Tag 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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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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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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Is a Bad Premonition Just Cause for Cancelling a Trip?

womanlookingtofuture

Spooky? Or a case of being spooked?

Hallowe’en has always been my favorite holiday and it is just around the corner! What isn’t there to enjoy about the fall colours, visits to the orchard, haunted houses and scary movies on every channel?

This week I was originally planning on writing about some scary experiences that I have had while on the road however, something very unusual happened to me a few days ago which I feel is a much more suitable topic for the week of Halloween.

I had a premonition: A bad premonition and 3 warnings, so I decided to cancel my trip.

Before you think I’ve totally fallen off my rocker, let me tell you that I am a scientist by nature so I am naturally skeptical of such things but this has only ever happened to me twice before in my life.  The first time I was not able to avoid the situation and the second time I was able to avoid it.  These are my stories:

Premonition #1: Saved My Little Brother’s Life

My brother 8 and me 11.

My brother 8 and me 11.

When I was 11 years old, I had a premonition that the next day my mother, brother and I were going to be in a serious car accident and that my brother who was seated in the front seat of the vehicle was going to die.  When the next day came around, the entire morning felt like Deja-vu and the dreadful feeling intensified.  It was my brother’s turn to sit in the front seat that day so I begged him to sit in the back seat with me, in the middle which is the safest seat in the car.  As my premonition had it, we did get into a terrible car accident. My mother who was driving was not wearing a seat-belt ended up on the passenger side of the car with her head smashed through passenger side windshield.  If my little brother who was just 8 years old was seated in that seat, I am certain that he would have died that day.  Fortunately, we were all okay.

Premonition #2: “Don’t take the rock!”

ElvesAfter hiking my very first volcano in Iceland, I decided that I wanted to take home a souvenir. In spite of being warned by the locals (who believe in folklore-in particular about the “Hidden People”) to NEVER move or remove any rocks, I decided that I wanted to take one from the volcano.  As soon as I picked it up, this daunting, dreadful, feeling of impending doom came over me and it was as though I heard a voice in my head saying, “Don’t take the rock!”.  So I decided to listen and immediately put the rock back where I found it.  Nothing happened after but who knows what could have happened if I would have taken it?

So even if my premonition was only correct the first time, in my mind it means that when I have one there is at least a 50% chance that my premonition will turn out to be true.  Statistically speaking, that is quite significant.

So what happened this time?

Originally I was elated to go on this trip to Las Vegas but as I went to actually book it, I became completely overwhelmed with a terrible, daunting feeling as though something awful will happen to me there if go.

Am I afraid of travel?

Hell no! I’m the Travelling Saleswoman!  For the past 10 years I have travelled for up to 100 days a year in hotels and most of the time done so alone.

Am I afraid of travelling alone?

Hell no! I travel solo for both business and leisure over 90% of the time. Frankly, I prefer it!

What were these “warning” signs?

1. Failed Booking Attempt #1: On Sunday afternoon, as I submitted the payment details for my trip as I have always done using the Air Canada vacations booking site, this dreadful feeling took a hold of me and urged me not to press submit. I got a sudden rush of these very dark images in my mind-nothing specific but very dark. In spite of this, I pressed submit but received an error message saying that it was unable to book. I tried another 3 times and received the same message so I decided to call the Air Canada Call Center and they informed me that their system was down until further notice and that they were unable to book my trip, so I gave up for the time being.

2. My TV Froze on the film “Hostel III” which happens to take place in Vegas. After I got off the phone with Air Canada and made some lunch, I sat down and turn on the TV and Hostel III was on HBO.  I thought great! I hadn’t seen this one before (believe it or not!). For those of you who are unfamiliar with these films, the story goes something along the lines of rich psychopaths who are part of an elite killing club which kidnaps tourists and tortures them. Coincidentally, this film took place in Vegas, where I was planning on going and had the bad premonition about! After I realized that I had in fact seen this movie before (I forget movies all the time!), I tried to check the other channels to see what other movies were on but, I couldn’t change the channel because my PVR froze. Was this telling me something? Or am I just crazy?

