January 22, 2015

Travel tips from the pro.

So this is new and entirely different. I’ve been asked to write a post about my must-have travel essentials and travel tips by RelayRides, which sounds like the Airbnb of renting cars and seems like a neat idea. It’s the first time anyone outside of Russia has contacted me to do anything for them. At first I was a little hesitant because a) they’re not in Canada, b) I’ve never used them, and c) it’s free advertising for them because I'm in no way, shape, or form sponsored by them.

Still, is this what selling out feels like? They suggested I could make a mood board or something. I think I know what a mood board is, but I don’t have the first idea how to make one. Does it involve construction paper and scissors? Because my mood is now perplexed and I feel like that would involve a lot of purple construction paper.

Then I thought a little more about it and realized that I do have something to offer the world. I have some world-class travel tips that you might not read anywhere else. And by world class, I mean I travel through western Canada a lot. Name a city between here and Victoria and I’ve probably used the bathroom in their Tim Hortons. I like to think I know a thing or two.

Bring a water bottle. Whether you’re driving or flying, you need water. Less when you’re driving because of the whole pulling over to pee thing, and more when you’re flying because of the whole endless waits, inflated airport prices, and dry cabin air. Now, I love me a water bottle with a sippy  straw. The odds of me spilling all over myself are greatly reduced and even though I look like an oversized toddler it’s so much easier to drink, walk, and talk simultaneously.
There are two things you need to remember about those water bottles, though, when flying. First, dump it out before going through security. Try to bring a water bottle full of water through security at an airport and they’ll treat you like a terrorist. And by that I mean they’re going to confiscate your water bottle. Second, and most important, unhook the straw from the sippy part of the bottle. Why? Well, airplanes are pressurized and that translates into your water bottle become the Trevi Fountain when you open it. The Trevi Fountain all over you and potentially the people sitting behind you. FYI, the same thing goes for when you’re driving through the mountains. Take that straw out.

Push the limits with your carry-on luggage. When I travel it’s not to go on crazy mountain climbing adventures. It’s typically to visit family, friends, or Disneyland. Packing light is not a necessity. When we’re driving, Karl and I always bring our pillows. Because we’re better than everyone else’s pillows. Just kidding, ours are from Costco but they’re nicely conformed to the shapes of our heads. When flying, though, pillows get cut.

I bought a rolling suitcase this summer for my trip to Disneyland. I went to the store with tape measure in hand and the official allowances for what you’re allowed to carry on and you know what? It’s way more than you think. Those suitcases that get advertised as carry-on size are significantly smaller than they have to be. Is your mind being blown right now? Because mine was, that fateful day in Winners when I realized that. I left the store that day with a suitcase that is technically half an inch too big for carry-on but fits just fine in the Alaska Airlines carry-on police’s measuring device. Coincidentally, it didn’t fit as well in the Air Canada one four months later, but I think that’s because I over-stuffed it.

Another thing I’m not sure everyone knows is that you’re allowed to bring a carry-on piece of luggage and a personal item on the plane with you. A personal item is typically a purse or backpack sized item. I like to push that limit too, by using the biggest purse I have. You can’t tell me it’s too big because that lady has her dog and this is a purse. Oh, it’ll fit under the seat no problem. And if not, I hear they have extra room on the wing.

Check-in 24 hours early. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s too good not to share. Airlines can be real jerks and tend to overbook planes. Because when you buy a ticket for an flight you’re not actually buying a seat, you’re just getting the honour of fighting someone for a seat. Thank God this isn’t Ryan Air, because someone might be on someone else’s lap if it were. No, you’ll just run the risk of getting bumped off your flight. But, and this is a big important but, if you are flexible and maybe didn’t really want to fly home that day anyway, by all means don’t check-in 24 hours in advance. You might get bumped. And if you’re flying with your spouse they can have the opportunity to get bumped if they don’t want to travel without you (which they don’t, obviously). And that can mean an impressive amount of travel vouchers coming your way. Hello, Hawaii. But, and this is another big one, there are no guarantees here. You might just end up sitting beside a stranger or possibly end up in some sort of airport purgatory. If you have any sense of adventure, though, I dare you to not check-in 24 hours in advance just to see what’ll happen.

