With Memorial Day over, we are now officially into summer travel season. We have a couple of fun trips planned for this summer – to the Holy Land & Petra in July and Toronto, Canada in August. We generally plan our trips out 3-9 months in advance depending on how adventurous the trip is. Like last summer, I’ll post some additional destination guides to places that we have been on this site.
In November we had the chance to see Rudy Maxa – NPR’s original ‘Savvy Traveler’ from SmartMoney and host of numerous PBS travel shows. He was speaking at a fall travel show in Minneapolis. Since increased travel is a big part of many people’s FIRE aspirations, I thought I’d reflect on some of the insights that Maxa shared:
Travel is Transformational
First, Maxa talks about travel as a transformative life experience. “Travel exercises the brain,” he commented – highlighting how it opens your eyes to other cultures and different ways of doing things.
He said he speaks at many conferences on this topic and I can definitely relate. We didn’t world travel until we were in our late 30s and a trip to Prague and the Austrian/Swiss Alps with some good friends changed our view of the world. Our son traveled with us and his view of the world is much more informed & cosmopolitan than mine was at his age.
The fact is, America’s culture is so big, it is hard to see what you are missing. Our culture dominates our own airwaves with news, movies, and music that is very ethnocentric. In Europe, countries are independent, but need to work together in different ways.
Maxa commented that through travel, you “see that people have solved problems in different ways” – some better, some worse – and have your eyes opened to the differences of each way.
Safety Is On Everyone’s Mind
Rudy Maxa says he gets as many questions about travel safety as he does about anything else. Acknowledging that terrorism and travel health often make the headlines and scare people out of traveling, Maxa takes a practical point of view, asking “who among us gets to choose when we die?”
Airplane safety was higher in 2017 than it has been in any year on record with exactly zero travel fatalities recorded on commercial airliners. Maxa noted that the odds of a mishap traveling are certainly not zero, but challenges people by asking “why do you think you are so special that you would die in such an incredibly spectacular way?”
Returning to home after our first overseas trip, my wife remarked “I think there are two kinds of people – those that have traveled overseas, and those that are scared to go.” Unfortunately, we know a lot of people in the latter camp.
Since we are going to the Middle East this summer, we are getting a lot of questions about safety in that part of the world. Our tour guide – a Lutheran Pastor who has led a dozen trips to Israel – says that his experience is that it has felt safe to him as in Minnesota, although the tendency of the media is to focus on the violence. He assures us that both the Israelis and Palestinians are both very protective of the tourist business and the tour company will monitor conditions constantly.
Getting The Best Travel Deals
Maxa views timing when to book trips as a “bit of a crap shoot overall” as airlines and hotels have gotten smarter and smarter with their approaches to demand pricing. For international trips, he thinks it is best to book 3-5 months out. This is as much to assure you getting the flights you want as getting a good price. He suggested both Google Flights and Momondo for predicting which direction airfares are heading.
He mentioned a couple websites that were good for snagging deals if you just want get somewhere – anywhere – fast, and with a lot of flexibility. I looked at a few of these sites before our last trip and found them interesting, but haven’t used them myself yet: TheFlightDeal.com for last minute airfares; HotelTonight app for snagging rooms that are unrented at noon each day, and MileValue.com for getting the most use out of travel rewards points.
Maxa also gets a lot of questions about how to manage money while traveling overseas and highly recommends using credit cards while carrying an adequate amount of local currency (from an ATM machine) for small purchases. As I wrote in this earlier POST, always Pay in local currency with a credit card.
FIRE Travel Plans Since Early Retirement
We’ve been blessed to have taken quite a few trips since we left work a few years ago. Our FIRE Travel Framework has served us well and we’ve already had great trips to England/Scotland, California Wine Country, Nashville/Tennessee/NC, Miami Beach, a Caribbean Cruise, a summer weekend in Chicago, an autumn weekend in Door County WI, and two weeks in Tokyo/Kyoto Japan. If you are not planning on using your early retirement for travel, you are definitely missing a huge opportunity.
What are your travel plans this summer and into fall?
Image Credit: (c) MrFireStation.com & Pixabay