Fun 203: How To Enjoy Vacations & Trips

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Before you make plans

Ask why you’re going

  • Vacation planning is extra stress
  • A vacation isn’t worth the stress if you’re going because you want to use something free that you’ll lose

Create a budgeted limit

  • Setting a limit permits reckless spending up to that amount
  • Don’t go on the trip if saving money is your priority

Plan for the worst and hope for the best

  • False idealism ruins any enjoyment from your trip as soon as an issue arises
  • Before traveling, have a health checkup and any necessary immunizations for your destination country

Make your vacation plans as proactively as possible

  • Start as early as possible to ensure you can have time off and have your needed services
  • Depending on the destination or if you’re vacationing around a major holiday, you might want to plan a year ahead of time

Keep everything trip-related in one place

  • Destination, departing airport and airline, departure date and time
  • Any transfers or trips to a second destination
  • Returning airport and airline, returning date
  • Tickets and confirmation numbers for all travel arrangements and events
  • Contact information for everything

Make sure everyone will enjoy the vacation

  • Each person has unique preferences
  • Only choose events and activities that everyone would like

When traveling with children

  • Give each child the responsibility of carrying along his or her luggage
  • Surprise them during the trip with new toys or books

Only consider legitimate needs

  • Most people over-pack
  • Don’t bring anything you can buy at your destination or can live without
  • With long trips, only pack for two or three days and wash clothes at your vacation site
  • If you can, bringing only a carry-on makes life immeasurably easier

Day trips usually require little planning

Always research to ensure the event is open when you show up

Always consider for each event what you want to take or disallowed items

Museums, parks, movies, and other routinely open venues require practically no planning

  • Go to the event, bring what you want, and enjoy your time there

If you go to the zoo, wear the same colors as the zookeepers for the animals to come up to you instead of backing away

Visit festivals, concerts, exhibitions and cultural events

  • Get a ticket as early as possible and make sure everyone going has time scheduled for it

Improve outdoor trips

Bring food and drinks for the whole time or research where to dine out

  • Place frozen gallon jugs of water in a cooler that you can also drink as they thaw

Budget gas money, parking, and entrance fees

Condoms keep things like matches or cell phones dry and also can serve as a glove

Bring firewood, kindling, lighter fluid, and matches or lighter

  • Use “joke candles” (candles that can’t be blown out) to light a fire
  • Don’t bring firewood unless collecting firewood is illegal
  • Add sage to a fire to keep bugs away

Make a Sterno container

  1. Cut cardboard strips to the width of an Altoids tin’s height
  2. Densely wind into an Altoids container
  3. Fill the tin with wax

Bring everything you need to cook

  • Bring a propane or charcoal stove, grill or griddle
  • Skewers, tongs, spatula, ladle, and knife
  • Dish set and silverware
  • Scissors, can opener
  • Tablecloth, if you want
  • Coffee/tea
  • Cooking spray, salt, and pepper

Store all your personal effects out of sight

  • Hide money and smaller items inside an old lip balm canister
  • Put larger objects inside a cleaned-out lotion or shampoo bottle

Bring a simple first aid kit

  • Rubbing alcohol and triple antibiotic ointment
  • Bandages
  • Eye drops
  • Pain reliever
  • Skin lotion

Make a portable hand-washing station with an empty laundry detergent container

Bring multi-use supplies

  • Tin foil has many uses
    • A moisture barrier
    • Wrap food in it to cook directly in the fire
    • Folded into dishes to eat
    • Marker for navigating in the woods
    • Reflecting signal
    • Put tin foil on a pizza box to create a s’mores oven during the daytime
  • Paper and plastic bags, toothpicks
  • Dish towels, dish rags, and towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Extra batteries for everything

Try sailing, kayaking or canoeing

Go fishing

  • Make sure you’re up early enough to set yourself up at the water before the fish start feeding
  • Have a backup plan if you don’t catch anything

