Category Archives: travel

Pros and Cons of Carry-on vs. Checked Baggage

airportgroundtransportationFactors to Consider Before Packing for Your Next Flight

Most travellers I know aim to travel with just carry-on baggage but most often end up checking their bags because it takes far too much time and effort to pack smart and efficiently. Most of us pack far too many clothes than we will ever need because doing so requires much less thought when packing. Just throw everything in that suitcase and don’t worry about it right?

Although there may be several benefits to travelling with just carry-on, in my personal experience it may not always be the best choice.  In fact, it may end up causing you more headaches throughout your journey.  Before I divulge why it may be less convenient to not check a bag, lets explore some of the benefits to travelling with carry-on alone:

Pros of Travelling With Only Carry-On Baggage:

No extra baggage fees


The typical airline charges $25US per checked bag and up to well over $100 for bags that are overweight.  By keeping your personal articles to a minimum, you can save up to over $200 per return flight. Recently however, due to long TSA wait lines, some airlines are dropping baggage fees in order to expedite the security wait times.

Save Time by Avoiding Baggage Drop-off Lines and Waiting to Collect Your Baggage at Your Destination

Businesswoman walking with luggage in airport baggage claim area, rear view (tilt)If you are checking a bag, be prepared to add at least 1 hour minimum to your transit time.  Instead of simply printing off your boarding pass and proceeding through security, you will have to tag your bag and line up to drop off your bag. This process alone can take an hour so if you are planning on checking a bag, be sure to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights in order to ensure you have enough time to drop off your bag and go through security.

Furthermore, when you arrive at your destination, typically you will have to wait an additional 20-30 minutes for your bag to be available for pick-up at the baggage claim carousel. For international travellers, this wait may be even longer given that customs agents may be searching your bags prior to putting them on the carousel.  What better things could you be doing in those 20 minutes? Be at your hotel, sipping on a nice glass of chardonnay? Sign me up!

No Worrying About Lost Baggage

lost baggageI don’t know about you but every time I’m waiting at the baggage claim, I always fret over the fact that my bag might not make it.  I neurotically think of what time I checked-in for my flight and what order my bag should be in as it was loaded and unloaded on the plane.  Fortunately, I have not ever had one of my bags lost but one time I had to wait almost 3 hours after returning on a flight that arrived at midnight.  I was not a happy camper by the time I claimed my bag at 3am but nonetheless, I was pleased that I did get my bag!

Save Money at Your Destination

suitcasefull It’s quite simple: if you have limited or no space in your bag to put anything else in it, you don’t have the option to buy things and bring them home, well unless you buy another bag!

 

 

Cons of Travelling with Only Carry-On Baggage:

Not All “Carry-on Approved” Bags Will Fit in Overhead Bins 

Can't fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Can’t fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Ever go to a luggage shop and see luggage labelled as “Carry-On Approved Luggage”?  Or even try out the airline’s “Carry-on Approved Luggage Sizes” bins at the airport?  Well sorry to disappoint, all that is meaningless and rather completely dependent on the type of aircraft you will be flying on.  Each aircraft has VERY different overhead bin storage space and there are some aircraft such as the dash series which won’t fit much more than a laptop case!

 

IMG_20160505_200803Travel Tip: I always travel with an extra small bag/purse within my larger carry-on which contains all of my electronic devices (cell phone, chargers, etc).  Note the small purse in the left of this photo which I store in my larger carry-on below.  This way if you are on a small aircraft where your bag won’t fit and you have to use the sky-check service, you can quickly remove any articles which cannot be checked (i.e. anything containing a lithium ion battery).

 

Additional Scrutiny at Customs Checkpoints

customs nothing to declare

As I mentioned previously, if you are just travelling with carry-on, you have limited space in which to place any additional articles which ultimately limits you in terms of what you can purchase throughout your travels.  Several times, well more often than not, I travel with only carry-on and do not purchase any items while abroad and therefore have nothing to declare at customs.  Apparently this must be some sort of red flag or perhaps a red flag only because I am a female and I should be bringing multiple bags and shopping everywhere I go? I have wound up in secondary screening almost every time I travel with carry-on only and have nothing to declare. Being subject to secondary screening is time consuming and anything but fun.  At minimum, it may add 1 hour to your journey and if you have been travelling for a long time, this is the last thing you want to have to go through! As a side note, if you are travelling internationally, ALWAYS DECLARE EVERYTHING HONESTLY and IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE IT! Not properly declaring items is a serious offense!

Limited Quantity of Items (Liquids and gels, clothing, shoes etc.) 

liquids and gels

This is probably the biggest challenge for most travellers; Being able to pack all of your necessities in such a way that it meets carry-on requirements.  Liquids and gels are limited to a maximum of 1L total comprising of bottles that contain a maximum of 100 ML each and that is very difficult to do, especially if travelling for more than a few days at a time.  Clothing can be packed minimally especially if your hotel has laundry facilities but shoes however cannot.  If you are planning on travelling with just carry-on, I recommend wearing all of your bulkiest items (boots, jacket, etc.) during transit.

In reading this, I hope that my points will better prepare you for your next trip.

Looking for tips on how to travel more efficiently? Contact me at thetravellingsaleswoman@gmail.com

Safe travels my friends!

TSW

 

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My Top 10 Airline Travel Fails

woman_embarassedTravelling isn’t easy.  Even if you are a frequent traveller like myself, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will experience some sort of hiccup along the way.  It may be a delayed, a cancelled flight or something else totally ridiculous entirely.

Below is a list of my top “fails” when travelling by air.

