Thoughts On Traveling With Infrequent Travelers

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Hands down, my favorite thing about collecting miles and points is that it allows us to share travel with our families. Beyond this trip with my mom, we’ve been able to take others on some amazing international trips over the past two years, including:

  • Japan and Taiwan with my in-laws
  • Europe with my cousin
  • Round the world for a month with my niece
  • Peru with my in-laws
  • etc.

These trips are dramatically different from those I take with more travel-savvy friends, and this trip with my mom reminded me of the different considerations that I sometimes forget to consider when traveling with less experienced travelers. So I thought it would be helpful to compile some of my thoughts, and then hopefully those of you with similar experiences can chime in as well!

Travel technology is magic

When you are flying a couple hundred thousand miles a year, and/or spending a hundred or so nights in hotels, many things become second nature. And I’m not even talking high-tech stuff, just basic things, like:

  • mobile boarding passes and online check-in as a concept
  • saving screenshots of maps, destinations, transit instructions
  • plugs, adaptors, outlets, and voltages
  • connecting to WiFi networks at airports, hotels, coffee shops

Actually, international WiFi in general seems to be PFM for my family:

“No, Verizon won’t charge you for roaming if you’re in airplane mode”

“Yes, you can turn on the WiFi while you’re in airplane mode”

“I know it’s not connecting. You have to open a browser tab to accept the permissions. The browser is the app that looks like a compass. Yes, click the plus for a new tab. Now try going to Google or something. OMG JUST LET ME DO IT.”

You probably don’t even think about many of these things when you travel (I certainly don’t), so when you find yourself standing in the middle of a street explaining them it can be…jarring, to say the least. Be prepared to explain them before, during, during again, and during some more.

Consider locomotion along with transit

This probably says more about American society (and perhaps geography) than anything else, but the sad truth is that unless you’re traveling with someone who lives in one of a handful of East Coast cities, they’re probably not super familiar with public transportation.

Sure, maybe they’ve taken a train here, or a lightrail there, but it’s likely not part of everyday life. I once spent a weekend taking my dad all around London on the bus, which was just mind-blowing for someone who typically drives a massive SUV from driveway to parking lot to parking lot to driveway.

So it’s very different, and can be tiring. I think my niece summed it up perfectly when we were negotiating the Metro from Orly to downtown Paris on a hot June day:

I know I look mad, and I’m not. There’s just a lot of new stuff happening, and it’s taking a lot of brain.

(Have to love a teenager who is self-aware enough to know they look miserable! 😉 )

We actually got into trouble with this when we took my husband’s parents to Japan last fall. In my mind, getting around in Japan is easy — the systems are pretty clear, everything is organized and punctual, etc. Once you know the system, the most complicated part is generally getting off of a bus in Kyoto.

But it of course feels completely foreign to someone who isn’t used to mapping out their route on a page full of lines and dots, much less in a new city.

And it’s also a lot of walking, standing, and general locomotion. Especially if you’re going off the beaten track at all.


So I think that’s key to consider — there is a very big difference between going from the airport to a car, like most of us generally do, and staying mentally and physically engaged for the entire journey.

Layovers and connections

This is especially challenging for me, as I will happily fly and connect pretty much anywhere. I value efficient itineraries, of course, but I’m also guilty of flying from Chicago to Los Angeles via Charlotte, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei. Because why not.

I obviously wouldn’t do that with anyone other than Ben, but award travel sometimes requires more complex itineraries. And that can sometimes work out in your favor, but it does take some thought:

  • Consider overnights — a 23 hour layover is often easier for others than a two hour dash through the airport.
  • Think about the connections — on our flights back from Singapore we transferred in Hong Kong, and it was a disaster. Re-clearing security in the middle of the night was very very very stressful for my mom, as she was tired and groggy.

I’d also add to not expect that folks will be willing/able/interested in going into whatever city on a layover. I would, and you might, but that might be more than someone else is up for.