Visit the beach

  • Put your phone in a sandwich bag to use it without getting sand in it
  • Bring beach towels, blankets, and beach chairs
    • Alternately, bring a shovel to dig out a circular seat
  • Stick a clean plunger in the sand as a can holder
  • Bring kites, beach balls, footballs, frisbees or volleyball with net
  • Keep sand out of objects with a fitted sheet
  • Keep your sandals from overheating by placing them face down
  • Always have umbrellas or sunscreen
  • Sprinkle baby powder on objects to remove sand as you leave

Go for a hike

  • Wear quality hiking boots
  • Bring enough water and snacks for everyone
  • Observe what the least physically active members need

Camping overnight takes more work than most day trips

Honor the Leave No Trace guidelines and leave everything the way you found it

Bring your shelter

  • A recreational vehicle is convenient, but some people shame RV camping
  • Bring sleeping bags, air mattress, mattress pump, pillows, and tent with stakes
    • Use foam tiles instead of an air mattress
  • Make a ground cloth with a tarp to minimize bugs
  • Use glow-in-the-dark paint to find your shelter at night

Wear enough clothing for the trip

  • Bring an extra outfit as a contingency plan
  • Wear synthetic materials like polyester or nylon
    • Don’t wear cotton since it absorbs moisture and won’t stay warm while wet
  • Wear quality hiking boots
  • Have a swimsuit if you intend to go swimming
  • Keep layers clothing for nighttime
  • Bring sunglasses and sunscreen, though it may feel counter-intuitive

Pack toiletries

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Tab toothpaste onto a paper plate and let dry, then place in a plastic bag
  • Disintegrating toilet paper
    • If you forget toilet paper, sandwich fresh leaves in between dead leaves
  • Make a toilet paper holder
    1. Cut a vertical hole in a coffee can
    2. Run a piece of twine through the lid and out the bottom
    3. Tie the twine together
  • Only use unscented deodorant to avoid attracting mosquitoes
  • Prescription medicine
  • Glasses or contact lenses case, saline, and lip balm
  • Avoid polluting the rivers with camp soap

Bring survival gear

  • Insect repellant and insect bite remedy
    • Alternately, rub vodka into your skin as a bug repellant
  • Flashlight, headlamp, lantern, and fuel
    • Create an improvised light by strapping a headlamp inward around a jug of water or placing a mobile device under one
  • Bucket, water jug, broom, and work gloves
  • Hammer, nails, saw, rope, shovel, ax, screwdrivers, and camp knife
  • Duct tape, twine, newspapers, and clothespins

Dedicate yourself to planning longer trips

Schedule time off work for the trip

  • If possible, give a day or two before and after the trip to recuperate from jet lag and traveling stress

Save money before the trip as much as possible

Get your house prepared

  • Get a house or pet sitter
  • Arrange for childcare if your child isn’t going
  • Ask the post office to hold your mail
  • Empty your fridge

Do all the necessary paperwork

  • Verify your passport is up to date with appropriate visas
  • Get traveler’s checks or small denominations of foreign currency
    • Poorer countries often need cash while wealthy countries often use bank cards
  • Get traveler’s insurance
    • Traveler’s insurance is worth the expense when you’re in a crisis in an unfamiliar environment

Learn the local laws and customs of the region you’re visiting

Reserve and pre-purchase everything you can

Reserve your transportation

  • Fly if your trip is more than 1,000 miles away
    • If you have two people, pick a window seat and aisle seat to increase the chances of an empty seat between you both
    • Try to schedule flying at night to maintain your sleep cycle
  • For shorter distances, consider alternative transportation like trains or long-distance bus
  • Arrange for transportation to and from the airport or depot

Reserve your lodging

  • Try Unusual Hotels Of The World for an alternative lodging idea
  • You can negotiate many things like hot breakfast in bed for free (if they offer a hot breakfast buffet) or a room upgrade
  • The hotel can’t guarantee a king-sized bed if you request one, so call to confirm and call the day before you leave

