Travel Tips for the Millennial

 

Research tells us millennials are the most global generation yet. The desire to explore seems to surface in many of us as we seek to understand the world and contribute in some way. Almost every time I open my Instagram feed I see someone traveling some place new or dreaming of where to go next. Simply put, millennials love to travel. And I'm definitely one of them. 

What follows is series of travel tips and resources written by a close friend of mine. If you do any sort of travel, you are sure to glean some helpful insight and tips about the traveling process from beginning to end! 

Meet Mike: a small business owner in Waco, Texas who started making business deals when he was in high school and ordering his toilet paper from Amazon. Mike's one of the people I call when I have a question about real life or being an adult. He's just knows stuff. He travels often, so I asked him if he'd consider answering some questions for me to include in this post. By the time I finished reading his responses I definitely felt as though I had gotten smarter. Read on my friends if you wish to be enlightened. :) 

1. How frequently do you travel and where have you visited? Where are you going this next year? 

Way more than I should, but not nearly as much as I want to!

Once every few months I'm going somewhere, even if only for a short weekend trip to visit friends. This year I have a lot of really fun international trips. I just got back from Japan in January, and I am visiting Boston, Cape Town, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Tokyo and Osaka (again), Singapore, and Hong Kong.

2. What's your favorite place you've ever visited? Why?  

Cape Town is my favorite city overall, but my favorite big city is Hong Kong. I had never been to a big city I liked before I visited Hong Kong. 

It's been several years since I've been to Hong Kong (I'm excited to return!), and it's hard to put exactly into words all the things I like about it. Super efficient subways, stunning skyscrapers, beautiful people... It's just nice. Really nice. You walk down a public sidewalk where the handrail is polished metal with glass partitions and lush manicured greenery all around and you realize that the people of Hong Kong live differently than the rest of us. It's as if moderation isn't a value or the bar is just set much higher than I'm used to - everything is nicer than it needs to be and that makes for a very enjoyable city.

Cape Town is near and dear to my heart because some of my best friends live there, it's absolutely stunning visually, the people are amazing, and your money goes a really long way. It's got something for everyone - it's a good sized city with tons of great restaurants, wine estates, beaches, and mountains. 

I did really enjoy Tokyo, so I'm actually considering bumping Hong Kong from it's top spot... I'll know for sure after I revisit Hong Kong later this year.

3. When preparing for a trip, what's the first thing you do?  

Book flights! I love flying. Plus, it's way easier to nail down everything else after you figure out flights, because you know your dates and know that you can even make the whole trip work. I book a lot of trips because there is an amazing airfare sale or because I can redeem miles on a particular route. 

4. Do you plan an itinerary ahead of time? How do you begin researching? Any websites you visit or resources you reference?  

I typically don't plan very many activities or restaurants ahead of time, but I do nail down hotels, flights, and transportation as early out as possible. In some cases waiting can actually get you better pricing, but it's not guaranteed and the price can as much as double if the airline or hotel is mostly booked up by the time you book. 

For airfare, I really only use Google Flights. I also keep an eye on thepointsguy.com for airfare sales. I enjoy flying different airlines and so my criteria includes either flying an airline I know I love or one I'm excited to try. For most people, the cheapest flights with the best dates are probably sufficient ... :)

Once I have airfare, I look for hotels. Hotels take the most time for me, as there are typically 3-5 that look good in my price range that all seem to be really close quality wise. I am a huge believer in TripAdvisor for both finding the best rate a hotel has as well as seeing which hotels are best. If I still need help deciding, I'll look at the ratings for my top picks at booking.com, which breaks down the scores by different amenities and has a 1-10 rating instead of 1-5 like TripAdvisor. Location is something I've learned to get better about looking at especially in big cities - being in a good or bad location can make all the difference. You can't just rely on the map though - your hotel may be a little out of the city, but it may also have a subway stop in the basement. Those things are hard to tell just by looking at a map, but hopefully some friendly reviewer has mentioned it in a recent review.

