Planning a trip doesn’t have to be hard and taking that trip doesn’t have to be stressful. Regardless of work commitments, family obligations, or finances, your travel dreams can become realities. David Axelrod’s new book, Get Away!, aims to provide the confidence and step-by-step guidance you need to design a transformative travel experience perfectly tailored to your preferences.
The book equips you with essential tools, checklists, and a mindset to choose your destination with purpose, craft an air-tight itinerary, book your flights with finesse, and to kick that pre-trip anxiety to the airport curb. David wants to teach you how to maximize your travel time and savor all the wonders you set out in search of and more. He wants you to return home invigorated, have clarity, perspective and loving, enduring memories.
Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with David Axelrod, author of Get Away! Design Your Ideal Trip, Travel with Ease, and Reclaim Your Freedom. David, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
David Axelrod: Thank you so much, I’m really happy to be here.
David Appelbaum: David, kick it off for us. Why don’t you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
David Axelrod: Sure! I’m a travel writer and a photographer. I’m also a content strategist, I work with travel and lifestyle brands and most recently, I’ve started my own travel consultancy to help people design their ideal trips and have the kinds of transformative travel experiences that they really want.
David Appelbaum: Now, you’ve been doing this for quite some time, so why was now the time to share the stories in the book? Was there an “aha moment” something that inspired you out there?
David Axelrod: Well, I started to realize that a lot of the problems that I have learned solutions to over the years personally, others share those problems as well and I had been taking for granted my expertise. When I realized that others suffered from the same feelings of overwhelm that I once did or didn’t know how to piece together an itinerary or make their trips happen on a micro and macro level, that’s when I realized I had a lot to teach people. And of course, the pandemic gave me a nice cushion to get a head start on it and compose my thoughts into book form which I’ve been wanting to do forever.
David Appelbaum: You’re a very experienced traveler and you’ve clearly helped a lot of people on their travels but while writing the book itself, just by maybe digging deeper, doing some research, did you come to any major breakthroughs or learnings during your writing journey?
David Axelrod: Absolutely. A lot of the research that I did confirmed many of the feelings I had about travel and its benefits but had not yet uncovered the scientific evidence, even anecdotal evidence about, for example, the benefits on people’s health and the physical and mental health that travel can enable and boost for people.
I’ve always felt that but when I started to uncover scholarly journal articles about higher happiness and lower heart disease rates and that kind of thing, it really woke me up to the importance of getting this message out and then there’s the benefits for employees and for people at their jobs. So many people suffer from burnout and are stressed out at work. Ironically, travel can be something that they feel guilty about doing, yet it’s the thing that they need the most to recharge and perform their best.
Maximize on Your Experience by Traveling With Intention
David Appelbaum: In your mind when you were writing this book, who exactly are you writing this book for? Is this for kind of your five-star, first-class travelers, is this for your folks who are backpacking and going to hostels, people in the middle? Who is the ideal audience for the book?
David Axelrod: Great question. I didn’t want to divide it by the style of travel. I am writing to people who have the desire and means to take a trip of any level but are overwhelmed and stressed out about how to execute. I’m trying to teach people how to take a trip that integrates seamlessly into their lives. If that’s a luxury trip for someone or a budget trip for someone else, that’s fine.
The method is the same and what’s different than a typical travel book that might focus on just budget travel or solo travel, backpacking, is that I’m talking about a trip of approximately nine days. I call it the nine-day getaway. Research shows that eight to nine days is a perfect trip length to maximize happiness and after that, things can sort of decline, so you want to end on a high note and that’s why I think that’s the perfect trip length.
It’s not discriminating on any luxury, budget or any specific style of traveler, just for the people who are stressed out and overwhelmed about actually doing it, so getting people from inspiration to taking action.
David Appelbaum: What are the major pitfalls that travelers run into and is it actually done by not enough prep before the trip? Or does that actually happen during the trip itself?
