Friday, April 27, 2012

Madrid Pics

I loved Madrid.  I visited last May, and according to the locals, this is the perfect time to visit.  The weather was great.  Perfect days and cooler evenings.  The people were very friendly, even to a non-Spanish speaker.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prague Pics

Prague Old Town Square.  Day and Night shot of Church of Our Lady before Týn.  This is also one of my favorite cities.  I hope to visit again when it is warmer.  

An Airport Drinking Game....

The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake of water for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. For women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Most of us don't even come close.  As a result, we walk around mildly dehydrated every day.  Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired [1].  

Air travel dehydrates you further.  Alcohol dehydrates you further.  Flying and drinking....bad idea.  So no need to add booze to the mix.  My drinking game involves a nice cool bottle of water.  In order to stay hydrated and take the total boredom out of drinking water, I've developed my drinking game.   

After passing through security get yourself a bottle of least 20 oz.   So when in the airport, there are lots of possibilities here.. every time you hear the keyword, then take a sip of water.  

Possible keywords....the airline name, your destination city, a child crying (this is especially effective in the summer months), boarding, delay, thank you, apologize, etc. If you really want to mix it up, then you can go with visual cues.  Man with Bluetooth headset, Woman with Louis Vuitton bag, anyone that has jumped off the fashion train,  parent chasing child, you decide!  Plenty of options.  After you are on the plane, well you need to finish that bottle, so switch to 'seat belt', or 'safety'.  That water will be gone before takeoff.   

I also recommend drinking a glass or two while on board, depending upon the length of the flight.  Then another bottle within an hour or two after you land.  All of this should be in additional to the recommended amounts list above.  You might have to visit that closet-sized toilet in the back of the plane, but you will be better off in the long run.  This practice has taken much of the 'lag' of out my jet lag.  You'll thank me later. 

[1] - Water: How much should you drink every day?, Mayo Clinic

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Keeping Your Phone Data Safe

How to keep your data safe if you lose your phone:

Remote wipe capabilities are a must.  This article discusses options for each phone type.

Thanks to my friend Dave for the article suggestion. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Travel Saftey/Wisdom

Tip for today:  Don't take anything on the trip you cannot live without.  Even with locked suitcases, hotel rooms safes, and being as vigilant as we can, stuff is going to get lost or stolen.

For me, this means I leave all Credit Cards at home except my corporate card. I do carry a debit card and not much actual cash.  Carry about $20 in cash.  You can always ATM.

Another popular idea is to have a travel account just for trips.  Have a debit card specifically for this travel  account.  Then transfer one hundred dollars to this account/debit card before going on a trip.  If the travel debit card is lost/stolen, my entire checking account balance is not at risk, only a few dollars.   Have this travel debit card at the same bank as your 'real' checking account.  You can always go online and transfer a little more cash to the travel checking account if needed, but you don't expose all your checking account funds to possible travel losses.

I wear very little jewelry, so this area is not a concern for me.  However, I do see some really nice jewelry when I travel. I just quietly shake my head when I see a man sitting at a hotel bar wearing a Rolex.  Just don't carry the really expensive stuff.  Two reasons: you become a target and the potential loss is greater.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Using Public Transportation

You will get a lot more of a city's culture if you ride the public transportation and see the people.   I never drive a car outside the US/Canada, and rarely drive in the larger cities of North America.  I try to use public transport when I can.  First, it saves my company a little bit of money.  Second, it makes my trips much more interesting using public transit.  If you have a sense of adventure....give it a try.

Some folks are opposed to this option and are going to use a cab.  To each his or her own....but if you are a little more budget limited, then consider public transport.

Tips on public transport: 

Know Before You Go.  These days every public transport system has a website.  Once you have booked your trip, and know the location of your hotel and your destination, then form a plan.  Just Google it.  Get a general feel of the overall system. Most have a trip planner, where you can enter your point of origin and destination and it will display several public transit option, based on your departure time.  Most systems in the US are easy to understand.  The European models with Trams, Buses, Trains, and Subways (Munich, for example) can get a little confusing.  Find the stops closest to your destination on Google Maps.  Google Maps will often display bus, tram, and subway stops.  Often I use this in combination with the city transportation website.   Discover where (and how) to buy tickets.  See if you can use a credit card to purchase, or need cash to buy tickets.

The main stuff you should learn ahead of time:

  • Schedule, not exactly to the minute when your trains/buses depart, but just a general sense of how often they arrive and depart. 
  • Fares - is the cost flat, or does it change based on the distance traveled? 
  • Availability of Passes - Can I get a pass? How much? What frequencies are available?  Daily, 3 day, weekly, etc.
  • Route Names/Numbers - You definitely want to know the route you are going to take, For example, "I take the #66 bus to the Main St stop towards Middleton, then I switch to the #44 Bus in the direction of the Airport, then I exit at Cherry St stop, and walk 1/2 mile on Cherry Street towards destination.".  Note that I know the direction in which I must travel for each bus.  This is very important.  Most buses/trains/metros will have a sign on the vehicle which indicates the final stop.  You need to know which direction you should be travelling.  For the bus/train lines you will be using most frequently, you should write down the termination stops and indicate which direction you should be going.  My biggest goofs in public transport always involve heading in the wrong direction on a bus or subway. 
Get The App.  I was working at a location in Europe, and while working, one of the locals indicated that a local attraction was just a few minutes from the office.  I really wanted to go see it.  I was not going to do it, however, explaining that I was unfamiliar with the transport system.  This colleague helped me download the local app for public transport, and we figured out how to get there, and how to get to my hotel from there. If there is an app available, you should get it.  Many of these are free or have a 'light' version that is free.  But some will require a small payment.  Yeah, it is 99 cents, or even $1.99, for just a few days in a city.  And you might not ever use it again.  However, if you use the public transit as an alternative to cabs, you are still coming out way ahead in overall costs.  Plus, you never know what impromptu adventure you might want to go on.  Don't let the fact that you are unfamiliar with the system be an inhibitor, download the maps, schedules, etc, to your phone and free yourself!  