Jetlag is a thing

I am both fortunate and cursed in that I am basically solar-powered, and don’t seem to be affected by jetlag. It’s great, because I tend to wake up as soon as it starts to get light out wherever I am. And it’s horrible, because I want to go to sleep as soon as it starts getting dark.

Helsinki in summer? Didn’t sleep for three days! Seattle in winter? I could happily stay in my pajamas from October to March.

Of course, when traveling with other people this can get complicated. It’s not at all unusual for me to be up and caffeinated and ready to go come on by 6AM on the second day of a trip to Europe, while my husband will happily sleep until noon. And the flip side of that is also true, as he’ll be gearing up to explore the local nightlife while I’m looking longingly at my pillow.


And while I love wandering around and watching a new city wake up, it’s important to consider that everyone’s body is impacted differently by travel. Being comfortable doing your own thing helps, as does having flexibility in your plans should someone need to be sleeping at a different time.

As a side note to this, if you’re traveling with someone who takes any kind of medication or supplement, it’s probably worth having the conversation about timing of doses. I’m obviously not a medical professional, but have plenty of first-hand experience observing what happens when the clock gets confused. If someone always takes x at 8AM, it might be worth continuing to take x at 8AM in their home time zone. The adjusting back and forth across time zones and date lines seems to always result in either missed or duplicate doses for people who don’t travel often enough to have a system.

Streamline the stuff

In theory, I’m a big proponent of only taking carry-on baggage. I have my routine, and my things, and know what to pack, etc., and I don’t want to be without any of those items. So I generally think the suggestion to not check baggage is a good one.

But I’ve realized that for less-frequent travelers, the challenge might not be in the “carry-on” restriction, but in the “staying organized” department. This is particularly tricky if you intend on changing hotels a lot, as someone who doesn’t travel often tends to just have their bags explode. (This can happen to frequent travelers too). And the limitation on size of bags seems to lead to a lot of frustration with my mom and mother-in-law, so I’m generally supportive of them checking a bag if they’d like. Instead, we have what we call the “coffee cup test”:

  • Gather up every last item you’re planning on taking with you, down to purses and car keys
  • Pick up a mug of coffee (doesn’t have to be coffee, but hot liquid helps prove the point)
  • Take all of your things (and the coffee) to your mailbox and back

If anything dropped, or the coffee spilled, or it took 25 minutes because you had to keep setting things down to open doors or get over curbs, then you have more stuff than I want to travel with. Getting through an airport, or dealing with foreign transportation is already tough — if you have more things than you schlepp single-handedly everything gets much more complicated.

Not that I won’t travel with you and your treasures, but if we have to spend time thinking about luggage management, or deal with things falling out of your personal item when it’s under the seat in front of you, that just adds a lot of stress, and means the trip has to be simplified in other areas for everyone’s sanity.

Bottom line

Overall, I don’t think there is a “right” way to travel, or that those of us who travel frequently are necessarily “better” in how we approach things. But I do feel there is a huge contrast between the 100k+ mile a year crowd and those who rarely even fly domestically.

So if you’re traveling with someone with a different level of travel experience, it’s probably worth talking through some of these things to give your trip a better chance for success.

Have you traveled with a less-frequent traveler (or are you one yourself)? What are your top tips?

  1. Good food for thought. Thanks. You write good stuff, informative and fun without being whiny or preachy. Love the part about how there are no strangers for your mom, for instance. It’s nice to see you joining Ben as a contributor.

  2. Great piece! And original!

    As an aside, HOW DO YOU get from Paris to Orly efficiently? I have a 10:45a flight out of Orly and I’ll be staying at Opera and would love a great travel tip…

  3. Good post Tiffany!

    I took my uncle to AUH in F on LH and LX several years ago as a thank you for introducing me to international travel ( he took me from Europe to Australia when I was only 7).

    He’s only travelled in economy and has rarely even been abroad since!

    One thing I will never forget was seeing him take the untouched bottled water from the connecting MXP-ZRH flight with him. I told him he needed to drink it before security at least 5 times.

