Category Archives: Travel Tips

How to minimise jet lag

You love travel. That’s why you’re reading this post. And we all like different things when it comes to travel, for instance destinations, modes of getting around, and budget. But if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s our dislike of jet lag.

After all, there’s nothing quite like being cooped up on a plane for 12 hours or even more, crossing through multiple time zones and ending up at your destination as an insomniac by night and a lethargic sloth by day, especially when your trip is only a few weeks in total.

I used to suffer enormously from jet lag, but as I traveled more I began to change my ways and picked up a few tips that I want to share with you. I categorise these tips into two groups: Obvious and Not So Obvious.

Obvious Tips:

  • Try to fly west instead of east, when possible. Generally, flying west is easier on the body.
  • Talk to your doctor about sleeping pills. (Before I’m reprimanded for saying this, I accept no responsibility for Deep Vein Thrombosis or any other possible side effect – that’s why I suggest you talk to your doctor).
  •  Stay hydrated with water before, during and after your flight.
  • Go on a big walk or hit the gym the day before your flight.
  • If it’s night-time at your destination, try to sleep with the aid of eye-shades, neck support, a blanket, noise-cancelling headphones and relaxing music like Enya and Fleetwood Mac.
  • If it’s daytime at your destination but night-time on the flight, play some upbeat, lively music and watch an action film.
  • Take a big outdoor walk or hit the hotel gym when you arrive at your destination. Get some sunlight, drink lots of water and stay up until at least 8.30pm.

No So Obvious Tips:

  • Get some Vitamin D pills and start on a daily course about a week before you depart, and keep it up as long as you need to. Vitamin D is some of the good stuff that we get from the sun, and it also helps the immune system so prepares the body better for the stresses of travel.
  • Put your watch/clock to the destination time as soon as you board. If you have a transit stop, ignore it and set the time as the final destination.
  • As soon as you take off, close your eyes and visualise yourself at the destination, on the destination time. Is it 3am? You are asleep. Is it 7am? You are waking up and having breakfast.
  • If it’s night-time at your destination, have a glass of wine. If it helps you sleep, why not? Just ensure you drink plenty of water too. 
  • Eat as if you’re at the destination time zone. Sometimes I pretend that dinner is actually breakfast.
  • What you eat is critical. Of you want to sleep, carbs are great, but if you want to stay awake, stay off the carbs!
  • Freshen up with a moist towel. Feeling fresh and clean means feeling awake.
  • If it’s daytime when you arrive, spend a bit of time in the sun without sunglasses. Our eyes play a big part in absorbing sunlight and this can help with regulating the body clock.
  • Have a light dinner to help you sleep on your first night. Avoid dairy or meat after 6pm.
  • Have a high-protein, low GI breakfast on the first day after you arrive. It’ll help with maintaining your energy levels during the day so you’ll be back to your usual routine in no time.
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And a few more travel tricks

The third installment of my travel tips and hints saga (after this one and this one).

  • An iPod Touch is the perfect travel companion if you don’t want to carry a laptop with you. You can connect to the net when there is wi-fi, take notes, use Skype, email, Facebook and Twitter, record voice memos, check the weather, plan with the calendar, download maps, check-in for flights, read books, play games, listen to your music and with a multitude of useful apps, much more!
  • Buy a drawer sachet to put into your suitcase – keeps everything smelling fresh. I love lavender or vanilla.
  • Don’t take the entire bottle of your favourite perfume/cologne. I carry The Body Shop’s Chrome Atomizer – also great for nights out back home!
  • Take an external harddrive with you to save your photos as you go.
  • Use www.carhire3000.com to hire your car around the world. They act as a middle-man between you and various agents, so you get a better deal.
  • When traveling with a group, carry a small notebook and pen at all times so you can record how much you owe each other rather than waste time trying to count up exact change in restaurants, etc.
  • If you’re somewhere slightly dodgy, use plain black headphones for your iPod/iPhone instead of the tell-tale white ones.
  • I’ve mentioned previously that flattery can go a long way. So can a simple smile 🙂
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More little travel tricks

Following on from this post a few weeks ago, here are some more tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Check out your route on Google Maps before taking cabs, especially if you’re alone or in a country where they might take you on the scenic route! Note down main street names and even ask the driver to take you via certain streets to let them know that you know where you’re going. I often take map screenshots on my iPod.