3. Failed Booking Attempt #2 and 3: Ignoring the previous bad gut feeling, failed booking attempt and timely exposure to Hostel III, the following day I decided to try and book my trip once again. This time I simultaneously tried booking on Air Canada’s site AND Expedia BUT BOTH SITES FAILED! Even with different airlines. For some unknown reason, both sites kept timing out and wouldn’t let me book. It wasn’t an issue with my internet connection since I have the fastest connection available and was able to operate all other websites without issue.  I took this as a final warning sign and decided not to go on this trip.

As I mentioned previously, I rarely get any sort of premonition but based on my personal experience, I do not take these lightly. Call it what you may, “woman’s instinct”, “gut feeling” or whatever but the bottom line is, when my gut or whatever it may be gives me such a powerful feeling, I won’t ignore it.

Is it a coincidence that over 350 passengers originally scheduled on the hijacked 9/11 flights either cancelled or didn’t board last minute? Maybe or maybe not.

The truth of the matter is that in spite of how much science can explain, there is much more to life out there that we cannot yet explain and perhaps never will.

In reading this, do you think that having a bad premonition is just cause for cancelling a trip?

Have you ever had a similar experience? Or known someone who has?

I would love to hear your stories.

In the meantime, travel safe my friends and listen to your gut.

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips on How to Fly Through Airport Security: A Step-by-Step Guide

AirportSecurityGuards

Now that summer has officially ended, it’s the perfect time to start planning your next vacation or plan that next work trip. After all, flight prices are historically the lowest in the month of September.

If you’re flying somewhere, I’m sure you’re like most people who absolutely dread the thought of passing through airport security screening. It can be a timely and intimidating process.

What aggravates me the most is that although the process is quite simple, so many people are completely clueless or just pretend to be ignorant of the rules and cause unnecessary delay and headaches for everyone else because they are unprepared!

In this article, I will provide some useful tips and tricks of the trade that will help you better prepare for your next flight so that you (and your fellow travellers) can breeze through airport security.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL:

Trusted-traveler-logos

  1. Enlist in a Trusted Traveller Program. These passes enable you to bypass regular line-ups because you have been pre-screened.  It is quite a process to get one of these cards but trust me, it’s worth the 2 hours of interviews and the $50 even if it is just to save yourself sitting in line waiting for 2 hours on a single flight! My Nexus pass is the best investment I have ever made. To learn which would be the best for your travel needs and how to apply, visit US Customs and Border Protection Website.
  1. Invest an Airport Lounge Pass (if you fly more than 3 times per year). Airports are expensive places to be held captive.  One time I had the “cheapest glass of wine” at an airport bar in SFO which was $27 before tax and tip! Yikes! If you’re stuck only a few times per year for a few hours at a time, it is definitely worthwhile to invest one of these lounge passes because for whatever you pay for that pass, you will get your money’s worth in food and drink that you won’t be buying at airport prices like a sucker. If you travel frequently, you come out well ahead!
  1. Visit Your Local Travel Health Clinic (Foreign Travel Only). Some countries have endemic diseases for which you will require vaccination before you travel. More exotic countries require several vaccinations that require 2-3 boosters that are to be administered weeks apart and you must have all of them in order to be fully immune.

BEFORE YOU GO TO THE AIRPORT:

TravelDocsBe sure to bring the following items with you:

  1. Photo ID (Passport, Trusted Traveller Program Card, Driver’s License)
  2. Printed Copies of Your Itinerary (Boarding Pass, Copy of Hotel and Rental Car Reservations). You never know when you will lose wifi access, if your phone battery will die or if you lose your phone all together!
  3. Wallet (Credit Cards, Cash)
  4. Liquids and Gels Separated in a Clear Plastic Bag that is Easy to Remove from your Carry-on
  5. Phone, charger and other electronics stowed in your carry-on. Any device containing a lithium ion battery is considered a dangerous good and cannot be checked. You will also likely need to charge your devices in the event that you did not do so prior.
  6. Pens (for Customs documents if required)
  7. Ziploc Bag (or a jacket with a pocket that zips up)

BEFORE YOU GO THROUGH SECURITY:

Frustrated Punk Woman Waiting at Airport Security

Frustrated Woman Waiting at Airport Security

To save time and aggravation (for you and other travellers!) before you even line up at the security gate, step aside, sit down somewhere comfortably and remove the following items in ADVANCE.