5. What's your favorite thing to find when traveling? Good wifi? The best coffee shops? Men's footwear? You tell me. 

I work a lot when I travel, so coffee shops with good wifi and comfortable seating is number one. Comfortable seating is maybe the bigger deal than the wifi or the coffee.. I'll take somewhere that's comfortable to work with okay coffee and internet. I always get a local SIM with a lot of data so I can tether my laptop if need be and not have my productivity tied to someone's $25 router their cousin setup in their coffee shop. 

I also love things that are hard to find in other places. Tokyo had a really unique coffee shop / cafe / motorcycle repair shop called Deus Ex Machina that I really loved. The food and coffee were great, but just being there was the best part. In Cape Town you can eat lunch overlooking a beautiful wine estate. I try and take advantage of the things I can't do elsewhere. And also Starbucks :)

6. Let's talk about the packing process. Can you share some of your favorite packing products with us? What are your non-negotiables? Anything you can't travel without? 

In general people pack too much. I checked in for a really nice flight in New York recently and the checkin agent said "This is all you have? This is the lightest bag I'll check all day." Only take what you need. Do you need five pairs of shoes? No way! Tennis shoes cover a multitude of sins. Take those Clarks only if you have insoles or love back pain. Boots or Chacos, maybe, weather dependent. 

Everyone needs a great spinner carry-on and checked bag. TravelPro makes really high quality luggage that will also last forever. Amazon's pricing is typically about as good as anywhere. Spend a few extra bucks and get the spinner - unless it gets sucked into the plane turbine, your TravelPro luggage should last a decade or more.

Five days or less I can do in a carry-on and my life will be much better because of it. There is zero chance they will lose your bag, it's free, and you don't have to wait for it when you arrive at your destination. 

I don't pack anything besides my laptop, tablet to read on, clothes, and dopp kit. 

I can't travel without my Schwab debit card - there are no fees to use it internationally and they refund any fees that the ATM owner charges you with no limit on how many refunds you can get. Opening a Schwab checking account is essential for anyone doing a lot of international travel. Rather than carry a bunch of cash with you and pay to convert it when you land, just withdraw cash from your account at an ATM in-country.

7. When purchasing your flights, what do you look for and what websites do you use? Is there a better time to look and buy in your opinion? 

As mentioned, I really only use Google Flights. I'm looking at the airline, stops, and total flight time. I don't typically care much when it leaves and arrives if it is international; domestic trips over a weekend obviously arriving really late may be a bummer since you have to buy a night at a hotel whereas you could have just gotten there really early the next day.

Knowing what is 'typical' for the price on a route really helps. I think waiting to trying to pay less than what is typical is not a very good strategy as it very well may only go up; if there is a sale I'll take it but otherwise will just shoot to pay a 'normal' price on a route.You can usually figure out what is normal pretty easily by looking at a few different months of fares in Google Flights. If the price for the dates I want is too high, maybe I waited too late and may want to try and find other dates that work.

Booking award flights is totally different and depends on the airline. Some airlines release all the available seats a few weeks before the flight and so the best time to book is either immediately after the flight becomes bookable or just a few weeks before it departs. You can learn this by googling "booking american airlines award travel" (or whatever airline you have miles with OR want to travel with) and looking in the results for a travel blog or website other than the official one. This is also good because you can use your miles to book with partner airlines that may not be available on the airline's website. For instance, American Airlines doesn't list Etihad on their website, but you can learn where to find Etihad's availability by Googling an Etihad award travel booking guide and then after you've found a flight you call American Airlines to place the reservation. You may even learn that calling a different country will get you through faster or better in some ways - when I booked the Etihad flight with my AA miles, I called AA's call center in Australia as they are able to see Etihad award availability that US based agents can't for some reason. Welcome to the knowledge of the internet!

8. Best flight you've ever been on? Why?

Best service was on Singapore Airlines - I was flying in business class and Singapore is a league of its own in regards to service. The seat is very unique too, which is cool.

Qatar Airways is probably the best overall business class in terms of perfect seat, perfect food, and amazing business class lounge. However, the service leaves a bit to be desired sometimes - it can either be great or it can be very robotic and dismissive. 

Best economy flight was also on Qatar Airways several years ago, though I was impressed with the great service on my recent United Airlines flights to and from Europe this last summer. Fly the Friendly Skies.

