Skipping the Line – Facts & Fallacies

It is true that you can skip the line to purchase a ticket to a sight seeing destination. For example, the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This does not actually mean you will not spend time standing in line. Purchasing a ticket to a guided tour is a trickier proposition than one might think. It is however, sometimes, the only way for you to get inside. We discovered this when we tried to purchase a ticket directly from the ticket office at La Sagrada Familia… where a nice security officer advised us there were no tickets to be had. Directly. Hence, the internet and “skipping the line” options.

First, you are not purchasing a ticket directly from the organization that operates La Sagrada Familia. You are working with a third party who has an agreement with La Sagrada Familia operating crew. Now that you have your ticket, you need to know who that third party is, and where their offices are in relationship to La Sagrada Familia.

You will need to appear at that third party location a short while before the tour begins. There will be a line involved to check in with the tour operator, be assigned a tour guide, and head over to your destination of choice with your group.

The group will then stand in line… in our case almost an hour from the appointed time of the tickets. High demand locations like Casa Batllo or La Sagrada Familia tend to a bit of airline fever. They oversell tickets in order to meet the demand with the hope that no one will be too fussy if they don’t get in to see the venue at the specific time allotted, so long as they eventually get in.

This works just fine for your average tourist. Where the solution breaks down is for anyone with a physical disability that makes standing around for long periods of time painful. Think bad knees, feet, backs, hips, and the like. A broken tibia, a recent bunion surgery, a hip replacement, pregnancy, sprained ankles, or just a few too many days walking around for six hours can lead to the kind of silent agony that overshadows even the most spectacular location. While you can gimp around through an hour tour, the additional hour and a half of waiting in various lines can really be a deal breaker.

But you’re there. And you really really want to see this place. You know you will regret not seeing it, possibly for the rest of your life. So you grin (or grit your teeth) and bear it.

I have a few suggestions to make the inevitable waits easier. Some of them I have employed myself, some I discovered just standing around observing more savvy travelers than myself. Bring water and anti-inflammatories (aspirin, ibuprophen, aceteminophen, etc…) Take as directed, and of course, as needed.

Spain is one of the enlightened places where cannabis and alcohol are equally respected for their ability to make life better (in the right dosages). You might want to stock up on vape pens and CBD rubs at the local Hemp Shop.

You should also bring things with which to distract yourself. If you’re an extrovert, make sure you have a bit of extra phone data to use Google Translate and strike up conversations with the other people in line. While standing for 40 minutes (in the wrong line – the Sagrada ticket line, instead of the Julia Tours line), we discovered an Italian family in front, and a crew of young Japanese women to our rear. That was good for about 20 minutes before the language barrier made it all too exhausting to proceed. (of course, we are introverts… true extroverts would never allow something as minor as the inability to understand someone else’s language to stand in the way of a good conversation)

If you are alone, and an introvert, bring your eReader.

There are also some handy little physical supports that double as canes and small travel stools. If you’re willing to give up a hand to that kind of device, you’re good on the sitting front… although I suspect they get pretty uncomfortable over the duration. Popular venues are stingy about seating. The intention is for you to see it, buy your souvenirs, and move out to make room for the next tourist. Sitting around just enjoying the view is not on the agenda. That is what a camera is for.

Speaking of cameras, familiarize yourself with its low light settings. The use of the flash is highly discouraged, if not outright banned. Don’t risk a bunch of blurry photos of all the cool stuff you are about to see. If your camera doesn’t have such a setting, invest in a better one (or borrow one). Seriously.

I will never forget La Sagrada Familia with the evening sun flushed through the reds and golds of the Passion facade. There is simply no substitute for actually being there. I could have easily sat there for an hour just basking in its beauty… except of course for the paucity of seats, and the fact that we’d already stood around for two hours before gaining access, and my feet and back were killing me. Being a tourist is not for the faint of heart, or the under-prepared.

What about you? Have you found a real way to “skip the line”? What do you include in your travel arsenal to survive those blistering days on your feet? Share your wisdom (and experiences). Drop a line in the comments!

Expense Reporting from the Road

Business travel is work. It’s part of the job, it’s essential to being effective, and if you don’t manage your travel receipts properly, it can eat a big chunk out of your income.

If you’re a seasoned business traveler, you already know that going paperless is your salvation. Some even invest in portable scanners with internal memory. Not a bad approach, but it is one more piece of equipment to lug along, and I personally am a fan of travelling light.