Bring snacks. Airport food can be very hit or miss. I’ve been spending most of my time in the Regina, Victoria, Calgary, and Vancouver airports lately. Small airports like Regina and Victoria don’t have much to offer. Regina just has a pseudo-Tim Hortons, a convenience store, and a couple vending machines. Victoria has a bit more to offer, and Vancouver and Calgary both have the requisite Tim Hortons’ and a couple other options. I really appreciate the Booster Juice they have in the Calgary airport. It helps balance out all the Tim Hortons bagels.

If you have any kind of dietary restrictions (like me!) I recommend bringing your own food. Actually, unless you live and breathe Tim Hortons, I recommend bringing your own food. When travelling domestically, bring an apple or something along with banana chocolate chip muffins and Skittles for good measure. It’s going to be a long day.

When we flew down to Disneyland this summer it was an early early flight. We had about an hour to kill in the Seattle airport and I figured Seattle is full of hippies so surely I would be able to find something without dairy in it for breakfast. It turns out Americans love their dairy-filled baked goods and I ended up settling for a $4 fruit cup. Note to self, always bring a homemade muffin.

When road tripping, the same snacking rules apply. Maybe bring some sandwiches, too, along with some sliced up oranges. While I would never bring tuna or egg salad (or PB&anything for that matter) sandwiches onto an airplane, it is perfectly acceptable to eat them in your own car.

Have a game plan. When travelling with someone else it’s always good to lay out your expectations. For me, this means that if the cut off to drop off your checked bags is 45 minutes before flying time, I want to aim to be at the airport no later than 60 minutes beforehand. My underwear’s in there and I’m going to need it wherever I’m going. The thought of being too late to check my luggage gives me indigestion.

When road tripping with someone it’s good to have scheduled stops. When Karl and I drive from Victoria to Calgary, as soon as we hit the mainland we stop in Kamloops, Golden, and at our destination. One or two extra potty breaks are allowed but they are not for dilly dallying. We do not detour. We have purpose.

It’s good to know if the person you’re road tripping with has the same sense of purpose as you. If you’re a get-there kind of person and they’re a stop-at-every-photo-op type, one of you will probably get left on the side of the road. It’s good to have that conversation before confining yourself to a motor vehicle with them for untold hours. Wars have been started for less.

Dress appropriately. Airplanes are warm. And then they’re cold. And then all the air stops moving and you wonder if that’s what it feels like to be buried alive. No, I’m not claustrophobic, but I imagine people that are don’t fly very well. Wear layers, but not too many layers. You don’t want to irritate the person beside you by stripping off your sweater and then elbowing them in the face when you put it back on. Wear comfortable clothes that you can wear in both desert and artic conditions. TOMs are very comfortable on an airplane because they help your feet breathe when you’re overheating, but they aren’t great for security. Security is going to have to scan your TOMs to see if you’re hiding a rocket launcher in there and then you’re going to be walking barefoot where millions of strangers have gone before.

I highly recommend wearing shoes without laces whenever and however you travel. Security at the airport will make you take them off, and if you’re a passenger in a car you might want to take your shoes off, too. If you don’t, I think you’re weird.

Road trip clothing should be even more comfortable than when flying. You’re going to be in a car for ten hours so you might as well wear leggings all day. And layers. Because even in -40 the sun can get hot coming through that window.

I hope you don’t feel too spoiled, getting two posts in a week. Happy birthday to you.


  1. YES to all of these, I am flying on Monday (it's only a one way flight) but I already have my list ready haha.

  2. GREAT post!!! I love all these tips. I definitely agree with the snack thing - good luck finding snacks that are soy-free. Even the little bags of pretzels and nuts or whatever they give you on the plane usually has soy in it. Also, I've thought about doing the water bottle thing, but where do you fill it up? Drinking fountains gross me out and heck if I'm going to fill it up in a nasty public bathroom sink...

  3. I'm looking forward to a new list once baby arrives. New curve balls!

  4. Derek forgot a sippy cup full of milk in the bottom of the stroller the last time we flew. It trevi fountained all over the place. Thankfully it was so cold in storage that it didn't smell. But still not the first thing i wanted to do after getting to Hawaii


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