Friday, October 31, 2008

'Little Ways' Tips - Some More

If a digital camera or other electrical item gets wet while traveling and stops working, put it in a bag of rice overnight. The rice will draw out the moisture and you could end up with a working item in the morning.

Magnets! Ugh! Not only can they erase your pictures from your digital camera's memory card, they can also mess up hotel keycards and mass transit fare cards. Keep magnets well away!

Besides soap and shampoo, it is possible to find shower caps in many hotel rooms. Throw these little packages in your camera bag. Use them to protect your SLR camera on drizzly days.

A great solution for hotel room clutter is a shoe organizer. Hang one over the bathroom door and it is not only a place for shoes but also for toiletries, room keys and travel docs.

Need but don't have a lint brush? If you checked your luggage, pull off the airline's luggage tag and use the sticky side.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Budget Travel Is Still Possible

Still want to or need to travel? I turned up this article from USAToday on travel sites aimed at those looking for a bargain.

Budget travel sites to keep you out of the red

Monday, October 27, 2008

How To Choose A Trip To Antarctica

Want to go to Antarctica? We did and we were able to make this wish a reality this past January. So I’ve put together, here, a few things to think about if this is on your wish list.

First, a decision needs to be made whether or not to actually make landings in Antarctica or to just cruise the waters. Main stream cruise lines like Holland America and Princess have itineraries that cruise the waters of Antarctica. To actually set foot on the Antarctic continent requires looking off the beaten path.

Assuming you want to be on a ship that makes landings, there is then a second decision to be made and that has to do with the size of the ship and the number of passengers. There is an international treaty of tour operators for Antarctica and it requires that no more than 100 people are ashore at the same time.

Therefore, most tour operators to Antarctica use ships that hold less than 100 people. These ships are small and typically are either old research vessels or luxury ships. Either way, because of the smaller number of passengers, the cost per person can be quite expensive.

The alternative is to go on a larger ship, holding more people, which use staggered landings to bring the passengers ashore. The negative part of this is usually less time ashore. The positive side is usually a less costly trip.

We chose the later, using Hurtigruten for our Antarctic trip. I really wish I could recommend Hurtigruten. They have a great product and we had a wonderful trip. Once we got going that is…..you can read my Hurtigruten Overbooking post to find out more.

If you really feel that Hurtigurten is the right choice for you, my suggestion is to book it through Vacations To Go. I know absolutely nothing about Vacations To Go except that their group made up about 50% of the passengers on board our sailing and following sailing. I could almost guarantee that every VTG client that wants to go gets a cabin.

There’s another alternative that can keep the cost down and that is G Adventures. I have been on three of their itineraries and would not hesitate to go on another. Actually, we seriously considered GAP for our Antarctica cruise but I wanted the longer itinerary offered by Hurtigruten. Live and learn.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rand Mcnally Road Atlas Review

(Note: This post goes along with my The Holidays Are Coming post.)

"With today's technology, many don't think of picking up an actual road atlas book before they head out on a long road trip. I highly suggest that you do. I have always purchased a Rand McNally road atlas for my travels. Yes, I have the GPS, the cell phone, the laptop with Mapquest, but the Rand McNally road atlas has always been helpful to me.

The price you pay for a decent quality road atlas from Rand McNally is acceptable. The books also include many travel tips to popular destinations, useful discounts and coupons, and phone numbers to tourist destinations. The books that I purchase from WalMart also have a useful list to all of the store's locations throughout the country. Rand McNally releases a large print version for those who need it.

Once you purchase your book, register it online so that you can get all the necessary updates to road construction, map changes, and a variety of special features. "

Review Link



and for those of us who need a little help, there is a Large Scale edition

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender (with travel lid) (Gift Idea)

(Note: This post goes along with my The Holidays Are Coming post.)

"I won't be dumping my regular blender for this, but I do use it frequently for my lighter and smaller blending jobs. I decided to get this when I was out looking for the Magic Bullet. Fortunately, the store didn't have any so I started looking at the other small personal blenders and decided on this one. I generally use it to puree onions and garlic for various marinades. It does a really good job. I occasionally find a stray piece but not often. I also use this sometimes in the morning when I want to make a quick drink without having to wash anything. Just drop in the ingredients, blend, put on the travel lid and go. The blender makes perfectly acceptable smoothies or other drinks as long as the directions are followed. I usually keep frozen bananas in my freezer to play the additional role of ice. For under $20, this little gem is a bargain. I have had mine for well over a year and it's still going strong! "

Review Link

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Insect Protection Clothing

Looking to add to your collection of travel clothes?