    I cleared security and turned around to see the security agent picking the still unopened bottle from his tray. He then proceed to challenge the agent because “it’s unopened and I got it off an aeroplane. What’s the problem?”


    However, you should have seen his face when he saw his LX F seat! It made the whole trip worthwhile.

  4. I keep on forgetting there are several contributes on this blog, I thought lucky finally found a husband.

  5. @Michael,

    If you are okay with the Paris Metro, it’s pretty easy to get to Orly. Go to the Auber station on the RER A, which is one block west of the Opera Garnier on Rue Auber. Buy a ticket to Orly Airport from the machine or from an agent, should be about 12 euros. Take the RER A east, towards Marne-la-Vallée Chessy or Boissy-St-Léger (same direction). At the next stop, Chatelet-Les Halles, get off the train and follow the signs to the RER B southbound, towards Saint Remy les Chevreuses. I think it should be just across the platform, but not entirely sure. Get on the RER B train and take it to the Antony stop (about 20 minutes). Once you get off the train at Antony follow the signs to the Orvlyval train. It takes about 6 minutes to get to Orly Airport, there are two stops for the two terminals, just check which terminal your flight is leaving out of. The whole trip from the Auber station should be 35-40 minutes, all the trains run really often. Just remember to keep your ticket with you the whole time, there are a few turnstiles, including one at Antony when you transfer from RER to Orlyval. The ticket will get you through all the turnstiles.

  6. @ MIchael

    One more thing! It is just across the platform to transfer from RER A to RER B at Chatelet-Les Halles. Just make sure not to get on the RER B train if it says it is going to Robinson, that one doesn’t go to Antony. But most of the trains in that direction go to Saint Remy les Chevreusesm which is the correct direction to get to Antony.

    These are the types of details that Tiffany was talking about that can be taxing for people not used to taking public transit.

  7. @ Michael — Aww, thanks! Maybe someone more familiar with Paris can chime in, because it’s tricky to/from Opera. You’ll want to connect to RER B, so it might be best to take a taxi or Uber to Chatelet-les-Halles to avoid dealing with the Metro and luggage (there are a lot of stairs).

    Otherwise, UberX to Orly is set at a flat rate of €35-€40, so if there are a few of you traveling I might just do that.

  8. Excellent article. Me arguing with my 82 year old mom at security; No, mom, you can leave your cell in your purse. NO, Susan, I’ve always had to take it out! Humph. Then the flight from Miami to Barcelona where I had her all set up with a Motrin pm; comfortable eye shades; lavender spray, etc. Her and my Aunt were so excited with their business class seats they didn’t recline them once or sleep, even though I kept telling them to. They were wrecked for our 3 days in Barcelona. Sigh.

  9. Apps, Apps, Apps! Offline city maps, transit apps, local guides, Yelp, Tripadvisor, flight status, google translate. Directions in Google maps then save screenshots of those directions for offline use later.

    Google translate is great because you can search ahead of time for many phrases and save them in other languages for later needs. I was trying to get to Xian North Train Station. Showed this on a crowded city bus: 西安火车北站. All the locals joined the fun and of course someone speaks English!

  10. The 23 hour layover can be a lifesaver even for frequent flyers. When I travel between SFO and India or Africa, I maintain my health and sanity by over-nighting in London or Frankfurt along the way. (Of course I’m old enough to be part of the Grandpa Points set. You kids don’t need much sleep. 🙂

  11. Great post Tiffany. I appreciate the clarity of your writing style and OMAAT is by far my favourite blog. It’s nice to have a female’s perspective on things as well. I look forward to your future posts.

  12. Great article! Was just talking about layovers with my mom as we are in the middle of a 22 hour layover at LHR (Sofitel). All of these tips are great. Keep up the good stuff, Tiffany!!!

