Brian Harwell Talks Traveling with FOP

Learn how to travel comfortably and be prepared for anything from our very own globetrotter, as shared with the IFOPA by Brian Harwell.

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My two favorite places have been Alaska, United States and Cartagena, Colombia. 

I have been to Alaska twice and the views are spectacular. Alaska is filled with mountains, glaciers and wildlife. When I was in Ketchikan I took a crab fishing boat tour and I snapped hundreds of pictures of bald eagles as the crew threw fish into the water—the sky was filled with bald eagles. I toured Glacier Bay, took a bus into Denali, and took a flight in a helicopter and landed on a glacier.

I have been to Cartagena, Colombia twice and it is a very beautiful city full of history. The old city is rich in character with very colorful buildings. On my last visit, I spent that day driving around the old city on my scooter with my camera and took the pictures you see here.

The best part of traveling for me is taking pictures and taking a break from work. I work in IT so I am always taking a training course, reading a book or plugging away with the latest framework. Traveling gives me an opportunity to disconnect from everything and spend some quality time with my camera.

People think traveling with FOP is hard and it is, but it has its benefits. With FOP, you get rock star treatment so you get to go Brian_Harwell.jpgto the front of the line. If you want to board the plane first, you can. You can even board before first class passengers or those with top-tier frequent flyer status.

Most of the time you can even skip the long security lines by going through the handicap entrance or TSA Precheck entrance, but chances are high you will get a pat-down. Understand the TSA agent does not have experience with FOP, so work with them and inform them what you can and can't move. Whatever you do (especially the parents), don't cop an attitude—snark never makes a stressful situation better. 

Brian’s 5 Best Traveling Tips

1. Comfort is key. If you need two seats then buy two seats. If you need a pillow or a cushion, then bring one or even two. You are most likely going to be uncomfortable sitting in an airplane seat so do whatever you can to be as comfortable as possible. I have even taken painkillers before a long flight.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. In my experience, everyone is willing to help. Gate attendants, flight attendants, airport personnel, the Captain, other passengers, even strangers in the restroom. People will offer to help before the thought to ask crosses my mind.

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3. If you use a motorized vehicle, bring along an extra key. My scooter key disappeared on the way to the airport before one of my trips. Luckily I had a spare key, because if I hadn't we would have missed our flight and change fees for the missed flight would have been $600.

4. If booking a hotel, a handicap accessible room may not be what you want. A handicap accessible room has a bathtub with grab bars. I make sure to request a roll-in shower which does not have a threshold.

5. If you need something, bring it; be prepared. Don't let your trip be ruined because you forgot to bring long straws, an extra fork, painkillers, etc. Once I fell in the gangway waiting for my scooter and I injured my hip. Luckily, I had my emergency medications packed with me so I immediately took prednisone. I also can't stress how hard it is to find long straws.

Watch for more travel tips from Brian and other FOP travelers on Twitter and Facebook in the months ahead.

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