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La Piazza Blog & Stories
10 Ways to Travel Smart
Travel Tips
October 07, 2019

10 Ways to Travel Smart

people jumping on the beach

With thirty plus years in the adventure travel business we’ve got it covered at Ciclismo Classico when it comes to traveling smarter to saving time, money and in some cases, headaches.

Here are our top ten tips to be sure your next trip is smarter than ever!

1: GET YOUR PHONE SET UP!

I’m not sure if your as attached to your phone as I am, but these days just about everyone feels naked without their phone. Ever lose it for 10 min and feel the complete rush of panic penetrate your entire body? So! Having said this, we all know the phone has to be in order for our international bike tour endeavors. Here are few tips:

Make sure the cell technology on your phone is GSM (Global System for Mobile). Then, make sure it supports the frequencies used in your trip destination. Good news is that most phones these days are built to work overseas.

using phone on plane

Make sure your phone is unlocked. In the States, many phones are “network locked” and with a locked phone, you’re stuck with paying your cell company’s roaming rates (some carriers are absurdly high) from the minute you land in your destination until you arrive back home. An unlocked phone is a phone that you can use anywhere in the world and where you are allowed to replace the SIM card with a local SIM card (costs are around $20-$40 per month or a weekly plan is less)

If your phone is locked you can: 1) Only use Wi-Fi. 2) Buy a cheap smartphone or a disposable phone 3) Rent a phone or a portable hotspot 4) Use your tablet and put in a local data-only SIM (and use Skype and WhatsApp).

2: NO MORE TRAVEL INSURANCE MYSTERIES

I can’t emphasize this enough to all our guests: travel insurance is one of the most important things you’ll need for your trip. You wouldn’t have a car without car insurance, a home without home insurance, and you can’t have a trip without travel insurance.

jumping on the beach

But, I also agree: there are loads of options out there, right? So what if you found a travel insurance company that also sends you safety alerts and notifications, let’s you know what to see in do within your destination and helps you to give back in to your local destination in some way? Thats World Nomads Ciclismo Classico’s top choice for travel insurance. Why? World Nomads our favorite because one can purchase and renew an insurance policy online in a matter of minutes, they have a very friendly and responsive staff who answer questions and help solve problems via social media, they have great customer feedback, and most importantly, they provide a lot of coverage at a fair price. If there’s one company we would recommend–it’s World Nomads. They are also endorsed by Lonely Planet and National Geographic, which says a bit about who they are.

3: LUGGAGE CONUMDRUMS

We supposedly improve with age (like a fine wine) when it comes to packing more efficiently for each consecutive bike tour. But have you ever noticed how sometimes the reverse happens? We end up packing more useless things than ever before! How does this happen? 

Meanwhile suitcase design has come a long way in recent years and in this bag review you can make your first move towards downsizing by reading all about (and eventually buying) a smarter carry on bag. 

Lastly, stuff an extra duffle in your bag! I’ve seen so many people go out and buy an extra bag at the end of a tour to fit in the irresistible and beautiful purchases made along the way. Busting out of your original travel bag is more common than not.

4: GET YOUR MEDS IN ORDER

Don’t forget them! The last thing you want to forget are those irreplaceable and important medications. I always say: pack them first! European pharmacies very from country to country regarding access to medications in an emergency situation. But, it’s not something you want to explore on vacation. Best to come well prepared with these personal necessities.

Of course there’s no need to fret about the common first aid kit essentials: your Ciclismo Classico tour guide will have a tour kit to cover any incidentals.

5: NO FEE CREDIT CARDS AND MILES

So it’s pretty safe to say there are oodles of credit cards out there and most of us already have too many or just enough and the thought of adding yet another card to the mix seems unappealing at best. And! With so many cards to choose from, it’s hard to know which one is actually good for travel and which one is total bull***. It can be especially confusing trying to navigate all the sign-up bonuses, loyalty programs, perks, offers, endless rules and hidden fees. But think of it this way: Credit cards aren’t about spending money you don’t have. They are actually a means to get perks for the spending you already do. Check out the specifics on cards or read this excellent article: The Ultimate Guide to Picking the Best Travel Credit Card.

6: DRIVING OVERSEAS

Thinking about visiting a few places on your post tour? A rental car for a few days?