  13. Last year, my family had to be in NY around New Years. My uncle, who has not flown much in the last 20+ years (I think he’s maybe done 4.5 domestic round trips since 2000), hadn’t been to New York since 1964. Yes, 50 years.
    I explained to him the concept of earning miles via credit card spend, and he managed to rack up enough spend to get a BF ticket on UA RT LAX-JFK. So he was thrilled. Generally, it wasn’t too bad–he packed a checked bag and a carry-on, and he could handle his stuff. Airplane mode was pretty fun to teach. I don’t think he had an iPhone the last time he flew anywhere, so I walked him through that one. I still don’t think he gets it, but whatever. He knows to put it on airplane mode. Mobile boarding passes were also fun. I just set it up and texted them to him and he was fine.
    The thing that had me laughing so hard was my uncle’s in-flight behavior. As I said, he had a BF ticket. One of the highlights of BF is that there’s entertainment, a comfy seat, etc. My uncle’s idea of entertainment? He sat completely upright for 5+ hours each way and watched the air show. No music, no TV, nothing. He watched the freaking air show! And when he decided to take a nap? He did so upright. Not kidding. I just rolled my eyes, especially because he raved about both flights. My uncle is a great example of why UA can get away being the way it is.
    Now, I’m helping him earn miles again for two more trips he has to take. This time, though, I fully expect him to book economy. I mean, why waste the extra miles?

  14. Great piece, thanks. (@Jorge, I too always assume it’s Lucky writing and am always thrown when Tiffany mentions her husband or Travis his kids, etc.)
    I’m kind of in between you folks and the elder (and other) noobs you’re accompanying. For example, I love a lot of the travel apps I’ve learned about, but I have no clue how to use my android smart phone in Asia next month.
    And, Tiffany, I could be wrong, but you appear from your picture to be a fairly slim person, while I am most decidedly not. It’s relevant because as I often point out to my size 4 sister, my clothes take up 2x the room hers do. So, if I want a change of shoes AND a change of clothes (and swimsuit, makeup, hairbrush, medications,etc.), carry-on is not going to do the trick. But I learned my lesson after dragging TWO full sized suitcases AND my roll aboard all over VENICE last year (take a minute to picture that- cobbled walks, stairs, bridges. . .), so I don’t care if I have to wear the same thing every day for 2 weeks, one checked bag and one roll aboard are all I’m taking to Asia.
    And, that was a very good tip about meds–I keep to my home schedule for those, as much as possible. It is tricky, though, if you are continually changing time zones.
    Keep up the great work–it is nice to have a woman’s perspective now and then.

  15. I enjoyed this article. I’ve made three trips this year with family or friends, and I am grateful that we are similarly traveled or that there is eagerness to talk about logistical details and packing philosophy upfront. I love the coffe cup test, and I appreciate the even greater pleasure that comes with travel companions synched on routines.

  16. @Michael,

    Some options to go from Opéra to Orly:

    1) Metro 3 + RER B (the train):
    The nearest station from Opéra served by the RER B is, as Tiffany has said, Chatêlet Les Halles. I think it is the most simple way: you just get the metro 3 on Opéra to Chatêlet Les Halles.
    Then, you’ll have to walk inside the station (I’d say 10-15′ minutes) to find the RER B platform. But pay attention: you’ll have to buy a Zone 4 ticket to get to Orly, as the airport is situated outside the city.
    Take the RER B until ANTONY station. From there, there’s a special little train for Orly (called Orlyval).

    2) Metro 3 + Metro 4 + Orlybus or RER B
    Take the M3 from Opéra to Réamur Sebastopol.
    Then, take the M4 to Denfert Rochereau.
    On Denfert, you have two choices:
    – to continue underground and take the RER B (and then follow as explained above);
    – to go to the surface and take the Orlybus; it’s a non-stop bus that go directly from Paris to the airport.

    *The M4 is one of the crowded lines in Paris. It’s totally manageable, so consider how much luggage you are caring and just don’t expect to sit anytime in the day.