10. First Time “Priority” Status, Last One to Board Plane

aircanadapriorityboardingThe first time I was granted priority status, I was so excited.  I would get on the plane first and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to struggle to find overhead space for my carry-on baggage, however that isn’t what happened at all.  I was flying to Toronto from Orlando and what I clearly didn’t consider the fact was that EVERYONE BUT ME was travelling with small children and at that time the airline’s policy was that individuals with disabilities and families with small children under the age of 6 board first.  So, being the only solo traveller, I ended up being last to board the plane.

9. Dropping Documents While Approaching Customs

womanholdingpassportdocsAs I was approaching the customs kiosk, I was fumbling with my documents trying to put my boarding pass and declaration sheet into the photo page of my passport when I dropped it all.  “Apparently” this makes you look suspicious and will pretty much guarantee you will end up in secondary screening. I obviously never did anything wrong besides accidentally drop my documents but from then on, whenever I have completed my customs declaration on the plane, I make sure to have everything organized together in my purse so that I don’t have to fumble with my documents last minute.

8. Driving the Wrong Way to Return my Rental Car

rentalcarreturnsIt was 4:30 or 5am and I was trying to return my rental car to the airport.  I missed the entrance to the rental car return area and drove into the next driveway which was barricaded and there was no exit other than to turn around and drive the wrong way. So, I did just that.  In order to get back to the main ring road I had to drive the wrong way and hope no other idiot like myself was making that very same mistake and would drive into me.  Fortunately, there was not another car in sight the entire time.  Pfewf!

7. “Buzzing” Carry-on Baggage

Baggage Screening_2.ashxUpon removing my liquids and gels from my carry-on baggage and placing it on the conveyor belt for X-Ray scanning at airport security, the TSA agents all gathered around the X-ray machine. I passed through the metal detector and they all gathered around my bag and asked me if it was mine.  When I saw it, I immediately knew what was drawing all of the attention- my bag was vibrating! And no, it’s not what you think! I had packed an electric toothbrush and it had accidentally been turned on as I put my bag on the conveyor belt.  Once they opened my bag, they all got a good laugh.  I think some of them were disappointed that it wasn’t something else.  Ever since then, I just pack a regular manual toothbrush!

6. Suitcase Goes on Wrong Plane

-While I was sitting at my gate, I was watching the baggage being loaded onto the plane at the neighboring gate and I noticed, that one of those bags was MY bag! I had a very unique bag so it was surely not to be confused with another and this plane was most definitely not my plane.  I ran up to the gate agent for that flight and alerted her immediately.  She initially assured me that it was fine but apparently second guessing herself, she made a call down to the baggage handlers and discovered that the wrong bags were in fact being loaded onto that plane! Fortunately, the ground crew was able to remove them in time and everyone on my flight all got their bags.

5. Broken Suitcase

stuckhandleNaturally, just as I approach the baggage drop kiosk, the handle on my suitcase refuses to go down. Talk about last minute stress! Since it is not possible to check a bag if the handle is locked in the open position, I had to get out of line and since I didn’t have the time to buy a new suitcase and figure out if all of my things would fit, I opted to take everything out of my suitcase, tear it apart and was able to locate the part that was jammed. Using a toothpick, I was able to temporarily fix the jam and lock the handle in the closed position so that the bag could be checked.  Throughout my trip, I didn’t mess with the handle but rather waited until I got home to purchase a new suitcase.  Dragging a 55lb suitcase with no handle in addition to a large briefcase and purse is no simple task!

4. Time for a “Quick” Cigarette Between Connections?

DEN security lineupWhen I was in DEN and had a 2-hour stop-over and I figured that this was more than sufficient time to go outside to have a cigarette, come back in through security and get to my gate but I was wrong! What I didn’t realize was that the ONLY way in and out of that airport is through a single entrance and that there are no exits in the individual terminals or concourses. It didn’t take me very long to exit the building, maybe 20 minutes or so but when I got back I realized there was ONLY ONE SECURITY CHECKPOINT for the entire airport and it was PACKED! I had my NEXUS pass but at that time the US airports only acknowledged that for international travel and I was travelling domestically.  Luckily, one of the agents let me into that line and I just made the last call to board my flight.

3.Leaving Valuables on the Plane

ipadonplaneI hate to admit that I have done this not once but twice and both times I forgot my items in the seat pocket in in front of me. The first time was my driver’s license. I had it tucked into my boarding pass and as I was getting seated, I placed it in the seat pocket in front of me and simply forgot about it.  It wasn’t until a month later when I got carded that I realized I had misplaced it.  The second time I forgot my iPad on the plane.  I was travelling for almost 24 hours and same thing, placed it in the seat pocket in front of me, fell asleep and forgot about it when deplaning.

2. Broken Shoe

sandalsRushing to make my connection, my sandal decided that it was the best time to fall apart and I mean fall apart in pieces (worse than in this photo-all the straps broke at the same time) . That day luck was on my side as I happened to have an extra pair of sandals in my carry-on so at least I didn’t have to run through the airport barefoot!

 

1. Asleep at the Gate

ManSleepingAtAirportI have never done this but a friend of mine did and I think this deserves the #1 spot.  He fell asleep at the gate while listening to his headphones and well, needless to say, he missed his flight. Ooops! The same thing happened other day when I was flying home when I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger behind me was asleep at the gate snoring like a madman and would not budge.  Take this as a warning folks, save the nap for when you’re ON the plane and if you can’t do that, be sure to set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at the boarding time indicated on your boarding pass.

