Friday, 18 January 2013

Rich Harrill's Travel Tips

Rich Harrill’s Travel Tips
There are lots of travel tips out there—from Mark Twain’s classic witticisms (“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”) to firsthand observations found on Web-based Trip Advisor.  Humbly, I here offer only a few observations from my many years of international travel.  I hope this travel tips blog will be instructive to first-time travelers and seasoned tourists alike.
You probably can find as many lists of travel quotes as you can travel tips.  However, there are two insights that I find especially instructive to travelers.  My favorite quote by far is attributed to travel writer Susan Heller:  “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and half your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”  This quote speaks volumes about travelers’ tendencies to underestimate expenses when traveling, and also how hurrying or simply reaching for what is comfortable makes proper attire less of a priority.
My other favorite quote is by novelist Paul Bowles:  “If I am faced with the decision of choosing between visiting a circus and a cathedral, a café and a public monument, or a fiesta and a museum, I am afraid I shall normally take the circus, the café, and the fiesta.”  This quote sums up the individuality of leisure styles.  Choose travel partners carefully, as they may be adamant about dragging you to a cathedral, public monument, or museum!
In the spirit of these quotes, I offer some of my own travel tips.  I would love to hear from readers offering their own observations and tips!

Getting Ready--Homework

Do Your Homework—All dream vacations must begin with a little homework.  I like to purchase at least one good, comprehensive travel guide to the destination country if I have never been there before.  Compare the information found in the book with more updated information that may be found on the Internet.  Local conditions can vary significantly from country to country, so make sure you investigate what shots or vaccinations are necessary.  I have found that most counties have a travel clinic in their health departments offer that the most cost-effective shots.  Check the U.S. State Department travel advisories for recent incidents involving travelers.  Ask a person currently living in that country about conditions for travelers.  Read Internet sites such as Trip Advisor for ratings of hotels and restaurants.

Getting Ready--Passing Port

Passing Port—Make sure your passport is valid.  Make sure you leave the house with your passport in your possession.  I drove all the way to Charlotte, NC from Columbia, SC (about 1-and-a-half hours) to catch a flight to Barbados, only to find I had left my passport back home in Columbia!  If taking an international flight, be at the airport at least two hours before departure.  Sweep through your home to ensure utilities have been turned off.  Don’t announce on social networking sites or phones that you are traveling.  Long-term parking can be expensive—have a friend or colleague drive you to the airport or take a cab.  If your final destination requires a visa, make sure your name is spelled correctly on the visa, matching the name on your plane ticket and passport.   One Chinese visa was issued to a Richard H. Marrill.  I always use the express service with visas, which provides ample time to correct errors.       

Getting Ready--Turtle Up

Turtle Up—I’m always shocked to see the many expensive soft bags coming off the baggage belt at the airport.  I advise all luggage be the hard-shell type.  Airlines twice have left my luggage on the tarmac in the rain—ruining several good suits.  Although you can be reimbursed, the process is cumbersome and the odds of satisfactory settlement are against the traveler. 

Like spare tires, making sure you have spare suitcases in case that zipper quits just before you are due at the airport.
While some travelers insist on carrying onto the plane all that they will need for the trip, I’ve found that it is actually quite rare that the airlines completely lose your luggage.  Don’t be afraid to check luggage, but inexpensive travel insurance protection against loss, damage, or theft might be a wise option.
If you must carry on, be prepared to deal with wrinkled clothes on arrival.  Some clothing stores, e.g., Brooks Brothers, offer wrinkle-free clothing for business travelers.  Seasoned travelers will know the trick of hanging these items in the hotel bathroom and letting a hot shower run for a few minutes—the steam eliminates all but the toughest wrinkles.
Choose a style and color of luggage easily identifiable on the baggage belt.  And don’t lose the claim ticket—some airports will ask to see the ticket as you leave baggage claim.

Getting Ready--Call Ahead

Call Ahead—Always inform your bank that you are traveling.  I once flew from Beijing to Paris and the bank cut me off because they thought someone was globe-hopping on my bank card.  I was fortunate that a French café owner simply asked me to return the next day to straighten things out.

At the Airport--Ask and Thou Might Receive

At the Airport
Ask and Thou Might Receive—From airline counters to hotel reception, always ask for an upgrade at the same reserved price.  I once scored a free business-class trip to Turkey simply by asking just before I boarded the plane.  The airline needed the coach seat.

At the Airport--Strip Tease

Strip Tease—Yes, going through security can be uncomfortable and even dehumanizing, but a necessarily evil in this age of terrorism.  Make it easy on yourself and follow TSA rules, but also by wear articles of clothing that can be easily removed and slipped back on after the process.  Once you pass security go directly to your departure gate and determine when the flight will board.  You can then obtain food, drink, go to the restroom, read, and relax while waiting to board unhurried.