    3) Bus 68 + Orlybus or RER B:
    Go to the bus stop at Rue Scribe.
    Take the bus 68 (destination: Chatillon-Monrouge) to Denfert Rochereau then… RER B or Orlybus.
    Bus 68 itinerary:

    *** I would not recommend to take the RER C. Although it can take you to Orly as well, it has the trickiest itinerary. Even having lived in Paris for 2 years, I’ve still made wrong connections more than once!

    You can try the RATP “Plan your journey” tool:

    Hope it helps.

  17. Tiffany – I thought this whole trip report series was excellent, well written and entertaining – esp the topic on this last post. Great work!

  18. Great post, quick question on your thoughts about packing a carry-on for more than one scenario. For example, suppose I have to bring a professional business suit plus shoes for the business portion of a trip, then switch over to personal time, which may include more adventure travel. This could include some level of hiking boots and depending on the season, heavier clothing especially coats, hats, etc.

    Think business meeting and skiing or hiking and how to get it all in a carry-on. I am not talking about a three-day trip, but rather a week or more. Or change the scenario to a two-week personal trip added to a professional business trip, even if there is only one business meeting. I keep thinking about how much room dress shoes and some type of heavier hiking boots take up in a carry-on assuming one isn’t wearing one or the other on the plane over. Thanks.

  19. So true about packing, but it is the repacking that counts. Meaning, make sure you haven’t left anything behind. I always ask my mom, do you have you passport, your camera, your wallet, etc. etc. etc. One time she lost a set of bobby pins she travels with (a ten cent item) but I am the silly son that never lets her forget that time so that she never forgets something more important.

    The other thing is currency. I always get local currency from my bank before we travel and basically give her an allowance of each of the different currencies we will be needing, which, usually for us, is about $100/per day equivalent. I also give her an index card where I write down not only how much $1 is worth, but how much $10 and $25 is worth. Too many times I have seen other tourists balk at paying 30,000 whatever (dong, won, yen, etc.) because to our North American nature, that seems high, whereas in the local currency it might only be a few bucks. On day trips its hard to go back somewhere once you realized that souvenir is actually only a couple of dollars and the person selling it wasn’t trying to scam you.

    Finally I always take care of all the tipping as different cultures have different expectations and with the currency it is a little too much for some.

  20. . I carry on a small duffel with shoulder strap . It fits easily under the seat and includes the items I definitely do not want to lose . A lot of things such as clothes , shoes , toiletries are easily found most any where . Things like Rx meds , chargers , phone , may be more of a challenge . Before you pack check your luggage for any little problem . If it’s torn , a zipper or catch is questionable , don’t fool around , get some better luggage .
    I also definitely agree with the ‘coffee cup theory’ and I will be passing that along .

  21. @Michael and @Tiffany — I’d second Michael’s rec to take the A from Auber Station and change at Chatelet. He’s right that the change is across the platform; It’s by far the most painless way to negotiate Chatelet, which is a NIGHTMARE of endless corridors and stairs. Best part is that IIRC you can access the Auber station mostly via escalator (assuming they’re working, not always a given in Paris).

    Also, do check the Transilien pages ( for planned track work. Click on TRAFFIC AND WORKS INFORMATION for details (click on the icons for more info).

  22. What’s annoying me this summer is the number of infrequent travellers (less than 3 trips a year) that have TSA PreCheck! I was behind no fewer than 3 families on my flight yesterday out of JFK, and it was clear to me that the kids and spouse might have never flown, so now they’re doing things like not putting metal into the trays, or taking off their shoes because they’ve heard that’s a thing. Ugh. I don’t think anyone should get PreCheck if they don’t fly at least 4 times a year.

  23. Good and very true article. I loved the observation about travelling with people who don’t live in mass transit cities. Living in NYC when I travel to other large cities using mass transit isn’t a big deal, but I can understand for someone who does not have the daily experience of dealing with mass transit that it would be a lot to take in.

  24. Randal Schwartz , have you offered helpful guidance to those less experienced ? Due to your wisdom and experience you should be able to speed things along not only for yourself but many other travelers as well . I believe that in travel , as in life , one should help others and learn patience for your own sake.
    Keep Smiling !

