Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yes, I've still got more 'little ways' tips

More for road trips with the kids. Need a break? Get off the highway and stop at a local elementary school. You'll find a playground there that the kids will probably love to explore plus it will give everyone an opportunity to stretch their legs.

If an airline leaves you stranded overnight, request a 'distress rate' voucher to save you money at a motel/hotel. While the voucher will probably pay, in full, at the accommodation suggested by the airline, make a few phone calls first. You may find other hotels in the area, with more amenities, will accept the voucher or charge you only a few dollars more.

Do you like to travel by bicycle? Instead of taking a tour with a high priced company, stop into a local bike shop when you roll into town. They'll be happy to point you in the direction of the best local routes and might even be able to hook you up with locals out for a group ride. You can also make these types of arrangements before you leave home by calling or e-mailing the shops.

Hopefully your digital camera will stay nice and dry during your travels. But if it does get wet, put it into a bag of rice and leave it overnight. With a bit of luck the rice will draw out the moisture and your camera will be working in the morning.

Monday, July 28, 2008

American Airlines No Longer With Kayak

In case you are not familiar with kayak.com, it is a travel aggregator. And it's a great site. You enter your travel cities and travel dates and Kayak scours the internet, checking airline sites and online travel agency sites (like Orbitz) for the best fare.

Kayak then displays the fares, in increasing order, with flight details available at a click. But Kayak doesn't sell tickets. Instead it directs the user to the source for the best fare, whether it is the airline itself, or one of the online TA sites.

Well, it seems American Airlines is not happy that Kayak displays fares from not only the airline, but also from competing sites. American asked Kayak not to do that with AA fares and Kayak said 'No'. And AA said 'Bye'.

You can read more at The Cranky Flier.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New NY License for Crossing Border

If you are a New York State resident, you will soon be able to get a driver's license that doubles as identification for crossing the border with Canada and Mexico.

Distribution of the dual purpose license will start September 16th. Not only will it allow travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, but it will also be good for travel between the U.S. and the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The dual purpose license is optional and will cost an additional $30 over the cost of a regular license. For New York State residents that will bring the total to $80 which is still less than the cost of a new passport.

To obtain the license, motorists will have to give proof of U.S. citizenship and state residency when applying. For people that do not drive, it will be possible to get the enhanced license for a non-driver photo ID.

Link: NYS Department of Motor Vehicles

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Currency Converter

Here's a tip on how I simplify currency conversion for me when I'm traveling.

It's easy to find a currency converter on the Internet but I like Oanda.com the best because of the little 2.5" x 3.5" Travelers' Cheatsheet I can create.

When at the home page of Oanda.com , click on Travelers in the blue bar. Click on the drop down arrows to choose the currencies you'll be converting between. Then click on CheatSheet. Print.

Next, click on Reverse FXCheatSheet® and print again. I cut out the two small boxes, place them back to back and 'laminate' them with clear, wide sealing tape. If you don't have sealing tape, a couple of strips of Scotch tape works well too.

Slip into your pocket or wallet and you are set. Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Showers For Emirates First Class Passengers

We all know that First Class is where the money is for the airlines. So I can understand why airlines keep coming up with new and creative ways to keep their First Class passengers happy.

But showers? With fuel prices as high as they are, to provide showers means carrying a load of fresh water. 2200 pounds worth actually.

Oh...and those sitting in coach and looking in their seatback pockets for something to read? Forget it. Emirates is removing all reading material from coach seatback pockets. And the weight savings? 2100 pounds.

Coincidence? I don't think so!

Review: Carbon Offsets For Your Travel

Any way you travel, you cause pollution. Sad but true. Sure, you reuse your towels. You shut the A/C or heat when you leave your hotel room. You turn off the lights, too. All of this helps, but you can do more.

NativeEnergy and TerraPass are two sites that will estimate the carbon footprint of your plane or car trip. You make an offsetting donation which benefits Western U.S. wind farms, solar-energy installations and other sustainable projects.

Help ease the pollution your trip is causing by checking out these two sites.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Overnight at the Airport

It happens.

Flights are cancelled for any number of reasons.

