Travel and Vacation



            Do we have enough money?  Do you have the tickets?  What clothes should I take?  Carting around luggage, rushing, waiting, photographing, coordinating reservations, functioning while sleep deprived, worrying about the house, the pets, the job, dealing with exchange rates and foreign languages, wrestling with taxi cab drivers, and all the rest.  Ah, the joys of travel.  In actuality, there are no ardors of travel that a fast jet, a servant, more time, and infinite money would not solve. A vacation is wishing it would never end; fun is not knowing what time it is. 

            Expressed as a percentage of your life span, vacation time reflects a small portion of life.  Your vacation choices are not Critical Life Decisions, and for thousands of years human civilizations had no vacation time for the working class.  Unfortunately, this special time is often the source of misery and profound stress.  (Much of the stress reflects time pressures and the unexpected financial costs of travel.)  Vacations have the potential to produce interesting experiences and memories, with some rejuvenation and refreshment.  But without some wisdom in preparation, they can degenerate into an unpleasant labor.  Finding the proper balance, for you, in the elements of rest and rejuvenation versus stimulation, challenge, and novelty is not easy, and it is often made more difficult because your vacation partners, including children, mate, or friends, may have significantly different needs for stimulation and rest.  Indeed, your choice of vacation companions may be a more important choice than your choice of vacation destinations.  As a general rule, unless you have an established history of vacation harmony with a travel companion, you should not plan a long vacation with anyone until you have attempted a few short trips.  Vacation travel creates a level of 24-hour proximity and intimacy that can be a challenge even for couples or families that otherwise live in tranquility.


Advice on Travel and Vacation

1.  Arrange, when taking a travel vacation, to have a whole day at home before returning to work.  Try also to have a full day at home before leaving.  This will remove a lot of travel stress.

2.  If you travel to a foreign country, arrange to get your passport at least six months prior to leaving.

3.  When traveling to foreign countries, arrange to have several hundred dollars worth of the foreign currency in your pocket (not your luggage), before your arrival.  Don’t get on that plane without foreign currency.  Be sure that currency includes some small bills for payment of taxi fares upon arrival.

4.  When traveling to foreign countries, carry traveler’s checks (or the equivalent).  Change your checks into foreign currency slowly, on a day-by-day basis.  You should carry with you on a vacation at least two credit cards.  You should not have all of your cash, credit cards, and traveler’s checks stored in the same place.  They should be divided between several bags, a zippered pocket, a purse (for women), and a secured pocket.  Essentially, do not place yourself in a position where one lost bag can destroy your vacation because it has all your monetary resources.  Likewise, don’t place yourself in a situation where a pickpocket can destroy your vacation by taking all your credit cards, money, or crucial identification.

5.  Take luxurious vacations.  That is, don’t plan to use all your money on as many days as possible; rather, shorten the vacation, and live high.  Over estimate the costs of your vacation and be prepared to live with that cost.

6.  Save and pay for your vacation in advance; don’t travel on credit.

7.  Keep your vacation simple.  Specifically, a) take as little luggage as possible, b) go to very few cities, c) avoid spending days getting on and off of trains, planes, etc.  Have a few planned activities each day but reserve a little rest time and unplanned time.

8.  Avoid vacations that begin and end with long car rides.  Plan your vacation with less than four hours car travel in any one day.  Split long rides between two days (doing some sightseeing in between).

9.  Take vacations during off times, that is, avoid popular spots when they are overcrowded.  Try to take your vacation at a non-traditional time or season.  Throughout the year there are a number of three-day weekends (e.g., Memorial Day, etc.).  Don’t travel on these days.  Make these holidays -- home holidays.  Choose some other Friday or Monday and take your vacation then.  (Other holidays can also be celebrated on a different day than the holiday to save money and avoid crowds.)

10.  Don’t travel to foreign countries that have minimal civil rights, politically unstable governments, or known hostile relationships with your home country (e.g., the U.S.).  In general be very careful about traveling to Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, and the former Soviet Union.

11.  When in foreign countries, don’t make political statements, or participate in protests,  and don’t break any law (no matter how minor).  Don’t carry packages or luggage at anyone’s request. 

12.  When traveling to a foreign country, carry with you a translation dictionary.

13.  When traveling, tip well, be very nice, and don’t flash around money.  Don’t brag about your home country and don’t make comparisons between your home country and the country you are visiting.

14.  Buy plane tickets far in advance (several months) of your departure date.  Make hotel reservations far in advance and confirm them 48 hours before departure (by phone).  Use the internet to shop for hotels and flights.

15.  If you travel by car, then:

  1. Get an oil change before you leave.
  2. Replace all bad tires and make sure you’ve got a good spare.
  3. Carry some kind of auto club card (for towing and emergency).
  4. Fill your tank before it drops below the ¼ full mark.  Don’t drive on that last quarter, go to a gas station.

16.  When leaving on a vacation, arrange for a neighbor to pick up your mail and newspaper.  Leave an inside light on in your house and, of course, lock your doors and windows.

17.  Before having your first child, take a luxurious dream trip with your spouse.  This may be your last such trip for awhile.

18.  It is better to take three vacations per year; 2 short vacations (say 3 or 4-day weekends) and a moderate length vacation (say 7-10 days) rather than one long vacation.

19.  Don’t travel away from home just because you think that’s the way you have to take a vacation.  Sometimes it’s fun to vacation in your home city.  Unplug your phone, tell people you’ll be away for a short trip and eat out every meal -- it’s great fun!

20.  If you and your spouse disagree about where to travel to, then first try to compromise, if that doesn’t work, try a trade (I’ll go to Paris, if you’ll agree to a short trip to San Francisco before the end of this year).  If that doesn’t work, try flipping a coin.  Don’t go on vacation with someone who is going to resent you for making them go.

21.            Avoid traveling with young children unless it is unavoidable.  When your children are young take home-vacations or travel to nearby towns within four hours driving distance.

22.            Before you take a significant vacation, you should create a Trip Document.  This document should first have your name, passport number, driver’s license number, cell phone number, and email address.  It should also have the cell number for your travel partner and an emergency contact number back home.  Next, in the EXACT chronological order of the trip, the Trip Document should contain every flight (with complete information on airport, departure time, and gate), train ride, hotel (with address, confirmation number, phone number etc.).  A copy of this document should be in each bag, and every adult traveler should have a copy of this document on their person.

23.            Each adult on a trip should be traveling with a cell phone that will work in all countries and locations traveled to.

24.            Don’t to forget to take all medications that you may need on your trip with you.