  25. Great article. I had a lot of your experiences taking my folks on their first big European trip – mom was too excited to actually sleep in her lie-flat seat, they weren’t used to being on the subway, etc. On one hand they went to have new experiences, but I noticed how much happier they became on the month-long trip once we started booking hotels that had outdoor communal space. My parents are retired and their happy place is a warm evening, a bottle of wine, a few people around to chit-chat with, and maybe a little river or quiet street to watch. Having this “recharge” time at the end of each day made them so much happier to go deal with big city life the next morning.

  26. Wonderful post! I would also be curious for any tips on getting infrequent travelers to travel more. My MIL simply won’t leave the US (we live in the UAE). We really want to show her some other amazing places in the world, but it’s very difficult to get her to commit. Given my in-laws can afford to travel in the retirement (and nicely), suggestions are welcome!!

  27. Great Article! When I first started travelling in Business Class, I thought Woohoo! no need to worry about packing anymore. It didn’t take long to realise that it wasn’t about weight, but about what you can wrangle. I can’t get it down to just carryon on international flights, but usually keep it to 15kg check-in and 19kg carryon, and that’s including a laptop.

    A good friend of mine, now of retirement age who has always been an avid traveller, and often travels Business or First has learnt the wrangling rule. She now has the perfect backpack, and checkable luggage or minimum wieght and size, but tried and tested to be wranglable through the worst of airports.

    As I have more time to travel, I have adopted the layover rule. Depending on the hour of the day and duration of the layover, I often choose to do an overnight, despite usually travelling in Business. Whereas a six hour layover seems interminable and is guaranteed to make me grumpy however nice the lounge. However the same layover which includes a night in a nice hotel room is something to look forward to.

    We are travelling to the UK from Australia later this year. We chose Vietnam airlines, mainly to do with cost, and their new Boeing 787’s. The layover times are dreadful – 9 hour layover leaving at 1:45am, so we are doing an overnight, with late checkout. I’m thinking leisurely breakfast, pool, spa treatment and dinner before the overnight flight.

  28. @ Susan — Hah, yes! My mom hardly slept on our flights because she was so excited about watching movies…all of which she’d seen. She just liked the novelty 🙂

  29. “I know I look mad, and I’m not. There’s just a lot of new stuff happening, and it’s taking a lot of brain.”

    What a great, funny quote to share!
    (and I’ll keep it in mind next time my wife gives me one of those looks…)

  30. @ mbh — Oh, so to practice using your phone abroad, go ahead and put it into airplane mode for a day here in the US. That basically turns off the little radio that talks to Verizon/ATT/TMobile/Sprint that would typically say “I’m a cell phone” so you won’t have cell or data service. Turn on the WiFi, and connect at home, the office, then look to connect while you’re at the mall, or in coffee shops, etc.

    That should give you a good idea as to what capabilities you will and won’t have, and the practice in connecting to different networks is always good.

  31. @ John — Well, hiking boots are going to be problematic, so you may just want to make your peace with a checked bag in that case. They just take up so much space. Ditto for ski jackets. But maybe someone else will chime in with some suggestions?

    But in general, I think the rest of the situation is doable. I generally travel with three pairs of shoes, but Ben and my husband can get away with two. And then just “less” of everything else. Take out a third of what you’re planning on taking, particularly anything duplicated. We almost always do some laundry when traveling, but if that’s not an option, it really is okay to check a bag!

  32. @ Ann Benjamin — Ugh, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. We brought all of our parents and step-parents out to Sicily a few years back (and only convinced some of them because we were organizing the tickets). MIL and her husband loved it, and we now take an international trip with them every year. FIL and his wife were, I think, committed to not enjoying travel, and so they didn’t. And they haven’t left the US since.

    So I guess I would start by seeing if it’s the logistics or the actual traveling that she’s not interested in? If the former, maybe there’s a place she’s always wanted to go, and you can arrange everything and meet her there?