  • Belt- Remove it and put it in your carry-on
  • Jewellery-Take all of it off and store it in a Ziploc bag or in a pocket that you can secure with a zipper and store safely and securely
  • Loose change– Keep it in a jacket pocket which zips up (you will have to remove your jacket anyway) or stow it in a change purse that you can stow in your carry-on
  • Make sure that you can easily remove/have access to your:
    • Laptop computer
    • Liquids and gels (stored in a clear Ziploc bag)

You WILL have to remove these from you carry-on at the check point, so if you ensure that these are all easily accessible and can be easily put back into your luggage so you don’t struggle with them and cause any unnecessary delay.

  • Empty your water bottle if you will be bringing it with you through security. It sure is better than tossing it in the garbage and paying $7 for a new one after security.
  • Boarding Pass (last)– Once you have all of your other things in order, keep your boarding pass tight in hand. Do NOT store it in your suitcase! I can’t count the number of times I have seen people do this!!

AT THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT

AirportSecurityScanning

Assuming you took my advice and followed all of the aforementioned,  there isn’t much to stress about doing at the security checkpoint itself.  Whatever you do, do NOT think that you can save time and get through quicker if you “forget to remove these items” because that will NEVER happen!  Keep in mind that as you approach the metal detector, you will be instructed to remove these items. If your bags already went through the x-ray machine, then you will be interrupting everyone else behind you. So be a good passenger and remove these items for screening in the x-ray machine:

  • Shoes with a heel or thick sole (pumps, running shoes, boots, etc.) Pretty much anything except flip flops. Try taking them off while you are waiting in line to save time.  They need to be in their own bin and its best if they are the first of your items to go through the scanner because they will be the first ones out of the scanner after you pass through.
  • Outer wear: Coats, sweaters, jackets, hats, sunglasses
  • Laptop computers and other large electronic devices
  • Liquids and gels

AFTER AIRPORT SECURITY

finnair-lounge-helsinki-airport

Make sure you know where your gate is and go to the airport lounge, sit back, relax and enjoy all the “free” food and drink you can until 30 minutes prior to boarding.

I hope some of you less frequent flyers find this information helpful.  If I can only save a handful of you, I feel like I’m making a difference.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

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New Driving Laws Coming into Effect in Ontario September 1st 2015

judge hammer

Attention all of you road warriors here in Ontario, Canada!

Effective September 1st, 2015 the Ontario Government will begin to enforce new legislation and stiffer penalties for existing driving laws.

Why am I writing about this?

Because for reasons unbeknownst to me, our government does not directly notify anyone with a driver’s license directly whenever they change the law.  I mean, they obviously have our current mailing address which is reflected on our driver’s license. Could this be due to the expense of sending out a mailer? Or is it a sneaky way for them to earn more revenue from penalizing individuals who are not aware of the new laws?

Regardless, let’s get to the facts! If you’re driving in Ontario, here is what you need to know:

According to the Ministry of Transportation Bulletin  issued June 2nd 2015, there will be:

