5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started Traveling – Stories From Home, A Podcast

5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started Traveling – Stories From Home, A Podcast

*** SHOW NOTES ***

Still being recorded in the beautiful home office of Chateau Relaxo, FL.

Guess who got to go to the airport a few weeks ago? This guy, but it wasn’t for a trip. One of the Chateau Relaxo residents had a friend coming to town and took this as a perfect opportunity to see how my old friend, Orlando International was doing. This was the first time I’d been more than ten miles away from home since mid-March and traffic on the turnpike was surprisingly light, especially at 5:30 PM, the same went for 528 the only artery heading into the airport  

The road leading into the airport was barren, no Disney buses and no off-site parking buses, it was me and maybe three other cars. The parking garage was empty, and I mean empty, possibly 20 cars on the third level which is where I normally park. Going into the terminal I passed one person, and it was an employee cleaning the hand railings, weird. 

The MCO atrium is normally a beehive of activity, crying kids, both heading to and heading from Disney. Nowhere did I see a single set of mouse ears. No cheerleader carrying a trophy that was nearly as tall as they were. There were no lines for TSA, and there were possibly 5 TSA agents working the lines. The Disney and Seaworld stores were both closed, only Starbucks was open, and there was no line, which is an abnormality.

I debriefed the friend about the trip  They flew in from Sac-Town Sacramento, CA. Side note, I’ve had several emails for a Chateau Relaxo to english translation show, it’s in the works.  They flew on Southwest, were issued a mask before boarding and all the middle seats were empty. Since this was only their second flight ever I didn’t ask about the boarding procedure since they didn’t have a reference point, but they did say they were thirsty from all the peanuts they got to eat  

Onto today’s episode, it’s 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started Traveling. Maybe I should’ve titled this “The travel mistakes of my past are wisdom for your travel future”.

I’ve onboarded a handful of coworkers over the years, baby road warriors as I like to call them. After HR has them complete the required forms myself or someone on my team will spend a bit of time with them covering the in and outs of business travel.

Things like:

  •  Your dietary plan is about to be tested. Every hotel offers delicious pastries, or at least they used to and ordering late-night McDonald’s using UberEats or DoorDash is super convenient; it might not work to your advantage in the long run. If you partake too much in all of this goodness your wife and doctor will be pissed.
  • Don’t drink alone. Be it at a bar or in your hotel room, this is a bad road and you don’t want to go down it.
  • Move, not your residence but your body. Every single day go for a walk, do yoga, stretch, or do some bodyweight exercises. Spend the $15.00 per month for Audibles or Spotify to stave off the boredom during those 30-minutes. If You’re financially conservative hit up YouTube for a bunch of free stuff. 
  • If you’re working a convention remove your badge as soon as you leave the convention floor. That badge is a beacon for all of the ladies out there that you are from out of town and more than likely unsupervised. Also, don’t buy new shoes for a convention.
  • If you plan to fly, buy TSA precheck best $80.00 around.

All useful tips, but for the most part, they’re common sense except for the convention badge, that one comes from experience.

Time for the 5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I First Started Traveling

  1. The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten also known as Buy once cry once – This might also be a life lesson. 

Ever go to a Marshalls or TJ Maxx? Ever looked at their luggage section? The average price for a suitcase is $69.00, no matter what size. Do you know why? Because after the wheels disintegrate or the handle refuses to collapse they know that you’ll be back to buy another $69.00 piece of luggage where the wheels will disintegrate or the handle will refuse to collapse. I went through several Swiss Army laptop bags when I first started traveling, the average time-to-failure for a strap, zipper, or buckle was about 18 months. I use an Everki Atlas bag as my everyday carry and it has stood up to my abuse. I like their bags so much that I got an Atlas roller for my wife and a 420 Trolley for quick overnight trips.

We hired a coworker about 15 years ago, and he dropped $700 on a TUMI rolling computer bag. It has a lifetime warranty, and to this day it looks like it did 15 years ago. That’s less than $4.00 per month. Basically a gooey-fap once each month, that’ll be on the Chateau Relaxo to English episode  

Use the “Buy Once Cry Once” philosophy with other travel-related accessories. Buy a decent travel umbrella not the $9.00 one at the corner drugstore. Living in Florida my need for a winter coat is minimal, however, my Patagonia Nano will last for years unless I pack on the pounds. 

 

  1. Loyalty Counts

I spent my first five years of traveling switching between hotel brands as well as airlines. 25% of my road warrior points more than likely wasted. 

My hotel choices were all over the road, Holiday Inn Express amazing cinnamon rolls, LaQuinta, has some nice properties, and I can’t forget the America’s Best Value Inn in Maryland where the parking lot was full of police as the cab dropped me off. The same went for airlines during my first five years of traveling. Being based out of Atlanta it would make sense to fly Delta, not for me, it was AirTran, American Airlines, Delta, and ValuJet. 

After 5 years of travel, I had attained silver status with every single hotel brand as well as having a handful of points with every airline that flew out of Atlanta. Which made for a great family trip if we all stayed in different hotels and all took different flights.

It wasn’t until I met Chris Brown that he explained the value of being brand loyal and then parlaying that loyalty into points. Look, You’re exchanging your head in a bed or your butt in a seat for points, make it work to your advantage.      

  1. Track Your Travel

I’ve talked about this in the past, find some way, maybe multiple ways to remember your trips. For business travel, I use a couple of methods. 

