In this travel blog, I want to share some great tips for when you travel to help keep you safe and supported on your journey!

Melanie and I began to leave our Holiday Letting’s apartment in Barcelona. She and I both paused to take the necessary moment to take a safety pin to the bags we carried. The safety pins were placed at the point where the zipper opens the bags. Then another safety pin was placed so the strap of the bag is attached to a piece of clothing. We are about to be tourists at Cascara Sagrada, the Gaudi church which has been under construction close to one hundred years. It is a pick pocket haven. Gypsies travel in groups and work as a team to distract you so it happens before you know it did. A very travel savvy friend of mine thought she had secured her backpack sufficiently but found her cash stolen a year earlier in the same area we were going. 

We did not get robbed while we were there or in Granada with these safety precautions. 

1) Mind the crowds.
 Secure your bag in a specific way when entering public areas while traveling in known tourist places. Safety pin over the zipper to prevent it from opening and then take another safety pin to secure a part of the strap to your clothing.

2) Be AWARE of and KNOW your surroundings. 
In the excitement and probable jet lag, it is easy to feel out of sorts. Taking in your environment is important for your safety. Ask how safe the neighborhood is after dark. Many of us now book our own lodging and it may not be in the safest part of town. 
Make a point to have the address where you are staying on your phone or take a card with the address. 

3) You don’t live there.
Remember you are a guest in someone’s home town.  Be aware when you are in a group and still create space for those needing to pass on the sidewalk. Or other common areas that a group may congregate. 
While traveling the Azores, one guide mentioned this on San Miguel island while we were in the town center. 
I have heard places like Venice being vacated by the locals due to the place being inundated by tourists. 

4) What’s going on where you are headed?  
Timing of your travel impacts your itinerary. Do your best to find out what local holidays impact your activities. Coordinating this with your local travel agent or the one located in the town you are seeking to explore can limit confusion about what is possible. 
In this era of Internet, the local holidays are not always noted when booking on line. 

Let me share with you how we learned of this issue.  In our excitement to plan a trip to Monserrat from Barcelona, we booked on line with Viatour a tour that provided transportation from Plaza de Catalunya, a large plaza near Las Ramblas to Monserrat.  We had decided to not
take the train as we wanted to ‘jump the line’ and that meant a very early departure to avoid the crowds at 10 am and before parts of the monastery still not being open. By doing so, this allowed us to have a special viewing with the Black Madonna without the lines. 

The day of the planned tour, with paid tickets on our phones, we arrive to the Plaza at 6:20 am. Departure was to be 6:45 am. We waited and waited. Finally, at 7 am, we were able to reach the travel agency. NO tour that day, April 24, as it was St George Day; a holiday only in Barcelona and Catalan. 
Fortunately, they honored our tickets and we went the next day. 

5) How to best book a tour? 
When booking a tour, you need to ask: ‘what is the goal of the experience’? There is an option now to “skip the line’ to save time and to get to the main area of focus. Be clear about what is gained with that option. 
When we chose that option, we found out that we gave up the option to linger in the well curated art museum as well as other activities available at Monserrat monastery. We arrived at 8 am and then had to leave at 10:30 am. Only the church was open when we arrived then the cafeteria and gift shop at 9 am. The art museum at 10 am. The funicular to ride to the top of the mesa near where the monastery is located opened at 9:30 am as well. 
What we gained was exclusive time with the Black Madonna. This I truly appreciated. And I know I have a strong desire to return to spend more time in this sacred place

6) NOT another tour! NO WAY! I am staying put today!
Last and probably most important tip is to BUILD IN SELFCARE and DOWN TIME. Treat yourself a slow morning after arriving to destination. Even come a day early, if on a guided tour. Every 2 days or so, have a slower paced day or evening. 

The overstimulation and being out of routine can be difficult for anyone; different food choices can lead to stomach problems and sleep issues. Ambient noise and light also can make it harder to find adequate rest. 
Selfcare tools: eyeshades and ear plugs for sleep or have an app to create white noise to induce sleep more easily. Melatonin 3 mg 2-3 hours before sleep helps to reduce jet lag. 

More self care tips to follow!

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