Patrick McIvor Travel Guide, Chapter 4

In Chapter 4 of Patrick McIvor’s series “Have Shears Will Travel,” he stresses the importance of accepting and understanding that “reality wins.” That even though you are embarking on a dream vacation, you must always remember that real life happens.

In life, there are truths, hopes, dreams and then there is reality. When it comes to many things we plan, planning for reality is not always what comes first. It seems like planning a vacation is a lot like planning a wedding, a dream wedding where the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting in perfect harmony, and rainbows appear in cloudless skies.  The truth is, unfortunately, reality is rarely that perfect and not that the outcome is bad, but planning for only the dream scenario is like building an airplane that only flies in good weather. As an experienced traveler, I can tell you being in a plane that is built to fly in bad weather is much better than one that is only meant to fly in good weather, because when you are flying, bad weather is a reality. When traveling, you plan for success, but bad weather and other things can be realities too, so be prepared to adjust for realities.

Transportation Realities

In the USA, there are two major forms of long haul or extended distance travel—drive yourself or plan your trip in advance to save money and hop on a plane. Yes, there are some other options like trains and buses, but even in movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, buses didn’t even make the billing. I can’t think of any of my family members who took a train from their home to go on vacation in the USA. Outside our country, though, many times an automobile is not the first or best choice because in some countries, like Bermuda, cars are limited. In many European countries, gas is more expensive than here at home, with gas ranging two to almost three times the cost of the USA. The reality is, in most other countries, transportation is made to move the masses. From easy to navigate above-ground streetcars or trolleys, to efficient subways below ground, and buses that are easy to jump on and off, not only is inner city travel affordable but it can also be fun. For traveling to other cities or countries, trains in many countries are again an easy option and surprisingly planes may be even more affordable and convenient. In many European countries, a one-way flight can start as cheap as $29 on discount, reputable airlines. The key to winning here with this reality no matter if it is a bus, train or discounted airline, pack light and pack in something easy to carry.

Weather Realities

The reality is that for some part of your trip it is probably going to be hotter, colder or rainier than you planned for and not having a backup plan can get expensive, and even more expensive if you have to buy a whole new wardrobe because of weather. I’ve been on trips to Ireland in the summer when one day we were at a beach and the next day we had long sleeve shirts, heavy sweaters, and jackets on because it was cold and rainy. Similar has happened when biblical heat waves have hit and if you are not by a beach or water, all of a sudden, being clothed in something light, cotton-made, loose-fitting, and covering was actually better than fewer clothes, like tiny shorts and tops that may have been the only things packed. The reality is bad or unpredictable weather happens, but it doesn’t mean your trip needs to be spoiled. On our trip last year to Paris, it rained and was cold almost every day, but that didn’t stop us from walking more than 20,000 steps on average exploring the city and its beauty with an attitude that we were going to be just about “singing in the rain” because the truth was we were only there for four days and rain was not going to stop our fun.

The Realities Of Size and Weight

Size outside the US is a lot different. Things like two double beds in a room is not the norm at most hotels. Yes, you can get two beds in a room, but they usually only sleep one person each. Another reality is just because your luggage was underweight when you left doesn’t mean it will be when you return. This happened to me flying back from New Zealand once, and even though I had made no purchases that went into my camera bag, which was a carry-on during my trip over, on my return flight it was overweight for a carry-on, needed to be checked-in and now was considered a third bag which was then charged a premium price to be checked. The reality is most of us buy something when we travel to bring home either for ourselves or someone else and the truth is most of the things we pack today for trips aren’t all needed. My advice is to watch your weight and leave a little space in your checked bag and maybe even your carry on too, so there are no surprises when you return and you have space available and some weight allowed to bring something special home.

For me, when it comes to traveling, I plan for success and remember that reality always wins. The reality is it may rain all four of your four-day stop in one city, but when are you going back?  So be prepared for this reality and be prepared to have fun. And today, even things like terrorism are a reality, but that too doesn’t mean you should just stay home or stay in your hotel room and let terrorism win. From personal experience, flying to Germany on September 18, 2001 out of Newark airport seven days after 9/11 and being in Paris 10 days after the attacks last year, the reality was we were more aware of our surroundings. The reality also was we had probably the best family vacation of our lives and that was the true reality that won. Plan for success, don’t forget reality and create winning memories on your trips too.

Next month I’ll be back with Chapter 5: Plan Ahead

Need to catch up? Check out Patrick’s previous chapters:

Chapter 1: Remember, You Are Going Someplace

Chapter 2: Packing Better

Chapter 3: Playing Games

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