  • In addition, if you’re a lone female in a cab and you feel uncomfortable at all, fake a phone call and even state the taxi number if you can read it, e.g. “Hi Bob, yes I’m in the cab, should be there in about 10 minutes.”

  • Remember that most commodity items will be cheaper almost anywhere else in the world than New Zealand. Of course, there are exceptions everywhere but generally you will find what you need so there’s no use in overpacking.

  • If you’re in a city for a few days it might be worth investing in an unlimited 3 or 7 day train/bus pass. You’ll have more freedom in moving around, won’t have to keep taking out cash to pay for tickets, and you can do a good deed if you leave before it expires by passing it on to somebody else.

  • If you have a daypack you might have to check it in when visiting certain sites and museums. Carry a small fold out carry bag to transfer your valuables into when you check your daypack.

  • Look at bookingbuddy.com, priceline.com and hotwire.com for great hotel and flight deals in USA and Canada.

  • Ask locals for directions – sometimes there’s a little trick for getting from A to B that you couldn’t possibly know about but will save you plenty of time.

  • Call ahead to confirm that venues are open, especially in South America and Paris! Sometimes places just close for no reason.

  • Buy local magazines for suggestions on special events, restaurants and gigs. Some will have discount vouchers too.

  • If you use your iPod or iPhone as an alarm and you’re staying in a hostel dorm, put the device into a cash belt and strap it around your waist overnight to avoid it falling out of bed and possibly disappearing forever.

  • Carry several locks with you and also a luggage security cable. If your backpack/suitcase doesn’t fit in a hostel dorm locker you can lock your valuables in the locker and then secure your backpack/suitcase to a fixed item in the room with your security cable.

  • Take a Dyna band away with you so you can do some basic resistance exercises on the road.

  • Take the time to do your research online. For example, you can plan to be in a city for a certain special event, or you can arrange to visit museums on their free or reduced entrance fee days.

  • Use Twitter to find out information about the cities you’re travelling to. I’ve connected with some awesome people who’ve given me great tips, and I’ve even met up with some of them.

  • Join Couchsurfing.org. Even if you don’t want to host people or surf their couches, you can sign up to receive notifications about things going on in cities you visit. I’ve met some amazing people through this and have been able to attend events I wouldn’t have known about. And some of them for free!

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Twelve things to do in New York City

Here are some of the things I did while in New York, and you if you go, you can too!

  • Buy a salad at Wholefoods and have dinner in Central Park

  • Walk across Brooklyn Bridge

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  • Check out Carrie Bradshaw’s font door (66 Perry St) and Monica Geller’s apartment exterior (494 Grove St)

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  • Catch the free ferry to Staten Island for great views of the Statue of Liberty

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  • Stand in Times Square at night

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  • Walk through the Financial District and Wall Street

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  • Have a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli (where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally)

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  • Get an iced coffee in Williamsburg and take in the hot, young, tattooed arty kids there

  • Visit the wonderful MoMA

Copyright

All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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Little travel tricks I’ve picked up along the way

During the course of my shorter trips I’ve always learnt something new, but the last five months have been particularly enlightening. Here’s a list of some of my favourite tips of all time:

  • Don’t put clothes in hotel room drawers if you might forget to take them out when you leave.

  • It’s always better to ask a question when in doubt rather than stand back and accept something. A negative answer is the worst you’ll get.

  • Never assume that the person next to you can’t understand the language you’re speaking.

  • Help save the world by taking a reusable shopping bag with you. I got mine through Envirosax. They’re super strong but compact.