I've flown what's widely considered to be the world's ritziest first class product, which is the Etihad First Class Apartment on their A380. It was cool, but the concept was way better than the execution in my opinion. I've had better food on Qatar and I've had better service on Singapore. The seat itself was the only thing that set it above...well, that and the in-flight shower :) I paid for that and most of my other 'premium' flights using miles.

9. When navigating a new airport or settling in for a long layover, what do you do first? 

Finding a good seat next to a wall outlet is usually tied for first with locating a Starbucks or some other coffee shop. I have a free Boingo account thanks to my SPG AMEX credit card, so if the airport wifi isn't free Boingo will usually allow free access to the paid service.

If the layover is longer than 8 hours, some airlines (Emirates, Qatar, and others) will provide a free layover hotel and transportation. This is usually not the case, but it's worth checking!

I sometimes have lounge access, in which case the first thing I want to do is take a shower, and it's sometimes also something I'll do again right before I leave. The low humidity of the airplane causes your body to produce a ton of oils, and nobody likes feeling oily.

10. How do you stay organized for your trip? Any travel tools or apps you'd recommend? 

I keep all my trips organized via Kayak. It's free and all you do is forward your booking confirmation emails to trips@kayak.com. You don't even need to setup your account first - just forward your any booking confirmation to that email. They can automagically read just about anything you send them, and will keep your itinerary all in one place and organized. Plus, they'll let you know via their iPhone app and/or email when there are flight delays, checkin reminders, etc. It's really the best and only travel tool I use other than the sites I use to actually book the travel.

11. What about jet lag? What's the best way to beat it? 

Drink a ton of water and when you arrive at your destination, don't sleep until it's evening!

12. Lastly, what would your advice be to a first-time traveler? As a seasoned traveler yourself, is there anything we should know ahead of time? 

I always have more fun going with a friend or visiting a friend. I travel solo occasionally, but the best memories are made with others! Also, travel credit cards can be really helpful, but there is enough to say about them that it would require a whole separate post. Lastly, Europe is just okay! Asia and other places are way underrated travel destinations for Americans. Europe is barely more interesting than Austin in my book.

The Millennial: Embracing Advent

Celebrating Advent is a little counterintuitive for millennials, in my opinion. For a generation who prefers quick fixes and instant gratification, the concept of waiting and hoping for something unseen seems unproductive or even wasteful. Why wait when you could probably come up with a solution to the same problem faster? Yet maybe this season is a time for everyone, especially millennials, to learn to appreciate the waiting, to lean in, and to expect. 

This is the second year I've ordered the She Reads Truth Advent study (you can still jump in online, here) and I'm enjoying the opportunity to read along with thousands of other women and prepare for the coming of Christmas and the birth Jesus. There's something about doing this collectively - knowing there are other women taking the same space to pause, reflect, rest, and study, each in our own context and home. Regardless of what you believe about Christmas, Advent represents a time to be thankful and reflective together in anticipation of Christmas and the new year. 

If you pause to think about this for a moment, this may be the only time of year thousands, if not millions, of people around the world are all waiting for something - the same thing, and a miracle nonetheless. I pray this sacred tradition is not lost on my generation; in fact, I think we desperately need it. 

Join me in taking time to wait, lean in, and anticipate this month, especially if you are a millennial. Intentionally put down the iPhone, TV remote, iPad or computer. Think about what Christmas means to you and your family. Do you celebrate the birth of Jesus? If so, ask God to give you a deeper understanding of the miracle of His birth. Spend time reading the Christmas story in Scripture. Start each morning in gratitude, listing all the blessings and good moments from the past year. Think ahead to the next year - what are some of your hopes and dreams for 2017? 

By intentionally creating this space, we are, by definition, anticipating the arrival of something. It allows time to quiet our minds and souls, preparing them for what is to come. This is much easier said than done in our fast, instant, and productive culture. Perhaps this speaks to the truth that good things are worth waiting for. Nothing is created overnight, contrary to the message technology teaches. 

And in the end, the waiting makes the arrival so much more meaningful. Pause to anticipate this year. Lean in and believe for the best because Good is coming (at least that's what I keep telling my oft-weary heart). 

