At Victorinox Travel Gear, we are all passionate about travel and seeing the world. Jason Hodge, our Director of International Sales based in the United States, has been immersed in the world of travel practically his whole adult life. Prior to working for Victorinox Travel Gear, Jason spent many years backpacking across Europe before landing a job as a Travel Director at a travel agency – giving him the opportunity to travel to 5 continents and about 60 countries thus far. With all of his travel experience, we went to Jason to soak up some of his vast knowledge on traveling abroad…
• Research Flights: When finding flights – go to multiple travel sites and look at different ways to fly: going city-to-city direct versus going through airline hub cities. In some cases you’ll find cheaper fares, in other cases, shorter travel times.
• Plan to arrive in the late afternoon or evening: If you don’t sleep well (or at all) on overseas flights, like me, try to arrive in the afternoon or evening, get a good night of sleep in a bed so you can start the journey fresh. There’s nothing worse than arriving in the early morning at your destination and feeling like a coffee-sipping zombie all day.
• Don’t cram everything in: If you are going to more than one place on your trip, don’t cram in several overnight flights just to save time. You won’t be able to fully enjoy yourself during daytime hours. It’s better to space these overnight flights out, or wait until your return-home flight to book overnight flights.
• Choose the correct mode of transportation: Depending on the location and the amount of time allowed, the method of travel can vary. Boat/ferry travel is ideal for short trips from mainland to islands like La Ceiba, Honduras to the Bay Islands, or a very affordable option to get from places like Dover, England to Calais, France. Trains are the method of choice when traveling between smaller cities within Western Europe, seeing the amazing natural topography of Western Canada, or experiencing the one-of-a-kind bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. They’re usually very reliable and fast, although ticket prices can be as much as airline tickets sometimes. For those with limited time, air travel is the probable method. You may lose the opportunity to see the smaller cities and towns, but you’ll cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.
• Location, location, location: Of course it depends on the purpose of your trip, but location always plays a big role in determining the accommodation. If you’re closer to the sites you want to go to, you save time…time to enjoy a coffee in the morning or a drink in the evening. Although metros and taxis can be fun, walking is the preferred method of travel for me. So, I look for accommodation that puts me in the heart of things. Factors such as room size, deluxe amenities and included breakfast play less of a role.
• Boutiques are hidden gems: Modern boutique hotels always catch my eye, and are often run by a husband/wife. These hotels are hidden value-added hotspots – like having family or best friend and concierge all in one spot. In the past, I’ve had success finding these types of hotels by looking at reviews on travel blogs and forums. Once I find a hotel that peaks my interest, I go to their website for pictures and location before making my final decision.
• Choosing luggage: in the past couple of years I’ve been traveling more with the Spectra™ Extra Capacity Carry-On hardside luggage with four wheels. Hardside cases are stronger, more secure, sleeker and MUCH easier to roll through airports. I like to bring my Deluxe Travel Pillow and all my tech gadgets in my black Altmont™ 3.0 Dual-Compartment Laptop Backpack.
• Research the location: I do some research on average temperatures and altitudes for each destination. You may not want to pack a coat when going to South Africa in January (their summer).
• Pack light: I always try to pack light, and bring clothes that I can mix and layer in different ways. Carry-on luggage is the way to go. You save so much time before and after flights, and it prevents a lot of awkward and physically-exhausting moments in/out of taxis and hotels. In a carry-on I can usually pack 7 days of undergarments, 3 days of clothes and shoes/clothes for exercising. There might be one or two key items that need washing on the trip, but it’s worth the hassle of checking bags.
• Keep busy: Because I very rarely can sleep on long flights, I need things to help me pass the time. Essentials are a fiction novel, an iPod, good-quality over-ear headphones (ear buds starts to hurt after awhile), and my laptop (I try to do at least 2-3 hours of work). I like to connect my camera and edit and file photos as well – a great time filler.
• Stay powered: I usually bring my normal power cords and my Worldwide Adapter Plug with USB Charger. Some planes will have universal outlets in your seat. For others, I have to use a 12V DC power outlet (cigarette lighter outlet) – which comes in my All-In-One Charger Set.
• Stay hydrated & well nourished: I always buy two extra bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and a sandwich in the terminal before getting on the plane. I don’t like to rely on when the flight crew decides to distribute food and drinks. Also, the air on planes can be very dry, and drinking lots of water really helps me with jetlag.
• Lock up: For air travel, TSA locks are essential, and I always bring a few extra. Inspectors in certain countries often don’t understand that a TSA master key can open the locks, so when I pick up my bag upon arrival, the locks are clipped or missing. For trains, and especially long train journeys, a Travel Sentry® Approved Loop Lock is great. You can lock your bag to a pole, and rest a little easier that the bag won’t be taken. This is a good habit, whether traveling through India, Germany or really, any other country. Always keep your money, passport and valuables either on you, or in a backpack next to you.
• Explore during the day: A reputable tour company may be a little pricey, but for developing countries it can offer a safe way to see the sites. If you can’t afford a tour company, I’ve noticed that renting a bike or moped can be a great way to safely get around, especially when there are a lot of people interested in stopping you and trying to sell you something. Overall, explore during the day, dress conservatively and if you need directions, ask professional-looking women; they usually know English and will be kind.
• Keep your money safe: Keep most in a safe back at the hotel, some in your wallet and some in your sock. When I backpacked through India, I had a tailor put in a hidden pocket in my shorts. I put my passport and money in there when I would travel from city to city. Most travelers choose to use a Deluxe Concealed Security Belt or Deluxe Concealed Security Pouch, but make sure these are worn properly – underneath your clothing and out of sight – otherwise they are ineffective.
• Convert some money before you leave: It’s nice to have some pocket money when you arrive. If you have an opportunity to convert a little bit of money before you leave, it can be really helpful. You might not get a great conversion rate doing this though, so just convert a little. Upon arrival, exchange kiosks and hotels are very convenient, but the fees are usually way too high and they ask for your passport. The way to go is an ATM. Look for ATM’s when you arrive at your destination airport. You pay a bank fee, but you also get bank rate. It’s quick and easy, but usually only gives out large bills. Caveat: know the approximant exchange rate before you draw money from the ATM. Most will only show the amounts in the local currency. You don’t want to draw $1,000 when you only want $100.
• Use credit cards for big purchases if you can: Not everywhere will take your credit card, so cash is important to have on-hand. But if you can use a credit card, especially for big purchases such as airline tickets or hotel bills, I suggest doing so because you never want to carry that much cash. It’s also important to notify your bank when you leave the country – let them know what cities you’ll be in as well as your travel dates – this way you’re credit card won’t go on hold for suspicious activity.
Whether you’re packing your bags for the sunny beaches of Bora Bora or preparing to backpack across Europe, we hope Jason’s expert tips will help make your travels smooth, safe and fun!