I’m Going on a Trip and I’m Taking …

My friend, author Laura L. Smith, likes to travel as much as I do, and when I saw this piece she wrote on packing for an international trip, I knew I wanted to share it with you. Laura has a whole alphabet of things you shouldn’t forget to pack. I particularly loved these:

N You’ll see smell and experience so many amazing things on your travels. You’ll want a place to jot them down. It also comes in handy to play tic tac toe if your flight/train/bus is delayed.

Open mind. Things will be different. You might have your meal served to you on a leaf instead of a plate. You may order chips and get fries. There may not be air-conditioning. You might not be able to drink the water. But life is an adventure. Be open to the people, culture and experience God has in store for you.

Yes. Yes, you would like to try the fried plantains. Yes, you would like to try jumping in the lake. Yes, you would like to hear the local’s explanation of the plants growing at the side of the road or why there’s a parade on a random Tuesday. You will learn so much if you’re willing to try. Never agree to something that makes you feel uncomfortable like going off with strangers, taking a ride somewhere you hadn’t prearranged or drinking the water in Central America, but be ready to say yes to something new.

Laura’s attitude and mine are the same—I tell people all the time they must be prepared to be out of their comfort zone when they travel to another country. It always astonishes me when people whine about some little thing that is “different.” I say so what? I’ll be home soon enough. 🙂

(If you’d like a for-real packing checklist, here’s Mike Hyatt’s, another friend of mine. I’m especially impressed that he includes a corkscrew for opening wine.)

Travel Daydreams

This is the time of year—cold, possibly snowy—when some of us stay inside more. Some of us stay in with a fire in the fireplace and a nice glass of wine, some of us stay in with Netflix on the tube or a good book in hand … and some of us stay in with our travel daydreams to keep us warm.

Whether you’re planning something fun for a week this summer or the trip of a lifetime next year (and you know who you are!), it’s good to, you know, think about it. A lot. Do a little forward planning so you can make the most out of your precious time and your hard-earned money.

I’m not talking about logistics, though. Oh sure, getting a flight, a hotel, a car—those things are important. But you can do that, right? You can call a travel agent or do it yourself. There are dozens of storefront and online companies that are eager to help. (Here are two articles—Top 15 Most Popular Travel Websites and 23 Best Travel Websites to Save You Money—with plenty of sites to explore.) I’ve been known to google things like “how to get from Livorno to Tower of Pisa”—Livorno being a popular port on some Mediterranean cruise line itineraries—and come up with fantastic blogs and other firsthand accounts that include step-by-step directions complete with street names, bus numbers, and walking time.

I love the Internet!

No, what I’m talking about is deciding what to do, what to look for, what to eat, what to buy. You may not know how to tell a tourist trap from a genuinely wonderful experience. You may not know where or how to pick and choose which experiences to pursue and which to save until next time. You may want mementos of your visit but don’t know what to buy or where. Sometimes you’re doing these things on the fly after you’ve already arrived. But you may have a friend who’s already been where you’re going, and if that’s the case … you ask.

Right?

The one place I’ve visited often enough to be of help to you is Ireland. In fact, this topic recently suggested itself because in the last couple months, several people have approached me asking for suggestions about what to see and do in Ireland on a week or ten-day vacation.

But … there are so many possibilities! The Republic of Ireland is about the same size as the state of Indiana, but the culture is ancient and deep. There is a lot to see and do, and you can’t do it all in one trip. You’ll want to narrow it down a bit. I can help with that.

So over the next few posts, I’m going to give you some suggestions about …

Getting the backstory
You’ll want some background information about the Republic of Ireland, its people, culture, and history, because a little bit of knowledge will enhance your visit exponentially. This is easier than you think, and isn’t one bit like studying for an exam. Honest.

• Narrowing it down
Different people have different interests (and thank goodness for that). It’s a simple process to craft an itinerary that’s perfectly suited to your interests if you know what’s on offer.

• Taking in the human culture
You’ve got to eat and drink every day. I’m not going to recommend restaurants so much as I’ll suggest how you can enjoy specifically Irish food and drink. You’ve got to kick up your heels a bit, too, so we’ll talk about music and special events.

• Finding the unique
You’ll want to take home a memento of your trip, won’t you? You don’t have to buy a plastic leprechaun, you know. I’ve got some suggestions for souvenirs that you’ll enjoy for years.

• Finding the magic
Some of my absolute favorite experiences were ones that just … happened. Completely unplanned. I’ll tell you about them, and give you some tips on how you can leave room for magic to happen too.

Hang on and watch this space. I’m going to tell you what I tell my friends. 🙂

Sheep, Co. Kerry. One of my favorite photos ever.

Sheep, Co. Kerry. One of my favorite photos ever.

Travel: There’s an App for That

I spend a lot of time planning my trips; I love the anticipation itch that planning scratches. Still, as you know, even a well-planned trip can go off the rails—a missed flight, for example, or an unexpected case of pneumonia.

But I spend more time at home than I do traveling. I’m not a frequent flyer. So it never crossed my mind that there are dozens of apps to make travel easier.

Some years ago I worked for Mike Hyatt, and I’ve followed his blog for some time (along with about a hundred thousand other people). No longer at the publishing company where we met, Mike is now a popular public speaker and author, and as such he does a lot of traveling. So you can imagine my delight when I found this blog post in my in-box: “Are You Using These Top 5 Travel Apps?

Here’s a sample:

1. TripIt. This is “command central” for my travel details. My assistants and I use it to maintain all my transportation and accommodation information. When they book a flight or a hotel, they forward the information to TripIt. The program parses the email and creates neat records with all the details. It tells me when flights are delayed, the travel time, my seat assignments, confirmation numbers, and whether or not the flight provides wireless Internet service. It gives me similar information about hotels.

Mike goes on to name four other travel apps he finds useful, including one called Uber, which allows you to book limousine service from your iPhone. Don’t assume it’s too expensive, he says: “I find it is often much cheaper than a rental car.” I can affirm this: Gerry and I booked limos from LaGuardia to midtown Manhattan and they were cheaper than cabs.

So read this article—you may find something very useful for your business or pleasure travel. Best of all, Mike encourages his readers to leave suggestions in the comments—and holy cow, are there some good ones:

• Gate Guru: It gives a list of all the restaurants, snack stands, and shops in the terminals of most airports.

• Seat Guru: Find low airfares, pick your ideal seat on the plane, and get real-time flight alerts with the free SeatGuru app.

• GlobeConvert: Currency and units converter.

• HotStop: Local transit directions (subway, train, bus, ferry, bike).

• Bedbug Registry: self-explanatory.

• AroundMe: Quickly identifies your position and allows you to choose the nearest bank, bar, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, and so on.

Check it out!

Check!

My mind is split evenly between work (work work work work work) and vacation (don’t forget this, must do that). Surely my nervous breakdown will hold off for a few more days … ?

Yes, I have lists. I have lists. I have the itinerary, which has been through several iterations. And there’s the packing list. And the preparations list—an itinerary for the two weeks prior to departure. (The pedicure! I have my priorities.) Setting up this blog was on my list. Check!

This morning I wrote up checks for my city and county business taxes, and my quarterly income taxes. I’ll mail the latter before 15 September for the first time in years.

It’s starting to feel like I might actually … go.