If you'll be traveling to parts of the world where biting insects are a problem, take a look at ExOfficio's Insect Shieldclothing. The fabric used to make this line of clothing is treated with a proprietary permethrin formula.

Unlike using the sprays that can be bought to treat clothing, ExOfficio's Insect Shieldclothing does not smell, is not sticky and looks great! The clothing is also lightweight, comfortable and quick drying. These clothes would make a great addition to any travel wardrobe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sony Vaio Neoprene Sleeve Review

(Note: This post goes along with my The Holidays Are Coming post.)

"If you own a laptop and you travel a lot, I think a laptop case or sleeve is needed. The Sony Vio Neoprene Sleeve doesn't just fit the Sony laptops. I have a Dell 700m and it fits perfectly. It's designed to fit the smaller 12 inch screen computers. It's plain black with a rubber thing on the front that says Sony. I dont like that part, but it's easy to overlook. The zipper goes around the top and I've never had a problem with it sticking or snagging. The case itself is squishy and stretches a bit, which is nice when I have my extended battery on my computer. The case comes with a seperate smaller case to put your power cord in as well. It's a nice case and is very useful. "

Review Link

Monday, October 20, 2008

How About A Trip For A Holiday Gift?

A while back I did a review on GAP Adventures.

I know couples sometimes 'give a trip' as THE holiday gift to each other. If you don't need 5 star accomodations and want to travel for a great price, a GAP Adventures trip could be just what you are looking for.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good Reason To Belong To A Credit Union

I belong to a local credit union and have been a member for many many years. Long time ago I discovered that if I needed to get some money from an ATM, if I went to the ATM at any local credit union, there were no fees.

During our trip to the U.S. Northwest, we did the same thing. As we passed through a small town, if we spotted a credit union, we would stop to use their ATM. And we never had a fee associated with the withdrawal.

I certainly can't tell you if this is standard across the entire U.S. but if you belong to a credit union and want to withdraw funds from an ATM with the possibility of no fees, use the ATM of a local credit union.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chewing Gum On An Airplane

True or False: Chewing gum on an airplane helps prevent ear pain while flying

Answer: True, but......

Chewing anything will help. It's the jaw movement and the swallowing action that actually does the job of helping to minimize pressure in the ear.

So, yes, chewing gum can help. But it's the action of swallowing that activates the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube. So letting a mint or hard candy melt in your mouth also works. So does yawning.

If yawning and swallowing are not effective, unblock your ears as follows:

Step 1: Pinch your nostrils shut.

Step 2: Take a mouthful of air.

Step 3: GENTLY, using your cheek and throat muscles, force the air into the back of your nose as if you were trying to blow your thumb and fingers off your nostrils.

When you hear the 'pop' in your ears, you know they've been unblocked.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Post of 'Little Ways' Tips

If you've got some 'must see/do' activities, don't wait to do them on the last day. If you wait and something unforeseen happens, you won't be able to reschedule.

Take pictures of signs. They will help you with identifying the places you've visited. Love a restaurant or hotel? Take a picture of the sign.

When visiting a zoo, aquarium, museum or science center, check out the cost of annual membership before you get to the ticket booth. It might be cheaper for a couple or a family to buy an annual membership than to pay for individual tickets.

An added advantage of an annual membership is free (or reduced cost) reciprocal admission at other zoos or museums. We have a local zoo and science center membership and they have both saved us significant dollars when we visit similar facilities in other cities.

If you'll be checking luggage, put itinerary information (including contact info) inside your suitcase. If name and flight tags end up missing, the airline can still get your bag to you.

If you'll be using an ATM in a foreign country, be sure the money you need is in your checking account. Some foreign ATMs don't allow access to savings accounts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beware E-Mail Ticket Invoices

It seems scammers have been sending out e-mails that look like ticket invoices. Opening the attachment results in the computer being infected with a virus.

This news comes from Delta, Hawaiian, Midwest, Northwest and Sun Country airlines.

The e-mail states that a ticket has been purchased, references a credit card and says the 'receipt' is attached. If the attachment is opened, the virus steals data from the computer and sends to a server in Russia.