For food, hotels, and attractions, I post both Yelp and Google reviews. I try to leave detailed reviews complete with pictures. 

For destinations, I’ve used Swarm, formerly FourSquare since it’s inception.

For our family trips

Family trip information is uploaded to my DayOne journal. The geotagging features remind me of where we were and then I can fill in the details, including additional tags. Finally, my office is filled with pictures of our family trips. Short of local booze, the only physical trinkets we bring back are ornaments for our Christmas tree. Small, easily packable, and usually show some of the local flavors and a great reminder each December.

  1. Travel Experiences Begin Outside Your Comfort Zone

There are destination vacations. For instance, if you’re a roller coaster fan it makes sense to spend time at the various theme parks riding coasters. If you love fly fishing, Montana is well suited and again makes sense. However, incorporating some side trips into those vacations is a great way to take you outside of your comfort zone.

If you come to O-town for the theme parks it’s easy to take a break from the parks and do any of the following. 

Ponce Water Sports offers a 90-minute Manatee & Dolphin Boat Tours, as well as fishing and parasailing. Interested in having a vacation that you’ll talk about for years? Looking for something to do with Grandma’s ashes? Ponce offers burial at sea experience. Only in Florida and only 90 minutes from Orlando.

Since you’re on the east coast you can make the hour drive down to Kennedy Space Center. The complex is broken up into mission zones such as Heroes & Legends, Race To The Moon as well as NASA Now. Daily admission is a little as $30.00 for adults, and I guarantee you won’t get in the Mouse House that cheap.

Not looking to “Trigger” anyone but did you know you can shoot legit machine guns while in Orlando. You can do it at Machine Gun America. From their website – 

Our mission is simple-to provide each of our guests with big thrills and unforgettable action, as well as a bullet hole-ridden target to take home as a souvenir. You’ll get the opportunity to shoot real machine guns and other world-class firearms. 

Multiple priced packages from $150.00 all the way up to $2000

The $170.00 Experience Includes:

  • MGA Logo Hat
  • MGA Logo T-Shirt
  • Eye & Ear Protection
  • Basic Silhouette Target
  • One-on-one Range Safety Officer Interaction & Instruction

 

You get to Choose 3 firearms from the following

  • The Commando**
  • UZI**
  • KR-9
  • KPOS Scout

All guns come with 25 rounds for a grand total of 75 rounds. Now I’m not a gun guy other than shotguns, but I have watched the complete Fast-N-Furious series and from what I can tell 75 rounds will last you right around 53 seconds. 

You can look for the same side trips most anywhere you travel to. Consider, ziplining, whitewater rafting or a cooking school. If you’re a real adrenaline junky, there’s tandem sky-diving as well as driving schools.

Last year I talked about much of this on my “How Not To Die On Vacation” episode.

Rule #1 Leave your ego at home…..

At Chateau’ Relaxo we regularly take family vacations that involve some sort of adventure, but my wife or I vet the situation before we sign any sort of a release. Often it’s not always the safety involved, but knowing the limits, both physical and mental of those participating.

Several years ago one of the kids wanted to do a zip line course at Hawksnest North Carolina. A few years prior one of them had backed out of a high wire course in Georgia about 50′ feet into it. We took them to the zip line course and let them eyeball the first platform and then make their own decision. They decided that this wasn’t for them. No need to make them do anything that they weren’t comfortable with. Besides no one wants to deal with someone losing their mind 200′ above ground on a 10′ by 6′ platform. Plus it saved us a few hundred dollars.

That being said, an adventure while on vacation can teach you a bit about yourself. Several years ago another one of the kids decided to venture into cliff jumping while on a whitewater rafting trip on the Watauga River. He’s a good swimmer and was wearing a life jacket so he got the parental nod. Let’s just say he learned a lot about himself once he hit the 60-degree water.

I ended the episode with these thoughts :

  • Can’t swim – Stay away from the water, no scuba diving or rafting.
  • Scared of heights – Stay on the ground, don’t parachute, hang glide, zip-line, or rock climb.
  • Don’t like horses – Don’t ride one.
  • Weak stomach – If you’re away from home it’s not the time to expand your food choices, especially if you’re overseas.
  • If you’re going someplace unfamiliar look it up on YouTube, don’t trust what you read on Yelp, Trip Advisor, or your neighbor tells you.

Here’s a bit more food for thought, those releases you blindly sign, they’re pretty ironclad. If their income stream relies on that release being held up in court, you better believe that several lawyers wrote it.

  1. Get Your Undergrad In Packing

Baby road warriors pack too much, it’s a reality, and I was guilty of it. The bigger the suitcase the more stuff you will pack.

  • All hotel rooms will have a hairdryer, you don’t need to bring your own. 
  • Two pairs of shoes, at most
  • Pack items that can be used for multiple events
  • Get a nice well-tailored sports coat. 15 years ago it would’ve been a blue blazer, the current day it could easily be tweed or herringbone that pairs well with jeans and resembles the fabric on your grandparent’s sofa.

A few times over the years I’ve had my suitcase not arrive at the same destination that  I did. Unless your suitcase is filled with diamonds and gold the airlines will find your bag and return it to you within a day or two. Every town will have a Walmart or target where for around $150.00 you can dress yourself in business casual attire. The key is to immediately blame the airlines as soon as you walk into your meeting looking like you just got your clothes out of the hamper.

There you go, roughly $1700.00 worth of internet information reduced to $99.00 if you act now, a perfect infomercial.

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