Wandering around the World

Avoiding the Effects of Altitude Sickness

As an avid visitor to Colorado, I usually have a day or so where I seem to be effected by Altitude Sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen from the air at a higher altitude. My hometown sits at a cool 640′ above sea level, whereas Colorado Springs sits at 6,035′ above sea level — that’s a huge difference, right?! Needless to say, this can set a girl back, which I hate on vacations. So here are my favorite tips for combating the symptoms of altitude sickness in order to make the most out of your high altitude vacations!

Stay hydrated – I cannot emphasize this enough! A major symptom of altitude sickness is headache and fatigue, both of which can be remedied with lots of water. I typically drink half my body weight in ounces when I’m at home, so I try to drink my body weight in ounces when I’m at a higher altitude. Yes, you’ll probably half to go to the bathroom more frequently, but your body will thank you by running at it’s optimum level.

Rest – This is terribly crucial. I know that the idea of resting and taking it easy while you are in a new place sounds terrible, but your body will thank you. Go to bed early and sleep a little later — make sure that you are getting at LEAST 8 hours of sleep per night and you’ll be in prime condition to take adventures in no time!

Drink Sparingly – Let me give you some first hand experience, drinking at a higher altitude can get a bit crazy. Drinks will hit you significantly faster at a higher altitude, so it’s important to use caution when drinking. Stick with the ‘for every beer, have a water’ mentality because nothing sucks more than having a massive hangover and dehydration when on vacation. Talk about a mood killer!

Hydration Station – Speaking of dehydration, let me AGAIN reiterate how important it is to drink water when you’re visiting a higher altitude. Just being at a higher elevation alone can cause you to lose more fluids – I’ve heard it’s somewhere around a quart per day from breathing alone. I always make an effort to keeping at least one full bottle of water with me at all times and (as I said above) I keep to the ‘one beer, one water’ rule.

You Are What You Eat – So I have some good news for you, when you’re a higher altitudes you are actually encouraged to eat carbs — heck yes!!! Complex carbs will help your body to use oxygen more efficiently and also aid in keeping your energy levels up. Another major plus is that they stabilize your blood sugar, which can be a problem at higher elevations. Also consider foods with higher levels of potassium, as potassium helps to act as an electrolyte.

Take Easy Adventures – At least for the first few days at a higher altitude, take so easy adventures. I guarantee you that even if you are in the best shape you have ever been, you will feel winded doing the easiest activity like running up a flight of stairs. If you’re an avid outdoor adventurer like me, you will want to ease into things. We love hiking and I didn’t even attempt to hike any trail harder than a yellow level; even that didn’t happen until one almost a week of being there.

Other Tips:

Moisturize – You’ll need extra lip balm and skin moisturizer when you’re at higher altitudes. Similarly to the way dehydration works, higher altitudes have lower pressure, which means that there’s a higher rate of evaporation of moisture from you skin. I store lip balm and sample size containers of lotion in my purse, day pack, rental car and on my bedside table.

Protect Your Skin – Remember your sunscreen ya’ll! At higher elevations mean not only that you are closer to the sun, but that there is less water vapor in the air. This means that there’s 25% less sun protection. It doesn’t matter how tan you are or how protected you think you are from the sun, put on that sunscreen; you won’t regret it.

Wandering around the World

Schengen Area – What You Should Know

Beginning in 1985, various countries in the EU gathered together to brainstorm ideas to create an easier way for people, including tourist, to travel about Europe. In 1995, an agreement was implemented called the Schengen Area — named after the area of Luxembourg where the talks were first initiated in 1985. As of today, there are 26 European states that have signed this agreement. Currently, this is an area that encompasses most EU states, with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the UK. Please take note that at this current time, Bulgaria and Romania are currently in the process of joining it. Of the non-EU States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein have joined it as well.

What does this mean for you as a traveler? 

They have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual boarders. The area functions similarly to a single country for the purpose of traveling internationally, due to its common visa policy. This means that any person, regardless of nationality, may cross the Schengen Area interior boarders without being subject to border checks; however, national authorities can carry out police checks at the internal boarders or any other boards, provided that they aren’t equivalent to border checks.

Also, you will need to be aware that if you plan to spend 3 months in the Schengen area during any 6 month period, you must wait another 3 months from your date of departure from the Schengen area before you can apply to enter the area again without a visa. What this means is that you must be aware of the countries that are within the Schengen Area and which ones are not. For example, you could travel through Europe for 6 months, but only a total of 3 months could be spent within the Schengen area – whether that time is consecutive or not.