To date, these are my top airline travel blunders and I’m sure there will be many, many more to come.   I would love to hear your stories, so please comment and share!

Happy travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips for Women Travelling Solo

WomanAloneAirportThis past Tuesday was International Women’s Day. Originally called International Working Women’s Day, this date was designated to celebrate and respect women for their achievements in economics, politics and social status.

In spite of women achieving near equality with our male counterparts here in North America, women must still exercise a significantly greater degree of caution when travelling alone.

Regardless of whether you are travelling for business or for pleasure, as a woman there are many precautions that you should take in order to ensure your personal safety throughout your journey.  Even though a certain locale may seem safe, as a precaution women should always have their guard up and be aware of their surroundings.

Some General Precautions for Women Travelling Solo:

 Keep an eye on your belongings and NEVER leave them unattended.womanwithbaggageatgate Leaving your belongings unattended not only puts you at risk for theft, but may make you a target for drug smuggling if you are travelling in a foreign country. For example, even if you left your baggage with a hotel concierge, be sure to rip your bag apart and inspect it thoroughly because you never know if someone could have put any sort of illegal substances in your bag. If you fail to do this and unknowingly bring illegal substances with you through an international border, customs will not sympathize with you as you are personally responsible for all of your belongings.  Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.

Be aware of other people who may be staring at you and/or your belongings for prolonged periods of time. manStaringAtWomanFor example, if you are sitting in a restaurant and every time you glance over at a particular person, they are staring at you then I would strongly suggest that you move along to another safe highly public place.  If returning to your hotel room, approach the front desk and bring it to their attention and have someone from the hotel escort you to your room if necessary. Excessive gawking is not a compliment.

wtfBe wary of other travellers who express too much interest in your itinerary. It is one thing for fellow travellers to exchange basic information about where each other are going (generally speaking) and what kind of work you do, but if someone starts asking you details about your accommodations such as your hotel, room number or other highly specific information that should otherwise have no relevance to them, do not provide such details.  End the conversation and be on your way.


AirportApprovedTaxiOnly use transportation provided and approved by the airport and/or hotel or rent a car from a recognized company. 

There are many individuals who may be operating these vehicles illegally which can put you at risk of a variety of dangers ranging from being overcharged to risking physical harm in extreme cases.

 

Girl Jogging on a bridge

Do NOT listen to music using your headphones when walking, jogging or sitting in public places. Without your sense of hearing, you will be extremely vulnerable to attack or theft because you won’t even hear someone approach you.

 

 

NEVER leave your drink or food unattended. food drinkIt is now quite common for women to be drugged not only in their drink but also in their food.  If you have to go to the washroom, take all of your belongings with you and finish your food and drink before you go. You can always order a refreshment upon your return to the table.

 

Beware of “Female Friendly Networks” and “Meet-ups” aimed towards female solo travellers. Women-networking-onlineI recently became aware of a website which claims to be a networking site for solo female travellers. It recommends “Female Friendly Hotels” and offers an online network of female travellers which you can join and meet up with in your travels.  This is HIGHLY DANGEROUS! I don’t even have an account but I can go on this website and see which women by first and last name are travelling to specific cities on specific dates and very likely using one of the “Female Friendly Hotels” suggested on this website.  If I was a predator, this website makes it all to easy to target women travelling alone and not only that, women who are travelling alone and who are LONELY enough to reach out to strangers on the internet and clearly don’t have anyone else to meet up with at their destination. All it takes is going on this website, making a few phone calls to ask if the traveller is registered at any of those hotels during the dates they specified and boom! Might as well wear a target sign on your backs ladies!

woman on cell phoneAlways make sure at least one person knows where you are and check-in with others regularly. I’m not saying report your every move, but rather be sure to have someone whether it is a supervisor or a friend that you will communicate with at least once per day however briefly.  This way, if anything were to happen to you, at least someone would know.

 

To some, my list may seem paranoid but as far as I am concerned, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  It is still possible to have a great time when travelling solo and to always have your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. If you travel often, these behaviors will all become second nature.

 

So, travel safe my friends and have fun!

 

Cheers,

TSW

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Single this Valentine’s Day? Give this Ultimate Gift to Yourself

Gift-to-selfLove Yourself and Give Yourself the Gift of a Solo Vacation this Valentine’s Day! 

Most of us have become somewhat complacent and dependent on other people for companionship, acceptance, validation or cling to others simply out of a fear of loneliness among a multitude of other possible reasons.  As such, very few people are truly independent.  Unfortunately in our society, those who have the strength and courage to be truly independent are socially stigmatized,  especially on lovely Hallmark holidays such as Valentine’s Day.

For this reason, most people find the thought of being alone, never-mind travelling alone on vacation completely and utterly daunting.

I bring this up because the most common objection to solo travel that I hear is that people don’t want to be alone. But why?

Nobody to talk to? Afraid of getting lost in one’s own thoughts? Fear of being in a dangerous situation and unable to help oneself?

The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, people don’t even really TALK to each other anymore.  I mean, everyone just texts or instant messages and nobody actually picks up the phone and actually calls each other anymore.  Last week my younger brother stayed at my place and when my phone rang, he handed it to me and said, “Wow, your friends actually call you?”.

Heck, these days even if you sit in a coffee shop alone and aren’t scrolling through your smart phone or reading a book people will look at you like you’re a psychopath.

psychopath

What I’m trying to get at here, is that although we are so “connected to everyone” we are not truly physically or directly interacting with people in person.  This type of communication (texting, IM, emails, social media even real phone calls! etc. ) can all be done while abroad and while travelling solo. So what is everyone so afraid of?

