Air travel

Best shopping airports

When I was a kid my father traveled a lot and somehow managed to bring something back for my brother and me each time. How could I forget my collection of plastic airplanes, snow globes and key chains? Twenty years later the days of kitschy souvenirs are pretty much over. With Coach, Body Shop, GAP, Bvlgari, Sunglass Hut, Emporio Armani, Mont Blanc, Nike, Herralds etc scattered across the world’s airport terminals why would anyone buy a key chain again?

London Heathrow

The most impressive shopping I have seen in my travels is London Heathrow. Heathrow is a terrible airport to visit with its delayed flights, long security lines and flooding hallways however they have one of the best food courts and shopping arcades in the world.
Check out the shopping arcade.

Singapore Changi Airport

Unlike Heathrow, Changi Airport is actually a lovely place to layover and waste time. The “Shopping City” offers over 160 eclectic shops and 80 restaurants. Traveling to Singapore is amazing in the first place, being pampered at the airport – now we’re really talking.
See what’s in the Changi Shopping City.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

I must admit I have never been to Amsterdam but I have heard lots of great things about Schiphol Plaza. Apparently not only does it have great shopping but also a casino!
Check out Schiphol Airport.

Travel with your pets

There are lots of reasons why you may need to bring an animal with you while traveling, from relocating the whole family to a new country, or taking a weekend road trip. Whether you are traveling across town or across the globe, there are many things you need to pack and prepare.

Familiar things

Animals like routine. They are more comfortable with their surroundings if they have familiar items. I’m not suggesting you pack the couch but anything that makes them feel more at home is important. When my dog comes along on road trips, we always ensure to pack his favourite toy, as soon as he sees it in the suitcase, he will jump on top and wait there – he knows that if that toy comes, so does he. Last time we moved, my turtles spend a week in individual plastic bins. They wouldn’t eat for days. The minute I put them back in their tank together, the world was right again and they ate like mad! Pets get very emotional, so anything you can do to surround them in familiar things will make their trip better.

Road trip packing check list

You have a mental checklist of all the things you typically travel with but it’s a good idea to have a written one of things you need to bring when you include the family pet. Chances are you will forget something if you don’t write it down ahead of time. I forgot the leash once when I went camping but luckily rope worked just fine.

Some great road trip gear:

Everyone needs a seatbelt
For a home away from home, the Canine Camper
For on the road, Traveling Water Bowl
For the small pet who goes everywhere
For the adventure dog

Pet Friendly Hotels

If you know exactly where you want to stay, give the hotel a call. Some places are willing to make exceptions for certain pets. However, there are many chains who always allow pets such a Sheraton Hotels . Visit the following websites to find a hotel where you are traveling:

North America: Pets can stay

Canada: Pet Friendly
Worldwide: Dog friendly

Airline travel

Flying can be really hard on your pets. It’s imperative that you check with your vet before you fly with your animal to ensure that they are healthy and prepared for flying. Visit Pet Travel’s Airline Pet Rules for valuable information on flying with your pet including immigration, quarantine and drugs. Also, remember to check directly with the airline you are flying to find out more on kennel and paper requirements. They will scream at you when you pick them up in the fragile cargo area and will likely stink but the reward is one happy pet who wasn’t left behind.

Things your travel agent knows about flying

To be honest, I have never used a travel agent to book a flight. However, I have heard hundreds of nightmare travel stories about cancellation fees, failed promises, bumped flights, mysterious taxes – the list goes on and on. There are hundreds of little things that a travel agent will do for you that people typically forget to do for themselves. Here are just a few of the things you take for granted when you use a travel agent that you need to ensure you look into yourself.

Travel insurance: You wouldn’t forsake car insurance or home insurance to save a buck – you shouldn’t’ forget travel insurance either especially when you travel overseas. Flights get cancelled. Airlines go out of business. Luggage is lost. It doesn’t matter if you purchase the insurance through your credit card company, your existing insurance company or through the place that you are booking your flight – opt for it – it will save you when things don’t go as planned.

Read this article from Travel Wise on Searching for Travel Insurance

Proper time between flights: Don’t assume it will only take 30 – 60 minutes to transfer at any airport. Some terminals are 30 minutes apart. Some airports require you to pick up your bags and drop them off somewhere else. If you are traveling internationally, you might have to go through customs first. If you are traveling through Heathrow, it will take you twice as long as you think. Look at the airport website you are connecting through – find out how to get from one gate to the other. Take weather into account especially if you are flying the winter – deicing takes ages.

Read this article from CBC on Tips for making airline connections

The fine print on your ticket purchase and fees associated: I know it’s painful, the fine print is boring but once again, you wouldn’t buy a house without a house inspection, don’t buy a ticket without checking to see what’s required of you. Can you cancel? Can you amend? Do you need to show up early? Your travel agent knows all of these little things – you won’t unless you read the fine print.

Transportation between airport and hotel: Do you land at an airport on the opposite side of town? The major city airport isn’t always the closet to the hotel! Anyone who has done business in Los Angeles and surrounding areas know that. There are often smaller airports much closer to your final destination; likewise, there are often several ways to get there – train, bus, taxi, rental car. Your travel agent knows the best route but you can figure it out too if you contact the hotel and ask!

Airport taxes: Airport improvement fees, airport taxes, service fees, they come with many names but you can’t avoid them. Check to see if the airport you are departing from and/or the airport you are connecting through have airport fees. Make sure you have the necessary cash to pay for it.

Internet is changing the way we fly

The internet is changing the way that we fly from planning trips to purchasing tickets and even tracking flights in mid air. Chances are you have been searching for deals and buying tickets online for years but there are more ways to take advantage of what the internet has to offer after prior to, the day of and in flight.

Ticketless travel

Many airlines offer ticketless travel where you can book online and print off your reservation right from home. No waiting for tickets in the mail or picking them up at a local travel agent. While some airlines simply ask for your confirmation number, having the print out is always a good plan in case there are any questions or errors at the airport. Plus, if you are traveling internationally having a print out of your return ticket may be required at immigration to prove length of stay.

The fine print

Ticketless travel and online purchases without any actual contact with a travel agent or airline representative means reading the fine print is extremely important. For example, some chartered airlines have stipulations that require you to be at the airport several hours ahead of time or you are denied boarding. Other airlines offer lower rates if you are willing to have no seat assignment and the possibility of being the first person bumped off the flight. Many online ticket purchases are non refundable or can incur substantial charges for changes to your reservation. No matter how easy it has become to book flights, at the end of the day, travel is still unpredictable and you need to be able to protect yourself. Read the fine print.

At home check-in and seat selection

One of my favourite features that many airlines are taking advantage of is the online check-in and seat selection. For example, on Westjet airlines in Canada, you can check-in 24 hours up to 60 minutes before you fly. You can also select your seat at that time. So when you arrive at the airport, if you are traveling light you can head straight to the gate with your print out and skip the queue. This online check-in feature is wonderful for the frequent traveler who isn’t loaded down with bags and special requests. You can also check-in from your mobile device from 24 hours up to 30 minutes before you fly and print your boarding pass at one of the self serve kiosks – this means you can check in while heading to the airport.

Check flights in real time

Last but certainly not least, is another awesome tool for not the traveler but the unsung hero – the relative or friend who is always there to pick you up. Give them a break by referring them one of the many real-time flight trackers so they know exactly where you are mid flight and can arrange a pick up accordingly. Some great ones include Flight Aware and Flight Arrivals.