Before you race off to the airport with a half-baked itinerary in your vest pocket and a pair of natty plus-fours trailing out of your suitcase, consider these tips from a travel pro who’s made every mistake in the book over the years.
- Put it on wheels. For years I lugged around an Andiamo hanging garment organizer with expandable compartments that would weigh 50 pounds or more by the end of a week-long trip, give or take a pewter chalice. No more. Let the wheels, not your arms and shoulders (which you’ll need for golf), do the work. Ditto your golf bag cover. I use Club Glove. So do most PGA Tour pros. This expandable cover with its durable, hard plastic underbelly has plenty of room for extra balls, extra shoes–and dirty laundry.
- Footwear. NEVER take a new pair of golf shoes on a trip. Short of leaving your passport on your dresser, it’s the biggest no-no imaginable. Break ‘em in before you go.
- Do your homework. For years, friends would ask me to recommend a destination for their next vacation. I’d ask them in general where they wanted to go, at what time of year, for how long and what they wanted to spend. I’d make some suggestions and then inform them that tourist boards offer a wealth of information. Most never bothered to inquire. Don’t be one of them. Go to TOWD.com for a complete listing of more than 1,000 domestic and international convention and visitors’ bureaus and tourist offices.
- Check the weather. WARNING: Don’t put too much credence in a dire forecast for Ireland or Scotland. Rain or at least clouds are forecast every single day, every day of the year in Ireland and the U.K. No one would bother to cross the Atlantic if everyone believed the forecast. Note that our Irish and Scottish friends draw a distinction between showers, which are usually brief and passing; and rain, which can be heavy and will confine you to the indoors, i.e., a pub.
- Packing your clothes. The old rule of thumb was to lay out the clothes you wanted to take on your bed, divide the pile in half, and pack one or the other. Actually, it’s best to select the most versatile apparel from each pile, the stuff you can wear more than once. If you’re packing a garment bag, fold several items onto each hangar, layering with plastic cleaner’s bags, so that the clothing cushions itself and arrives relatively unwrinkled. Always pack what you need to survive for 24 hours in a carry-on bag in case your luggage gets “misplaced” or lost.
- Forwarding your clubs. Golf bags can be a hassle to haul around, especially given the reality of today’s long airport check-in and security lines. A number of companies (notably Sports Express) will pick up your golf equipment and/or baggage from your home or office and deliver it to any resort or destination in the U.S., England, Scotland or Ireland. Check service details at SportsExpress.com. Fussy about certain clubs? You can always put your trusty “Billy Barroo” putter into a tube and carry it onto the flight.
- The Original Globetrotter. When Gary Player speaks, I listen. The world’s first truly international golfer, Player has logged well over 12 million miles (the equivalent of about 25 trips to the moon and back) in his storied career and has strong feelings about how to conquer jet lag. His to-do list: Exercise vigorously on day of departure so you’re tired and can sleep on the plane. Eat lightly during the flight and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Set your watch to local time, spend lots of time outside, emulate the locals.
- Don’t be afraid to ask…for anything. Hey, it never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is No. Go ahead. Request an upgrade–to a seat in business class, to a larger room with a better view. Do it with a smile and a gracious attitude. You’d be surprised how often a like-minded hospitality industry pro will come through for you.
- Foreign Cuisine. When in doubt about sampling an exotic dish of unknown provenance, do yourself a favor: Pass it up. I’ve been stricken with gastrointestinal infections on four continents, and I can assure you, no culinary delight, no matter how delicious-looking or innocent-appearing, is worth having the equivalent of dueling swordsmen in your stomach. Be prudent. Remember, you can’t swing a golf club when you’re doubled over.