If you have a long international trip, you might come into an airport at night and not leave until the next morning.

Making the news right now is London's Stansted Airport, where it is reported that campers move in by 10 PM.

Maybe Sleep In Airports should be bookmarked on your laptop.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ironman Lake Placid

This is an event that takes place in pretty much my back yard. Well...maybe not exactly but within an easy one day drive.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Lake Placid Ironman and there are actually 8 participants (one woman, 7 men) who have done all 10 of the events.

The participants today will be swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles.

Think this race might be for you? Then be sure to read Dev Paul's Part 1 and Part 2 about mistakes not to make and what you need to do if you hope to win.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pitchfork, Siren, Mile High - Summer is the Time for Festivals

Summertime is here and it's time for all those big summer festivals.

Yes, there are some major festivals going on this weekend. There is the Mile High Festival in Denver, the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, and further east in New York for the Siren Festival.

But even small towns take advantage of the summer to have some type of festival going on. Do a Google search for 'small town festivals' and you end up with links to a post on byways.org and loads of specific small town festivals.

Take advantage of what your area has to offers. Enjoy these small town festivals and support your local community.

Northwest Raising Fees

Besides slashing about 2500 jobs, Northwest Airlines will also be charging fees for passengers' first checked bags and for frequent flyer tickets.

The $15 fee for a passenger's first checked bag goes into affect with tickets purchased starting July 10th for travel after August 28th. You are exempt from this fee if you are a member of their frequent flyer program or traveling on a full fare ticket.

Fees for changing flight plans have also gone up. For changes to change flight arrangements on a nonrefundable ticket, you'll now pay $150 instead of the previous $100.

And if you want a frequent flyer ticket, it will now cost $25 for domestic travel, $50 for trans-Atlantic and $100 for trans-Pacific. Northwest Airlines is hoping that the fees on frequent flyer travel will be ‘temporary”.

Man Strips Nude

Can you imagine!!!

Yesterday, the pilot of an American Airlines flight going from Boston to Los Angeles diverted the plane to Oklahoma City.

A man went into one of the airplane's restrooms and stripped naked. After being confronted by Craig Tornberg, general manager of the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, the man went back into the restroom and put his clothes back on.

But then he headed to one of the emergency doors. At that point he was tackled by Tornberg and other team personal.

This headline, Soccer team members help subdue man on flight, gives you the full story.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Phantom Hotel

I found a hotel I definitely would not want to stay in. Not that I'd really have the opportunity because it is located in North Korea.

The Ryugyong Hotel was nicknamed The Phantom Hotel when construction stopped 16 years ago. It has never had one guest.

Considered by many to be grotesque, its construction appears to have been an attempt by North Korea leader Kim Il-sung to compete with the growing economy in South Korea. When money ran out, work on the hotel stopped.

Now fast forward to today when it looks like the building may get a new lease on life. Read about how Egypt's Orascom group appears to be renovating this old corpse.

And I'm STILL pretty sure I wouldn't want to be a guest there.

ExpressJet Ends Branded Operation

As of September 1, you will no longer be able to fly an ExpressJet branded airplane. If you have a ticket for flying before then, you are OK. If your flight is after September 1, call the airline for a refund. At least they are still solvent so you can get your money back.

They will still be flying co-branded with Continental and will also be flying for corporate aviation groups. I hope that continues. I have a flight AFTER September 1 on Continental that uses ExpressJet to get me from upstate NY to Newark.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Statue of Liberty Crown May Open Again

Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, was closed to the public after the 9/11 attacks. The island, and base of the statue, reopened in 2004. In 2007, there were over 3 million visitors to the island and more are expected this year.

Unfortunately, even with the opening of the site in 2004, it was determined that it was still unsafe to allow tourists access to the crown.

I grew up in New York City. I remember visiting Liberty Island and climbing all the way up the double helix shaped staircase to the crown for a spectacular view of New York City.

As the result of a September 2007 Congressional hearing, the National Park Service has requested bids from architects and engineers to study whether or not alterations would be possible to re-open the site.

How wonderful it would be if visitors to the Statue of Liberty could experience the view from the crown as I once did.

