Travel Mistakes

Travel Mistakes

“You can handle just about anything that comes at you out on the road with a believable grin, common sense and whiskey.” Bill Murray,

We, as human beings make mistakes. It is part of our DNA. Even the best travelers make mistakes. Take a deep breath and move on. Here are some of my worst travel mistakes.

Failing to triple check your flight’s date, time and departure airport. This can lead to all sorts of disasters, including missing flights (yup), long layovers and even trying to leave from the wrong airport (twice). Your airline may book your departure from a different airport than your arrival. Check on every leg of your trip. 12 AM flights for me are a disaster. You only make that mistake once.

Over packing is my biggest problem. Most airlines charge for each checked bag and some even charge for carry on luggage. If you go over the weight limit, you’ll pay a big penalty. Small planes might not even take your bag. Cost aside, schlepping heavy, overstuffed bags through crowded airports and airport security is a nightmare. I am always doing this and swearing that next time that I won’t. But I do.

Not getting travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance. Accidents or a sudden illness can happen anytime, to anyone, even if you’re young and healthy. Travel insurance is especially important if you’re traveling to a country like the United States where a routine medical emergency, like a broken leg, is crazy expensive. It does take a while to get your money back but eventually, you do.

Not booking enough time between flights. You only have to miss a connection once or twice to know it is something you don’t want to do again.  I never take that one-hour connection anymore. There are too many variables for me.You have to claim your baggage at the point of entry now and that always takes more time than you think. Large airports are a problem. I have missed planes in Chicago, Miami, London, and Sydney. Weather is always a problem. There is always what I like to call Hakuna Matata in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave.

Over scheduling. It is never fun to pack too many activities and too many countries into one trip. I plan a lot but I have learned to go with the flow. I feel that you do and see whatever it is that you are supposed to. Be flexible.

Keep your valuables in the safe and check that safe before you leave. Also, remember to close the safe when you leave the room.  Yes, I made that mistake in Argentina.  Yes, I have left my passport in the room in St Petersburg and my jewelry in Johannesburg. Jet lag and many days of traveling will do that to you.

Not checking Visa Requirements. I have done this twice now. Don’t expect someone else to tell you. Your travels agent or tour company may think they told you and they might have but you didn’t hear it.  It turns out that you need a visa in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Australia. I had been to Australia before and forgot that part. Many countries issue Visa on arrival. Brazil does not and it takes longer than you think to get it. Same with Myanmar.

Always grab some local currency when you arrive in a country at the airport.  Also, carry extra cash for emergencies. Everyone in the world does not take credit cards. I am a worrier so I always get some before I leave. It is easier now with cash machines but depending on where you are, they are not always so easy to find.

Not letting your bank and credit card companies know that you are out of the country.  I watched in horror in London as the cash machine took my bank card. Apparently, I had not called to let them know I was there. In Spain, my credit card was turned down all day and when I called they were surprised that I had gone without a word.

Not checking airline security rules. Airline security changes all the time. If there is a recent terrorist attack, there are more rules. Nothing is more annoying than having to throw out your carry on stuff. If you have health issues, make sure you carry prescriptions and a doctor’s note.

So the next time you book the wrong flight or screw up something know that even the best travelers have made these mistakes (more than once) and survived. I learn from them and hope I don’t make them again – but I probably will.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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What Not To Bring To New Zealand

What Not To Bring  To New Zealand

“Anything to declare? the customs inspector said.”Two pounds of uncut heroin and a manual of pornographic art,” Mark answered, looking about for Kitty. All Americans are comedians, the inspector thought, as he passed Parker through.” Leon Uris, Exodus

Biosecurity entering  New Zealand is definitely a bigger threat to them than terrorist security. New Zealand depends heavily on natural resources and agriculture and they have gone to great lengths to prevent foreign organisms or disease from entering and harming the country’s wildlife, plant life, marine life and health. I know this because I waited in a queue for two hours to be checked for fruit. If you carry an Australian or New Zealand passport, their line moves faster.