I digress.  Now that that’s out of the way, lets explore how taking a solo vacation can benefit you and why it is the best gift you can give yourself!

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should take a Solo Vacation at Least Once in Their Lifetime:

1. You Will Make New Friends

group of smiling friends traveling by tour busWhen travelling alone, you will have to interact with others whether you like it or not. Some interactions may be brief and superficial however you will very likely meet other travellers that you otherwise never would have met or engaged with if you were in the company of your travel companion(s). Chances are you will also meet other solo travellers and if you meet someone you like, make plans to do something together even if it’s just to sit at a beach for a day, share a taxi or grab a coffee.  Don’t be afraid to reach out.

2. Your Self-Confidence Will Improve as You Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

comfort zoneWithout anyone to depend on but yourself, you have no choice but to take care of all of the planning and preparation for your trip. If you find this potentially daunting, all you have to do is write out a list of your plans and everything you need for your trip and cross them off as you’ve completed each component of your itinerary. Upon returning from your adventure, you will not only be proud of yourself for all of the organization you put into the trip but also all of the amazing experiences you had as a result.  It was all you! This will no doubt boost your self-confidence immensely.

3. You will become more introspective and in-tune with your surroundings

mountain-climbingWithout the distraction of another person, you may notice and think of things you otherwise never would have noticed which can enrich your thought process and enlighten you as a human being.

 

 

 

4. You Get to do Exactly What You Want When You Want.

Me-TimeYou are in complete control of your vacation from start to finish. You can plan your itinerary just as quickly as you can ditch it and devise a new plan and not have to worry about upsetting anyone else. Want to sleep in? Do it and have nothing to feel guilty about as after all, it’s your vacation.  Want to wake up early the next day and go for a run or a head start on a road trip? No problem, just go! Tired and want to go home? Go home!  Hungry? Well, go get something to eat, whatever YOU are in the mood for and take as long as YOU like.

5. You Create your Budget and Control it.

150914_RTW_MillennialMillionaireWhen travelling alone, you spend what you want to spend and not get guilt tripped into paying to do some expensive excursion that you never wanted to do in the first place.

As you can see, there are a multitude of benefits to taking a solo vacation but there are some potential setbacks.  For example, if you are embarking on an all-inclusive vacation, most resorts have a singles surcharge which can be as high as $1000 or more.  Even worse, some resorts such as Sandals, ban single travellers all together as though singles are some outcasts in society (But don’t take it personally because these same resorts also ban gay couples so why anyone in their right mind would support such a bigoted organization is beyond me!).   Furthermore, if you are travelling solo, you must exert extra caution to ensure your personal safety especially if you are female.

Prior to booking and shorty before you leave for your trip regardless of where in the world it may be, be sure to check out your country’s government travel advisory page. If the region or the country you will be visiting becomes subject to a travel advisory, your travel health insurance or your trip cancellation insurance may be affected.

So what are you waiting for? Suck it up Princess, and go book yourself your dream solo vacation! You’ll be so proud you had that experience and have memories you will never forget!

Bon voyage!

TSW

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Unusual Reason You Can Be Denied Boarding a Flight

gateagent

It is with great sadness that one of my loved ones was unable to make it back home to Canada for Christmas.

Why was he unable to?

Because he was denied boarding. 

Why was he denied boarding?

Not because the flight was overbooked.

Not because the flight was cancelled.

Not because he didn’t have a seat.

Not because he was drunk and unruly.

Not because he was on the no-fly list or any other obvious reason.

DamagedPassport

He was denied because his passport was damaged.

Most of us take good care of our important documents but we are only human and it is so easy to have an accident and damage those documents.  Unfortunately most of us don’t even realize what small “damage” to a passport can cause you to be denied boarding a flight and hence the reason I am writing this post. The worst part is, in Canada if you have to replace a damaged passport, you must complete a comprehensive general application and will not be able to simply renew it and this process can take weeks if not longer.

According to the Canadian Passport Office a passport is considered damaged if it:

  • impedes the identification of the holder;
  • appears to have been altered or falsified; or
  • could potentially cause problems or has been denied by an airline or at a point of entry due to perceived damage.

Examples of damage to a passport:

  • has been exposed to water or humidity
  • has a tear in one or more pages
  • contains unauthorized markings
  • the information and/or photo have been altered or made less identifiable
  • pages have been removed or torn out
  • the cover and inside pages have come apart
  • has been chewed by a child or pet
  • other forms of damage that are not listed here

A few years ago when I was in Grenada, I was almost denied boarding a flight back to Toronto because of my passport photo.

The officer looked at my passport then looked at me and asked, “Where is your beauty mark?”

I told him I didn’t have one to which he replied, “You have a beauty mark in your passport photo.  Come with me please.”

Wow! Was I ever sweating!! My heart sank right into my stomach because I had no idea what he was talking about.

I was taken into an interrogation room for a more detailed search of my belongings and asked many questions.

Fortunately they let me have a look at my passport so I could see what they were talking about…

PassportPhoto

As it turned out when I was entering Grenada, the officer stamping my passport accidentally put pen marks on my passport photo page AND on my face in my photo! Fortunately, the pen mark was in blue, there were multiple other pen marks on the page and I had several other pieces of photo ID so they let me pass.

I was sure to renew my passport well in advance of my next trip because I didn’t want to risk getting stuck anywhere again over something so silly.