The Millennial: Choice Overload & Fear of Failure

It's no secret that I like to try new things. Whether it's a new flavor at my favorite local ice-cream shop, a recipe in Food & Wine or some new trick or trade I found perusing online or through my Instagram feed. I think being in your 20's is for trying, creating, developing, failing and then trying again. Yet more often than not I forget failing is part of the process, not something to be avoided at all costs. 

As the oldest child in my family I often take on too much responsibility, assuming it's my role to fix whatever is in front of me at all costs. Anyone else relate? I often fulfill the classic stereotype: over-responsible, bossy, control freak older sister. It’s not that I mean to be that way, but something deep inside of me feels obligated to step in, reach out, help and solve the problem. But honestly I think it’s more than that – I think I’m afraid of failing. 

So when asked to commit to new things, somewhere in the back of my mind I'm weighing the possibility of failure and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm giving in to fear. I don't think I'm alone in this - it's not unusual to hear people talk about the millennial generation's aversion to commitment. 

I recently read an article about millennials and commitment. The author referenced several studies, but one in particular caught my attention. Two psychologists from Stanford and Columbia surveyed grocery shoppers in the early 2000's (hang with me for a moment here). Shoppers were asked to select a jam from six different options and then again from 24 options. Researchers found that more shoppers purchased the jams selected in the first round than the second and reported higher levels of satisfaction. Their findings seemed to indicate that more didn't actually mean more; the options inhibited choice, led to less sales and less satisfied customers. 

What does jam have to do with millennials and commitment? In the world of "choice overload" where millennials are encouraged to choose their own career path and make their own choices, there exists an underlying fear of commitment, and ultimately failure. It's as if there's a little voice in our heads begging us to select the right choice and motivating us by the fear of choosing wrong. 

And for someone who feels responsible all too easily, the fear can sometimes prevent any movement at all. I'm very aware of the reality that my choices matter, but I'm going to choose wrong sometimes, and that's ok. If failure is inevitable at one point or another, then let's choose boldly and commit fully, recognizing we are all in process together. 

So, let's try new things, but not stand in front of the aisle too long, mulling over each option in fear of missing the best one. 

The Millennial: Changing the World & Feeling Small

I have a love hate relationship with my generation. All the negative stereotypes frustrate me; they cause me to want to be different, to prove we aren’t just a bunch of entitled young people. One of the redeeming qualities of my generation, though, is that it is filled with one's and two's who believe we really can change the world. And simply because we believe it, we will.

I’ve heard many people say that this refugee crisis has been championed by the millennial generation, and for that I am proud. I want to be known as the generation that runs to the pain, the suffering, the questions, the hard things. And when we choose to come face to face with the realities of the world, we can’t help but speak out, take action and do something.

When I first learned of the refugee crisis in Europe, I knew I had to respond. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the magnitude of suffering I was about to witness.

I remember the moment it all became real to me. I was volunteering in a clothing distribution center at a refugee center in Berlin inside Tempelhauf, the old Berlin airport. Once the busiest airport in all of Europe, the space became even more infamous when Hitler delivered one of his speeches, promising a “new awakening” for Germany in 1933. I was also surprised to learn that the airport had housed refugees previously in the early 1950’s when “East Berliners” fled the Soviet’s control. The amount of history represented overwhelmed me as I thought about thousands of refugees from all over the Middle East currently housed and seemingly trapped inside.

About 30 minutes into my shift, a shy Syrian woman and her three children approached me at the front of the counter. She handed me her clothing card, which consisted of icons of different clothing items she and her children qualified for each month. She pointed to a few items and then tentatively pointed to the picture of undergarments on the page, avoiding all eye contact with me. I could sense the deep shame she carried as I brought back a few items for her to look at and try. The woman turned red as I brought out a pair of underwear and bras and I painfully watched as she attempted to convey to me that neither were the correct size. I tried to conceal the contents of what I had found from the rest of the room, but couldn't stop the embarrassment from flooding the poor woman’s face while men, women and children stood in line behind her.

