Tiny Travellers

In my ongoing quest to make my toiletry bag as small as possible, I’ve taken to travel tubes that fit in the palm of my hand.

Case in point: Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood Travel Kit comes with a tiny 10 ml shaving cream and a matching aftershave balm, plus a disposable razor. And while you’d think they would be empty after three goes, miraculously, they’re not. Plus, they do double-duty, layering on the sandalwood, cedar, lavender and citrus notes, so you don’t have to pack a fragrance (although I do anyway). T & H is always spot on with clean, manly, Britishy scents reminiscent of the good old days, also offering cream and cologne sample packs online that are also extremely packable. Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood Travel Kit, $19,

Cheap Flight FAQs

When should I book? What day should I fly? How do I get the lowest price?

The same questions crop up time and again, and there never seems to be definitive answers – it sometimes seems like a moving target out there when it comes to booking a flight. BUT, I’ve tried to amalgamate the words of wisdom from a few big travel brains into my post here.

First off, let’s look at price jumps. Airlines use “dynamic pricing” a practice of setting prices based on demand. They don’t just price flights according to the time of day or their popularity, but on how interested you seem to be in a particular flight. They know this via the cookies stored in your browser that keep track of your browsing behaviour – little files of data created by a website, so you don’t have to fill in the same details over and over again when you visit a site. It’s the more persistent cookies you have to shut down. To avoid this, you need to disable the cookies, use your friend’s laptop or use either and, both sites that don’t hike prices in this way.

With regards to shopping, book on the weekends, because the traffic online drops way down as the business world stops looking for cheap last-minute fares. As well, airlines post their best deals on the weekend, because they know that’s when the bargain-hunters are hunting. Tuesday is also not a bad day to book, because that’s the day airlines try to offload seats that didn’t sell on the weekend.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are still the cheapest days to actually fly. This is also related to the volume of business traffic on all the other days. Maybe your long weekend away is Saturday to Tuesday? Being flexible in this way saves money, and the difference in cost can sometimes be enough to warrant an extra night in a hotel.

Wondering when to press Book Now? The number of days in advance that you should book varies from expert to expert, but the nice people at Frommer’s suggest these below as a benchmark:

  • 57 days for domestic flights
  • 77 Caribbean
  • 90 Americas
  • 140 EU
  • 160 Asia

These are all more than you thought, aren’t they? Last-minutey people: Change your wasteful ways, and start saving.

Prep Your Travel Stomach

stomach travel

Depending on the strength of your constitution and often in spite of it, it doesn’t hurt to watch what you put in your mouth the day before you get on a plane. Or train. Or automobile. Twenty-four hours before you leave the house:

1. Skip the ceviche, the tuna tartare – any raw fish or meat.
2. Take a pass on burritos, hot sauce, jerk wings, etc.
3. Keep alcohol intake to a dull roar to avoid dehydration and heartburn.
4. No poutine, heavy pastas, giant steaks or anything greasy (i.e. fast food).
5. Avoid gassy foods such as cabbage or beans.
6. Soda pop and fizzy water just pre-bloats your about-to-bloat-even-more body. (I sometimes have to sit on Tim’s stomach after a flight.)
7. Some experts say fasting before a flight helps fight jetlag, but the jury is still out on that. If you do, just try not to pass out.
8. As you get older the above rules become increasingly important. Eat at your own risk. Plain toast, anyone?

Travel More Now

travel more now

How can you travel more? By ticking off these important steps.

1. Believe it. Adopt the mindset that “you can do it” rather than mentally shutting down your travel dream once you envision it.
2. Schedule it. Pick the best time of year to visit your destination, then assign it a month (and a year).
3. Plan ahead. Buy the flights as soon as you can, so that when travel time comes, they are paid off. (Can you use credit card points?)
4. Research deeper. Research to find discount accommodation options (family-run B&Bs, hostels) so you can splurge elsewhere. Figure out what you want to do in advance, so you don’t spend money needlessly while you’re living the holiday, caving in to expensive excursions.
5. Save like you’ve never saved before. Start a fund meant only for the trip, and set a weekly or monthly contribution goal.
6. Keep saving. Contribute all the extra funds you can: dividends, work bonus, piggy bank, $10 lottery ticket win – everything.


Connecting Flights

Connecting Flights

Never throw caution to the wind. Take all the right steps to make sure flight connections flow as smoothly as possible.

1. Mentally prepare yourself for weather delays – for the planes, and for the trains and automobiles that lead up to your initial flight.

2. Book flights as early as possible, and go with the morning routes. There is more chance of correcting a connecting problem if it occurs early in the day.

3. Leave lots of time between flights in case your starting leg is behind schedule.

4. What’s the weather in the connecting city for the flight you’re thinking of booking? Many people ignore this, so don’t be one of them. There’s more chance of weather delays in New York than in Miami, for example.

5. Consider that smaller connecting airports will have fewer problems, less people, less traffic, etc.

6. Can’t handle it? Pay the extra money to fly non-stop.


Why to Buy Travel Insurance

travel insurance

You’re either one of those people who won’t leave home without it or someone who just throws caution to the wind—AT YOUR PERIL.