If you’re going to any events, buy the tickets before leaving if possible

  • If you can’t get tickets, make backup plans for the day

Make backup plans if you miss a flight or transfer

Plan a general itinerary

  • Unless you rush it, you can usually only attend three or four attractions every day
  • If you prefer, create several lists instead of making a day-by-day plan
    • Must Go To – the best things to see
    • Want To Try – other non-critical things to fill in gaps
    • Wish To Try – things that probably won’t happen

A week before the trip

If your trip is in a different time zone, adjust for the change a few days beforehand

  • Even one or two time zones can disrupt your body’s rhythm

Pack the suitcases

  • Make two near-identical lists
    1. A list of everything you need to pack
    2. A list to verify everything as you leave your lodging
  • Pack everything into as few bags as possible
    • Only bring items you need to survive that you can’t purchase during your vacation
    • If possible, avoid checking any bags
    • If you can’t carry-on a suitcase, mail it to your destination and inform your lodging instead of checking it at an airport
    • Mix each person’s possessions across any checked bags to ensure a missing bag won’t destroy the vacation
  • Make your bags distinctive to find them more easily
    • Paint or print something on your bag
    • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the bag
    • Use a visually unique tag
    • Take a photo of the bag tag and store it on your phone

 Bring toiletries

  • Soap, shampoo, and conditioner (though hotels often provide them free)
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and umbrella
  • Vitamins, prescription medications, decongestant, and allergy medications
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Tab toothpaste onto a paper plate and let dry, then place it in a plastic bag
  • Razor and  shaving cream or electric shaver
  • Makeup, skin care products, and nail trimmer
  • Hairspray, hair gel, and hair dryer
  • Deodorant, cologne or perfume, and body powder
  • Tissue packets, basic first aid kit, and lip balm

Pack clothing

  • Pack only two or three days’ worth and bring laundry soap
  • Underwear, socks, and shoes
    • Pack extra
    • Roll socks and underwear into shoes to save space
    • Cover the bottoms of the shoes with an old shower cap
  • Shirts, pants, shorts, jackets, and sweaters
    • Tourists are prime targets for scams, so wear clothing that makes you appear poor or middle-class for the region
    • Roll clothes into military-style cylinders to pack them more tightly together
      1. Fold into a rectangle by folding in sleeves or flared ends
      2. Fold the left and right sides inwards towards the center, overlapping each time
      3. Roll it from top to bottom and then tuck it in to keep it
    • Fold your clothes in the same shape to make them stackable
    • Use packing cubes with vacuum sealing
  • Swimsuit and hat

Bring fun distractions for the trip

  • Deck of cards and pocket board games
  • Pens/pencils, notebook, and puzzle books
  • Reading books, clip-on reading light or pocket flashlight
  • Laptop, mobile devices, and music player
  • Extra batteries for everything
  • Power converter if you’re traveling internationally
  • Camera and charger
  • Snacks while in transit

Bring reference items

  • Frommer’s Travel Guide, guidebooks from travel agencies, and paper maps for your destination
  • Pre-downloaded mobile device maps for the region
  • GPS unit or GPS-enabled mobile device and charger
  • Any necessary paperwork or documents like driver’s license or confirmation printouts

Bring other miscellaneous needs

  • Battery alarm clock
  • Snacks
  • Luggage locks
  • Bags to hold dirty laundry
  • Pocket sewing kit

Double-check everything before you leave

Clean out all wallets and purses of anything you don’t need to bring that you might have difficulty replacing

Turn off the thermostat and set the sprinklers

Lock all doors and windows

Unplug your appliances and computers

Set the radio, TV, and lights on plug-in timers

If you’re leaving your car at the airport, remove all valuables from it

Unplug your car battery and top off the gas tank if you’re not using it for at least a week

  • Unplugging the battery ensures it won’t drain
  • Filling up the tank prevents moisture from building up in the tank and keeps the seals from drying out