  33. I laughed about the light packing stuff, but some of this might be a tad more complicated than it really needs to be.

    The coffee test makes no sense in my situation because my standard setup for carrying on, and the one that Ben uses, is carryon bag + personal item, which uses both hands, one for each. (See below for why.)

    The simplest way around all sorts of conundrums in the post is simply to use a no-wheels duffle bag (with shoulder strap) rather than a wheeled bag. You save roughly five pounds of weight and gain the extra space that was used by the wheel & handle mechanism. Easier wrangling. More space. Less weight. Guaranteed no “valet” checking. You don’t even notice steps, curbs or cobblestones. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: No wheels? Actually CARRY my bags?? You gotta be kidding??? I thought “carryon” perforce meant “wheels”???? Um, nearly two million BIS miles say no, I’m not kidding.

    Orly isn’t that complicated either, but the above is slightly incomplete. In one sentence, yes, you go there on the RER B, but you can change to that line for free from ANY metro or other RER line. It’s all included in the ticket to Orly. Also, same thing exactly if you’re going northwards to CDG.

    The RER B line does have pickpockets. Goes through some really, really, really “interesting” neighborhoods. Though that’s never deterred me, I can only imagine what some infrequent traveler might think.

  34. Great writing, Tiffany! This series in particular taps into a niche that gets very little coverage in our hobby. I want more!
    I’m looking forward to implementing these travel tips to make ME a better traveler, let alone my companions.
    Keep up the creativity.

  35. @ Tom — So I use a carryon + personal item as well, and can see what you’re getting at in terms of weight. Would you really recommend that setup to someone who doesn’t travel often though, or someone who is older? I’m not sure my mom could physically carry two 15-20lb bags for any length of time without being even more tired than she already was…

  36. @Susan – You are SO right about the transfer between Metro and RER at Chatelet-Les Halles being a nightmare. It’s even worse than normal right now (or at least was in May) because they are reconstructing the station, so walkways are even narrower than normal.

    The Metro-RER transfer that’s not madness there is from Metro 4 to RER and reverse. Note that this is because the Metro 4 station is actually named “Les Halles”, it’s much closer to the RER platforms. The other Metro line stations there are called “Chatelet”- the 1, 7, 11, and 14 lines. All of those are a real hike to get to the RER.

    Also, the suggestion to take Metro 3 from Opera to Chatelet is incorrect, it’s Metro 7 that takes you there, but again, LONG walk from Metro 7 platform to RER platform at Chatelet-Les Halles. This is why I suggested RER A to RER B instead of getting on the Metro. In either case, a ticket to ORY from any Metro/RER station in Paris can be used for rail transit to ORY for around 12 euros.

  37. Tiffany, I think you are right about connections. I have found that it’s just not worth saving money to book a family member on a flight that has a connection, if there is a non-stop available. I have paid as much as $100 extra one way for an older family member to avoid what I would consider a painless stop of almost exactly an hour on a transcontinental flight, so enough cushion for minor delays, bags, etc, but not too long that you sit in the terminal for too long. For me, such a stop would be worth saving $100, but the uncertainty and stress that it adds for my family members just isn’t worth it.

  38. Tiffany, thanks for the feedback. Packing isn’t an exact science and it changes with every trip. Cheers.

  39. @Tom any recommendations on what to look for in a carry on duffle? I’ve been using a backpack for trips up to two weeks, but it’s much smaller than the carry on volume limit. My luggage needs are expanding for various reasons, but I haven’t used a rollaboard for years and a duffle sounds like a good idea.

  40. Owen: I just use an old canvas duffle bag with leather handles that LLBean doesn’t make anymore. It’s roughly 20 x 12 x 12, but the height easily squishes down to fit past those 9-inch (taking into account the “berm”) entrances to some regional jet overhead bins. That’s assuming you don’t overpack, of course.

    No one’s ever looked at it twice. That said, there’s a very “long march” at CDG, for example, to and from the RER station, and so I’m glad they have free carts.