For more information, you can read this article: U.S. to Study Access to Liberty’s Crown

Checked Baggage Theft

You need to go through security at the airport, and all of your carry on luggage is thoroughly inspected. But what is being done to secure the items in your checked baggage?

Since 9/11, the TSA bans travelers from locking checked baggage so that it can be screened. While it makes air travel more secure, it does nothing to protect the valuables in your suitcase.

If you know you will have to check your luggage, be sure to read Travelers’ “Dirty Dozen” Lowers Theft Risk before heading to the airport.

(And check out Have a Safe Trip for more safety hints and ideas.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ads On Boarding Passes

Well, it had to happen. The airlines have found another way to add some money to their bottom line.

Five airlines have signed with Sojern, an Omaha-based start-up, to put targeted ads on the boarding passes that passengers print at home. By having the option to store their preferences, passengers will be able to get information and ads about specific types of activities and restaurants.

For those passengers more interested in saving ink, there will still be the option to print the boarding pass only.

To learn more, you can read the full story here.

Aerolineas Argentinas Headed For Worst Airline 'Award'

As I described in my post The Pre-Trip Experience From Hell , we had to rearrange Buenos Aires post cruise excursions to pre-cruise.

A 2 night visit to Iguazu Falls was one of the post cruise excursions we had booked. We learned that new arrangements could be make. No problem, BUT, it meant flying into and out of Iguazu Falls on Aerolineas Argentinas.

Unfortunately, having to depend upon Aerolineas Argentinas was not an option for us, especially with what I read online about the airline. If anything went wrong with the air arrangements (typical for this airline), we could end up missing the departure flight for our Antarctica cruise. We, therefore, cancelled the Iguazu Falls part of our trip, much to our disappointment.

Did we feel we made the right decision? You bet! Read more about Aerolineas Argentinas at the link below.

Link: Aerolineas Argentinas Aims to be Worst Airline Ever

Wind Energy

As we drove around the country last year, we saw a lot of wind farms. As we now drive around our local countryside, we see wind farms where there weren't any just a year ago.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, a new proposed wind farm near Pampa, Texas would be the largest in the world.

Another company has applied to the Bureau of Land Management for permission to build 1000 wind turbines south of Rawlins, Wyoming.

As the price of oil continues to rise, more and more people are looking for other sources of energy. With Congress thinking about subsidies for the installation of alternative energy sources, you might see a small wind turbine rise in your neighbor's back yard.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Can I Blow My Own Horn?

I try to be an active forum member. I have had a lot of help from forums and I try to return the favor by being an active contributing member.

One of my favorite travel forums is The Watering Hole. It is made up of GAP (Great Adventure People) past and future travelers. My Costa Rica, Galapagos and Peru trips were all through GAP.

Well, I just signed onto the forum and clicked on Forum News and THERE is my ID: dianeinny.

Read all about it!

http://wateringhole.gapadventures.com/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=6842

Use of GPS is increasing

I was just reading how more and more business travelers are depending upon a GPS to get them around.

I'm not surprised. My husband's car, the one we used on our cross country trip, came with one. To say we used it a lot on our trip is putting it mildly.

Sales of portable GPS devices quadrupled from 2006 to 2007 and the sales are on track, this year, to double the 2007 number.

Cell phones and smart phones are also being used for GPS. Millions of cell phones have a GPS chip that allows wireless carriers to provide services that include directions, local points of interest and even the closest pizzeria.

I wouldn't be surprised if not to far into the future, all road travelers will consider a GPS a necessity, just like many of us now think of our cell phones.

Olympics Beijing 2008

They’ll be starting soon. Anyone who is planning on going to China as an event spectator is probably getting ready to leave soon. It must be exciting traveling to a foreign country to watch an Olympic event, with teams coming from all around the world.

I know China has been getting ready for years. There has been a lot of building going on and I keep reading about an increase in their security personnel. China is already a very crowded country and with this huge influx of tourists, athletes and team personnel, it’s going to get even more crowded.

Of course the athletes have also been working for years to get to this stage. I wonder how they stay so calm before and during an event. Is it something they just get used to? Or are there things they can do, beforehand, to help prepare themselves for an event.