I went back to the bins containing women’s undergarments. The fact that I couldn’t speak this woman’s language and her only clothing options depended on me, a twenty-five-year-old American white girl, guessing the right size in the time allotted was all of the sudden too much for me. I started weeping as I dug through the drawer, desperate to find something the right size.

After a few minutes I came back to the front with two more options. The woman turned red again and then shook her head in disappointment as I held up the new sizes. She slowly gathered her few belongings and children and turned to leave, giving up on the possibility of receiving something as basic and necessary as a new pair of underwear.

In Greece the situation is also sobering, and even more desperate than the cold distribution center in Berlin. In one of the camps in Thessaloniki, my team and I distributed clothing a couple times a week. I won’t quickly forget standing in the middle of a shipping container, dripping in sweat, frantically running back and forth trying to find the correct sizes as men and women approached the container yelling, and oftentimes fighting to get the items they needed.

I even came close to being punched in the face by a man who had incurred brain damage because a bomb exploded behind him, who was fighting his way to the front of the line demanding a new pair of pants because his only pair had ripped down the middle. It was in moments like these I felt completely helpless, realizing I had no idea how to identify with this kind of suffering.

But rather than retreat by the sheer rawness of it all, I chose to engage. Although I couldn’t identify with the reality of these people’s circumstances, I could let them move me. And if I allowed myself to be moved, to really feel the reality of the situation as best as I could, then all of the sudden my own needs seemed less important and I realized just how small I really was.

In both Germany and Greece my team was made up of college students and young adults – each believing we could be one small voice in the midst of a giant overwhelming crisis. I believe my generation has the opportunity to learn the delicate balance between believing we can change the world, while simultaneously coming to grips with our own smallness. And that is a really beautiful place to be. 

Engaging a Millennial Driven Market In a Really Dark World

I recently wrote a blog series about millennials and cause marketing for the marketing agency I work for, and wanted to share. I've adapted the content for my personal blog, but to view the original posts, click here


When I was in college, I heard my college pastor say over and over again “leaders are readers.” I’ve come to realize how true this statement is in an information hungry world where people, especially millennials, are lusting after current real-time information, potentially even more than physical connection. 

Because information has become so accessible, thanks to companies like Google and apps like Flip Board, it is easier than ever to become informed about what’s happening worldwide. For instance, Google has started borrowing information from online dictionaries and review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor by providing definitions and reviews directly on their front page. Google is responding to this information hungry generation by providing relevant information in a matter of seconds.

Most of the population driving this lust for information is comprised of millennials. Forbes Magazine named 2015 the “year of the millennial customer” and stated there are over 80 million millennials in the United States alone.

As a member of the millennial generation, I believe one of the most positive characteristics of this generation is the fact that we are cause driven. According to Forbes, “more than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about.” If the most significant consumers in the market right now are millennials, who care about investing in products and people that align with their values and passions, then it’s vital to be engaged with what’s going on in our world.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” With the lust for and availability of real time information steadily rising, ignorance really shouldn’t be an option anymore – for millennials and business owners alike.

One cause that has recently gripped my attention is the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Something in me has come undone listening to stories, watching videos and hearing first hand about what's happening in Eastern Europe right now. This is an issue we can’t afford to be ignorant toward – I believe it’s changing the face of the entire continent of Europe and the world as we know it.

If you’re a member of the millennial generation, I suggest you educate yourself about what’s happening in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and start supporting businesses that are engaging issues you care about. If you need some suggestions, watch this videovisit this Instagram account or download this app and start following the Syrian Refugee Crisis. And stay tuned - I plan to share about my personal response to this situation soon. 

Photo courtesy of Antioch Ministries International

Photo courtesy of Antioch Ministries International

And if you’re a business owner, my advice to you would be to start looking for ways to market your business and products in a way that captures the attention (and money) of an information-hungry, cause-driven generation. This is the generation dominating the market right now, and it’s the one who holds the power to start creating solutions to things like the worst refugee crisis and largest migration of people since WWII.

Millennials are integrating their beliefs into their choices and supporting causes they value through their purchases and lifestyles more than any other generation has before. They also have more access to information than ever before. It’s time we start using this to our advantage by engaging what’s happening our world while simultaneously supporting our own economy.