Your vacation starts when you leave your house

However, your vacation won’t be free of stress until you get there

Traveling to and from the destination can be stressful

  • Keep enough literature to read
  • Add an extra half hour to each deadline to allow room for error and time to relax
  • Realign your body clock more quickly at your destination by exposing yourself to natural light
  • If you need to take a nap in a public place, prevent theft by strapping your bag to your body

Make traveling more comfortable

  • Stand up about once an hour to keep your blood flowing
  • Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol to cut down on jet lag

Boldly ask people for directions since the locals understand the area more than many maps

Ask for an upgrade to your room when you arrive

  • Many developed countries honor the Las Vegas twenty dollar bill trick
    1. Slip the desk clerk a $20 bill with your credit card when checking in and ask if they have any complimentary upgrades available
    2. Make sure other guests don’t see you do it
    3. Generally, if they can’t find anything they’ll return the $20 tip
  • Arrive early in the day while they’re preparing and inventorying rooms to increase your chances

Amenities like water bottles and wireless Internet often come with a fee, but you might get them free by asking in advance

If you’re not sure if your newly made bed is damp, place a small mirror between the sheets for a few minutes to see if it fogs up

Stay up until bedtime to realign your sleep cycle

Watch for scams, cons, and theft

Undeveloped countries are notorious for crimes against tourists

Watch service workers carefully

  • Service workers like drivers, waiters, and shopkeepers will drop your change and pick up similar-looking less valuable coins
  • A cashier may appear to talk to you while also on the phone but could try to take a photo of your credit card with their phone for replicating later
  • Some cashiers count painfully slowly to inspire you to impatiently take the change which has significantly less money than you’re due
  • A man will claim to be a doctor and offer papers for sale he’ll claim will give a fraudulent insurance payout, but insurance companies are aware of this

Unsolicited kindness could be a scam

  • Since rented and for-hire cars are typically conspicuous in undeveloped countries, some people will puncture a tire, flag you down to help you out, then steal from you while you’re distracted
  • Taxi drivers offer free drugs to you, then later fake policemen will threaten to throw you in prison unless you pay a “fine”
  • A taxi driver might offer to help you with your bags but will look like he’s in a rush and will drive off with one of your inconspicuous smaller bags before you can notice

Unsolicited kindness could also be theft

  • If you seem confused at a cash machine, a man will help you out but will memorize your PIN for when he picks your pocket
  • Someone will drop a ring in front of you and ask if it’s yours, then they’ll inspect it when you say no and say it’s real gold, then charge more to you than it’s worth
  • A pickpocket will warn you about cell phones and wallets being stolen and watch where you instinctively grab, then an accomplice can pick your pockets later

Observe how much you’re paying

  • Some people offer cheap overnight bus trips but will rummage through your bags and anything valuable
  • Some taxi drivers take intentionally longer routes to take advantage of a tourist’s ignorance of the area and increase the fare
  • Taxi drivers might use altered meters to run a higher rate than normal

Your driver might convince you that your hotel is closed down

  • He might redirect you to another highly overpriced hotel in an awful location
  • He might guide you somewhere else where a jeweler will offer you very cheap gems, but the whole thing will be a scam

Pickpockets are most common in extremely crowded areas like trains, concerts, and train stations

Stay vigilant at your hotel

  • Two men dressed as hotel staff will knock on your door for a routine room inspection, one will distract you with conversation while the other will steal your valuables
  • Someone will slide a delivery food service menu underneath a hotel door with no intention to serve food, after placing an order they will take your credit card information

