Friday, July 8, 2011

Tourista Tips: Traveling in Comfort and Style

If there is anything I've learned while traipsing around the country these past few years, its that there is definitely an easy and a hard way to travel. Since it is the time of year when many people pull out their suitcases, pack up their stuff and head out on vacation, I thought I would share some of my favorite travel tips with you. So in no particular order, here they are:

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Now before you chalk this up to boring "everybody knows that" advice... read on. Buying water once you make it through airport security is what most of us have resigned ourselves to due to post 9/11 security measures. This means spending upwards of $3 on a 16oz bottle of water and creating unnecessary waste. Consider buying a refillable water bottle and filling it up at the water fountain or airport coffee shop once you've made it in! I haven't bought bottled water in quite sometime and I feel good about not adding plastic to our landfills.

Another hydration trick that saves me on the road is drinking coconut water! It is a great "recovery" beverage for after workouts or after a crazy night out.

2. Pack Dresses, Yes. Travel in Dresses, No.

Recently I was traveling to Las Vegas for a work event and decided to go in a day early to lay by the pool (tough life, I know). Because of my relaxed mood, I decided to wear a super comfy, yet chic maxi dress for my flight. Bad move. When I got up to the TSA agent she informed me matter of factly that I would need to be patted down "Because you are wearing that dress". And pat me down, she did.

On the other hand, I love packing dresses for travel because it makes things so easy! A dress is a whole outfit in just one piece, which leaves room in your bag for other things. I wear dresses about 90% of the time for work for that very reason, but the same holds true for vacation. You get to feel girly, put together and comfortable all at once!

3. Scarves Big and Small

This wardrobe staple is my secret weapon for travel for several reasons. First, a big colorful scarf can turn jeans, flip flops and a white t-shirt into a stylish travel ensemble. Don't ask me how, it's scarf magic (hmm... maybe there is something to this since most magic acts involve scarves!). Secondly, airplane and auto travel are known for fluctuating temperatures- it's hot, it's cold, it's hot again! A big, lightweight scarf doubles as a wrap or even a blanket should you get chilly while en route to your relaxation destination. Lastly, a small colorful scarf tied to the handle of your suitcase makes it much easier to identify in the baggage claim area. I also bring a small scarf to any convention I attend for work because we usually all receive a bag upon arrival and you can imagine how easy it is to get them mixed up!

4. Car Rentals for Dummies

A few things I've learned when renting cars on trips:

-Don't get the VW Beetle, your suitcase wont fit. Just trust me, it wont.

-Don't forget to gas up before you return the car or they will REALLY stick it to you!

-When you are getting gas and you don't know which side the tank is on there is a TINY little arrow on your gas gauge that points either left or right. This tip changed my life! Speaking of tips...

5. TIP!

Tip your bellman, your cleaning staff and the shuttle driver to the parking garage. Trust me, its worth it. If not for the karma alone, do it for the service. I've been known to leave a few bucks and a note for the housekeeper requesting extra pillows or towels. I've also been known to slip the shuttle driver a $5 along with a desperate plea to make my car his first drop in the lot after a long trip!

6. Talk to Strangers

I know mom said not to, and always keep your safety your #1 priority. That being said, you meet some pretty interesting people in airports, on airplanes and bellied up to hotel bars. Hearing other peoples "story" is a really great past time and is an awesome way to learn about the rest of the world and see a different perspective!

7. Embrace "Found Time"

When it comes to traveling, and actually life in general, waiting is just a reality from time to time. The only tip I have for making waiting more tolerable, it to adjust your attitude. You can't control the traffic, you can't control Southwest's flight schedule but you CAN control how you react to it. So turn up the tunes and belt out an oldie or stroll through the airport Starbucks line (yes, again, we wont tell) and enjoy NOT being in control for a few minutes. You might even like it (we wont tell that one either).

8. Smile and Say Thank You

Take it a step farther and ask people how there day is! Being nice to others while out on the road has made my travels much more pleasant and dare I say convenient? And often, there is more in it for you than just the warm and fuzzy feeling you get. I've been upgraded to a better room simply by chatting up the hotel employee checking me in. That wasn't what I was after but I definitely didn't turn the perk away! Another tid bit I should mention is that if you want something specific, like a room close to the elevator or access to the executive club, just ask nicely and nine times out of ten, people will accommodate (especially if you've been nice and just asked them how their day was, just sayin').

9. Pack Smarter, Not Harder

When packing follow these three simple rules for keeping your load light and your outfits cute:

- Pick your shoes then work your outfits around them. This helps conserve space because shoes take up space and weight in your bag and if you are flying you really want to keep your bag below 50 lbs to avoid fees for overweight luggage.

- Pick a color scheme and stick to it. For me in the Winter and Fall I do a lot of black and in the Spring and Summer I usually stick to a tan/nude color pallet. In both cases I add color to the mix with my tops, scarves and other compact accessories!

- Pare down your beauty regimen as much as possible. Just bring the necessities and purchase travel sizes whenever possible. This will keep your bag light, and the hotel bathroom counter clutter free!

10. Frequent Traveler? Collect Your Perks!

If you travel frequently, it is well worth your while to chose companies that you enjoy doing business with and remain loyal to them whenever possible. I'm a big fan of Southwest for my air travel and Hilton properties for my lodging! Not only do I earn some pretty fabulous perks for my loyalty (can you say "A-List"?), but I also know precisely which seat I prefer and exactly what to expect when I open that hotel door! These little things give life a little bit of predictability which can be comforting when you spend a lot of time away from home.

I hope these tid bits help you enjoy your travels, whether they be for pleasure or work, or a little bit of both! Happy journies! If you have a travel tip I haven't mentioned, please post it as a comment!!