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The “Lived” Travel Experience

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take a journey with me

Travel Delays

Whether you are an experienced or novice traveler, travel delays are inevitable.  My career as an international flight attendant began in the late ’80s when American Airlines was known as the “on-time machine.”  Even back then, I remember plenty of flight delays.  Throughout the years, travel delays have been so common that I can’t imagine any airline boasting about being on time for any extended period.  The recent travel delays caused by the FAA system outage were a perfect example.  Almost all flights in the US were grounded for several hours, causing significant travel delays.  Here are a  few ways to be prepared for flight delays and possibly avoid getting trapped at the airport.

Avoid being trapped at the airport if you can by getting text alerts from the airline.  If possible, download the airline App, or sign up for text or email alerts from the airline after you have booked your flight.  It is not always possible, but it is much preferable to find out your flight has been delayed or canceled from the comfort of your home or hotel room.  If you know before you head for the airport, you can make new arrangements in a more comfortable setting.  It’s a misconception to think you will get better service at the airport.  More often than not, travelers are stuck in long lines to get assistance from harried agents who advise them to call the reservations center for rebooking.

Rebook as soon as possible rather than waiting for the airlines to urge you to rebook.  Even though I had the airline App and text alerts for my flight during this recent FAA system outage, I did not receive the flight delay alerts until I was on my way to the airport.  However, I knew from experience to get ahead of the crowds for rebooking and immediately rebooked my flight once I learned that the issue was not an airline issue but an entire flight system issue.  I could also immediately extend my stay at the hotel as I knew many airport hotels would soon be booked up by passengers stranded at the airport.

Get travel insurance.  In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the costs.  Travel insurance will have options for trip interruption and trip cancellation, missed connection coverage, trip delay, baggage delay coverage, and frequent traveler or loyalty plan coverage.  Read your policy documents carefully, so you understand what is covered.  Most importantly, keep copies of your insurance and contact numbers to help you get the travel insurance service you paid for.  The insurance staff can provide you with airline numbers to call for new travel arrangements, and is also a way to document that you attempted to reschedule your travel.  This can be tremendously important as the insurance will be easier to claim once you prove that you made a good-faith effort to continue your trip.

Finally, there is no way to avoid travel delays; they are inevitable.  However, early morning and nonstop flights are highly recommended, as well as giving yourself plenty of travel time.  You’ll travel less stress-free if you have time to get to your destination or event.  Flight delays and cancellations are beyond your control, but if you are prepared for flight delays, your travel experience will always be better.

Travels impact on children.

Hong Kong Disney

Last week I wrote about traveling with Children.  This week I’d like to focus on the impact travel can have on children who become Third Culture Kids.  According to Wikipedia, a “Third culture kid” (TCK) is a term used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents for a significant part of their early developmental years.  Not all children are fortunate enough to live in different cultures for many of their formative years, but travel exposes them to many cultures they may have never encountered.  In this way, travel helps to create the Third Culture Kid mentality that forms positive world citizens.  Here are a few ways that travel can have an impact on children

Travel helps children become more adaptable and flexible.  It makes them more accepting of cultural differences and teaches them that although we may look different, we are all the same.  Travel expands children’s thinking and exposes them to a world full of changes and new experiences.  We can try as much as we can to protect our children from stereotypes and prejudices, but travel exposes them to it all.  This firsthand exposure helps children to dispel the stereotypes and generalizations they may have encountered or will encounter.  Most of all, it teaches children that diversity should be celebrated.

Children will often want to travel more often once exposed to travel.  The travel experience tends to spark a child’s sense of curiosity, imagination, and sense of adventure.  Travel becomes a natural teacher as it automatically teaches geography and instills an interest in history and the world.  Additionally, because children are experiencing the world firsthand, it encourages them to build social skills and make new friends, many of who will often be very different from them or the people they usually associate with.

Once children have been exposed to travel, they become risk takers and are often more mendable to trying new things.  They become more adaptable and flexible, and responsible.  Children who travel learn to connect with people of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life.  This range of social opportunities cannot be learned in a traditional school setting, which is one of the main reasons why travel enriches children.  Most importantly, because travel is never without hiccups, children learn firsthand how to meet different challenges, adapt to new situations, and have the patience to handle unexpected changes.

My best example comes from my children, who spent their formative years at an international school in Singapore.  The experience they have of living abroad has shaped them as world citizens.  Their travels as the children of an international flight attendant and while in Asia have made them significantly more interested in international life and its experiences.  My son is now living in Italy and taking advantage of traveling through Europe as much as he did traveling throughout SE Asia.  My daughter is continuing her education in Internation studies and is focused on an international career.

There is no doubt that travel made a difference in my children’s lives, and I know it will impact any child who travels.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comment section below.

Traveling with Children.

My daughter was recently traveling and called to tell me that a screaming baby and mom were seated behind her, and the baby kept kicking her seat.  We’ve all heard horror stories of babies and children traveling on airplanes that make such a scenario a nightmare.  However, I think that traveling with children, when done correctly, can be both a pleasant and a great learning experience for the children and unwitting travel companions.