David Axelrod: I’m all about planning. I think that all the pitfalls, at least, the majority of them come from inadequate or insufficient planning and I think the fun of travel is the unexpectedness of it. There are always surprises and you love those, that’s what makes it so exhilarating, but there are many aspects of a trip that travelers do have control over and I’m all about controlling what you can control and then relinquishing your attachment to all the things that you can’t control.
That means, designing an itinerary so that you’re maximizing your time. You don’t have odd connections or periods of time where if you miss one flight or train ride, your whole itinerary unravels and you’re stranded. Those types of situations, I’ve learned the hard way over the years, can ruin a trip.
I think that if you invest in creating an airtight or as close as you can to an airtight itinerary, then you’ll reap the rewards when you actually take the trip and free up space to be spontaneous. If you want to change your plans, you’ll be able to freely and confidently because you won’t be stressed out about where you’re going to sleep or if you’re getting ripped off, things like that.
David Appelbaum: Are there specific questions that you might want to ask yourself or potentially the group you’re traveling with before you begin to plan?
David Axelrod: So many. I think it’s all about declaring the purpose of your trip. This is such a neglected aspect of travel and I really harp on it because I think it’s essential for having a truly rewarding and transformative trip. You have to ask yourself what you want to get out of the trip and that dictates who you travel with, where you go, when you go. So many people just have these visions of exotic destinations from lists that they see in magazines and they say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if…”
That’s great. That jump off is important but then, to figure out what you want to get out of it and how you want to feel when you return from that trip and to be able to identify it and name it, I think that is the most important question that travelers can answer to ensure that they’ll have a great experience.
David Appelbaum: Now, you actually bring this up in the book and I thought it’s really interesting because I’ve certainly felt it before but no one really talks about it. What happens with post-trip regret? Is this something that all people feel, is this a real thing?
David Axelrod: I think there is no such thing as a perfect trip and I think that the sooner you can come to terms with that, the happier you’ll be. I think there are always aspects of an itinerary that you’ll wish you could have tweaked and you do your best upfront, the thing that you want to avoid is the regret of not trying or not exploring enough or getting out of your comfort zone in the ways that you wanted to.
To know how you want to challenge yourself and what you want to get out of the trip in advance is the best way to preclude regret later on. It’s the travelers who just wing it and don’t have any plans or not nearly enough, those are the travelers that come back and say, “Man, I didn’t know I was right next to this attraction that I meant to see” or they hear about things after the fact and then regret that they weren’t more informed or more educated or they missed the ball on cultural nuances, things like that.
David Appelbaum: What do you say to people who, as you mentioned earlier, people should be taking vacations and I think if you really want to rack it up, you can think of a thousand reasons to hold you back really, in terms of traveling being ‘“too expensive”, what do you say to folks who have that as the reason why they’re not going away during their vacation season?
David Axelrod: It’s a common one for sure and I think first of all, expensive is such a relative term. I think that it totally varies for people, what you think of as balling out could be slumming it for somebody else and vice versa. That’s totally relative but there are definitely ways to make travel more affordable, this book touches on some of them. It’s not all about that, but the simplest one is choosing a cheaper destination.
You go to Cambodia instead of Japan, things like that. But you can also just be smart about the way you structure your trip so that you’re not wasting money or getting scammed and a lot of the stuff that travelers fear about money is actually in their control to avoid. Knowing where you’re going to get money or how you’re going to spend it and how you’re going to protect your valuables abroad, that kind of thing, all those things can help you save money.
And the same thing with choosing accommodation and flights. I talk a bunch about how to find affordable flights, how to choose hotels or other accommodations that align with your budget. Again, if you put the work in upfront, you can save money, you can save time, and you can save agony.
David Appelbaum: I do want to talk about flights that you just mentioned and especially layovers because I think we all know that layovers aren’t ideal but sometimes they do provide a significant discount. You write about this in the book — and I love that you mentioned it because I generally have no clue about it but — what can folks really do to sort of ease the pain of a layover if they choose to go that route?