Your phone is your friend. There are a variety of apps out there for Android and iPhones that will allow you to take a picture of your receipts and upload them automatically to an expense reporting system. If your system doesn’t allow for this, just capturing the receipt for later will help you avoid losing receipts. Lost receipts are an enormous hassle when submitting expense reports, even (or maybe even especially) when you’re using a company credit card.

Make sure to sign up for frequent traveler accounts with all the hotel chains, airlines, and rental car companies you use regularly. Keep your email current and ask them to email you a copy of the invoice. I like to take a look at their hard copy before they email it, just to make sure the charges are accurate, but the final invoice needs to go to my business email. Frequent travel programs are also a good way to grab an invoice you didn’t get before. Because they track how often you stay (in order to reward you appropriately), they have a vested interest in making sure their records are accurate, and available to the customer online.

Also make sure you stay organized. When you or your admin are booking a trip, they should create an expense folder for that trip. As soon as the booking agency sends a confirmation (with details of your airline and booking fees), file that in the trip folder. Start out ahead of the game. If your admin isn’t organized, train him or her to do it properly to avoid headaches all around. Sometimes the expense report won’t go through properly, the attachments are lost, *stuff* happens. Being able to pull up an electronic copy of all your receipts is tremendously helpful.

This is particularly vital for small businesses and sole proprietorships. Come tax season you don’t want to be trawling through your old credit card bills to try to remember what you spent on business trips, and why… or how far you drove. If this is you, make sure to have an app that allows you to track mileage while you’re driving.

If you have a helpful tip or app you find invaluable, post a comment here to benefit your fellow travelers. Thank you for stopping by, and don’t forget to sign up for notifications! Ciao for now. Lindley.

Christmas on the Road – Staying in Touch with Loved Ones

Business travel is hard on relationships, on family solidarity, and it’s hard on the traveler – emotionally and physically. Every minute you spend after work hours away from home is a minute your employer owes you some consideration. Whether that’s comp time, a deluxe vacation package, or other perks, never forget that business travel requires sacrifice.

And that sacrifice is never felt more strongly than during traditional family holidays. If you and your kids stay up late to watch fireworks from the rooftop every Fourth of July, Bastille Day, or Guy Fawkes Day… the urgent negotiation meeting in another city on that date will damage the fabric of your family memories. It is what it is. You may love your job enough, be compensated well enough, or want to escape your spouse enough, to be happy with the trade-off. Or maybe it’s just The Job, and a little part of you is unhappy. Or maybe a large part of you is unhappy. For most business travelers its a little bit… that builds up over time.

So this year you’re spending the week running up to Christmas in someplace less exotic than Topeka, Kansas. You’re missing the parties, the kid’s part as the angel or Joseph… and you have no time to help your spouse bake cookies for the neighbors. You’ve paid a handyman to install the house lights, and you’ve missed the 50% off sale of lighted reindeer at the hardware store.

The trick here is to spend less time feeling sad and more time connecting during your time away. Technology is your friend, as is Amazon and every other online shopping catalog that guarantees delivery dates. You can tap into eCard sites like Hallmark, American Greetings, and Blue Mountain. Plan ahead, ideally the weekend before you are scheduled to leave. I know you’re running around shopping for gifts and trying to do everything you won’t have time to do while you’re gone. Give it up. You’ll have plenty of time for online shopping in the evenings at the hotel. I know you love your coworkers, but they can get by without you.

FIRST – think about how your children and significant other like to connect. Are you a texting family? Does your wife or husband prefer email? Facebook or packages at the door? At least 75% of your contact with each person should leverage how they prefer to communicate. The other 25% should be a surprise. Send a small gift to someone who loves to text. Send a text and an email to someone who spends all their time on Facebook. Send a heart-felt email to someone who loves packages and cards. You should definitely send at least one physical card to each person you want to connect with. This can be done in a batch, but it will inevitably feel like an individual touch. Buy the right card for the right person, and you’re golden. For daily physical gifts, flowers, plants, and chocolate are always a good bet.

SECOND – imagine how they’re feeling when they get your message, text, email, card, gift. Really spend some time trying to sit in their chair. It’s easy to brush this off, but you’re trying to distill a lot of time together into a single touch point. Open yourself, be honest, gift them with what is true and do your best to be authentic in a way that will make the OTHER person feel good. This is not about you, it’s not about assuaging your guilt, it’s not about making you happy. This is about the person you love. Craft your messages from this place of love, compassion, and integrity.

THIRD – Schedule all your touch points so that they arrive on a daily basis. This is an organizational task that you cannot assign to an admin. This is supposed to be about YOU connecting to the people who make your heart feel safe. Do not delegate. Have confidence in yourself. If you can manage life on the road as a significant part of your career, you can do it.