Most airline confirmation e-mails contain all necessary information in the body of the email itself. There is no attachment. Plus, these scamming e-mails are coming with spelling and grammatical errors.

If you receive a suspicious looking e-mail, don't open the attachment. Call your airline first. And be sure to keep an eye on your credit card, watching for unauthorized charges.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fly In A Day Early For Cruises and Tours

My husband and I have always made it our practice to fly into our cruise/tour departure city at least one day early. This is especially important when leaving from our area in the winter, where we are subject to flight cancellations and delays because of ice and snow.

But timely flights can be a problem in good weather also. On one trip, our flight was delayed because the ground crew was not able to disconnect the airplane from the terminal (at the gate, the plane is 'plugged' into the terminal for power).

Another time, our flight was delayed because one of the pilot's windows had a crack and time was taken to determine if it needed to be replaced before the plane could fly safely.

For us, the cost of a hotel room and/or payment of an air deviation fee is worth it to protect us from the stress of a missed ship or tour departure.

And, unfortunately, even if the air was orginally booked by the cruise/tour line, they cannot be counted on to help if it is necessary to rebook air due to missed connections. Air delay is the problem and responsiblity of the air line.

Of course let the cruise/tour company know of the delay and what city you will fly into to catch up with the tour so they know to expect you. And, if you purchased travel insurance, (you did, didn't you?) be sure to get receipts for every expense and make notes of who you spoke with and when to help with any insurance claims you may make.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Travel Business Drying Up??

My very good friend and travel agent, Ellen of Sea4Sail, told me that when the stock market started dropping her business came to a screeching halt.

On the other hand, travel companies, well aware of the situation, have cut prices and she has been receiving loads of emails and faxes with incredible price specials, particularly on close bookings for November and December.

So if you still plan on traveling, these specials are a great opportunity. Where do you want to go? I saw Antarctica specials for 50% off on Clipper. That's a GREAT deal!

Check with Ellen, or your own TA, to find out what fantastic specials are coming over the fax.

How About Commercial Airplanes?

It’s no secret that I fly a lot. Certainly not as much as some business people but still a lot. While I consider flying safe, one thing does consistently bother me and that is the recycled air I breath on the airplane.

The air inside the cabin is a mixture of both outside air and recirculated air. But at 37,000 feet, that pressurized, recirculated air could be contaminated with hydraulic fuels, de-icing fluids and engine oils. Not to mention pesticides used on some international flights. And, of course, germs!

Ever find yourself not feeling well because you are in a poorly ventilated office building? It can be the same in airplanes, only worse, since the requirements for recirculation are less than that for sealed office buildings.

So I was particularly interested when I came across this article about EcoQuest Intl space age material. EcoQuest has a new ‘Fresh Air’ technology. It was developed working with NASA as a way to clean the air in spacecraft. Now I wonder if the same technology can be used to clean the air in airplanes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

United Charging For Meals Between Dulles And Europe

I knew this was being considered by United but thought the feedback was SO negative that the idea had been dropped. Looks like I was wrong.

On a trial basis, starting October 1st until the end of the year, United is charging economy class passengers for meals on flights between Washington Dulles Inernational Airport and cities in Europe.

For a 'fresh food' meal the price is $9.00. A 'snack box' costs $6.00. As of now, United is the first and only U.S. carrier to stop serving free meals on overseas flights.

I think this is a pretty lousy way to do business.

Just for the heck of it, I logged into Orbitz and, picking random dates, checked the cost of air from Dulles to London. United came in at $669. USAirways, Continental and Delta all came in a few $$ lower.

Lufthansa is a few dollars more but guess what...their flight is code shared with United. Does that mean if I book the Lufthansa flight I get a meal but if I book through United I don't????

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"I Love Your Blog" Award



Kiki, at Kiki'sCorner has just given me the "I Love Your Blog" award! I am honored and want to send a big Thank You out to her.

There are some rules for this award:

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of the persons you've nominated.

So I'm now passing this along to 7 blogs that I regularly read. Please take a peak:

The Life of an Unbalanced Libra
Live, Laugh, Blog
Stepfamily Sanctuary
Nature's Nook
Quest for Individuality
Syn's Life
~Witchy Momma~

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Please Don't Stiff Your Restaurant Wait Staff

I wonder if most people are aware that wait staff make less than minimum wage. It is expected that they will make up the difference (and hopefully more) with their tips.