1. Trip cancellation.

2. Trip interruption.

3. Medical emergency.

4. Earthquake. Don’t laugh. This happens.

5. Hurricane.

6. Terrorist attack.

7. Labour strike.

8. Beached cruise ship. This happened to my auntie once, and she had to come home in her pajamas.

9. Death in the family (see Point 2).

10. You have elderly and/or rickety parents (see Point 9).

Bonus Reason. Your own death!

Check with your insurance agent, and if you don’t have one, it’s worth the effort to shop around first.

Avoid Travel Mistakes

Travel Mistakes

You think you’re a savvy traveller? Review this tell-tale list. Chances are good you are making at least one of these frequent pre-trip blunders:

1. You might hope the price you’re looking at online will go down, and in some cases you may turn out to be right, but most often – not. Book airfares as early as possible to get the best price.

2. Your passport should be valid for six months prior to your return date. This can pre-empt a few conundrums, but mostly being turned back at the airport because the country you are visiting has this entry/exit requirement.

 3. Check to see if the country you’re visiting requires a visa. Visas can be required in advance of travel, on arrival at the destination or electronic clearance (eVisa).

 4. Make sure the name on your passport matches the name on all your travel documents and tickets.

 5. Make two copies of your passport – one for your luggage and one to leave at home with a friend. Make a third copy for under the insole of your shoe, if you’re one of those people for whom that would not seem odd.

 6. Always travel with a bit of currency of the country you’re visiting. What if there is no bank machine or currency exchange at the airport and you need cash?

7. Buy a good guide book and/or research your trip at home online, rather than in your hotel room, wasting precious holiday time.

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How to Pack a Suitcase

packing a suitcase

Packing a suitcase needn’t be an eat-the-frog exercise. Just follow these easy steps:

1. Absolutely everything in your suitcase needs to match. Break it down into neutrals and one colour palette. Live and breathe “mix and match.”

2. Embrace the “Power of One”: one jacket, one suit, one skirt, one pair of blue jeans, one pair of khakis, one swimwear item, etc.

3. White shirt, black shirt, blue shirt, repeat. Tan pants, black pants. Versatile neutrals can then be dressed up with colourful accessories that weigh much less.

4. Washable smalls allow you to pack half as many.

5. Pack a few items that are on their last legs, then just wear and toss.

6. Outerwear needs to be either on your back or made of scrunchable nylon.

7. Four pairs of footwear max: dressy, casual, running, flip-flops. Make sure at least one pair is waterproof.

8. Pack miniature toiletries that do double-duty (moisturizer with sunscreen, shampoo with conditioner, scented lotion).

9. No books or magazines-tablet only. Speaking of which, you don’t need both a laptop and a tablet.

10. Pack the point-and-shoot not the SLR, and leave things like travel steamers and coffee makers at home.


Pack a Proper Carryon


Because checked bags have a habit of disappearing, always pack these items in your carryon. No excuses:

1. All prescription medications, especially ones you can’t live without.

2. All jewellery. Many homeowner insurance policies don’t cover jewellery if it’s lost while you’re travelling. Leave the diamond tiara and all your Rolexes at home.

3. All electronics, including computers, cameras, recorders and phones. Pack the chargers and cords, too, if there’s room and you think they may not be replaceable at the other end of the journey.

4. Nothing unnecessary. Do you really need both the laptop and your iPad in an already full carryon?

5. Anything fragile, such as camera lenses.

6. Just ONE guidebook, people. Keep the rest of your travel notes bookmarked on your laptop.

Save for a Holiday


People don’t travel because they think they can’t afford it. This is not the right mind-set. FIND the money. It’s worth it! Here’s how to save for a holiday.

1. Start browsing for vacation packages well before the holiday season begins. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to save up before you travel.

2. Tuck away a few dollars every week or every paycheque. See if your bank offers an automatic savings option.

3. Timing is everything. Travelling just before or after high season can lead to savings and some destinations offer deals during these low periods.

4. See if you can redeem any points collected on your credit card.

5. Consider spending your vacation locally—at a neighbouring community or a country inn or spa. You don’t have to go far to feel like you’ve been away.


Buy the Right Luggage


With such a deep well of total crap luggage to buy out there, you need to NOT SETTLE!

1. Decide if you are a soft or hard case person.

2. If shopping in person, look for the lightest luggage you can find, but nothing too flimsy.

3. Always go with the next-to-largest size, or at least one size up from what you think you need. You probably don’t need all three sizes of the same case.

4. Steer clear of black to avoid carousel conundrums.

5. Extra pouches, compartments and dividers inside just means less room for your stuff. Find a balance.

6. Veer away from too many outer pockets, which are too tempting for handlers in shadier airports. Zippers and tags can also catch on other bags on the carousel.

7. Never buy the lowest-priced model. It will just wear out faster.

8. Only buy bags that come with a good warranty.

9. Shopping online can yield the best discounts, but pay attention to the dimensions: It could be too small or too big when it arrives at your door.