What do you need to enter in Schengen Area?

To enter the area, you will need the following:

  • A passport, valid for at least 90 days beyond your intended date of departure from the Schengen Area.
  • A justifiable purpose of travel
  • Proof of financial resources for the visit. Both for while you are there and upon time of departure.
  • Compliance with any other entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit.

Helpful Tips:

  • Make sure that you carry your passport with you at all times when you’re traveling to/from the Schengen Area, but also when you’re traveling within the area.
  • Ensure the you get your passport stamped directly upon entering and exiting the Schengen Area.
  • If you plan to stay in the area longer than 90 days, you should contact the embassy of the country you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa.

Do you have any plans to travel to Europe soon? What other tips or tricks do you have for navigating the Schengen Area?

Until next time, happy adventures! – Kate

Wandering around the World

Checklist: Before You Travel

If you’re anything like me (which you may or may not be), having a list of things to do before you jet away on your vacation is extremely important – yet sometimes you don’t even know where to start. Here is my ‘must complete tasks’ for before I travel.

Get Vaccinations – Be sure to check out the CDC’s website regarding what vaccinations are required for the country that you are planning to travel to. As a good rule of thumb, be sure that your regular vaccinations are all up to date as well. Visit your physician four to six weeks prior to your trip – this will give the vaccine enough time to get working in your system and it will also give you time to get a secondary dosage if necessary.

Get Visa – Many countries require people of different nationalities to apply for visas prior to arrival. If you happen to be from the United States, there are almost 150 countries that you can visit without obtaining a visa, most of which are located in Europe and South America. For more specific information regarding which countries require visas for Americans, please visit this website. For more specific information about the Schengen Area, check out this post.

Learn about the Customs – This is actually a more important topic than I realized, until me and B wanted to travel to Dubai. We didn’t know a lot about the country and it’s customs, so we did a bit of research. Come to find out, because we aren’t married, getting a joint hotel room would be extremely difficult to accomplish. Needless to say, we are looking into that trip for another time, but that research was a real eye opener. I have also noticed that quite a few countries frown upon women drinking in public — to me

Learn Key Phrases – I cannot stress this enough, although English is a widely spoken language, you cannot expect that every person you encounter will know it. Thus, my tip, learn key phrases that will help you navigate the waters in a new country. One of my closest friends recently traveled internationally for the first time; she moved throughout Europe primarily by train and recommended that anyone who travels internationally learn vocabulary associated with the transit (ex. baggage, arrival, etc.). Along with this, learn at least the following words for easier travels.

International Drivers License Needed? – International Driving Permits (incorrectly referred to as licenses) are recognized by 150 countries and contain a photo, your name and your driver information translated into 10 different languages. Everyone that applies must be 18 years or older and have a valid United States drivers license. Now your IDP will remain valid for a year, so you will be required to apply for a new permit. You can apply for it through either AAA or AATA. For additional information for both United States drivers and drivers from other countries, please check out this website. The other thing I would advise is to be smart and research some of the visiting countries driving laws prior to leaving, which can be give by the rental car company (just make sure that they give it to you in English).

Contact card company and your bank – There is nothing worse than finding a cute little restaurant, sipping on a lovely glass of wine while eating a delicious meal and when you go to pay the check, having your card declined. Rats, you forgot to call your credit card company to tell them you are traveling – don’t let this happen to you! Be sure to give your bank and your credit card company an update as to where you will be; I would highly suggest giving them specific instructions as to what dates you will be where so that you will keep yourself protected.

Contact your phone provider – If you’re heading out of the country, don’t forget to call your phone provider to ask about coverage when you’re abroad. Costs will be anywhere from $10 to $20 per day with phone and data coverage. Now, typically is covers a 24 hour period, so if you utilize it at noon on one day, it will be good until noon on the next day for the nominal fee. But honestly, $10 to $20 a day really that much in the grand scheme of things.

Exchange Currency – It is exponentially cheaper to exchange your currency ahead of time as opposed to once your abroad. Your best chance will be finding a bank near the airport that will have international currency or finding a large branch/headquarters in your city. When we went to the United Kingdom, we made a point of exchanging our money in advance, yet we still needed to exchange addition funds when we got there. OUCH, that exchange rate and fee hurt when we did that, but I suppose a smaller exchange was better than all of our funds. I always make a point of keeping

Copy of Passport, Cards and Drivers Licenses – As a woman who has had her wallet stolen, this is a must – even for everyday smarts. Be sure to keep a photocopy of all of your important documents both at your home and with you. In the off chance that anything is stolen, this will help ease your worries, especially when contacting your credit card company or bank. I will also advise that you also locate the embassy closest to where you are visiting in case you need more assistance.