The best thing is not to bring anything with you that resembles food. I ate my almonds while I waited. The sign says no dairy products, honey products, meat, fish, fresh foods, anything not sealed in manufacturer’s packaging or any plant material including seeds, cuttings, and bulbs. Also excluded from entry are some medicinal or natural health products, especially anything unpackaged or without a full list of ingredients. You may also need to be wary of materials such as animal hide, bones or teeth etc. I really want to make some jokes here but I won’t because I was really annoyed about that wait.

If you are bringing outdoor equipment such as tramping boots, camping, fishing or diving gear, this also needs to be declared. It is also a good idea to make sure that your gear is clean, give it a good wash and clean off any debris, such as plant material or soil.

There are specially trained dogs at the airport to check for food. How specially trained does a dog have to be for that? There is an exhaustive list on the MPI  website of things that you cannot bring in. (Ministry for Primary Industries not Military Police Information as I originally thought)

Having an Arabic sounding last name when pronounced wrong, I’m used to being thoroughly checked for weapons and really did not understand the seriousness of this.  I did not declare the closed big bags of M and M peanuts, jelly bellys and vitamin C bars  in my luggage. It passed through the  food X-ray machine and no one went through my bags as they normally do. Apparently I look more like a terrorist then a candy smuggler. 

If you don’t declare any at risk goods you are immediately fined 400 NZ dollars and it can go up to 100,000 NZ dollars. So declare all food. I will next time also.They will decide if you can keep it or not. 

There is a big  interactive exhibit in the Wellington Museum called Catch the Invaders where you can pretend to be the MPI. I was finally able to comprehend the importance of this. New Zealand’s isolated geography has been helpful in keeping disease and pests out. Greater international trade, climate change and tourism makes it vulnerable to new pests and diseases that will affect their wildlife and economy. New Zealand is a beautiful country that still has vast areas of wilderness  and I understand now why they want to keep it that way. (photo Cordula Reins)

Fly safe,

JAZ

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” Jack Kerouac

Flying is stressful these days.  Passengers are more nervous to fly than ever. Going on a plane gives people a lot of anxiety. It is annoying to get to the airport an hour or two before a flight. Security is a headache. Fear of terrorism makes flying scary.  Flights are crowded. Fewer people are willing to volunteer to take a later flight. By the time you are on the plane, you just want to get where you are going safely.

My older cousin worked for United Airlines. It was at a time when stewardesses were always beautiful and families of employees could travel for free. Planes weren’t crowded and he was proud that he could always score first class tickets for his parents. My cousin’s license plate was FTFS    Fly the Friendly Skies. He loved his job. He was sick for a while and died young – a week before 9/11 happened. We were glad that he missed that.  What would he think about this particular incident?

There is no explaining away the forceful removal of a person with a ticket from an airplane seat who is bloodied in the process, because the airline has overbooked the plane. Computers are not always able to solve human problems. People who fly on Sunday nights tend to have to be in work Monday as well. We have no idea what was going on in his head, how he felt about flying to begin with or what he had to do to cause that reaction.

I read an article about this particular passenger’s character and mental state.  An unknown number of passengers travel with every kind of mental disorder. Many have sat next to me. It is alarming that they are trying to turn this around and blame him. I don’t know how I would have reacted being told that I was randomly selected to leave the plane so a stewardess could get to work. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

If airlines are going to throw people off flights where they will be losing income from their jobs, vacation days, non refundable hotels or activities, they have to offer better compensation. My price is a first class cross-country ticket or 50,000 frequent flier miles but that is just me. 

Several years ago, my friends and I were walking slowly through an airport to change flights to return home from a school ski trip. When we got to the gate, we were told that the flight was overbooked and we would have to spend twenty-four hours in Brussels. It made sense not to let us get on, if we couldn’t fly.  I was a bit surprised because we were sixteen and seventeen years old, part of a chaperoned school group and in a foreign country for the first time.

No one paid us, took our luggage off or called our parents who were waiting at the airport the next day. It was clearly a different time and a European airline. We were escorted to an elegant old hotel in the center of Brussels.  Dinner  had a dress code and since we did not have the correct attire or any attire with us, they asked us to eat an hour early and prepared a special dinner so we could taste some local food. We walked around the city and went to some bars where no one asked us for ID. In the morning we saw more of the city and then they came and picked us up and escorted us to the gate for our flight. We had fun and got to see Brussels. 