David Axelrod: There’s a lot. I think lounge access is the best way and I talk about how anyone can get access to lounges and that’s the best way to feel comfortable and prepare yourself for a flight. I really believe that airports are increasingly going to become places people want to spend time. I know that’s not true at all for a lot of people right now but they’re getting better and better and I really advise against short layovers.
I don’t think there is any point in putting yourself in that situation where you could jeopardize the whole trip just to save an hour, so I play it safe with the duration of a layover and then I use that time to prepare for the flight and my arrival at a destination. You can have an active layover, you can download episodes of things you want to listen to in the sky. You can do some light stretching or get some healthy food and hydrate and just relax or check in with people that you’re about to be out of touch with for a week or so.
I think the best way to deal with a layover is to find the space where you’ll be the most comfortable and then use your time to prepare for what’s coming rather than just chomping on chili cheese fries and sitting there at the gate hating yourself the whole time.
David Appelbaum: Right. How about personal safety? How much of a concern should that be and are there resources where people can find real data on safety and crime rates and that kind of stuff and not just a 30-year-old horror story from the time your aunt lost her wallet in Mexico and blamed it on a local or something but really just sitting in Señor Frog’s?
David Axelrod: Yeah, I think there are practices, there are best practices that regardless of your destination people can take. I have a whole chapter about street safety and the simplest thing that any traveler can do is not make themself such an obvious target and that boils down to the way you dress, the way you act, the way you protect your bag and just you can tell when someone is lazy or ignorant about the way they’re carrying themselves.
Those are the people who tend to be targets for criminals, petty crime, and more serious crimes. I think being aware and mindful about the way you’re carrying yourself is the best thing you can do in any destination. Now, every destination has its own common scams that travelers fall prey to and I think searching and just reading up on what those scams are in a specific destination is always smart to do in advance. And then, of course, some of the physical safety that may be beyond just crime, I think that also depends on the destination.
If you want to check the CDC, I certainly won’t blame you and I recommend that you do. I just went to Peru and was checking in on yellow fever and dengue and that kind of thing. It’s just about knowing what you’re getting into at your specific destination so that you don’t have to learn the hard way and be surprised and have everything go haywire unexpectedly.
Tips and Tricks for Traveling Internationally
David Appelbaum: Now, you kind of touched on it earlier but I want to bring it back up because I thought it’s really interesting that you did write about the mental health benefits of traveling and you mentioned that there were some studies that you found. Can you kind of dive in a little bit more on that subject?
David Axelrod: Yeah, this is so fascinating to me because I think people travel not thinking about the way they will improve, in terms of their personality can even improve. Studies show that you can become more creative, you can get more clarity and perspective about what really matters to you, and then you can apply those same lessons to your day-to-day life and your routine at home.
I think travel is the best way to gain clarity about your priorities and a bit of distance on your routine can absolutely unlock some of those, I don’t want to say revelations, because it’s not necessarily so grand but having the time and space to reflect on what you really want and how you want to be more at peace with yourself in any environment you happen to find yourself in, that’s super beneficial and it carries over. It absolutely carries over into your workplace and into your family life and home life.
David Appelbaum: All right, so all the bosses out there, all the managers out there, you heard that vacation is good and you’re going to get a better employee back at the end of it.
David Axelrod: Yeah, there is so much out there that confirms that employees are happier when they get back to their jobs and that they’re more productive. The productivity studies that I have in the second chapter are really enlightening and I absolutely think that employers should pay attention to this because there’s a pressure that workers feel to always be there and never take the vacation days they have, even if they have unlimited PTO.
They’re not taking the days, they’re wasting those days and I think there is a culture of work martyrdom that is really trapping people from getting out there and I think it’s sad. I also think that it’s detrimental to organizations and that more emphasis on leisure time and quality leisure time will be beneficial to individuals and companies.
