This week's "Travel Tip" is buy a SCOTTeVEST!
Pickpockets are EVERYWHERE in Europe. You must protect yourself. Rick Steves recommends the money belt, but I think that's one of the rare cases when he's wrong. Of course, he's still right in theory, but a SCOTTeVEST is a far superior product, it's more comfortable to wear, and it's more stylish.
SCOTTeVEST is the expert, so instead of me rambling on, just go learn about it here: https://www.scottevest.com/SFNT.html.
(Lest you think I don't practice what I preach, scroll down to see a photo of me in London wearing my very own SCOTTeVEST!)
In almost all of our travel photos, you'll see me wearing my SCOTTeVEST
or Laura wearing her SCOTTeVEST or both of us wearing our SCOTTeVESTs!
This week's "Travel Tip" is buy travel insurance!
If this week taught us anything, it taught us just how important it is to protect yourself.
I considered making this tip about Thomas Cook specifically, but then I reflected on it and concluded it could happen with any business, not just Thomas Cook. In fact, Laura and I flew with Thomas Cook a few years ago. We have also flown with other low-cost carriers. Low-cost does not equal financially risky. However, the stronger the company, the more they tend to charge. So, Delta, American Airlines, etc, will likely be a safer bet, but not always. Again, it could happen to any of them.
Were there warning signs? Yes.
Are there signs from other companies that they're likely strong? Yes.
Can you know with 100% certainty either way? No, you can't.
So, what do you do? Never travel again? That's absurd. Clearly, you're not going to stop traveling because of irrational paranoia, especially when there are many solid suppliers out there.
However, a little "rational paranoia" is a healthy thing. Again, you need to protect yourself and the best way to do that is not to abstain, but to use protection! Protection comes in many forms, including educating yourself, hiring the right help (me!), and buying travel insurance.
Travel insurance is just like any other insurance. Of course, it seems like a waste of money until you need it. It's a risk/benefit thing. But, you don't drive around without car insurance and you don't try to pay those insane hospital bills without medical insurance, do you?
The risk of not being covered in those cases is clear. But, I'm sure you've traveled before and nothing went wrong. So, you're thinking, why do I need it? Well, I'm also sure that you've driven before and nothing went wrong. And, if you're young, you've probably never needed to use your health insurance. And yet, you still have those coverages because you know that the past does not equal the future.
Likewise, just because a situation like Thomas Cook happened, doesn't mean it will happen again. On the other hand, it absolutely could. Do you want to get caught without coverage if it does? I don't. So, add a line-item into each and every travel budget and just accept that it is what it is. It's the world we live in and burying your head in the sand won't help you if you're caught off guard.
One caveat: Insurance providers offer similar, but not the same coverage. I suggest Travel Insured International to my clients, but there are many strong insurers out there, including Allianz, Chubb, AIG, and others. These companies' offerings are all 80-90% the same, but it's that 10-20% difference that could make a 100% difference to you personally.
Note: In every case, your travel agent is not an insurance agent and we are not qualified to offer insurance advice - nor is it legal for us to in many states. Speak with your insurance agent. Know your benefits. Understand what you're covered for and what you're not. Also, ask if any of the suppliers you're using are not covered, especially in cases of bankruptcy.
This week's "Travel Tip" is don't cheat your feet!
When it comes to your feet, DO NOT skimp out! If there's one article of clothing that's vital to the success of your trip, it's your shoes. Just bite the bullet and dig deep into your wallet. But, it's not just about spending money. It's about buying right!
As is often the case, my wisdom came at a price. I was stupid once and learned from my mistakes. Now you are the beneficiary. Like that old saying...
"Good Judgment Depends
Mostly on Experience,
And Experience Usually Comes
From Poor Judgment."
To make my long Washington, D.C. story short, suffice it to say that I paid a lot of money for the wrong type of shoes and my feet were absolutely killing me the entire time!
Fast forward to England and, armed with the experience of my poor judgment, I made a wiser decision. I Googled and learned. Then I went to REI, got help, and bought the right pair of shoes for my feet and for the type of walking I'd be doing. It made a world of difference!
I don't want to offer specific advice because everyone's needs are different, but I will ask you to consider the temperature and precipitation in your destination, as well as the weight of the shoe. Consider also getting a shoe that rises above your ankle. That said, any further advice I'll let you get from the professionals.
Use Travel-Friendly Debit Cards Instead!
This week's "Travel Tip" is don't bring your money to Europe! lol :-D Okay, that's clearly a joke. Obviously, you'll need to have money with you when you travel to Europe. What you don't need to do is carry much paper money or coins in your pockets on the way over.
Don't go to the bank to exchange your Dollars for Euros. Here's why...
There are more reasons, for sure, but that's some of the better ones.
So, what should you do? Find a debit card that is designed for travelers.
Personally, when Laura and I went overseas, we used our Capital One 360 card. That is certainly not the only card which is traveler-friendly. I've heard many great things about the Chase Sapphire credit card. Just be sure to check their fees and limitations because that's a credit card, not a debit card.
This week's "Travel Tip," is to look for restaurants with handwritten menus that only have a few selections and are written in the native language of the country you're visiting. That is if you want to find the most authentic dining places. If not, stay with the touristy places. I'm sure they'll be fine, too. NOT!
This week's "Travel Tip," is to get a good guidebook!
Inevitably, no matter how much I think I know a place, I come up empty-handed every now and then. Of course, it's always when you want it to happen least! So, come prepared.
I believe in guides. I believe in experts. And, I believe the right guidance from the right person is invaluable. But, what's right? For me, right usually comes in the form of Rick Steves guidebook. But, there are many great ones out there, like Frommer's, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, DK Eyewitness Guides, and others.
The important thing is that you're not taking your advice from popular opinions, like those on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is only good, in my opinion, when there are tons and tons of reviews and they all point in the same direction - good or bad. If it's unanimous, that's not to be taken lightly. But, everyone's got an opinion, informed or not.
The guidebook writers I mentioned base their opinions on thousands of hours of travel and make comparisons based on having tried myriad options. They're not just pulling it out of thin air with nothing to compare it to.
Take Joe Schmo. Mr. Schmo went to Edinburgh once, stayed at one hotel, ate at a restaurant or two, took one car service, and only went to the most touristy of places because, without a good guidebook, he didn't know there were better places he could have gone. Mr. Schmo returns home and thinks, Edinburgh sucks. I'm never going back there. Then he jumps on TripAdvisor and rants about how bad everything was.
Then take Johnny Guidebook. Mr. Guidebook has been to Edinburgh dozens of times, has stayed in many hotels, B&Bs, and castles, has eaten in every major dining establishment as well as a lot of the minor ones, has taken every form of transportation imaginable, and knows every nook and cranny in Edinburgh. He knows where to go and where to stay away from. He knows what's a tourist trap and what's an authentic, immersive experience. Mr. Guidebook returns home, gathers his notes from his latest trip to Scotland, organizes his thoughts, compares his experience with his many trips to Edinburgh in the past, then sits down at his desk and begins to write a thoughtful, wise, energetic, inspirational story about how amazing Edinburgh is!
Who's opinion seems more valid to you? Joe's or Johnny's?
Don't be a Schmo! Get a good guidebook!