pickup and at return.
Apparently Hertz had a rewards program which would have allowed us to skip the cattle call when we arrived, and simply go to our vehicle. However we did not know this until after we were in line trying to get our car! (In fairness, we had never experienced this before with other car rentals in other companies. Typically we were in and out in 15 minutes or less, so we had no clue that the experience could be other than seamless…lesson learned.) Although the car rental ended up okay, our initial impression of Hertz was less than stellar.
With rental car companies, make sure you get what you have paid for!
When we booked our package, we had chosen the “intermediate” car option and paid a little extra for it. As we knew we would be driving all around, we wanted something comfy and the “examples” of the types of cars we would receive fit our needs. However when we arrived, they tried to give us cars that were definitely below par and (we felt) should not have been in that category. None of the so-called examples were even given as options, and it seemed like they were trying to give us something which would have been less than the value we paid for. We politely asked them to revisit the choices and ended up with a decent option.
Insurance, insurance, insurance.
Our package through JetBlue Travels did not include the car rental insurance. We were okay with this fact as we thought (based on past experiences) that this would not be too costly of an addition. However Hertz had NOTHING in writing to show us and it was almost like a “let’s make a deal” experience. Apparently they priced each part of insurance separately, and the prices were based on the individual make and model of the car (at least I think it was, based on what they said). It was a pain to figure out, but having it paid off when we ended up with a random cracked window and had to exchange out the car. (Technically this was the second exchange as the first car they tried to give us didn’t lock and so we never made it off the lot! Fortunately the second and third cars were nicer.)
Side note: It didn’t occur to me until the day we were leaving that we might have been covered through our own car insurance or through our credit card. Next time we will research this insurance issue a bit further.
Plan your trips to the airport so that you are not stressed out trying to get there on time.
We knew we would be leaving early so on both flights, we tried to pick up healthy snacks to munch on the drive to the airport. (Unfortunately you can’t bring the food through most security checkpoints, but at least we had something in our tummies so we weren’t cranky during check-in. However, we were over an hour away from both airports and so the healthy morning snacks didn’t quite tide us over as much as we would have liked.)
We tried to think of all the obstacles that might cause us to run late such as traffic, having to park further away in long-term parking and take a shuttle to the terminal, lines at the TSA security desk, the fact that we were checking in a bag (most trips we just take carry-ons), etc. As a result we still arrived at each flight in plenty of time, despite unexpected road detours in Boston, broken return computers at Hertz, and a delay at the TSA line at LAX.
It is always good to have a couple of extra clothing options for your trip, but be realistic. Most airlines have weight restrictions and overages get costly. When we went to check-in our bag at LAX, it was five pounds overweight and would have cost us an additional $100 dollars. As we hadn’t bought souvenirs we were confused at first as to how this would happen. Then we remembered that we had stuck our travel books in the checked luggage since this was our return trip and we wouldn’t need them on the flight. We quickly took them out and put them in our carry-on luggage saving us an unexpected charge. Had we overpacked though, we wouldn’t have had room to maneuver items around!
If you plan to do a ton of shopping on your trip, it might be worth it to either under-pack, look into direct shipping options, or to pay for an extra suitcase.
Plan activities for your trip, but leave room for spontaneity.
We had a HUGE list of people we wanted to see and places to visit. Eight days sounds like a ton of time, until you factor in the two solid days of travel getting to and from our destination! Suddenly, with only six days instead of eight, we had to limit what we were doing and people we were seeing, so we wouldn't end the trip worn out! As much as we wanted to see ALL of our friends, it just wasn’t possible. (Sorry guys! Next trip we promise!) We also cut back on our list of places to visit which allowed us to spend a greater amount of time at different destinations. The added bonus? We discovered a few hidden gems, and made some detours that turned out to be some of our favorite activities. (Future posts I promise! I can only type so fast!)
Build in time to unwind on your vacation.
Life is busy and we often try to cram in as many activities as possible into our downtime too! We tried to be mindful of the fact that we were traveling to a different time zone and built in a few breaks.
The night we arrived, we did NOT make plans to see anyone and instead enjoyed a quiet dinner at Downtown Disney. This allowed us to feel rested enough to start the next day pretty early for a breakfast with friends.
On the way home, we decided to fly back on a Friday so that we had Saturday and Sunday to adjust back into our time zone, do laundry, grocery shop, and feel relaxed about going back to work. (My inner child is making faces at me for this last comment…So no one truly feels relaxed enough to go back to work, but at least we won’t be exhausted!)
Plus the day before leaving California, we decided to designate as a “beach day” so we could veg out before the long flight home.
(Additional note on Tip Ten: I originally wrote this post last night while flying home. However I ran out of time to post it while on the plane, and getting stuck for two hours behind a traffic accident on the way home meant I was too tuckered out to attempt to post. So having the extra time to unwind at home was such a bonus. Today we spent it sleeping in, lounging at the beach, and having a date-night dinner in town. I don’t feel jet lagged at all, and I still have Sunday to relax and catch up on errands.)
THE LAST WORD…FOR NOW
Traveling is meant to be a positive, exciting, and adventurous experience. Hopefully these additional tips will help you plan in a manner to make the most of your travel time.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our Southern California vacation. Until then, may you always travel….with smiles!
Samantha Eve, a