With life taking over, I haven’t had time to post. But, I’ve also been planning the next great international escape come November, and it hit me. Planes, places and playtime are some of my guilty pleasures. So why not share travel tips with my Chicas!
My wanderlust started in my early 20s when I worked in TWA’s international terminal at JFK airport. I met all kinds of folks, including celebrities (Woody Allen! Grace Jones! Andie MacDowell!) as they headed off to distant lands – Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, etc.
It gave me chills, curiosity, determination. Ever since then, all I have ever wanted to do was travel.
The euphoric sensation that comes over me when crossing an ocean is overwhelming. My heart skips a beat researching faraway cities. These fingers type up a frenzy booking flights and accommodations. I scour travel sites to uncover the secrets of an unknown town. In 30 minutes flat, my suitcase is packed, compression socks on and I am ready to cross time zones.
¡Ay mujer! From the minute I land, I absorb every single thing before me.
“Up, up and away!” has become my life motto. (BTW, Sagittarians are known for travel, freedom and adventure!) Although my vacations aren’t paid time off, since I’m a freelancer, the payoff is exploring the corners of the globe. If you hustle hard, then why not play harder?
Over the years, I’ve learned how to become a better traveler through the endless mistakes I’ve made and unexpected situations I’ve encountered. ¡Cartera y guantes! as the dicho goes…
Take TSA lines. I dread them, especially when I have to remove my shoes and walk on a dirty floor. (And when agents inspect my big curly hair, but I digress.) The lines are crazy long, liquids and laptops aren’t taken out of carry-ons, people grab all the bins, etc. You know the drill. It’s taxing, and will test your patience every time. I once spent so much time going through TSA, as the clock was ticking, that I sprinted to the boarding gate after the whole ordeal. And, I left behind my bag of liquids and toiletries. Ugh.
Do yourself a favor and apply for the TSA PreCheck. It’s heaven-sent. You’re covered for five years by most airlines across domestic airports. Navigate swiftly through the TSA craziness and go grab that glass of sparkling prosecco at the airport bar. Cheers to the new adventure, and it’s stress-free!
Consejito: If you travel abroad often, check out Custom’s Global Entry. The application process is easy breezy, then you find the kiosk at the airport when you return to the States and voila! BTW, it also includes TSA PreCheck at some U.S. airports.
Call me the mile queen ‘cause I’m 100% devoted to my Citibank AAdvantage card. In fact, it’s the only credit card I ever use. Sure there’s an annual fee, but if you love to travel – those precious frequent flier miles are worth it!
Not trying to sound like a commercial here, but the preferred boarding, free first checked bag, no foreign transaction fees, and ability to use those miles with oneworld airline partners (Iberia, British Airways, etc.) got me hooked. I’ve been to Brazil, Spain and New Orleans cashing miles in! Yaaass!
There are a slew of airline mile cards offered by Chase, Discover, AMEX, etc. And, take advantage of hotel rewards (Marriot, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.) One of my go-to’s is hotels.com. They find competitive hotel rates, and you earn a free hotel night after ten nights. I cashed in a night in Key West, where the hotels charge up to $350 a night!
Consejito: Keep a running list of all your airline frequent flier numbers, hotel rewards numbers, miles/points earned, mile/points expiration dates, etc. Last year, I lost out on a hotel night credit that expired on me.
Speaking of hotels, AirBnB versus hotels. Well, ain’t that the million dollar question? I do both, for different reasons.
There is something so special about staying in someone’s home. In Berlin, we found a funky AirBnB loft filled with eclectic art. Paris offered us an ultra lux flat, complete with original chandeliers and wrought iron French patio. Amsterdam was all about a swank outdoor terrace boasting a panoramic view of the city.
Some AirBnBs have washer/dryer offerings, which came in handy when we traveled for three weeks. A kitchen is a plus when you’re traveling and want to make breakfast with local produce, for example. But in a city like NOLA, why bother? Head out to devour the city’s notorious Creole and Cajun brunch. Can you smell the sizzling praline bacon now? YUM!
One time, an AirBnB host canceled our reservation just days shy of our trip. She told me her landlord was cracking down on rentals. See, AirBnB is illegal in NYC (as well as South Beach! ¡Oyo!) and we had to pay a fortune at a midtown hotel last minute. So, do your homework, ladies.
Consejito: Bring your AirBnB host a small gift as a token of appreciation. We bring South Beach seashells in a beautiful net, or taffy candy from Key West. And, we’ve been welcomed with a bottle wine, fresh baked bread and even homemade cookies!
Now hotels generally cost more than AirBnBs, but they offer different perks – housekeeping, breakfast buffets and concierge service (tour bookings, restaurant reservations, airport transportation, etc.) If your flight leaves after check-out hours, which both AirBnBs and hotels have, hotels can store your suitcases while you take in those last minute city delights!
On the contrary, your AirBnB host may have another guest arriving or not want the responsibility altogether. So there’s that. Full disclosure here: I prefer bed-and-breakfasts owned by locals as opposed to international hotel chains, but on the flip side – the latter comes with rewards points. Decisions!
A few more tips, Chicas! (In a separate post, I’ll share why a “things to-do” list makes an excellent travel companion, pro packing tips, and more.)
Double check that your passport is valid (those ten years really do fly by) and whether or not you need a travel visa. Chile – no. Argentina – yes. See what I mean? Also, know where the local city’s U.S. Embassy and Consulate offices are located before heading there. If you have an emergency, they’re there to help.
Lastly, always check government travel alerts and warnings as a precaution (political protests, wars, disease outbreaks, terrorism, etc.) It’s better to know than not to know, Chicas!
Tell me, what travel tips have helped you in the past? Please share, as I’d love to hear from you!
Mamá decía – Aquel que no viaja no conoce el valor de los hombres.