The end of the year and beginning of the next is the perfect time to reflect on what’s transpired in 2017 and how to apply those learnings to 2018. Here are the lessons I’ve learned in the past year traveling the world with my daughter and husband.
As I sit here on the seventh day into the new year and reflect on this year past, I am remembering the numerous flights flown, the adventures had and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It has been a pleasure to have this experience writing for Live And Let’s Fly. I am grateful to Matthew for the opportunity to post here and to the readers for their time and input. 2017 had its ups and downs and I have learned through it all.
Slow Travel is a great way to travel.
Over the summer I spent 6 weeks traveling South East Asia with my daughter, Lucy. Our days “on holiday” quickly turned into our day-to-day routine in a new country. I watched her immerse herself into our surroundings and enjoy her stay (in mostly Thailand). Terms like “world schooling” and “un schooling” swirled about in my head as she picked up new languages, studied nature around her and ate like a local.
Literally, having the time to see and do almost everything we wanted was a treat. We typically see many destinations over a short period of time but with Slow Travel I learned to appreciate the deeper understanding of a location by fully investing and letting our daughter soak in a new environment. It will be hard to replicate this again in the new year, but if I can I will.
Plan the Vacations you really want to take.
Our family is full of procrastinators. In the past, it has always seemed to work out. A mistake fare pops up, award availability opens up at the last second, but this year we just didn’t find our “golden ticket” (not that they weren’t there) mostly due to a lack of effort. We also wanted to give Lucy her first Christmas at home.
That said, we felt a bit of longing while on our short trip to Panama. We loved the country, but in retrospect we really did miss our trips farther afield. We didn’t take advantage of the greatest time block off we would have all year and book something lofty, though we did enjoy a summer in Southeast Asia. Taking this lesson on board as purely and wholly as we can, we will heed our own advice and start planning next year’s trip at the 330-day departure window where award space sometimes opens up. We are hoping for the Philippines this year, but who knows if we will be able to make that happen. Best laid plans, right?
Going on a trip with no plans can be very rewarding.
On the flip side to that, throwing your hands up and taking everything as it comes has its own benefit. We decided to play what we coined “Vacation Roulette” a term we came up with as Christmas drew near and no trip was planned. We really waited until the very last-minute to book ourselves some time away. Once our holiday was in motion, we enjoyed our unplanned days soaking up some sun in Panama City, Panama. With our freedom and flexibility, we were able to add-on an extra day to our trip and switch our flights into First Class. Sometimes going without any expectations or plans can pay off huge.
Make a travel bucket list and check it off.
I have always had a bucket list when it comes to travel destinations and this past year checking one off the list felt amazing. Floating slowly along the waters of Halong Bay in a private Junk boat was all I had hoped it would be. I haven’t written much about that trip yet, but I will be writing more about it in 2018. Some places on my bucket list may be a further reach, but hopefully there will be even more to cross off this year.
Getting a new passport isn’t that scary, but changing your name is a pain.
As I was about to retire my first passport, I began to panic over the fairly simple task of renewing it. Why? Because that’s what I do. It wasn’t just the process, but also the part where you mail in your expiring passport full of stamps, visas and all the stories you put between those pages. Those aren’t stamps, they are irreplaceable memories.
Almost ten years ago when I married my husband, I decided not to change my name due to the sake of travel. We were expatriating to England just four days after our vows, plus I had already acquired quite a collection of stamps in my still very new passport and I wasn’t ready to “start over.” I decided that as time grew closer to the passport renewal, I would legally change my last name and obtain my new passport. Fast forward to crunch time with less than six months validity on my passport and the part I mentioned earlier about us being procrastinators- when I looked into the process of changing my name, it seemed to be too much hassle. I may officially be Carly Stewart someday, we will see what happens in 2027.
A quality, compact stroller is just as important as good luggage.
For traveling families, the stroller can be key. While a car seat, you may or may not leave at home, there is no reason to leave behind a stroller that fits under the seat in front of you. Countless times I’ve demonstrated folding the GB Pockit stroller up and showing just how small and light it is to avoid gate agents tagging it for collection at the jetway. Why don’t we just check it at the gate and save even more space? Time. Waiting for the stroller to come off can sometimes exceed not only the emptying of the plane but also the exit of your crew.
The Pockit is also light enough (and comes with a shoulder bag) to be carried around without being intrusive. On busy metro platforms we may fold it up so we can fit on the next train without waiting and then deploy it when we get to ground level on the other side. We also take it out at advantageous times like at Customs in other countries where they prioritize families. If our daughter is in the stroller, we get taken to the family/crew/diplomatic lane, if not we sometimes go through the same line as everyone else. It’s not we are trying to cut the queue, but those priority lanes are often wide open and if putting our daughter in the stroller we may be using momentarily anyway will get us through faster, wouldn’t we be fools not to use it?
My husband reviewed the Rimowa Topas line this year and commented on how important it is to have rugged, functional and stylish equipment to make your journey easier. For families, a quality stroller is no exception, and for a reasonable price (about $150) in a size that fits under your child’s seat – it’s a no brainer. In fact, we have beat up our stroller (that piece of kit has been to more countries in 24 months than I had in 27 years) and plan to replace it with a brand new version of the same product.
Auto upgrades split up families
There was a lot of controversy surrounding an upgrade post I wrote this year about why auto upgrades can’t be done just a little smarter for those sharing a record locator. My point in that post was when there are several seats open together in first class, why would the system not automatically try to seat those on the same record locator together? The vitriol that ensued in the comments section ranged from “Kids shouldn’t be allowed in first class” to “You should be happy the upgrade cleared at all and take what you can get.” Most of the comments had merit. While American still does not seat two upgrading parties together when there is ample ability to do so (it’s happened again since), the lesson learned was to not complain at all about first class upgrades regardless of how silly the IT issue may be and to wait until everyone is boarded to see if they would like to swap seats so that our party can sit together.
What were some of the lessons you learned from traveling in the last year? How do you hope to employ it in 2018?