I still get nervous if I am at the end of a line going on a plane that it will be overbooked and I will not get on. Do I have to worry about being dragged off a flight as well? Given all the highly mediated flying incidents, did they really need to do this?  Bad behavior doesn’t stop being bad behavior just because the airline says it is legal.

Fly safe, (and I mean it)

JAZ

Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love, mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”Talmud

The Global Peace Index measures each year the national peacefulness of a country based on  perceptions of criminality, security officers and police, homicides, incarceration, access to weapons, intensity of internal conflict, violent demonstrations, violent crime, political instability, political terror, weapon imports, terrorism impact and deaths from internal conflict.

I’ve done blogs about it before rating the safest countries and the not  safest countries to visit.

But what really shocks me  is that the US  is a slacker when it comes to promoting positive peace. It is rated 103 on a list of 163 countries. This means that there are are a 102 countries that are safer to visit and live in than the US. Our performance  number is lowered because of the number of people in our prison system and our involvement in conflicts overseas.

There are the usual but many were surprising to me. Uganda is rated 101. Uganda is safer to visit than the US – apparently. Jordan (where I just was) is much safer at 96. Angola, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Gambia, are all in the nineties. Haiti, Burkina Faso Peru, Cuba, Bangladesh  and Paraguay  have a rating in the eighties. Liberia, Benin, Oman and Senegal are in the seventies. Nicaragua, Argentina, Mozambique, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the sixties.  Madagascar is above Italy  which is rated 39. Chile and Botswana are in the twenties.

According to the data, we are further away from World Peace then ever with the Middle East dragging us down. 

The most peaceful countries continue to improve their rating while the least peaceful ones are getting worse. Violence and conflict are escalating.  The world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

In case you just woke up from a coma, the world is less peaceful this year than it was last year.

Fly safe,

JAZ

I Am Not My Passport

 I Am Not My Passport

“Should such an ignorant people lead the world?  How did it come to this in the first place?  Eighty two  percent of us don’t even have a passport. Just a handful can speak a language other than English (and we don’t even speak that very well.)’  Michael Moore

I have the passport of an international drug smuggler. It has visas from Myanmar, Brazil, Argentina, Cambodia and Viet Nam and stamps from  Mexico, Thailand, Turkey and Colombia. There are stamps in it from six of  the seven continents on this passport. My passport says to passport control, airport ticket counters and security, “Yes I know to take my shoes off. I know the weight my suitcase should be regardless of whether it is or not. Of course I have global entry.” Now that security screening is more efficient,  I am no longer being racially profiled for having a Middle Eastern sounding name when pronounced wrong. This passport says that I am a World Traveler.

 Every ten years there is a new passport and  a ten-year older photo.   My passport is full a lot earlier this time because of all these visas.  I went to get more pages and was told that as of January first  you can no longer do that and you have to get a new passport. If you travel a lot you have to ask for extra pages when you apply.  I’m devastated. I can get through another trip as long as I don’t have a visa. I’m going to plan to travel to a few countries where I don’t need one. It’s only five years and I’m just not ready.

Our possessions do make up our identity and express who we are to the world to some extent. Or maybe we acquire certain things to project the kind of identity we want to have.

When I lived in New York City, you were judged by the neighborhood you lived in. No one ever had to see your apartment. You were from the East Side, an Upper Westsider or a Downtown girl. Brooklyn was not cool then and if you lived anywhere but Manhattan you were Bridge and Tunnel people.

 In LA, it was all about what car you drove. I proudly had a new Jeep Cherokee. I felt so Californian.  One day I drove my husband’s new Jaguar. It was a different world. It was like I had suddenly become a blonde. The valet parking guy at the restaurant ran to open my door. The parents at the mommy and me class engaged me in conversation. I hadn’t noticed that I was the only one not driving a foreign car.