  • In addition to a travel adapter plug, take a double adapter plug so you can charge two items at a time.

  • Always carry loose change.

  • Go with your gut instinct – it’s usually right.

  • Pick up on little things that locals do or wear, and adopt them if you are having trouble blending in. Pay special attention to shoes, bags and accessories, and on public transport wear a scowl and roll your eyes at the lack of air-conditioning!

  • If you’re a female traveller by yourself, bite the bullet and pay for an authorised taxi home if you’re returning late.

  • Check reviews on tripadvisor.com to avoid disappointment with accommodation you book. Reviews will also let you know if the hotel/hostel is in a good location and if it’s suitable for certain groups of people. But something to note is that only excellent or terrible hotels will have plenty of reviews; people don’t usually feel compelled to comment on something that was satisfactory.

  • Ensure that your bank offers convenient and easy options for banking online, and that you clarify how you can contact them from overseas. Most banks will allow you to call collect in an emergency.

  • Over-the-counter drugs (for sore throats, headaches, or insomnia) are usually excellent in parts of South America and most of Europe so don’t bother bringing too much from home unless it’s really specific.

  • Never have expectations about food (or anything, for that matter) in different countries, because you could set yourself up for disappointment. For example, hamburgers in Argentina don’t generally come with lettuce and tomato unless you ask for it. In parts of Europe, your side salad may be huge and the main might be small.

  • For a few Euros, the Paris Circulation map booklet is a good investment if you’re in Paris for a while, and means you can avoid the instant tourist “I have a huge foldout map” look. Even the locals have them.

  • Take a small AM/FM radio so you can learn about what’s on that day in the area, or if it’s in a different language then you can be exposed to the music they like.

  • Wearing headphones (even if there is no music playing) is a great way to not have to acknowledge unwanted attention, without feeling too rude!

  • Remember that people everywhere are still people. They like to be liked, praised and accepted, so keep this in mind when you’re asking for anything. Flattery does work!

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Long-distance bus trips – the how-to guide

With a lack of rail networks and what feels like a monopoly on air travel within South America the costs of flights can be exorbitant which means that buses become your number one option for getting around.

However, not all buses and routes are created equal so here are some tips that I’ve picked up over the last few months:

Purchasing
– Ask the company if the bus is direct. You can often pay a little more for a direct bus that doesn’t stop everywhere
– Ask for the arrival time so you can let your accommodation at the destination know when they can expect you
– Figure out which side the sun will be on for most of the journey and select seats on the opposite side if it might bother you
– If you love taking en route photos, figure out which side will have the best views
– If travelling alone, ask the bus companies if they have any Suite or Executive class buses on the route – some of these have three seats per row, with one on its own (common in Argentina)
– Clarify the bus company name because in some areas they will sell you a ticket on another carrier’s paper and won’t actually tell you what the actual carrier is
– Purchase tickets directly at the bus station as agents often add a significant commission on fares

Safety and Security
– Mind your bags and sleep with a strap looped around you if possible
– Wear your seat belt and try not to sit at the very front or very rear (common sense – these areas are most susceptible to damage in an accident)
– There are occasional reports about hijackings/robberies on overnight buses in some areas, particularly in Bolivia. We only took daytime buses in Peru and Bolivia but felt comfortable with overnight buses throughout Argentina

What to take
– Toilet paper, as it’s not always changed promptly
– Noise-cancelling headphones – you may get stuck right under the speakers that are blasting the sounds of a badly-dubbed  movie, or you might get a snorer on an overnight bus
– A fully-charged iPod and/or book to read. Movie selections are often dubious
– Snacks and fruit – Argentinean buses serve a Celiac’s worst nightmare for breakfast so if you want some healthy fibre, take your own fruit (unless you are crossing a border and fruit is not permitted). Also, on some buses the only food provided is that of local people who come on board to sell their goods.
– Tummy pills/stopper pills in case you have eaten something that wasn’t quite right – there’s nothing worse than being stuck on a bus with a sore stomach
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