  41. The difference between what is stressful and burdensome for different people is funny. For me, one of the biggest perks of AA EXP is being able to check three 70lb bags per person for free! As a musician, I travel with music gear, merchandise, and as much other stuff as I can to make the places I go a bit more homey. Between myself and the one or two others traveling with me, we take a minimum of 450 pounds of luggage on every trip. It would cost me around $35,000 a year if I had to pay for the luggage I travel with. Traveling with any amount of luggage Ronny stresses me out of I have to pay extra for something. But, I do have a specific, organized system in place for packing and transporting everything.

  42. Tiffany – I have been really enjoyed reading your trip reports. It’s refreshing to read a female perspective on OMAAT. I appreciate your advice in this post, especially traveling with those that take medications. I will be taking a huge family trip back to Vietnam with my parents and brother this December. My parents both take medications, so this will be useful to suggest to them. I will have to remember to set timers for them to take while we’re in transit to Asia.

  43. @Tom,
    Personally, I’ve never had/see problems with pickpockets on RER B. And I used to take it in a daily basis.
    I think they act mostly on the most touristy lines, like the M1. But police officers with who I’ve spoke with while living in Paris had assured me that the thieves act on the busiest stations/wherever there are crowds of people getting in and on the trains.
    So, for me, the problem are not the neighbourhoods in wich a specific metro line passes. People taking pictures with their iPhones are so much attractive to pickpockets (a normal day around M1 stations like those on Champs-Elysée or around the Tower) than a bunch of workers/students/immigrants (like myself three years ago) coming home after a day of work (M2, M4…).
    The only problem I see on RER B is that it can be kind a creppy later in the night, because the train is darker thant the metro wagons and, as it is longer too, it is not uncommon to step in a wagon just to find that you and a sinister guy are the only ones on board.
    (I’ve certainly made lots of english mistakes; sorry about that; I’m still learning).

  44. Tiffany, thanks SO much for the phone tips. Those are great and I will definitely try them out.
    @John, I don’t know how anyone manages to go on an overseas ski trip. It’s all I can manage to get from ATL to CO or UT. I can live without the “apres ski boots” and a change of ski pants, I’ll even rent skis if I have to, but I need long johns, 1 good pair of ski pants and a good ski coat. But what makes it hard for me is that I have to take my boots. They’re so customized and broken in that I can barely ski without them. I’d love to hear ski-packing tips from anyone who has them. I’ve considered the shipping services, but they’re pretty expensive and I’m assuming the ones to Europe are cost-prohibitive.

  45. Coming to this blog rather late. Loved this article. I’d suggest there’s a 2 x 2 matrix though. Familiar/Unfamiliar on one axis. Prepared/Unprepared on the other. The absolute nightmare is travelling with someone who is both Unfamiliar and Unprepared, as in: they haven’t done any pre-trip research on local weather, what to wear (esp in Middle East), transport (like to and from airports), the cost of stuff (“OMG, the price of coffee/beer/laundry here!!”), cellphone roaming charges, things to see/do, etc etc. As an obsessive Familiar/Prepared I can cheerfully help the Unfamiliar and cope with the Unprepared but the combination of the two is a killer.

  46. Just a note about luggage: I can handle a 10-day trip with a leather-like backpack and a rolling carry-on PROVIDED the case opens on the top instead of opening in half like an oyster. On this trip to UAE/Singapore, I had the oyster case and it was frustrating to find enough floor space to leave it open, and of course everything falls out of one side, the other side or both sides. On my trip to Germany/Austria last September, I made sure to take a top-opening case with a couple luggage cubes. The backpack was with me every day and was more comfortable than hanging a bag/purse over my shoulder. I also packed an empty 20-inch duffel inside my case for all the collectibles and checked one of the bags for the trip home. I didn’t plan for the cobblestone streets, however, so I had to buy different shoes on Day 2 and lug the boots and 1st pair of walkers during the entire trip.

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