David Appelbaum: Very, very much agreed but it’s very interesting what’s in the book as well. You dive deeper into it there and I have a few questions left about travel itself. Do you actually need local currency anymore? Do you remember those traveler’s checks things, right? Or can you go and just have a no foreign transaction fee credit card these days and make it through international travel?
David Axelrod: You can almost make it. I like to use a no foreign transaction fee credit card and a debit card like the Charles Schwab checking account has a debit card that doesn’t charge you any fees for ATM withdrawals. With those two, with that one-two punch, you don’t have to be dripping money and paying fees left and right and that can really help but I do think it’s nice to have local currency on you.
It’s nice in markets and when you’re bartering or just doing smaller transactions, it’s always nice to have the local currency on you. There are instances where you might be out of a city or just away from civilization a little more than normal when you don’t want to have to depend on credit cards. I think I like to use a credit card as much as I can, it’s easier for me to track my expenses and most people in most major first world countries accept them but I do think that having a bit of cash on you tucked away maybe in a safe place is always a good idea.
David Appelbaum: You actually touch on the international driver’s license in the book, which a lot of people have questions about whether it’s actually real, do you actually need it. I was in Tokyo and heard you needed it to drive those little Mario cart things around in the streets but no one confirmed and it’s always been a point of confusion, so clear it up for us. Do you actually need it?
David Axelrod: No. In Tokyo, I would probably just take the metro.
David Appelbaum: Sure.
David Axelrod: It’s an amazing transportation system, take a taxi if you want to but I think you can pass on driving in Tokyo but I have driven and rented cars on multiple continents and I have never needed an international driver’s permit. I advise that people don’t waste their time with them. I think you may be pressured into thinking that you really do need it but your US driver’s license will absolutely suffice and I say in the book, I think that — okay, let’s imagine.
Worst case scenario, you do rent a car and get pulled over, which has happened to me and it wouldn’t be a funny story if you got pulled over in some village in Hungary and they ask you for your international driver’s permit. You would be fine, you would be fine. I mean, yeah, I hope no one gets into that situation but your driver’s license is enough so save a trip to the AAA office and the $20 fee it costs.
David Appelbaum: You just set yourself up for one future angry email from a traveler but David, you have a companion website to the book as well with more resources there. Can you tell us the name of the website and what folks can find there?
David Axelrod: Absolutely, my website is davidaxelrod.co and on the website, there are a few things. The first is there’s a compendium for the book, so I explain every chapter, the key takeaways for every chapter and I also have a freebie for every chapter. For each chapter, I created a free download that is an actionable worksheet or a checklist that you can download and save. You can print it if you want or fill it out digitally.
Those resources are designed to ensure that you don’t just read the book and then say you’re going to do it and not actually get going, you can use them at the appropriate phase in the travel planning process. I hope people take advantage of those because they’re all free. There are 17 chapters and a freebie for each one and then I’m offering services for people who need more assistance planning trips.
I am a professional travel adviser and I help people if they want to plan their own trips but just need a little bit of handholding I can help and for the people who are resistant to doing it themselves or need more intensive assistance, I can help you craft an itinerary that aligns with your goals even book flights and accommodation. I have resources for travelers of all levels at every stage of the process.
David Appelbaum: Well David, you actually touch on so much in the book and I know we just kind of scratched the surface here but just writing a book like this that helps people take the anxiety out and helps them maximize their travel and travel planning is no small feat. So congratulations on having this book published.
David Axelrod: Thank you so much, Drew.
David Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Get Away!, and you could find it on Amazon. David, besides checking out the book, besides your companion website, is there anywhere else where people can connect with you?
David Axelrod: Yes, I am active on Instagram. It’s the same, my handle is the same as my website. It’s davidaxelrod.co and you can stay up to speed with my personal travels and watch some of my stories and glean some new information from the live videos that I post and I hope to see you on Instagram. I love interacting with readers there, so definitely comment and be in touch, ask me any questions you have because all travel conversations and questions are welcome.
David Appelbaum: Well David, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and best of luck with your new book.
David Axelrod: Thank you so much.