I know there are a lot of things they can’t do. There’s probably a pretty long list for that. And I’m sure a good portion of that list is drug related. But what about something like AbsoluteCalm? The purpose of the product is to calm the body and relax nerves before/during activities to make an individual feel refreshed and focused. It's all natural. Wonder if it's something Olympic athletic trainers should look into?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alaska Volcano, on Umnak Island, Erupts

Okmok Volcano, on Umnak Island, one of the small islands in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, erupted on Saturday. The island is located about 900 miles southeast of Anchorage and about 65 miles southwest of Dutch Harbor, a major fishing port.

Starting before noon on Saturday, the eruption continued through the night. Ten people who live close to the volcano were evacuated. People in Dutch Harbor were seeing light ashfall and there were complaints of eye irritation and ‘being able to taste it’.

Okmok Volcano has erupted 16 times since 1805, about once every 10 to 20 years. This is the first eruption since 1997.

For the full story: Alaska volcano erupts; island residents evacuated

Utica Boilermaker

I live within driving distance of Utica, New York and today is the first I've ever heard of the Boilermaker.

This is an annual 15K race and this year, their 31st, they had their second largest field. Even New York State's Governer Patterson ran in it today and is the first NYS governer to actually finish the race.

You'll find more information about the Utica Boilermaker here and here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tempest Storm - 80 year old stripper

Are you heading to Las Vegas any time soon?

Here's a class act you may want to catch.

Tempest Storm is an 80 year old stripper. That's right! 80 years old.

And she is still performing.

She's been dubbed "Girl with the Fabulous Front".

She still takes her clothes off, slowly, very slowly, needing four numbers to take them all off.

Now the producers of her show want her to do it faster and she is furious about it.

Read more about her at this MSNBC site

Evelyn Keyes

Evelyn Keyes, who played SueEllen O'Hara in the movie Gone With The Wind, died on July 4th at the age of 91.

Why am I writing about this in my travel blog?

As part of our travels, we have visited many Civil War battle sites.

My husband is a 'student' of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg. He reads everything he can about it, has visited the battlefield many times, and has even taken classes there.

When we have visited the site together, he does his very best to enlighten me to the significance of the battle and to what occurred there. I listen and do MY best trying to picture the events unfolding.

But instead, what comes into my mind’s eye is the image from Gone With the Wind when Scarlett is fleeing the city of Atlanta. That scene, showing the hundreds (thousands?) of wounded and dying soldiers, is to me Hollywood’s best display of the horrors of war. It is haunting.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bertha reminded me of a Bermuda story

I was in Bermuda many years ago. I was on a cruise ship out of New York City. We had two stops in Bermuda with overnights in port. We really enjoyed our stay, visiting as much of the island as possible, using their great public transportation system.

Unfortunately, one of the cruise guests, while ashore, stumbled on a staircase and banged her head. Typical of head wounds it bled profusely. On top of that, it looked like she might have broken her arm. One of our travel companies is an EMT and he provided first aide until police and other emergency personnel arrived.

At that point a discussion took place as to where to treat her. Should she see the doctor on the ship or go to a Bermuda hospital? Her first instinct was to use the ship doctor.

At that point, one of the police officers pulled himself to his full height and said "Madam, we are NOT a third world country". Properly rebuked, she went to a local hospital and returned to the ship after excellent treatment for the scalp wound and (yes) a broken arm.

Now I just hope that Bermuda is able to weather Bertha with no major problems.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

And more 'little ways' tips

If you live in an area where blackouts are typical (coastal Florida, for instance), before you leave on a trip put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and place in the freezer. If, when you return, you have found the ice cubes have melted and refrozen, the food in the refrigerator may no longer be good.

Before a long trip, head over to librivox.org and download a bunch of books, short stories and/or poems, to your iPod, for free. All the titles are in the public domain and are read by volunteers. If you don't have an iPod you can download to your computer and then burn to a CD.

Personally, I feel that a good lock on a suitcase shouts "There is something valuable here!!". Instead, to keep your zippers secure, you can use twist ties, key rings or plastic cable ties. (Just remember you'll need something to cut the cable tie. I have a small, folding scissors that I keep in an OUTSIDE pocket of the suitcase.)