Watch for “free” things

  • Someone will forcefully start to make a bracelet on your wrist and then demand payment for it
  • Someone charming will offer a rose to your girlfriend at an unreasonable price and make you feel guilty for not buying it
  • Someone will drop their shoe brush for you to pick up for them, they’ll thank you and shine your shoes in appreciation, then demand payment for it
  • An old woman will offer a sprig of rosemary and say it symbolizes friendship and will try to read your palm, then demand payment and curse you if you don’t pay
  • A friendly musician will offer you a free CD, when you receive it he’ll demand payment and intimidate you with his friends
  • If you’re lying on the beach, someone might offer a free massage and give a free sample even if you decline, then demand payment
  • An attractive woman will approach a single man and ask if he wants to go to a bar or nightclub, then he’ll get the bill at the end of the night
  • When you’re at a table, a man might offer free peanuts and dump a pile of them on the table, as soon as you touch one he’ll demand payment
  • Attractive girls will want to practice their English with you and will return the favor by taking you to their favorite restaurants, then leave before the bill for an extortionate amount
  • If you’re taking photos, someone may offer to take a picture of you and your companions, then either demand money for the service or run off with your camera

Plenty of begging comes through deception

  • Attractive girls will want to practice their English with you, their story will turn into a guilt-ridden sob story and they’ll ask you to help them
  • A small child will ask for you to help write a postcard to family back home and make you feel sorry for him
  • A large group of Gypsy children might surround and harass you until you give them money

Something often seems out of place for a reason

  • An identity thief might call your hotel phone claiming to be the front desk saying there’s an issue with your payment and ask to verify your credit card information
    • The call is usually in the middle of the night when you’re less willing to resolve the situation
  • If you see a wallet sitting on the ground, your instinct is to reach for your wallet to see if it’s safe where someone is watching to pick your pocket later
  • While waiting in a ticket line someone dressed in official-looking clothes may offer a higher-priced ticket to bypass the line, but the tickets won’t work
  • Some beggars ask for change to learn where you keep your money, then pickpocket you later
  • Someone will hand you a broken camera and ask you to take a picture of them, they’ll drop it as you hand it back when it doesn’t work, then they’ll demand payment or pick your pocket in the confusion

Someone distracting you could be stealing from you

  • Some street performers using a side-street cup game or magic trick to draw your attention, and often the audience members are accomplices to the theft
  • Someone might subtly spill ketchup or bird poop on you, bring it to your attention, then offer to clean it off
  • Someone will throw a baby or a doll wrapped like a baby at you for an accomplice to rifle through your bag
  • Official-looking fake policemen will approach you and tell you about counterfeit money circulating and ask for your wallet, then look through it and steal some of your money
  • Someone will try to sell you a map and unfold it in front of you to block your view while someone else picks your pocket
  • Children pretending to be deaf will ask you to sign a charity petition and will pick your pockets under the clipboard while you’re writing
  • Gypsy children will try to sell you newspapers and open them up to distract you while they pick your pockets

Make your stay safer and more enjoyable

Distrust anything other people do that are peculiar or kind

Secure a chain wallet to your pants

If you want a stranger to take your picture, have someone take it you know you can outrun

If you ever happen to lose your phone charger

  • Most hotels have a huge bin full of phone chargers other people have left
  • If you still have a USB cord, many hotel TVs have a plug on the back

The front desk clerk at the hotel often charges a reasonable rate to run errands, plunge toilets, tie bow-ties, deliver towels, and make breakfast

Many “eco-friendly” options like opting out of cleaning your room are tricks to give the housekeeper less work, so ignore it if you want a clean room

  • Housekeepers may steal from you, so keep all valuables with you when you leave each day

Don’t stop at the guided tour

Tourist traps are expensive and unfulfilling

  • Companies tailor everything as safe, predictable, and reproducible experiences
  • Some concierges are paid to recommend tourist traps, so ask the hotel clerk about what you can do

Try new and unconventional experiences

  • Wander around the local city center
  • Meet people and talk with them
  • Watch and observe how people behave
  • Try the local food in off-the-path restaurants
  • Drink in out-of-the-way bars
  • Try a new food to create a permanent connection in your memory to the place

Leave mobile devices at the hotel

  • Unplugging from others is liberating and fulfilling
  • Escaping from life is the entire reason you had a vacation in the first place!

End the vacation on a good note

Always clean your suitcases after staying in a hotel since bed bugs often travel in them

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