Ask Your Hotel Staff.  This is two fold.  First, you can email your hotel (or call) and find out the most convenient ways to get from the airport to your hotel.  Second, once you have arrived and checked in, you can ask about the transportation system in general.  The hotel staff lives there, and many of them use the system to get to work every day. Nothing can beat the experience of a local.  They can tell you how to buy tickets, about passes, everything you want to know.  

Write it down.  Yeah, it is old school.  But write it down anyway.  The battery never dies on a slip of paper tucked away in your pocket.   Also, if you are in a country where US is not the primary language, and you don't speak the language, then you should also carry the address of your hotel and your destination in the primary language of the locals.  This way you can always hail a cab as a last resort and get where you need to go.  

Go Early.  Once the website, app, or hotel staff has given you an estimate of the amount of time it will take you, add about 30 minutes for the first run.  You might get turned around and miss a connection.  It happens.   

Relax. No matter how much preparation you do, you are going to make mistakes and look like a tourist.  You are not a local, deal with it.  If you are going to the same location several the 3rd trip, you will feel like a pro.  

Oh, and Wear Comfortable Shoes...public transit always means a little more walking than door to door cab service.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Melbourne was great!

One of the friendliest cities I've been to so far. In my top two or three of favorite cities in the world.

Lighten Your Load

One of the very nice benefits of travel is the miles/points.  So my FREE Kindle Fire is on its way.  I ordered in on yesterday using my AMEX rewards.  Looking forward to it.  

So what does this have to do with travel?  I like reading, but I dislike carrying books around.  One of the reasons I went with the e-reader is to reduce overall weight.  

Go with the lighter suitcase, bag, clothing, etc. I used to carry spare batteries, toiletries, pills, clothing.  Now I use the hotel shampoo, soap, etc.  I carry a small shaving cream.  I carry one razor for the week.  The less you have to lug around, the easier your life will be on the road.  What if I run out of toothpaste?  Well first, most hotels will help you get through the day.  If my mouse battery dies..then there is Target, WalMart, get the idea.   Carry a debit card, it is lighter than all that extra crap.   

Pack what you need, but not much else.  I think this is a little tougher on the female travelers, who want a little wardrobe flexibility.  I just decide my outfits for the week, and pack those.  Always be prepared for the weather for the week, don't leave a jacket at home if you are going to need it.  But do I really need seven pairs of socks for a four day trip?  Nope.  Worst case scenario...I wear a dirty pair, or buy a new pair.  

I have one of the those cheap portable umbrellas in the bottom of my office bag.  Good to have that on hand always.  

If you can survive without your laptop, and just use a tablet, then leave the PC at home.  Most tablets have a remote access applications like logmein and gotomypc that can be purchased.  A wise choice if you can ditch the LT.  These apps will allow you access to your computer.  You can still do it all, but not lug it around.  

At some point there is going to be a long distance luggage drag.  When this happens, you will be glad you packed lightly.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Get a Routine

Since 2009 lots of happenings.   So now...I have a new job, and I've been there about 18 months now.  I could blog for years about how not to be a manager, after my last job.  But truthfully that just stirs me up, and I'd rather let it go.  It will creep in here and there. :-) 

The new job..I love it.  My boss is great, I feel appreciated, and I enjoy the work.  I am traveling quite a bit.  In 2011, I logged about 185,000 air miles and went to 11 countries.  I won't reach that total this year, but...I'm already at about 40,000 miles.   The international travel will slow down as my company increases its training presence internationally.  I will still have a few here and there.    

So my next few posts are going to be what I have experienced and learned from the travel.    Some general tips about travel and also my thoughts about cities that I have visited.   Please note that I travel for work, so I don't always have comments about tourist attractions.  Sometimes I can sneak one in, but not always.  

So here is my first suggestion....create a routine and stick with it.  Pack your suitcase and carry on bag the same way every time.  Do the same things when you arrive at your hotel and when you are packing to leave.  If you are going to 'unpack' in your hotel, then put items in the same place in each hotel room.    This tip will save you time and frustration.   For example, the first few months of travel I was always looking for my phone charger.  Did I put in my computer bag? And if so, where?  It just was a silly waste of time and unnecessary stress.  I've left items behind because sometimes I stuck clothes in the drawers and sometimes I did not.  When I did....I would forget them.  Sounds simple, no? 

That's all for now....enjoy!