  1. Increased Penalties for Distracted Driving. Fines will be increased from an average of $300 to up to $1000 in addition to 3 demerit points upon conviction. The Ontario Government estimates that by 2016 the number of fatalities from distracted driving may exceed those from drinking and driving.  Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already!
  1. Require drivers to wait until pedestrians have completed crossing the road at all crosswalks before proceeding. It’s great to see that Ontario finally got on board with this because this is the only place where I’ve driven where drivers have such a blatant disregard for pedestrians! Perhaps this is why pedestrians represent almost 20% of the motor vehicle-related fatalities on our roads.
  1. Increased Penalties (fines and demerits) for drivers who “door” cyclists. Any driver who blatantly opens a door or moves their vehicle for that matter without looking should be penalized for such carelessness.
  1. Require drivers maintain a minimum of 1 metre distance when passing cyclists. This is good but all too often I see cyclists riding side-by-side, hogging entire lanes of the road! I have no patience for those people. We are supposed to share the road, not hog it regardless of whether you are on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle!
  1. Denial of driver’s license plate renewal if the driver has any outstanding Provincial Offences Act fines. I thought that this was already a law but apparently I have been misinformed!
  1. Allow a broader range of qualified medical professionals to identify and report medically unfit drivers. I’m not sure exactly what this means.  I can see (pun intended) if an optometrist may deem an individual legally blind and therefore unfit to drive.  However to what extent would this apply to other medical professionals? Could a nurse, a naturopath, a chiropractor…etc deem someone unfit to drive? Where does the government draw the line?
  1. Application of existing alcohol-impaired penalties to drug-impaired drivers. I’m not sure exactly they intend to quantify the degree of impairment for drug users since there is currently no simple roadside test synonymous to a breathalyzer. They also didn’t specify as to whether or not this refers to just illegal drugs or if it also applies to prescription drugs.  Recent statistics in Ontario show that over 45% of drivers killed in a fatal car crash had alcohol and/or drugs in their system.  What does that say for the other 55% of drivers???

For the most part, I agree with all of these new penalties because I believe it will make our roads safer.  Where I am uncertain, is where the laws seem “too broad” and open to interpretation.

Furthermore, what is quite frightening is that the Ontario Government is also considering implementing an online monetary penalty system which would replace in-court procedures for resolving disputes.  What that means is that if you get a traffic ticket, it will no longer have any written details from the issuing officer, just a penalty notice indicating the amount of money due and the number of demerits that will be applied. It also means that you will lose your right to contest the decision of the issuing officer in a court of law, therefore losing the right to a “fair process”.

How do you feel about the implementation of these new laws?

How do these laws compare to the laws in your home province or state?

I would love to hear your feedback fellow road warriors.

In the meantime, safe travels.

Cheers,

TSW

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When the Four Elements Destroy Your Road Trip Plans

four elements

Because Sometimes Mother Nature Can Be A Bitch!

Now that its summer time, we generally don’t think of how the weather could interrupt our travel plans or at least I never did.  Here in Canada and in the northern US, snowstorms would be the most likely culprit to force us to put our plans to the way side. But interestingly, the only times I have had to make serious changes to my road trip plans have been during the summer months.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some instances where Mother Nature has lashed out with vengeance and no, I’m not referring to inclement weather like snow or rain.  Below are four instances where each of the 4 elements has grinded my travel plans to an absolute halt.  You can’t make up these excuses!

1. Earth: The Sinkhole that Swallowed My Car

stuckcar

While en route in central Ontario, I parked my car on a gravel country road and just as I put it into park, I felt the car shift downwards slightly to the right.  I stepped out of my car and noticed that the passenger side wheels were a few inches deep into the gravel so I got back in my car and attempted to drive out of that spot but unfortunately, I was stuck.  As I exited my vehicle, I noticed that it was sinking and quite rapidly so I reached for my phone to call CAA and low and behold, there was no cellular reception.  Within 15 minutes, two wheels on the driver’s side were up in the air and my car was rapidly sinking.   I had no choice but to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to use their phone.  Luckily they were home and as fate would have it, they recognized me from a store we both shopped at over 2 hours away! They informed me that CAA would take in excess of 2 hours to come out there so they offered to pull my car out with their pick-up truck and some chains.  By the time they got to my car with the pick-up truck, my car was completely on one side and in the ground up to the top of the passenger side window!!! Fortunately they were able to pull my car out and were even nice enough to rinse off all of the stones in the undercarriage and wheel wells for me before I went on my way.