Print Hotel Reservations – Growing up in a time before smartphones, we always used to print out our hotel reservations (in addition to our Mapquest Directions). And, although I have gained a smartphone many years later, this is a habit that I still haven’t been able to break, thank goodness! I cannot count the number of times that I’ve gotten into a hotel and either couldn’t find the confirmation in my email or I would lose service – talk about awkward! So I have made a point of printing it out because, if nothing else, I have it for easy reference.

Leave an Itinerary Behind – For your sake (and your family’s sanity), leave an itinerary behind. Even if it’s just a rough estimate of what days you will be where, this will give everyone piece of mind. In addition, it will allow for your family or friends to send things to you if you need it. Did you run out of baby powder for your trip to India during the summer and now you can’t find it anywhere? You’ll be thankful that your family can send a container of that to your next location!

What are some of the things that you do before you head out on a trip?

Until next time, happy adventures! – Kate

Wandering around the World

Cheap Tricks – Flights and Vacation Packages

Traveling is clearly a passion of mine, but I won’t lie, it can get pretty costly at times. With all of the places on my ‘must see list’, I am always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing the experience. As a 20-something professional living on a budget (woot woot, right?), I want to make sure that I’m getting the most bang for my buck, especially when it comes to travel. For me, flying has always been the most expensive part of traveling, but I have a found a few ways to score some deals! And let me tell you, I have gotten some great prices on flights lately — $1200 for two roundtrip tickets to Stockholm, $1000 for two roundtrip tickets to Dublin, the list could go on and on.

So I wanted to pass on some of my favorite ways to find cheap flights to my favorite people, my readers! Here are a mixture of apps, websites and Facebook pages that will aid in your search for cost effective flights or entire trip packages!

Skyscanner – This has got to be one of my absolute favorite apps for travel. As a planner, I really love the fact that you can watch flights to see when they are at their cheapest. We currently have our eyes on many of our ‘must see’ destinations and I love having the ability to book a bucket list trip at any time. One thing to note is that you need to pick a set of dates for your flights, so you may need to pick a few sets of dates in order to find the cheapest flights.

Skiplagged – This app is fantastic for last minute travels. You pick the closest airport to you and then you pick when you want to leave or you could let the app fill in a date, which I highly recommend for the cheapest flights possible. For example, the closest airport to me has flights to Orlando, FL for $87, Washington DC for $127, or Phoenix, AZ for $125 all leaving on May 25th. I would highly recommend this app for quick weekend trips or for people with extremely flexible work schedules.

Hopper – Now Hopper is a wonderful app for those of us who are flexible with their travel plans and don’t have ANY idea when it’s cheapest to fly. With this app, you pick your closest airport and your final destination; Hopper will tell you when the cheapest, moderate and most expensive dates to fly. It will also give you a rough estimate as to the cost of what it will be at each of these times. It’s one of my MUST HAVE apps for inexpensive travel.

The Points Guy – This Facebook page is run by a fellow travel blogger and he alerts all of his followers when there are cheap flights. Most of these flights fly out of either the East or West Coast, with very few flying from anywhere in the central United States. But no worries, there are always budget airlines that could easily get you to either coast. For example, I saw him post a deal on flights to Scandinavia, $350 roundtrip from the East Coast. B and I decided to buy them, in conjunction with tickets on a budge airline from Chicago to NYC. For two people roundtrip, it cost about $1200 total for our tickets. Not too shabby right?

Groupon – This site is pure gold for many things, travel included! There are so many trip packages, both international and stateside, to choose from. Each of the packages will include airfare from a hub airport (Chicago, NYC, Miami, LAX, etc) in addition to accommodations. Now, please remember that these tours all hosted by third party companies, so it is extremely important that you take a look at all of the reviews for the companies prior to buying. Now even if you aren’t keen in taking tours, this will be a relatively inexpensive way to get to a location you’ve been meaning to visit and then you can just do your own thing.

