5 Tips From a Travel Pro

by Mike McDaniel on December 14, 2011

No matter where you’re going over the holidays—to grandma’s house, or to a perfect surf break for a mid-winter surf escape—these tips and reminders might make the difference between arriving ready to surf or ready to scream.
Less is More
The prevalence of iPhones, iPads and their counterparts means leaving the laptop at home is easier than ever. Do you really need to bring that silicone brick on a surf vacation? Do you even want to? Probably not.
Packing light overall offers a freedom of movement that your back will appreciate. I have discovered that I like to travel with a few items of clothes I hardly wear, as opposed to my favorites. That way, if I want to abandon (or donate) that hoodie that kept me warm at the airport in San Francisco, but that I won’t need in Mexico, then I lighten the load for the trip home. As it is the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to donate surf clothing to those that need it more than you. Your closet appreciates the gesture as well.
Be a Travel Ninja
I consider the gauntlet that is airport security and TSA an opponent to be vanquished. The goal is to slip through as quickly and effortlessly as possible, never letting the TSA hench-persons halt your smooth progress toward the gate… or the cocktail lounge near the gate.
Before I even leave the house, I make sure that my carry on doesn’t have any items I will have to explain or surrender to TSA. Next, I do my own ‘security prep’ BEFORE the screening process, while I’m in line. I remove my watch and belt, take out my iPhone and put them all in my backpack. I then take my iPad out of the pack, and hold it. By the time I reach the plastic bins, all I have to do is grab one for my iPad, drop my pack on the rollers and kick off my shoes.
Speaking of shoes, the easier they come off and go on, the better. I’m always going surfing, so unless it’s real cold in SF, I’m wearing flip flops or perpetually tied sneakers that I just slip out of and back into with ease. Reassembly is quick on the other side of the x-ray machine, and I secretly race my fellow travelers. I absolutely love winning this game.
There’s an App for That
Not to sound like I’m in sales for Apple, but I have found and swear by a small handful of apps for iPhone that make my travel day less edgy. Here are my faves:
I fly on Alaska regularly and their mobile app is simply great. Check-in, check flight status, mobile boarding pass, search for fares… it has it all. Free.
There are a handful of ‘packing list’ type apps, and I’ve tried a bunch of them. I like this one best. It’s easy to use, and customizable; you can create your own packing lists from their master, and you can even choose how your lists are presented graphically. Slick.
Having this app is like having an eye in the sky. It gathers data from the FAA, and reports on arrival or departure delays, weather situations and TSA wait times. I use this one on my way to the airport and know what to expect.
I admit it—I’m a math dummy. So knowing what exchange rate to expect in advance helps me make smooth transactions once I’m abroad. Another admission: I always display one currency of a country I’ve never been to—Tahiti, for example—to keep the dream alive.
Book ‘em!
I would be a bad travel tips sharer if I didn’t tell you the hottest tip I’ve got at the moment; that airfares got real cheap recently. I booked my flight to Puerto Vallarta in February just a few days ago for $365 round trip, and that includes taxes and fees! I have not seen that price since 2005. I got curious about other departure destinations, and a quick search revealed that many airlines are offering equally nostalgic prices to Puerto Vallarta. A sweet deal on your flight, combined with a Las Olas Surf Safari, would make an unforgettable gift to yourself. (We checked our list… you’ve been very, very good!)
Alaska Airlines, direct from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta in February > $365 round trip
Delta Airlines, Chicago to Puerto Vallarta in February > $469 round trip
Continental Airlines, Denver to Puerto Vallarta in February > $518 round trip
Also, Virgin America recently started flying to Puerto Vallarta. Their fares are fair, and their planes are very NICE! Watch for their promotions.
* Search was based on actual safari dates in February, but prices listed above are not guaranteed by Las Olas surf Safaris. Contact your airline for best deals and itineraries.

Mike McDaniel is the Las Olas Surf Safaris Operations Manager and fifteen year veteran of surf travel. With surf missions to Baja, Costa Rica, Japan, Hawaii, Fiji and over 70 safaris in mainland Mexico, Mike’s insights on air travel, surf culture and coastal geography have kept Las Olas’ surf safaris on course for a decade.

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