My children have been traveling since birth.  Primarily because of my job as a former flight attendant, I took full advantage of my travel benefits and traveled extensively with my kids.  As an airline employee, I often traveled on standby and was one of the last passengers to board the airplane.  I remember the looks of despair from passengers when I boarded with my kids, but I also remember the many compliments I received on how well-behaved my children were when the plane landed.  I was prepared to travel with my children because I had plenty of experience seeing both sides of the issue.  In the age of social media, there are plenty of nightmarish as well as beautiful stories to be heard.

To ensure your story is a beautiful one, there are a few things you can do to prepare for traveling with children.  Try to take early morning flights.  By the time you board the airplane, your child will already be tired and exhausted from all the new sensory experiences and from having to be up so early.  Children are prone to ear infections, which can be extremely painful on takeoffs and landings.  Always consult your doctor but be prepared with antihistamines, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, to help with ear pain.  Baby earplugs and headphones are also a good idea.

Try to book nonstop flights as much as possible so the children aren’t exposed to too many takeoffs and landings.  It can be a novelty for children to go through the waiting period, boarding process, takeoff, and landing once.  More than once, and the novelty wears off.  There are not enough snacks and video entertainment to help curtail children’s boredom on multiple trips, and unwanted tantrums will usually follow.

Be prepared and get to the airport early so you and the children are not rushing.  Dress both yourself and the children for going through security.  Save fashionable dress outfits for your destination.  Slip-on and off shoes and layers of clothing that can be removed easily are advisable when going through TSA security.  Bring lots of snacks but include some that require lots of chewing, such as carrot sticks.  Lollipops, sippy cups, and cups with straws help to encourage sucking, and this can help with ear aches from air pressure changes in flight.  You usually can’t bring liquids through security, but you can see what’s available after security.

Most importantly, bring the supplies your child will need, Extra diapers, food, change of clothing, blankets, etc.  Airlines don’t always provide food and rarely baby supplies.  However, they allow parents of children to board early, so take advantage of this opportunity to get a few extra minutes to get settled.

I hope these few ideas encourage you to consider taking a trip with your children, it indeed does not have to be a bad experience, and your children one day will thank you for the experience.  If you feel inspired to travel with your children, let me know in the comment section below.

What is a Real ID?

In 2005, congress passed a Real ID standard which sets minimum security standards for states issuing licenses.  This was done to bolster security after 9/11.  This requirement was scheduled to take effect as far back as 2008 and has been pushed several times.  The latest push gave a deadline of 2023 for a Real ID standard.  However, citing Covid delays, the newest pushback on implementation has been set for May 7, 2025.  This means that every traveler must present a compliant form of Real ID for domestic travel on that date.

If you are a frequent international traveler, you most likely will always have your passport when you travel, regardless of your destination.  The US passport is considered a Real ID, and for many travelers, this is the standard ID used when traveling.  But even with official passports, many travelers find it easier to present their driver’s license as ID when going through security.  Once Real ID standards are enforced, this will no longer be allowed if your state driver’s license is not Real ID compliant.  The three forms of ID that will be federally compliant for travel are the Real ID, your passport, and your passport card.  These IDs will be valid for travel by land, sea, and air, as well as internationally and domestically.  However, please note that the passport card is only valid for sea and land and is not accepted by every country.

It is my recommendation that if you plan to travel, even though it is not international travel, to get your passport.  An official US passport will get you through airport security and can be used in place of a Real ID.  Passports have standard identification information such as passport number, name, birthdate, and birthplace.  When presented with a passport, border officials at any destination can access the information they need regardless of language, origin, or destination.  When applying for a US passport, there is also an option to get a passport card simultaneously.  I highly recommend adding the card during the application process.

The passport card has the same identification information and is easier to carry in your wallet or purse when traveling.  I find the card particularly convenient on some cruises as it is much easier to travel with and can be used as an ID when getting on and off the ship during stopovers.  However, the passport card does have limitations, as mentioned before.  They are only accepted for land and sea crossings between the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  In case of an unexpected travel delay from a cruise at a foreign port, the passport card will not be enough for air travel, and you will have difficulties and delays getting back to the US.  One never knows when an emergency will arise, and you may need to get off a ship due to illness or an injury.

If you plan to do any travel, please consider getting your passport.  It will become invaluable not only for international travel but domestically as well.  Additionally, whether your state ID or driver’s license may or may not be Real ID compliant, you can be assured your passport will be.

Winter travel-Ski trips.

Happy Holidays!  It’s Christmas weekend, but there’s still plenty of winter left, at least until the end of February.  A winter trip is still an option if you’ve missed the ball on your Christmas gift.  I went to Aspen, Colorado, for my first planned winter vacation a few years ago.  If you are considering planning a trip, consider a ski trip.  Many black ski clubs, such as the Texas Ski Rangers in the Dallas/Ft.  Worth area can help get you information on ski travel.  These clubs offer opportunities for black travelers to participate and learn more about winter sports, such as skiing.  Here are a few ideas if you’ve never considered a winter trip.