2. Air: The Tornado that Almost Swept My Car Away

funnelcloud

A few years ago, I was driving through a small country town in Southwestern Ontario that had just been hit by a tornado a few days prior when the weather took a turn for the worst.  The wind, rain and hail was so intense that I couldn’t see anything so I pulled over and called my office to ask them to check if there was a tornado watch in the area.  The gal at my office informed me that there was a tornado warning for the area and that the radar map showed that one was likely occurring not too far away on my intended route.  With that information I decided to take an immediate detour but it was too late.  There was a deafening silence in the air and my ears began to pop.  I looked to my left and saw a funnel cloud touching the ground 80-100 yards away and it was approaching me.  I pressed my foot down on the gas pedal as far as it would go, but my car would not go faster than 120km/hr! I kept shouting to myself (well more like the car) “Come on! Come on! Go! Go! Go!!” It felt like I was barely moving and this funnel cloud was rapidly approaching, 50 yards….40 yards…It was terrifying but also an adrenaline rush like no other.  Fortunately I was able to beat the funnel cloud but only by a matter of a few yards before I would have been sucked into it or tossed around, whatever! That was a close call.  At that point I decided to just stop at the next town and cancel the rest of my day.  I was seriously off route and didn’t want to risk encountering another one of these beasts!

3. Fire: Forest Fires

kelownafireLast year when I was on a road trip in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, a series of severe forest fires broke out and several areas were being evacuated.  The first ones I could see were in western Kelowna.  I could see them from my hotel room and knowing that I had meetings with clients in that area the next day, I called them to ask them if they were ok and if they were under evacuation alert.  Needless to say, if you have to call your client and ask them if their property is on fire and if they are being evacuated, it might be best to cancel that meeting! Although my clients weren’t being evacuated (just their neighbors!), I offered to bring by some emergency supplies and help as needed since they no longer had power.  Obviously no sales happened on this call!

Later in my travels to the southern Okanagan, I had to completely cancel the rest of my trip and fly out of a different airport because there were two forest fires; one on each side of the ONLY highway going into the mountains where I was supposed to go.  It was quite an expense and inconvenience to have to cancel the rest of my trip, but it was far too dangerous to risk driving on a highway surrounded by fires. What if the highway gets closed? What if I run out of fuel? Then what? In cases like that, my safety takes priority over making a sale.  After all, if you aren’t around to collect that commission, what’s the point?

4. Water: Massive Flooding

calgaryflood

Two years ago I had flown to Calgary for a conference and had planned to cover southern Alberta which I normally do in the spring but this particular year I had to cancel my plans because heavy snowstorms caused the closure of all primary highways to the south. I suppose as fate would have it, I was not going to be seeing any clients in southern Alberta that year because when I flew in, southern Calgary and all areas south experienced massive flooding and many of my clients even lost their homes. In speaking with some other sales reps and the conference, I was shocked that some of them actually had the nerve to try and see these clients.  I’m sorry but if your client just experienced some major natural disaster and suffered extreme damages or lost their home, I don’t think it is at all appropriate to try and make a sales call!!!  Have some respect and common sense people!

In my position, I cover all of Canada so I only get to see my clients once per year. I spend a significant amount of money travelling and invest a lot of effort into arranging these meetings, so I will do anything to avoid cancelling a meeting. I absolutely HATE having to cancel meetings! Sometimes however, instances like these arise that make it physically impossible to make to a meeting or an entire leg of my trip and  you just have to put your safety first and be cognizant of others’ situations.

So travel safe my fellow road warriors!

Cheers,

TSW

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Top 4 New Vehicles for Sales Representatives

BusinesWomanInCAr

Having a sales territory that encompasses the entire country of Canada, it’s only inevitable that I do my fair share of driving. I routinely drive quite far from my home base in my own car but I will not drive across the country.

When I fly to Western Canada for example, I always rent vehicles.  For someone who is regularly in the market for a new vehicle, this is a huge perk because not only am I exposed to so many different types of vehicles that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of but I also have the opportunity to drive them for extended periods of time.

When most of us are purchasing a vehicle, we may only spend 10 minutes giving it a test drive.  In my opinion this is not enough time considering the amount of money you will be spending nor is it sufficient for deciding whether or not the vehicle is suited to you and your needs.  If I will be spending over 1/3 of my day in a vehicle, I want to make damn sure that it is:

  1. Safe (i.e. drives well in the snow, has a sufficient number of airbags, performed well in crash tests)
  2. Comfortable
  3. Functional (i.e. has enough power outlets storage space, compartments, etc.)
  4. Affordable (both in terms of payments and fuel economy)
  5. Has Sufficient Storage Space (for literature, equipment, personal items etc.)