There are a multitude of reasons that a traveller may be refused boarding or entry/exit into a country but don’t be one of those people.  Be sure to add “check the condition of your passport “ to your pre-travel checklist and do this well in advance of travelling.  If you are unsure about the condition of your passport, visit a local passport office or contact your airline.

Safe travels my friends. I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season without hiccups such as these.

Cheers,

TSW

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Dating a Frequent Traveller: How to Make it Work

TagAlongTravelAn interview with Deborah Zanke, spouse of a frequent traveller and author of the Tag Along Travel Blog.

Being a frequent traveller, I know all too well what it is like to date someone who does not travel for work which I discussed in my previous post “ Love and Romance En Route: The Unique Challenges Frequent Travellers Face in Dating and Relationships.”

In my experience, I have always preferred to date fellow salesmen or men who are frequent travellers because they inherently understand business travel and do not have a problem with me going away for extensive periods of time for work and vice versa.  My last relationship with a non-traveller proved disastrous.  He was completely insecure and became so jealous and suspicious of my every move because he just didn’t get it.  He turned into a complete control freak.   If I didn’t respond to every text or phone call, he thought I was cheating on him which was never the case.  I was just busy, working.  I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with this type of behavior and annoying false accusations and hence why the relationship ended.  Based on my experiences, I was sure that romantic relationships where both partners travel for work was the only way it could work, but I have been proven wrong. As  it turns out, dating insecure and emotionally unstable people makes it impossible.

So I digress…

I recently met Deborah Zanke, the owner of a Marketing and Public Relations Firm and author of the Tag Along Travel BlogIn her blog, she discusses the ups and downs of being married to a frequent traveller and her experience tagging along on his business trips.  Her spouse of 20 years only recently embarked on a new career that involved a significant amount of travel and that change she says, required a significant amount of adjusting on her part.

Debora’s husband is away on business travel nearly 40% of the time.  In the past year alone, he has travelled on over 100 flights in 11 countries.

What are the biggest challenges of being the spouse of a frequent traveller?

Deborah admits that it took her time to get used to him being away.  Initially he would be away on business for up to 3 weeks at a time and logistically it wasn’t possible for him to come back home on weekends which created tension in their relationship.  He then moved to a different position where he is only away for usually 1 week at a time at most but nonetheless, still travelling for a significant amount of time.

Other challenges of being the spouse of being a frequent traveller  Deborah says are coping while they are apart, missing each other, dealing with things that go wrong while he is away (condo repairs, car troubles, etc.) and being out of synch when he returns.  When reunited, may they be adjusted to different time zones and set in different routines.

How did she overcome these challenges?

In order to adjust to her husband being away so frequently, Deborah realized that she had to be more independent.

A huge perk of Deborah’s business is that she can work remotely which means it’s possible for her to accompany her husband on business trips.   When she does this, while her husband is working she works on her own business during the same business hours as her hometown and spends the rest of her time essentially travelling solo.  She describes a recent business trip of her husband’s to London which she tagged along on. During the day while he was in meetings, she would go sight-seeing and dine alone and if he was working in the evening, she would work on her own business at night since it was still regular business hours back at home.  Occasionally she would accompany him on business dinners but that was not commonplace.

The key to their success is that there is a mutual understanding that if she tags along on one of his business trips that his business is the priority of the trip.  She has the strength and independence to essentially go on the trip as a solo traveller and not interfere with his business.  She enjoys being able to take advantage of his super elite status, hotel upgrades and the opportunity to explore new places that she otherwise never would have even thought of.

When she isn’t able to tag along on one of her husband’s business trips, they maintain their intimacy by communicating regularly by text message, skype and facetime.  They even had the great idea to do a “virtual date” whereby they watch a movie and order pizza together over Skype.  Such a great idea!

Overall, in speaking with Deborah, I have learned that although it may not be easy at first, it is possible for a non-traveller to have a healthy, loving and fulfilling relationship with a frequent traveller which she achieves by being:

  1. Self-confident and secure
  2. Not afraid to travel solo
  3. The owner of her own business and one that can be done remotely
  4. Comfortable making the best of her time alone when at home, enjoying things such as binging on Netflix
  5. Understanding that her husband’s business is a priority while he is on business travel and doesn’t try to interfere
  6. Able to find unique ways to communicate and maintain intimacy from a distance

So fellow frequent travellers, there remains hope for maintaining a romantic relationship with a significant other who does not travel frequently for work.  And for all of you who are on the other end of the spectrum and are dating a frequent traveller, be sure to read the Tag Along Travel Blog or follow Deb on Twitter  for tips on innovative ways you can best utilize your time together and apart and make it work.

Safe travels my friends and good luck in love.

Cheers,

TSW

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7 Things You Need to Know Before You Rent a Car

lady picking up rental car
Planning to rent a car on a trip this upcoming Holiday Season?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you need to know before you book your rental car that could save you hundreds of dollars.

What do You Need to Know?

1. Search Expedia for Company with Best Rates and then Book Direct

keyboard typingGoing onto a site like Expedia will give you a quick overview of all the rental car agencies offering vehicles for your itinerary and indicate cost, mileage allowance and whether or not the rental kiosk is located in the airport terminal or if you will require a shuttle.  Select the vehicle that best suits your budget and itinerary and then go to the rental car agency’s website directly.  The reason you should do this is not only will you save a few bucks (Expedia does have a mark-up) but you can also earn travel rewards with that specific rental agency or gain frequent flyer points (not an option at Expedia).