Many ski clubs are associated with other clubs in different areas, which provides the opportunity to assemble with other people of color throughout the country.   This membership can be important as many ski slopes are seen as primarily white spaces. Joining a black ski club provides a comfortable space to explore winter activities in a comfortable, safe space. Being in that space with other people similar to you can make for a more enjoyable experience.  While many ski clubs focus on winter sports and skiing, many other non-ski trips and activities are also planned throughout the year.

Skiing is expensive, and membership in a ski club can help defray some of the costs, as activities are usually bundled in a ski trip package.  Typically ski packages include lodging, lift tickets, ski lessons, and transportation.  Pricing usually depends on group size and where the ski resort is located.  Participants must also consider the costs of appropriate ski clothing and purchasing or renting skis.  Another expense to consider is ski lessons.  Group lessons are an alternative to more expensive private lessons.  Additionally, ski passes can be costly, but options are available depending on the time of day or day of the week.

If skiing does not interest you, another option could be snowmobiling.  I also tried this activity in Aspen, and after a while, I not only got the hang of it but would have signed up for another session if I could.  I must admit that it took some getting used to the handling and steering of the snowmobile.  Again, like skiing, you need to have the right clothing gear for snowmobiling.  Think of dressing in layers with warm under layers and waterproof outer layers. Other pieces of equipment, such as helmets, boots, face shields or goggles, face masks, and gloves, are also needed. Believe it or not, you can get warm even in the snow during snowmobiling.

Many ski towns and resorts may offer natural hot springs, museums, shops, boutiques, spa activities, and beautiful restaurants for dining.  I balked at going into the heated pool on my trip to Aspen but was encouraged by my sister, and I had a truly refreshing experience.  I also enjoyed the many lounges and fireplaces at the resort, having a glass of champagne or coffee indoors.

Like all vacations, ski trips will take a lot of planning.  While you may be able to pack light for sunny destinations, more bulky clothing may mean you have to reconsider your packing skills.  In addition, if you choose to take your ski equipment, the airline might have specific restrictions for bulky or odd-sized luggage.  In any case, consider a ski vacation, it just may end up being a yearly thing, or you’ll at least cross off a travel bucket list item.

 

 

Local laws while traveling.

Local laws while traveling.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately, you will recall the issues some LGBTQIA members and their supporters have been having while in Doha, Qatar, attending the World Cup.  This stark reminder that travelers must be aware of local laws is essential.  Recently, a new criminal code has been established in Indonesia.  This code affects not only locals but tourists as well.  Here are a few reasons travelers should be cautious of local laws when traveling.

Bali, Indonesia, is one of the most popular destinations for tourists.  With this new code, Indonesians and foreigners guilty of premarital relations could face up to 12 months in jail.  New unmarried foreign tourists should now think twice about traveling to Bali because they might be jailed for violating laws.  But are tourists ready to answer the question of whether they are married or not?  Do tourists now have to prove that they are married?  How does Bali deal with wanting tourism revenue while enforcing these laws that may scare visitors away?  These questions have yet to be answered and could raise severe repercussions for foreign travelers to Bali.

I wrote previously about LGBTQIA and travel.  With the prevalence of travel in the LGBTQIA+ community, there are significant considerations to be made for travel.  Bali is not the only destination where travelers must be mindful of local laws.  As recently as 2019, Brunei enacted an Islamic law that makes it legal to flog and stone LGBTQIA+ people to death.  It’s not the only country where LGBTQIA+ individuals can face the death penalty for loving someone of the same sex.  Therefore, for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, travel to top destinations is not a simple decision of when and if they have the resources to travel.  Sharing the same room could be problematic, so they must be mindful of local laws.

These are but a few examples of local laws being an issue.  Even if you unknowingly break local laws, you may be held responsible and face the penalties.  Simply saying, “I didn’t know,” will not prevent you from facing penalties.  The much-publicized case of Britney Griner is a great example.  Britney, like many others, became a political pawn when questionable charges in the local law saw her arrested.  This happens much more often than publicized and leaves many foreign tourists at risk for bribery and corruption.  Tourists can and are often “shaken down” and forced to pay bribes to access public service.

Be aware that you may be profiled because of how you look, dress, act, or appear.  When you arrive at a foreign destination, you may be subject to corruption from locals or officials.   Luggage theft, illegal detention, and having your personal information shared are all risks travelers unknowingly take.  Some travelers must carefully consider whether their freedom is worth the risk of being in the right and knowing whether their legal rights have been violated.  In many cases, even knowing whether their legal rights have been violated, the question becomes whether paying a few dollars is worth more than spending time in a foreign jail.

The simple rule to remember when traveling is that all rules change when you travel to a foreign country.  Do your research before traveling and ensure you understand the local laws and customs.  As always, I recommend enrolling in the state department’s STEP program.  This program allows the US embassy to contact you and helps your family and friends to contact you in an emergency or if you are jailed or detained.

I hope this blog post has been helpful.  I in no way wish to stop people from traveling, but l like to give all the realities of traveling.  Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comment section below.