I hate to see this passport go. It has stamps from some of my favorite countries. I take it out and look at it because I can’t believe that I really went to all these places.  The first entry was a visa for Myanmar. That was cool.  It has a new South Africa stamp from my daughter’s wedding, I made them do it very dark. This is the passport that I learned to travel alone with. I’m not ready for airport and hotel staff to think that I have not been anywhere.

The next one will start with Australia (because I need a visa) and New Zealand. This one will get just as crowded. I’m ordering the supersize.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Do Not Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Fear

Do Not Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Fear

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by
yourself. It is not far.  It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since
you were born, and did not know.  Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and
land.” Walt Whitman

The US State Department has a worldwide travel warning in effect.

“U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events”

What this warning does is play into our culture of fear. If something should happen anywhere in the world, the State Department is covered.

When you look at the statistics, your likelihood of being killed by terrorists when traveling are less than your likelihood of being struck by lightning when traveling. Unless you are a single woman over the age of fifty.  In that case, your likelihood of getting killed by terrorists is higher than your chance of finding true love and getting married. The number one cause of death abroad for tourists is car crashes.

Here are a few things that will probably kill you. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the US. The death certificate for my ninety-one year old mother said that.  Prescription medication, brain parasites, something large falling on top of you and police officers kill a lot of people.

It’s the media’s job to give us a play by-play of every horrific thing happening in the world and it’s my job to fight my resulting anxiety and paranoia. We put a lot of power into the idea of a potential threat.

Psychologically we are more afraid of a terrorist attack because it is a new unfamiliar fear than car crashes and heart disease that we hear about all the time. One incident with multiple deaths is scarier than many incidents the same day of single deaths. This is why plane crashes are scarier than car crashes which are far more likely to happen. The uncertainty of where to travel is scary. We don’t know where they will hit next so you really can’t plan and control what will happen. Chances are small to none that it will seriously affect your trip. The best thing to increase your travel safety is to plan to drive carefully to the airport.

Drive safe,
JAZ

How To Survive A Long Plane Ride

How To Survive A Long Plane Ride

“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Long flights aren’t pretty.  I start thinking about the amount of fidgeting I will be doing. i imagine a kid kicking my seat or a screaming baby for 15 hours straight. I think about the inflight meal and what the bathroom will start to look like half way through. I picture the bad movies and tv sitcom reruns i will be watching to pass the time.

The first hour of the flight is pretty manageable. Then it starts to dawn on me that I am stuck in an aluminum can for an interminable amount of time. Sometimes it helps to make a schedule and break the flight up into time chunks. Two hours to do work, three hours to watch movies, an hour to blog, etc. This can work better than constantly looking at the time.

It is so important to stay hydrated. Airplanes dehydrate you quickly which can make you feel bad and also do a number on your skin and eyes. Bring travel sizes of moisturizer, hand cream, eye cream, eye drops, water spray, chapstick and a reusable water bottle. Vapur water bottles roll up to fit in your pocket and can hold a liter of water. Eating protein is better than carbs because carbohydrates hold water making you bloated, Caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you even further.

Flying takes a toll on everyone’s freshness. Colgate wisps or a toothbrush, breath mints or mouth wash and deodorant will help you and the people around you feel better.

Slip on shoes and compression socks for health risks such as blood clots are good to have with you and will help with circulation. Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing. Sweat pants don’t have to be your go to travel attire. (I did wear them for a long time. I’m not proud of this.) You can wear leggings and a long sweater or comfortable jeans and a loose-fitting shirt.

Anything that helps to pass the time is useful -Tablet, iPod, book, magazines, movies, etc. For me it  is Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood. I bring a stack of trashy magazines and watch as many movies as I can.

Noise cancelling headphones, fuzzy socks and a scarf/blanket makes it easier to sleep.
I wrote another blog about that. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2015/11/03/how-to-sleep-on-a-plane/

I always get off long flights feeling like the Tin Man – creaky bones, cramped muscles, neck and back knots, and all around uncomfortable. Now I do some stretches and yoga poses that are conducive to small spaces and it definitely helps.

Long flights are usually exciting because it means you are going somewhere amazing. A long uncomfortable flight is a small price to pay for seeing the world.
Fly safe,
JAZ