2. Rental Cars Do NOT Have Snow Tires

baldtireIf you will be driving anywhere where there is a chance of snow, regardless of the vehicle you chose, it will not have snow tires.  I have yet to find a single rental car agency that equips their vehicles with snow tires and the reason being is added expense.  It is cheaper for them to write off the odd vehicle that is in a collision due to inclement weather than it is to invest in snow tires for each vehicle in their fleet.  The best option is to rent an AWD or 4×4 vehicle BUT not if it is old and has bald tires.  When you arrive at the rental car kiosk, request a new vehicle and be sure to inspect the condition of the tires before you accept the vehicle.  If the tires are bald, you are better off driving a newer FWD that has tires that are newer and in better condition.  Rental car companies do not spend a lot of money maintaining their vehicles like you and I may do.  Furthermore, most people who drive rental cars, drive the s^%& out of them, so be sure to check those tires before you leave!

3. Do NOT Purchase Insurance Through the Rental Car Agency

Car-insuranceEvery single rental car agency tries to sell you on purchasing their insurance which can be in excess of $23 per day! In most cases this is completely unnecessary. In most states and provinces, the car insurance that we have on our own vehicles covers us when renting a vehicle.  Additionally, several major credit cards include travel insurance, specifically rental car insurance.  Not sure if you are covered by either? Call your insurance company and your credit card company before you depart.

4. Do NOT Pre-Pay for Fuel: Plan on Fueling Up Before You Return the Vehicle

fillingupThis is probably the second biggest waste of money next to purchasing insurance.  If you agree to pre-pay for fuel, you are paying for a FULL tank of fuel regardless if you use it or not. This way you are paying to fill the ENTIRE fuel tank as though you brought it back completely empty which would never happen.

If you opt to return the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and forget, you will be billed up to 3X the price of regular fuel PLUS a refuelling fee!  When the agency bills you for fueling up, sometimes they don’t even pay attention to the exact size of the fuel tank of the vehicle you are driving and just bills you for some random sized fuel tank. This happened to me once when I returned a Chevy Impala with a tank ¾ full, and got billed for 88L (or 23 gallons) of fuel! The tank of the car was only 63L (or 17 gallons)! When I complained, they informed me that their calculations were based on an average sized fuel tank, not specifically the one I used.  What “average” vehicle at a rental car agency has a tank size of 100L?

5. You Can Not Reserve a Specific Vehicle

Chevrolet-Impala-2015The vehicle in the picture on the website when you are making the reservation is only a representation of a general vehicle type.  If you reserve say a Chevy Impala, you might not get that same make and model but rather anything similar in its class, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the precise vehicle you thought you reserved.

6. Don’t Assume You Have Unlimited Mileage

unlimited-mileage-car-rental-with -auto-europe-travel-tipsWhen booking your reservation, be sure to note if the mileage is restricted on the vehicle.  Often the ‘discounted” vehicles do not come with unlimited mileage.  If you plan on driving any significant distance in your travels, be absolutely sure that your rental car package comes with unlimited mileage otherwise you will pay a hefty fee for each km/mi you drove over the allowance.

7. If you Drop off a Vehicle at a Different Location You will Incur a Fee

routeAtoBIf you plan on picking up and dropping off your vehicles at different locations, be prepared for additional fees.  If your plans are somewhat flexible, for instance you can either go from A to B or from B to A, be sure to check out the fees for both options.   When I travel to Alberta, it is almost $1000 cheaper for me to pick up a car in Edmonton and drop it off in Calgary than it is for me to pick it up in Calgary and drop it off in Edmonton.  Do your homework before you book. You could save a small fortune!

I hope that in reading my tips, you will be much more prepared before you rent your next vehicle and possibly save a lot of money.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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How to Pack a Healthy Lunch in Less than 10 Minutes

busineswomaneatinghealthyIn this day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to spare, especially when it comes to making time for exercise and eating healthy.

What most people don’t realize is that packing your own lunch doesn’t take as much time as you may think.  We all know that packing a healthy lunch can save us inches on our waistline but a lesser known fact is that it will also save you money and time that you would have otherwise spent at a restaurant.

This “time constraint” is how most people rationalize the fact that they simply can’t be bothered to put the effort into eating healthy. This is especially the case for people who work on the road and travel frequently for business who also have the luxury of being able to expense their meals.

Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes less time to prepare a healthy lunch (snacks included) than to eat out, so quit using convenience as an excuse to eat out!

Let’s face it, most people believe that it is a lot more convenient to eat a restaurant than spend the time planning and preparing your meals for a day on the road but the fact of the matter is, you can spend less than 10 minutes making and packing a healthy lunch and snacks which is far less time than you would spend in a restaurant.

For example, if you stop for a coffee and a snack in the morning and the afternoon at a coffee shop, you will spend at least 5 minutes if not more at each shop. If you stop for lunch, this can take in excess of an hour if you go to a sit-down restaurant.  Even if you went to a fast food joint for lunch, that will likely take at least 10-15 minutes between lining up to place your order and actually receiving your food.  In the least, if you dine out all day long you will spend a minimum of 20 minutes of your day simply waiting for food.  That’s significantly more time than you need to prepare something much healthier at home!

I will share with you some examples of healthy snacks and meals that I would typically prepare and bring with me for my average day on the road.  They are all very quick and easy to prepare so there are no excuses!

