My wife, Malisa, and I got back from vacation over 2 weeks ago already. This was our first major trip so, naturally, we learned a few things for next time. Here are a few things we learned about traveling on vacation in the Pacific Northwest:
- Pack lighter. We carried 2 large suitcases, 2 carry-ons and our personal bags. This was too much. We constantly had our hands full with bags which made it difficult when trying to catch trains and buses. We were also not able to have a cup of coffee in our hands, a huge downside. Next time, 1 suitcase and 1 personal bag each, period.
- Thanks to my Mom and Stepdad, we got new luggage for Christmas. The luggage is wonderful. The only problem is, they have 4 wheels instead of the standard 2. This was great on level ground (in the airport) but on hilly streets in Portland/Seattle or in the train it was a different story. Any time we took our hands off the bags they would start to roll away. If we had to look at a map or scratch our head they would roll away in different directions. Not fun. There isn't much to do to change this but having less bags will mostly alleviate the problem.
- Wear slip-on shoes and single layers when going through customs. We thought we'd be smart and wear multiple layers through the airport so we didn't have to pack it. Bad idea. It was a colossal pain to disrobe going through the metal detectors. Next time, dress lightly and don't wear a belt.
- If you will be walking at all, wear comfortable shoes. We made the mistake of packing 2 pairs of shoes each, neither of which were that comfortable. When we're home, we mostly drive everywhere. On vacation, we did a ton of walking (56 miles to be exact). Either pack good shoes or plan on buying them, they are a necessity.
- Bring a jacket with a hood (or umbrella) when visiting rainy cities. This one was my mistake. Again, we usually travel in cars so hoods aren't necessary. When walking, this is a HUGE necessity. Good thing it didn't rain too much but the days it did, I got drenched.
- Don't rent a car (unless absolutely necessary). We didn't rent a car and enjoyed spending time walking with each other and were able to stop off at shops/restaurants along the way. We were less stressed with traffic and parking and were able to enjoy more of our time being spontaneous. Great idea. Also, public transit is quite efficient and easy once you figure it out. It allowed us to see more of the city this way.
- Bring cash. We had a few bucks on us at all times. If we needed money for the bus, coffee, food, etc. we didn't need to swipe. This also allowed us to know exactly how much money we were spending and made sure we didn't overspend. Some people would say it's not safe to travel with cash. False. The risk of losing $100 is less than the risk of not having money when you need it. Bring cash.
- Prepay for activities. We paid for a lot of our activities/events weeks before we left. This way we had things we could do on vacation and we were able to pay for it over time, not just the week we were there. There was absolutely no stress in spending money on this trip, no credit cards. Cash or debit card only. We're not ruining the memory of our vacation by working to pay it off, we did that months ago. Can't imagine the stress of coming home and being faced with bills for things we spent while on vacation. That's no fun.
- Carry water. Wherever we went we had our 32 oz Nalgene bottles filled with water. Absolute necessity. Next time, I might get this one for less space and lighter weight
- Buy a lighter laptop or wear a backpack. On the trip I used my Timbuk2 Commute (I have the 1.0 model). I love this bag but I've never worn it for an extended period of time. After a while, it started killing my right shoulder, so I started wearing it on my left. I didn't carry my MacBook Pro around everywhere but when I did, it hurt. A backpack would have distributed the weight better and might have helped save my shoulder. I've since purchased the Rickshaw Commuter which seems to be more comfortable, but, for long trips, use a backpack, maybe this one.
Hopefully these things will help you on your next trip.