FOURTH – Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. Get home sooner if you can. Buy that spectacularly hideous Christmas sweater from Etsy for your daughter-in-law who hosts the annual White Elephant party. Stop in a custom chandler, soap maker, or bundt shop … to buy a hand made gift that you could never find locally.

Think of this as the 12 Days of Christmas… with as many days as you’re gone. – except you want to keep the spirit alive, without breaking the bank or making yourself crazy. It’s perfectly okay to find ways to automate the work, to identify the things you know that work and do them in multiples… as long as it’s you doing the work. That’s what maintains the connection.

So Merry Christmas from LindleyOnTheRoad… where we’re all about making life better for people who travel a lot. Do you have another idea for maintaining connections with loved ones from the road? Drop me a comment!

Trust & Baggage Handling

Most of the folks I meet who haul suitcases, car seats, strollers, your golf clubs, etc… for a living, are nice people.  Some of them have saved me time, missed flights, and damaged luggage.  I am deeply and profoundly grateful to all the men and women who perform this Sisyphean task every day for everyone who wants to board a plane and go someplace new. 

When I was first starting out on the road, I made the mistake of putting a small plastic fishing tackle box (about 1 1/2″ x 4″ x 3″ deep) filled with various items of jewelry in an OUTSIDE pocket of a suitcase that I wound up checking at the last minute.  Not only was this not in a locked compartment of a suitcase, it was in the most easily accessible pocket possible.  In short, I was young, naive, and thoughtless. Someone handling my suitcase was unable to resist the temptation I placed in his or her path.  As a result, I lost an unusual 18k gold signet ring, a family heirloom, and a one of a kind pearl and diamond pendant necklace I’d purchased as a special gift to myself at the Laguna Beach, CA art festival.   All told I lost a couple grand worth of STUFF.  That was a hit. I lost irreplaceable shiny bits I wore almost daily.  I lost memories and a connection to my great-grandfather.  I also lost a bit of naivete.  It was a painful, but valuable lesson. 

Learn from my mistake. These folks don’t get paid a great deal of money.  I hope this is not news to you.  As a result they may find themselves in difficult predicaments, the sort of situations that most lower income Americans encounter on a depressingly frequent basis. 

So for the love of all that is good, don’t test them.  Do not place your laptop, ipad, telephone, jewelry or other high value items in your checked baggage.  Especially in an unlocked suitcase.  That’s just mean. 

Honesty is something you can take for granted when your parents are healthy, the children are getting a good education, the family is all together (as much as they want to be), no one has gone hungry in recent memory (unless they have an eating disorder,) and you are feeling safe and optimistic.   In these United States, this is not a consistent state of affairs… a fact which I personally feel reflects poorly on us as a society.  Your mileage may vary.  We’re not going to argue about this.  

Travel 101

There are basically three kinds of travel:  business, obligatory, and pleasure.

One could argue that business is, by it’s very nature, obligatory.  I can only say that anyone who has ever traveled regularly for business purposes (meetings, presentations, training, system configuration, and every other stupid reason a VP can conceive of for sending warm bodies out to client sites to demonstrate his/her commitment to their needs) recognizes that they are doing something very different than travelling to Omaha for Great Aunt Hildegaard’s funeral. The first is business.  Aunt Hildegaard, your Mom’s birthday, and Thanksgiving at your cousin’s cabin in Maine… obligatory

I think the distinction is clear.  Feel free to let me know if you’re still confused.  That’s what comments are for. The third category is, I hope, self-explanatory.  It’s that dream trip to the Galapagos Islands, to see the Parthenon, or the Eiffel Tower.  It’s the dance workshop in Berlin (when you live in Omaha, NB).  It’s leaving home to explore places that have always had a magical aura in your mind’s eye. 

There are some people who travel to fun places with friends and family, who don’t consider the experience pleasurable.  I’m sorry.  I can’t help you with that except to say that travel is meant to be an exciting and fun, (if sometimes awkward) experience; choose your companions wisely.

I know whereof I speak.  I persuaded my ex, who loved her routines, to fly with me to Paris business class, staying in a Renaissance hotel in the Premier Arrondissement, and wandering around to savor the best the city had to offer for ten days.  (which is a lot, Paris truly is a wonderful place… more on that later – with pictures)  Years later, when we were working on a divorce she mentioned that it was a terrible experience for her, forcing her out of her exercise and journal routine.  Had she been honest with me at the time, I could have taken any number of friends who would have considered it the trip of a lifetime.   This is just an example of how your own excitement over travel can cloud your judgement where others are concerned.   Learn from my experience – ask and listen