What you will need:

  1. Insulated lunch bag or coolerlunchbagw icepack
  2. Ice pack(s) if packing perishable items
  3. Utensils (Ideally an all-in-one fork/knife/spoon combo)ForkKnifeSpoon
  4. Napkin or paper towel

 

 

Snack Options:

snacks

 

Snacks with Zero Preparation:

  • Protein Bar
  • Can of tuna
  • Whole fruit (apple, orange, pear, etc.)
  • Protein Powder (single serving sample)

Snacks with Minimal Preparation (Hands-on Time <1 min):

  • Protein Powder: This can be mixed into a small bottle of water or milk. I will put a single serving of protein powder into a Ziploc bag and after I am finished my coffee in my thermos, I put the powder into the thermos and mix with water that I have brought or buy a small carton of milk at a convenience store to mix with it.
  • Boiled Eggs: As you prepare your things in the morning, boil some eggs. It takes a few seconds to put them on the stove and the same to remove them from the stove. If you’re concerned about time or forgetting them on the stove, simply boil them the night before. They will be safe to eat for several days after cooking.
  • Loose fruit and veggies (grapes, berries, carrots etc.): Simply rinse them and put them into a Ziploc bag. The Ziploc bag can later be used to dispose of your eggshells, protein bar wrapper or other small trash items.
  • Nuts: Grab a small handful or count out a single serving and place into a Ziploc bag.
  • Cheese slices: Can either be wrapped in saran wrap or placed in a Ziploc bag. Note that if you do pack cheese slices, don’t forget to include an ice pack.

Snacks/Meals Requiring a Moderate amount of Preparation (Hands-on Time: <5min):

YogurtParfait

  • Greek Yogurt Parfait: This is my staple snack in the morning! To make it, place your oatmeal in the microwave (2-5 minutes depending on the Oatmeal), add frozen berries and microwave for an additional 1-2 minutes, add 2-3 TBSP of 0% Fat Greek Yogurt and place into a Tupperware container.  Don’t forget to put on an ice pack and pack a spoon!
  • Salad: If you keep it simple (lettuce that you simply have to rinse, tomato, pepper, etc.) it will take under 5 minutes to prepare.  I usually make 2-3 at a time so I don’t  have to make a new one every day.  For dressing I put a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small Tupperware container that I place within the Tupperware containing the salad. Don’t forget to bring a fork!

Sandwiches: Try to make it as healthy as possible. Here are a few ideas:

Chicken/Turkey & Swiss:

  • 2 slices of multigrain/whole wheat bread
  • 3-4 slices of low-fat, low-sodium chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese (regular Swiss is low fat)
  • Garnishes: tomato, lettuce, onion, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: mustard, low-fat mayo- Only use small amounts (<1tsp each) not just because of calories but because if you eat in your car like me, the last thing you want is to get covered in mustard or mayo before your next meeting!

**Tip:  Place the meat on the bottom, the garnishes in the middle, topped by lettuce, then cheese slice in order to prevent your sandwich from getting soggy.

Tuna

tunasandwich

**TIP: This should be made on the spot in your car because if made in advance, the bread or wrap will become so soggy and fall apart by the time you go to eat it!

  • 2 slices of multigrain bread or 1 multigrain/whole wheat wrap prepared in advance with a layer of light mayo or light plain cream cheese.
  • 1 small can tuna (single serving with peel-off lid). Apply to prepared bread with your spoon and enjoy!

*Note: an alternative to preparing the bread in advance with low-fat mayo or cream cheese is to pack a single serving of low-fat cream cheese in a small Tupperware container and mix with the tuna. I thought it sounded gross at first but it is delicious, low in fat and an excellent source of protein!

Not sure how much and what specifically to pack?

Be sure to incorporate a protein source in EVERY snack and meal! Protein will keep you fuller longer and doing so will help stabilize your blood sugar levels. My personal trainer gave me this advice and it helped me reduce almost 1000 calories per day from my diet and I was less hungry than before!

As long as you’re eating some sort of protein, you can eat small snacks every 2-3 hours. Constantly fueling up on healthy foods throughout the day not only helps improve your energy levels, cognitive function and overall health but it also helps boost your metabolism.

So to answer the question, “How much to pack? If you will be gone the entire day, try to bring enough for at least 4 snacks ( 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon) as well as a lunch (if you don’t have a lunch meeting).

I hope that you found some of these ideas useful and that you will incorporate them into your next meal en route.

Unsure about how healthy your snack and lunch combo is? Need some tips on how to make your lunch healthier?

Subscribe to my blog and and contact me with all of your questions.

Travel safe my friends and don’t forget to eat healthy while you’re at it.  Time is on your side!

Cheers,

TSW

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Travelling to the US? Now is the Time to Cash in Your Travel Rewards

Rewards

Are you a Canadian who is planning on travelling to the US over the holidays to visit friends and family?

If you are, now is the time to book because the closer you get to the holiday season, the prices of flights increase dramatically and the availability also decreases as these flights book up.  Typically flight prices are the lowest 60-90 days prior to departure.

When pricing out flights to the US, most airlines will charge you in USD.  As most of you are aware, our Canadian dollar is at an all time low.  So that $500 USD return flight that used to cost you close to $500 CAD when our dollar was at par, will now cost you closer to $675.  Same goes for that hotel stay that used to cost you $200 per night and will now cost more along the lines of $270!

What can you do to avoid this?

Cash in on your travel rewards!

Currently, the rewards required for any particular route are in line with prices of when our dollar was at par and therefore the same number of points, will get you the same trip as before so essentially at the same price without being gauged by the poor exchange rate.

For example, if the $500USD flight was 35,000 air miles last year, it is still 35,000 air miles now.  Therefore if you use those points you will save the $150-175 that you would have lost to the exchange.

Don’t have enough points to fly?

No problem. Most rewards programs allow you to use those points towards hotels and car rentals as well. So even if you have to purchase your flight, be sure to use up those points on your hotel and/or rental car.