There are some who wouldn’t dare get behind the wheel in a foreign country and others who jump for joy at the thought of driving on the left side (yikes!) or up and down fast-paced Italian autostrade.

driving in white vintage car in italy

So the skinny on the driver’s license is this: If you’re planning to drive while in Europe you’ll need to acquire an International Drivers Permit (sometimes erroneously called an International Driving License), but do note that an International Drivers Permit is different from a European Drivers License, which is an EU-designed drivers license designed to replace individual country licenses. But, what most people don’t realize is that not ALL countries require this permit. The following countries do require International Driver’s Permits in conjunction with a valid United States’ driver’s license: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain; again, you might not even be asked for the IDP in these countries, but technically you’re required to have one or risk being fined. Just sayin’.

7: WHAT ARE WE EATING?

While we are all about eating “local” and experiencing the culture of a place through embracing local dishes–this doesn’t work for everyone.

holding cinnamon bun

With today’s status quo and the overwhelming (and growing) amount of people with sensitive bellies, or personal philosophies around food–the world has had to keep up with an ever-expanding variety in dietary requirements and requests. 

If this is you, before jumping on tour, it’s a good idea to do your homework on available foods in the country where you’re planning your next bike trip. For the most part traveling as a vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or intolerant is do-able. But it all depends on your destination and your preparation. In Western Europe, most people understand what you mean when you say you’re vegan or vegetarian. Moreover, if they don’t understand, they most likely speak enough English that you can exchange and clarify. Many cities in Europe are actually amazing vegan hubs (Berlin, Sweden and Glasgow to name a few).

Have your notes ready or food list translated into the language of the country you are visiting. One app I recommend for vegans is The Vegan Passport, translated into 79 languages and a great resource for finding vegan food in restaurants around the world. Another great go-to while traveling is The Happy Cow. The vegan-veggie version of Yelp.

8: SAFETY FIRST

So many people ask me: is Europe safe these days? My no brainer answer is always YES. But, thanks to a few high-profile terrorist attacks and riots across Europe and ongoing media coverage of things that are only ever bad, people tend to step into media produced fear zones.

The questions are always the same: “Is the likelihood of a terrorist attack high? What about the refugees? Are there riots everywhere? Is it dangerous?”

 

As we all know “if it bleeds, it leads,” and the media have done a good job of painting Europe in a negative light. People also end up extrapolating from sensational coverage and assume that what they read is the only thing going on. It’s how biases are formed. It’s why people who have never been to France think “they all hate Americans” or “the French are all rude.” Or why many Americans still think Colombia is this dangerous narco-state they heard about throughout the 1980s. Once engrained, these mistaken perceptions are hard to change. 

Combined with all the fake news on the web and how people only seem to absorb that which confirms their preconceptions, it’s easy to see why Europe looks bad.

Recent attacks in Paris, Germany, London, Stockholm, and elsewhere have made authorities more vigilant, and you will see more armed police officers and security at airports and in the streets. But it is no different than NYC after 9/11, London after the tube bombing, or really any city in the modern age. The truth is, statistically, you’re more likely to get hurt in your bathtub or hit by a bus than die in a terrorist attack. The odds of your being killed in an attack in France are less than two ten-thousandths of one percent.

Visit Europe. It’s safe. Be vigilant and careful but be even more so in the bathtub as you get ready or the car on the way to the airport. Those places are more dangerous.

9: SMART PHOTOGRAPHY

ciclismo owner taking photo of italy on boat

These days there are a lot of smart ways to capture memories. As Lauren Hefferon, Owner/Founder of Ciclismo Classico says: “Taking photos is a way to say, I love this place, this scene, these people, this special moment, the still life of fresh tomatoes in a basket.” Telling a story with photos is an engaging way to pay homage to your special travel experience. She adds: “Over the years I have slung my Nikon across my back and carried every kind of compact camera in my jersey pocket. However, my cycling camera of choice remains my iPhone 7. Why, you ask? Because it’s easy, the quality is high, and I believe that it brings photography to its essence of capturing and composing moments of inspiration. As the pros say, the best camera is the one you have and my iPhone is always there ready to capture.”

Read more to learn about Lauren’s top ten tips on how to get and share great shots, plus a list of her favorite iPhone apps.

10: DEMYSTIFYING JET LAG

So, what exactly is jet lag?

Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as the dreaded jet lag!

The National Sleep Foundation says that just by implementing some very simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination–can help minimize the side effects of jet lag. Check out their very practical but cool suggestions

Happy, SMART travels!

 

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