Before paying for weeks of long term parking at your airport, check out the airport hotels for park and fly programs. Typically a one night stay will get you free parking for a minimum of two weeks. Then do the arithmetic. The one night hotel stay will probably be a lot cheaper than the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shopping for Souvenirs

I love to shop. I don't always buy but I love to look.

And the places I particularly love are shops that carry local, handmade treasures. If a store is labeled Women's Co-op or Native Artisan Crafts, I'm in there faster than my husband can snap a photo.

If you are like me, then you'll enjoy reading the information I found at the National Geographic Site. Click on the link below to find out what to buy in which country and also some hints on bargaining, packing and shipping.

Link: Authentic Shopping Guide

Laptops and Airport Security

Right now, taking a laptop on board an airplane will slow you down at airport security. You need to remove it from its case and put it in a gray bin all by itself.

The TSA screener is checking the laptop circuitry, making sure it doesn't look like it's been tampered with. This cannot be done with cables, zippers, belts and buckles blocking a clear view.

Seeing a market opportunity, makers of laptop carriers have been scrambling to come up with a case that will allow the laptop to stay in its case. Several prototypes have been tested at TSA screening stations and have passed. So expect to see 'TSA friendly' laptop cases on the market real soon.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tierra del Volcan - Hacienda El Porvenir, Ecuador

One of the day trips we took out of Quito was to Hacienda El Porvenir, one of the three haciendas owned by Tierra del Volcan. This trip took us south of Quito, to the flanks of Volcan Cotopaxi.

Quito is located in a valley and is surrounded by volcanos. Within this chain, Cotopaxi is the tallest and is actually higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro by a few meters. A lot of popular day trips from Quito involve a drive to the volcano, parking, and then hiking in to the rangers' station. With the altitude and the constantly changing weather, we decided that trip was not for us.

So instead we opted to let horses do the walking and booked a day trip to the hacienda. We were picked up on time and driven out to Hacienda El Porvenir. There we were welcomed into a comfortable, fireplace warmed room. With walls of adobe and woven blankets for decoration, it really did look like an old farmhouse, which is what it once had been.

A tray of refreshments was brought to us. On the tray was tea and cakes and a small pitcher of the locally brewed VERY potent firewater that we could add to our tea. We took just a drop and WOW. Potent is right.



Afterwards, we and our horses were prepared for our ride. The slopes of the Andes are windy and cold. We were each given chaps and a poncho to wear. That was really an experience getting into (and later out of) those chaps. By the time we were appropriately bundled up, I wasn't sure I'd be able to climb up on a horse. Fortunately, they had a bench we could step onto to help us mount.

The four of us headed out: me, my husband, our tour guide and our gaucho. What an experience. The wind was incredible, never stopping. The scenery was spectacular. Halfway through we stopped for refreshments which the gaucho had packed. What an experience. Riding in the Andes is like being on top of the world.

We returned back to the hacienda after a 3 hour ride. I have to admit it turned out to be a bit longer than I expected and it was another adventure trying to get off the horses with tired, cramped legs. Fortunately there were a lot of young, strong men around to help us.

Finally, after taking off the ponchos and chaps, stretching out a bit, then relaxing a bit, we were served a delicious lunch. And all too soon it was time to head back to Quito.

I'm venting: Short layover times

I was looking at some flights on Delta. As typical from our part of the country, we would have to change planes in Atlanta.

All those who think Atlanta is a big airport raise their hands. Let's see: 1,2,3,4,5 .....33,34, ...101...OK, looks like I've got everybody.

So what's going on with scheduling a 35 minute layover for an itinerary where the passenger has to change from a commuter flight to a cross country jet? I don't know about the rest of you but I'm really tired of running through airports.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wildlife right in the backyard



Guess we really don't have to travel too far to see any wildlife.

My husband was going to take pictures of the sunrise. As he stepped outside, he came pretty much face to face with this fawn.


Obviously we have deer in our area. They love the birdfeeders. And my tulips. And a whole bunch of my perennials.

Oh...and he didn't get any pictures of the sunrise.