Travel Gems for August 9th-13th

Each Monday through Friday, a Travel Gem of the Day will be posted at SmartWomenTravelers.com. These Travel Gems are tips that will help a traveler travel smarter, safer, handle home issues, be prepared and enjoy their journeys.

Here are last week’s Travel Gems:

Monday – Packing light and re-wearing clothes another day? Wash your garments out in your hotel sink and dry them with this Portable Clothesline by Rick Steves.

Features include:

  • This handy clothesline stretches to 7 feet easily attaching to door knobs, window latches, etc.
  • Holds up to 20 lbs (9 kg) of wet clothing
  • The triple braided design eliminates the need for clothespins

Also bring along a rubber sink stopper, which fits any size sink and keeps water from draining out while you’re still washing your clothes.

Tuesday – Air travelers are at much higher risk of developing a circulatory issue called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) than non-flyers. DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein that can develop after sitting on long flights. Passengers sitting in coach are particularly vulnerable because of the limited amount of space in which to move their legs, though this issue affects business and first-class travelers as well. Each year in the United States, some 600,000 new cases of DVT are diagnosed, with 1% of these people dying. It’s important to take steps to prevent DVT, particularly while doing a lot of flying. DVT does not necessarily strike while you’re up in the air. The riskiest time to develop DVT is in the two weeks after a flight according to Veins1.com.

Before Your Flight

Ask your doctor if he or she recommends the use of compression stockings. These can help increase circulation particularly if you’re at high risk of developing DVT. Get properly measured for these stockings so that they provide a comfortable fit. Try on the stockings with the shoes you intend to wear during the flight.

During Your Flight

Move around! Sitting scrunched up with your knees to your chest for long periods of time is not only uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous especially if you’re at risk for DVT. Do what you can in the narrow airplane aisles … walk back and forth, do some toe-lifts against a back wall and try to do a few stationery lunges from the back of the plane. Try to move around every hour or so during a long flight.

Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids such as water and juice. Dehydration can result in the thickening of blood and the narrowing of vessels. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as they can be dehydrating.

Engage in exercise at your seat. Point your toes up and then down to a flat position. You can also try flexing your leg muscles and lifting your knees periodically throughout the flight. Rotating your ankles is another good way to keep the blood flowing. Don’t cross your legs or ankles as this restricts blood flow.

After Your Flight

See your doctor immediately following a trip if you have any signs of DVT. These may include swelling in one or both legs, leg pain or tenderness, red or discolored skin or warmth in the leg that’s affected. If you feel a bump in your leg, do not try to massage it out. See your doctor first.

Half of all DVT patients show no symptoms.

As with any other medical issue, check with your doctor to get their expert advice on DVT.

Wednesday – When multiple people traveling to the same event are booked on different flights, a coordinator for the group (or meeting and travel planners) can easily track everyone’s plane schedules with the new TripIt Groups. Once you set up an account, simply forward flight confirmation e-mails to plans@tripit.com, and all of the itineraries will be displayed in a map format. tripit.com/uhp/groups.

Thursday – Tips for Choosing Luggage

Look around the airport and you’ll see luggage of every shape, color and style imaginable. Which style is right for you? And how do you tell the difference between a $90 bag and a $200 bag?

First determine the type of travel you’ll primarily be doing. Will it be for business use, or vacation? Will you be traveling by air, car or train? Are you packing for a weekend, a week, or more than a week? By answering these questions you will probably be able to determine whether you need to focus on carry-on pieces, luggage that needs to be checked on airlines, or tote bags that carry a laptop. You will most likely develop your own collection of luggage that fits your personal needs.

Second, give consideration to the features, materials and ‘carry-ability’ of the luggage. Traditional luggage, including roller bags, comes with two wheels or four (aka ‘spinners’). The extra wheels add weight, but also give more maneuverability, a key feature when trying to squeeze you and your luggage into a tiny airport bathroom. Speaking of weight, pick up the bag when it’s empty and see if it feels heavy. If it feels heavy and there is nothing in it yet, chances are you’ll struggle to get the bag in the overhead bin on the plane. Know what features are important to you and which are nice-to-have. For example, if you travel with suits and dresses, you’ll probably want to fold-out garment holder. Shoe holders, jewelry holders, large inner or outer pockets all need to be considered. My husband likes a small outer pocket where he can keep his airport parking documents and other easily-accessible items; I prefer a large outer pocket to hold a few magazines or folders.

Soft- or hard-sided styles are another choice. This choice may be a personal preference, but the decision may be influenced by what you intend to pack. For example, if fragile items and breakable equipment are frequently packed, hard-sided luggage may be the better choice. Soft-sided luggage is very durable and made in puncture and tear-resistant fabrics, such as ballistic nylon.

When it comes to luggage on wheels, here is where I see an obvious difference in quality luggage vs. lesser priced bags. Select a bag with wheels that matches the type of travel you’ll be doing. If you do frequent air travel, you will want strong wheels for running through the terminal, traipsing through car rental lots, and lugging in and out of hotel rooms. If you primarily have driving trips, or fly only once or twice a year, you’ll usually be able to get away with a lesser wheel quality. Just think of a grocery cart with wheels that want to go their own way or keep sticking vs a smooth-rolling cart. That to me is the difference between fair-quality wheels and good wheels. You grocery shoppers will know what I’m talking about!

Third, consider the size of the luggage. If you primarily are a carry-on traveler, you’ll want to look for lightweight bags that do not exceed 22″. Check with your primary air carriers to get their size limits. If you can you fit everything you want in a carry-on bag, which I can for a 4-day, 7-day, even a 10-day trip, then a 22″ may be just fine. Otherwise look for a larger piece of luggage and know that you’ll always be checking that bag when flying.

Fourth, consider whether your bag should be dual-purpose. Business cases on wheels with room for one change of clothes, a laptop tote/handbag, a backpack on wheels, are all items that do double-duty based on the type of travel you do and the features you’re looking for.

Fifth, enlist the help of the pros. Go to a specialty luggage store when looking for your luggage. Their sales people are knowledgeable about the broad selection of luggage available and they can do product comparisons for you when it comes to features and prices. They’ll also be able to show you the differences between various price points. I’ve had buyer’s remorse when I bought luggage on my own. I’d select a bag because of a few features and the very next week see a different bag that I want more. I buy better luggage that matches my style when I enlist the help of a luggage pro.

Friday – If you have school-age kids, whether it’s kindergarten or college, it’s back to school time. When it comes to mom’s guilt about being away from home for business travel, this has got to be about the worst time of year. It’s right next to the guilt days of being away on your child’s birthday.

How do you cope with business travel at these important dates?

  1. Try to work your schedule so that you can be home on the first day of school and travel the day after. Since most schools begin session on a Monday, this is more of a possibility than for schools that start mid-week. Work with your employer or client to adjust the schedule for this important day.
  2. If you can’t be home, then enjoy the school shopping with your kids prior to their start of school. Make it a fun day of shopping for new clothes and school supplies on the days that you are home.
  3. Call your kids in the morning and evening on the first few days of school. They’ll have lots to tell you, maybe be a bit anxious, and you’ll also feel better being in touch more to see how they’re adjusting to a new year.
  4. Celebrate their first week of school once you’re back at home. Whether it’s out to lunch or a special day at home, make their first days of school a full priority in your schedule.

Enjoy these back to school days with as much involvement as you can. Whether you’re able to walk your kids to the school bus on the first day or call them upon their return home, your kids will be off to a great school year start.

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