Of course lousy service should be tipped appropriately. But don't penalize your waiter or waitress for something that is not their fault.

For instance, I was out to dinner with my Dad and step Mom when in Florida. After sitting at our table for over five minutes with no service, I went up to the hostess and politely asked to speak to the manager. I explained our lack of service. He apologized and said he would check it out.

In no time, our waiter was at the table. The manager explained that our waiter had been assigned a job out of site of his station and the hostess did not know this. As soon as our waiter was made aware of us, we received excellent service and tipped him appropriately. (And, btw, we also received a complimentary appetizer from the manager as an apology.)

At a more recent restaurant visit, my husband received a dish he was not happy with at all. The waitress very politely removed it and took his order for another entree. The manager came over and apologized and admitted that they had changed suppliers recently and have had some complaints about the dish.

My husband's new entree was fine. When the check arrived, it was less than we expected. Upon close inspection, we realized that the manager had comped my husband's dish. Mentally we added the cost of the dinner into the check and tipped the waitress appropriately. She had handled the situation pleasantly, promptly and had informed the manager of the problem. She did her job. She deserved to be tipped on the full value of the meal.

So next time you have a restaurant problem, politely inform the manager. And don't stiff your wait staff if they were not part of the problem. Chances are, they'll be a part of the solution.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Inexpensive Overseas Phone Calls

If you'll be calling from the continental U.S. (except Alaska), check out the rates at TelecomUSA (www.1010987.com)

A land line or fax must be used. This service won't work with a cell phone. The caller needs to dial 10-10-987-011 + country code + phone number.

The rates are great without having to commit to any type of plan or buying a phone card.

The charges will be on your regular phone bill as most telephone companies have a working agreement with TelecomUSA.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kensington International Travel Plug Adapter Review (Gift Idea)

"This adapter works wonderfully with my laptop wherever I travel. The travel plug adapter for all three different plugs were built into one piece. I can easily select by just sliding out the plug I wanted. This is much easier than those that have separate adapters which I usually ended up misplacing them. I also love the sleek design and color of the adapter. It is small and lightweight which is easier to bring around in my laptop case. The built-in fuse can be easily replaced if it burnt out by removing the end of the adapter. This gives an extra protection to my electronics if the wall voltage exceeded the maximum operating voltage of my device. This compact international travel adapter is a must have for frequent travelers. It gives me a trouble-free experience wherever I go. "

Review Link

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Spain Got Its Name From Rabbits!

Came across this tidbit of information...Spain got its name from the Carthaginians who called it Ispania meaning 'land of the rabbits'

SPAIN - THE LAND OF RABBITS?

Lima, Peru Warning

If you'll be heading to Lima, Peru for a conference or special event, be especially careful of your personal possessions.

Criminals have been posing as hotel guests at events held in 5 star hotels and watching for opportunities to sneak away with laptops, purses, cell phones and other valuables.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Alitalia Can Continue As The Worst Airline Ever

After a long struggle, the last of the Alitalia unions finally gave in and made financial concessions that will help keep the airline flying.

Now the Italian investor group that is trying to keep the airline alive will be able to get to work. The result is to be a new Alitalia, with its potential profitable parts merged with its domestic rival, Air One.

Big question now is who will end up buying a minority stake in the airline: Lufthansa or Air France/KLM or maybe both.

Leading Hotels Of The World

Leading Hotels of the World is having a special promotion to celebrate their 80th anniversary. There is a special rate of $19.28 (1928 being their birth year) and their web site is overwhelmed with people trying to take advantage of this special.

I'll save you the time trying to get information right now. Here's what comes up when you click on their link "Take me there...."

Due to the overwhelming number of consumers participating in this promotion, we have indeed experienced technical difficulties. Despite our efforts to carefully manage and prepare for this worldwide promotion, we were unable to meet the demand.

Please accept our sincere apologies. You will be receiving another opportunity to participate in this offer shortly via the email you provided to register for this promotion.

In the meantime, please rest assured that we will not be saving your email address in our database for any future solicitations.

Thank you for your understanding.

The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.


So it looks like the thing to do now is just sign up for their newsletter. (Will that also sign me up for the promotion????) You'll find the box to enter your email at the top of the page, right in the middle.