Living Social – This sight is very similar to Groupon, although I have noticed that they have a lot more specials within the United States whereas Groupon has quite a few packages for international travel. They also seem to have more of a deal on international hotels vs. any vacation packages. With all of this being said, I would still make a point of looking at this website prior to booking a trip.

Costco – Did you know that Costco offers travel deals? With a variety of location packages available, most of which are located in tropical areas, you should be able to cross at least one country off of your bucket list. I will say that I find their travel website a bit clunky and difficult to operate, plus I’m not entirely convinced that they have the absolute cheapest packages. But it definitely is a great option and I have heard that you can find great deals, it just takes a bit of hunting.

So there you have it ladies and gentleman, my secrets to finding cheap flights and cheap vacation packages. Hopefully this will help you guys find some affordable vacations, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll need them and often!

What about those of you who have traveled? Have any of you used any of these apps? What are you opinions on them? Or do you have any other ideas to share with the group?

Until next time, happy adventures! – Kate

Wandering around the World, Wandering Inside the Office, Wandering through Life

5 Ways to Make Your Vacation Time Work for You!

Know Your Company’s Vacation Policy: This is really the most basic and most important part of this whole thing: know your vacation policy like the back of your hand! Here’s an example for you: my company offers 2 weeks of paid vacation in addition to a week of paid personal time. I wasn’t aware of this at the beginning, but our vacation days are use them or lose them (can you tell that my company encourages us to have a good work/life balance?). Our paid personal time, on the other hand, can roll over from year to year up to 20 days. YOU GUYS, that means that I could strategically utilize my two weeks of vacation and forget about my personal days for a few years, I could have up to 34 days of vacation in one year. 34 DAYS just in paid days off — ya’ll this is crazy. If I hadn’t known this, I wouldn’t be able to take all of these fun vacations that I have been able to this year.

Make that Business Trip Work for You: Some of you lucky individuals have the ability to travel for work. Yes, I fully realize that it’s definitely not all fun and games on business trips, but I would highly encourage you to take in a few of the sights and sounds of whatever area you are in. Doing a little bit of research on the front end will help you to know where you are going to be and what attractions or interesting places are nearby. And don’t forget to ask the locals (or the people you are meeting with) what you should check out. We went to one of the best steak places in the U.S. simply because we asked around for dinner recommendations; we wouldn’t have had any idea it existed and more than likely would have just hit up a restaurant near the hotel. Also, doing some exploration during a Business Trip will give you an idea of whether you’d like to go back to that area again or not.

Flexibility in your work schedule: Some companies, not all, will allow you to have flexibility in your schedule. What I mean by that is they only require you to work 40 hours a week, but they don’t care how you get to those 40 hours. So instance, my old job in Chicago allowed use to leave at noon every other Friday if we had our 40 hours in. My current job allows me to take half days or leave early on Fridays as long as I have my 40 hours in; this week, they are letting me leave early on Wednesday so that I can catch my 6pm flight, as long as I have my 24 hours in (8 hours x 3 days). This flexibility can be crucial in helping you to catch those cheaper red-eye flights and make those precious weekend trips just a little bit longer.  

Long weekends (2 to 3 days): Speaking of which, let’s delve into the idea of long weekends. I want to impress upon you how much you can actually do on these long weekends. Not only can you explore around your own state, but you could fly or drive to different places near and far. From Michigan, I can get to Nashville in 8 hours, Pittsburgh in 6 hours, St. Louis in 7 hours, Toronto in 5 hours, or Chicago in 4 hours. Our local airport, which is quite small, does have direct flights to areas of Florida, Texas, East Coast and Arizona, which would lend itself perfectly to a long weekend. I would highly advise spending the 3 day weekends in any place that is either a flight or more than a 5 hour drive away from where you live. We take quick trips to Chicago for two day weekends all of the time because we can head out Friday night after work and then head back in the afternoon on Sunday. We could do the same for Toronto as well, we just haven’t done it yet because B just got his passport. 

 

Paid holidays: These are the vacation gold mines that I bet you aren’t utilizing to their fullest. These, in conjunction with a few vacation days, can give the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to using vacation days. Take July 4th for example, Independence Day in the United States. This year, it is on a Tuesday, which means that you could take Monday off and have a four day weekend for travel. I have also looked into taking off time around Thanksgiving because my company gives us Thursday and Friday off that week — so theoretically if I took off the three other days that week, I could leave the weekend before for a nice long (probably 7 to 9 day) vacation for only 3 vacation days. I’d say that’s quite a deal and a great way to maximize your vacation days.