*Note that the above criteria are not necessarily in order of importance.

When you spend 10-20 minutes test driving a vehicle, can you be assured that that vehicle meets all of those criteria?

So, all of that being said, based on my experience driving several different types of vehicles for extended periods of time in different road conditions, this is my list of the best new cars for sales reps or other road warriors. I say ‘new’ because most companies require their sales reps to drive relatively new vehicles and therefore I will not include reliability in the criteria because new cars all come with a standard warranty.

Top 4 New Vehicles for Sales Representatives <$50,000:

***Note: I kept the figure below $50,000 because I am of the belief that if you are in sales your car should look nice, but not be too flashy and expensive. Your car is an extension of you and the company you represent.  You want to look professional, sharp, savvy but NOT flashy or cheap.

4. Toyota Rav4 AWD

Toyota-Rav4This is a solid all-round vehicle that is comfortable, affordable, roomy and drives well in the winter. The Rav4 used to be my #2 choice, however in recent years its quality and functionality has declined. Recent models performed poorly in crash tests and the handling is noticeably looser making it feel more unstable.  The other setback which applies to us road warriors is that there is only a single power outlet, so good luck if 2 of your multiple devices needs a charge!

3. Chevrolet Impala

Chevrolet-Impala-2015Out of all the cars I’ve rented, I have driven these the most.  They are comfortable and very spacious which is great if you’re setting up a mobile office.  Fuel economy has improved over the years but isn’t the best in its class which can be a pain if you do a lot of driving and need to fill up every day. Although it is only a FWD, it is quite front heavy and drives very well in the snow if you have a good set of winter tires. The Impala has recently been redesigned to give it a more polished look which I find appealing. It no longer looks like you borrowed Grandpa’s car.   Overall, this is a working man’s car that functions very well and is safe.

2. Jeep Compass 4×4

2015_Jeep_CompassI never thought that I would include a Jeep on my list because of their historical poor reliability and bad reputation for being gas guzzlers, but after driving this vehicle for 3 days, I completely changed my mind.  The biggest shocker was the fuel economy.  I was pleasantly surprised to get approximately 600km on a single tank.  It was also extremely comfortable to ride in. The dash was nothing fancy, but it was functional and had multiple power sources which is essential for any mobile office!  There is a tremendous amount of storage space although the vehicle itself is quite small and handles extremely well in tight situations as well as in the snow.  The 4×4 option is a huge plus if you drive in the winter.

  1. VW Passat TDI

VWPassatTDIThis car is by far the best car for sales representatives and needless to say, that is why purchased one.  Aside from the luxury look (both interior and exterior), it is extremely comfortable, spacious and most importantly, you can’t beat the fuel economy!  As you can see in this photo below, I got 1000km (approx 621 miles) on a single tank (actually only using 54L or 14.5 gallons) without the fuel indicator warning going off.

VWDash1000km

Diesel is still cheaper than gasoline here in Canada, so that is an additional savings. The handling is far superior to any Japanese or American vehicle.  The steering is tight and solid. Although it is only a FWD, it is excellent in the snow when equipped with snow tires.

The biggest shocker about this vehicle is the price.  Even though it looks and handles like a luxury car, it is cheaper to run and maintain than a Honda Civic!

Honda Civic Sedan:  Base Price $28,500 CAD. Driving Range: I was filling up every 350km at a cost of $45-50CAD

VW Passat TDI: Base Price for Comfortline (model I have) $29,000 CAD. Driving Range: I fill up every 950km at a cost of $55-60 CAD

In a perfect world I would have a 4×4 or AWD Diesel vehicle but unfortunately, it is impossible to find one for under $55K CAD.  So in the end, I opted for the most fuel efficient “luxury-looking” vehicle that performs well enough in the winter with a good set of snow tires.

If you’re a road warrior who is in the market for a new vehicle and are looking for an unbiased opinion on different models, feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to help.

In the meantime, drive safe fellow road warriors!

Cheers,

TSW

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