If you have collected points at a hotel chain, inquire to see how many you have acquired because you may be surprised to find that you actually have accrued enough points for at least one night hotel stay.

If you haven’t collected enough points at a hotel chain, some travel rewards programs like Aeroplan will allow you to convert points from your hotel stays into travel rewards.  This way even if you have a relatively low number of points at a few hotel chains, if you convert them and add them to your existing rewards you many have enough points to cover your flight. Contact your primary provider and see if they are able to do this for you.

Don’t have a clue how to manage your travel rewards?

Be sure to read my previous article on How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards Benefits.

So, bon voyage my friends! I hope you are able to use these tips and save yourself some hard earned dollars.

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips for Sales Reps: How to Find the Best Hotels for Your Next Road Trip

BusinessHotel

The majority of sales reps have a territory which is sufficiently large and requires some overnight travel.  If you are new to your territory, it can take some time to find that perfect hotel in each city.  In this article, I will provide some general tips on how to find the best hotels to suit your needs.

As some of you know, in my most recent position, my territory encompassed the entire country of Canada.  When I first started, 99% of the territory was unfamiliar to me and I made SEVERAL bad hotel choices on my first few trips.  I previously summarized some of my worst hotel experiences in my article discussing Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites.  Based on my experience, I have devised a list of suggestions for selecting the best hotel for business accommodations, if you are in sales or will be on the road at some point in your travels.

Factors to Consider when Selecting your Accommodations:

1. Location

LocationMap

  • Proximity to Meetings: Ideally you should select a hotel that is located close to your first meeting of the day or has easy highway access in order to reduce your commuting time. However, in my experience I often sacrifice this luxury and will stay up to even an hour away from my first meeting in order to stay at a better hotel.
  • Neighborhood: If you don’t know the area, chances are you don’t know the neighburhood. I have stayed at highly reputable hotel chains that are located in such sketchy areas where I felt concerned for my safety getting in and out of my vehicle. You can try to read trip reviews prior to booking in order to ascertain the type of neighborhood a hotel is located in because usually if it’s really bad, people will indicate that in their reviews.
  • Traffic Flow: If I am staying I a major city, I will often stay somewhere where my first meeting is against the regular traffic flow.   Most people commute into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon.  If I stay in the city, I will book my first appointment the furthest west and my last appointment closest to the city such that I am never caught in the bulk of rush hour traffic.

2. Parking

Parking sign.

  • Location: Not all hotels have on-site parking! Heck, some city hotels don’t even have an area to pull up and park while you check –in during rush hour. One hotel I stayed at only had parking in a lot that was 1km away and there was no unloading area during rush hour. Not very convenient when you’re carrying over 100lbs of luggage!  Be sure to call the hotel in advance if the parking accommodations are not clearly described on the hotel website.
  • Cost: Factor this into the cost of your total hotel stay. In the city, parking rates can be outrageous.  If that is the case, consider staying further out of town.
  • Valet: Sometimes hotels only offer valet parking which is not only costly, but inconvenient during the morning rush when EVERYONE wants their car! It’s also inconvenient if you have to get your car at 5am (typical for me) and the valet guy hasn’t shown up for work yet or doesn’t start until later. Avoid this if you can, unless you’re not in a rush.

 3. Amenities

HotelGym

  • Free wi-fi: Believe it or not, some hotels still have the nerve to charge for wi-fi. If you will be staying at a hotel for several days, make sure this is included in the price.
  • Gym: It is extremely important to incorporate fitness into your schedule. It is so easy to fall off track and out of your regular workout routine when you travel, so do your best to find a hotel with a gym and make an honest effort to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day.  For more detailed tips, read my previous article on How to Keep Fit While on the Road.
  • Kitchen: I prefer to stay at suite hotels with full kitchens because that way I can prepare all of my own meals, eat healthier and make myself feel more at home (which can be quite nice if you are travelling for extended periods of time). For tips on all the meals you can prepare in a hotel room, be sure to read my article How to Eat Healthy While on the Road.

4. Reviews

Reviews

It is possible to spend countless hours on the web reading an endless sea of reviews for any hotel! I have to admit that I secretly find this entertaining and will waste a lot of time doing this solely for my own amusement. I mean who doesn’t find it amusing to hear people bitch it out over the pettiest little things???   However if you need to get down to business and  find a highly reputable place to stay ASAP, there is a new business travel app available called CinchTravel which amalgamates hotel reviews from multiple websites and provides the best suggestion for the particular area you search.  This app also gives you the ability to store your preferences such that when you type in the next city in which you are searching for accommodations, the app will give you the best flights and hotels based on that location, history and preferences.  Unfortunately this only currently available for iPhone and I have a BlackBerry, so I will have to do my searches the old fashioned way for now.

5. Rewards/Membership Programs

Rewards

Most major hotel chains offer some sort of rewards or membership program.  These programs are free and can provide you with a variety of perks including free early/late check-in, free wi-fi, free upgrades and points which you can use as credit towards future hotel stays.  The more you stay at hotel chains associated with the same rewards program, the quicker you will be eligible for free hotel stays which you can use for your own personal vacation.

6. Cost

cost

This is quite obvious but worth a mention and hence why I have listed it last.  Often if you can stay a bit further from downtown, you can get a much better deal.  After all, if you have your own vehicle, it doesn’t really matter because you can drive wherever you want.

I realize this may seem like a lot of factors to consider when selecting accommodations but all I can say is, it pays off to do your homework.

 

Travel safe my friends.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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