Friday, July 31, 2009

Where to eat in JFK?

I can tell you where NOT to eat: Terminal 7.

We were departing from Terminal 7 for our trip to Iceland. Unlike Terminal 4 where we departed for our South America trip, most of the restaurants in Terminal 7 are AFTER security.

Since you can't get through security without your boarding pass, and most international ticket counters don't open until 3-4 hours before departure, if you have a long layover (like we did) and want to eat, do it before heading over to Terminal 7.

Before security, the choices in Terminal 7 are Starbucks or Subway. That's it!

Check the beach before traveling to Cancun, Mexico

One thing tourists to Cancun, Mexico come for is to enjoy the beach in front of their hotel.

Now some tourists are arriving to find crime scene tape blocking their access to the beach. What's the crime? Moving sand from the sea floor onto the beach in front of the hotel plus suspicion of illegally building a breakwater that affects the natural flow of sand onto the beaches of other hotels.

To read the full story: Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Iceland Saga Travel - No Complaints

I recently wrote about the improving exchange rate (for those of us in the U.S. ) of the Icelandic krona against the U.S. dollar. Since that time, my husband and I discussed the possibility of taking advantage of this and making our long discussed visit to Iceland. So in May, with barely two months out from our desired departure time, I contacted Iceland Saga Travel for assistance with our arrangements.

With contact being solely via email, I gave Bob, owner of Iceland Saga Travel, the task of making our arrangements. I knew this would not be easy. Accommodations outside the capital of Reykjavik are scarce and book up quickly.

We started with IST's own independent itineraries as the basis for our trip. I added a few days here and there and Bob set out to work on it. As expected, we did have to be flexible with our itinerary because some places were booked solid at this late date.

Emails flew back and forth, with Bob being very quick at responding and answering all of my questions. At last, all was finalized and we sent off our payment. Approximately a week before our departure date, all vouchers arrived, sent overnight express. Included with the vouchers was additional information such as brochures about our accommodations and maps.

Everything worked like a charm. We had no problems with any of our reservations. All accommodations met or exceeded our requirements. I would have absolutely no hesitation recommending Iceland Saga Travel to anyone planning a trip to Iceland, whether it be for 2-3 days in just Reykjavik or weeks touring the country.

Your Rights If Stranded on the Tarmac

The fact is that the passenger has none. Whether it is a mechanical problem, bad weather, or lots of air traffic, passengers currently have no options once the plane leaves the gate.

But now, noise made by passengers being held captive on airplanes that just sit on the tarmac has finally gotten the attention of Congress. Legislation that would let passengers get off planes delayed on airport tarmacs is moving through the House and Senate as part of a bill reauthorizing and funding the Federal Aviation Administration.

In my opinion, something like this is way overdue.

From USA article: Fliers trapped on tarmac push for rules on release

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to keep your camera and photos safe when you travel

Protect your camera strap from being slashed by replacing it with one from Pacsafe: Carrysafe Strap. My husband replaced the strap on his Canon camera that announced to the world EOS DIGITAL. Pacsafe also makes purses with unslashable straps and unslashable backpacks.

Protect your digital photos by making a copy of your memory cards. We use the Digital Foci Photo Safe and keep the memory cards in one place and the Photo Safe in another.

And from Eric in London, a particpant on the GAP travel forum, The Watering Hole:

After seeing 2 small compact cameras lost / stolen in Spain recently:

Its not the camera thats the real loss, its all those photos.Don't use just 1 large memory card - eg 4gb or even 8gb (!).

Use a collection of smaller ones. So if you loose the camera ( be it cheap or very expensive - but still much loved) you loose only 1 or 2 days pictures at the most. Not the entire trip.

Think about how you use your camera. Do you take about 1GB worth of pictures per day? I know people who can easily chew up 4 GB per day. Bring memory cards, as Eric suggests, in those 'per day' sizes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

10 Quick Tips for Safe International Travel

1 - Before you leave, check out what the locals wear and bring similar type clothes. Don't wear expensive jewelry. Dressing too casual or too flashy can mark you as a tourist. Try to play it safe by blending in. Of course if you are visiting the bush in Africa, no one expects you to dress like a Masai warrior. (Obviously, there ARE some countries where you are going to look like a tourist no matter what you do.)

2 - Use travel accessories that allow you to travel light. You'll be able to maneuver quicker. You're more likely to have a free hand. And you are less likely to have to leave your luggage unattended.

3 - Keep your money safe by putting it in several pockets. The bulk of your cash should be in your Eagle Creek Nylon Hidden Pocket. Keep small bills handy for small purchases. Don't flash your cash. Beware of people who create a distraction and crowded areas. Put a cheap wallet, with just a few dollars in it, in your back pocket to tempt the pickpocket away from more valuable items.

4 - Pack your medicines in your carry on bag. This is so important I'm going to write it again: Pack your medicines in your carry on bag. Also, if you wear glasses, pack an extra pair in your carry on too

5 - Get through customs quickly and easily by leaving all medicines in their original containers. If the medicine is unusual or narcotic, bring a letter from your doctor. If you have any questions about whether or not you can bring a drug into a country, contact that country's embassy or consulate first.

6 - Make a copy of the photo page of your passport. Carry extra passport sized photos with you.

7 - Bring as little cash as possible. Use ATMs. Bring one or two credit cards. Be sure to call your credit card bank and let them know you'll be traveling and where and when. You don't want your purchase denied because the bank doesn't know you are in Asia. And at an ATM, practice the same safe procedure you do at home: protect your PIN and put your money away before leaving the ATM area. Also, withdraw as much local currency as you think you'll need for your entire visit so you don't have multiple withdrawals and multiple ATM fees.

8 - Leave your itinerary with friends and family. Also leave copies of your passport, airline tickets, drivers licence and credit card(s) that you plan to bring with you. Or you can do like we do. We scan our documents and then email them to our Yahoo address. That makes them available to us wherever there is internet access.

9 - If you'll be in one place for more than two weeks, register at the nearest embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens can register through the State Department's travel registration website at If there is an emergency in the area you are traveling, the embassy will know you are there.

10 - Learn to say a few things in the local language. At minimum, learn how to say Please, Thank You and Help. There are many resources on the internet for learning a language whether it's French, German, or Japanese.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turtles Delay Flights at JFK

It seems Diamondback terrapins are very common to Jamaica Bay which borders JFK airport.

And it seems that this time of the year, every year, some of those terrapins make their way onto the runways at this New York City airport.

This year, though, the 'invasion' was so large that they actually contributed to delays of up to 1 1/2 hours.

Can you imagine being a passenger anxious to get somewhere and finding out your flight is being delayed by turtles???

For more on the story

Friday, July 3, 2009

Antarctica - Cruise Only

If you want to see Antarctica on a cruise only basis, better hurry.

Cruise lines like Holland America and Princess have offered South American itineraries that sail, for a few days, in Antarctica.

But in April, an amendment was passed by member countries of the 50 year old Antarctic Treaty. It was agreed that ships carrying more than 500 passengers should not be allowed in Antarctica.

So if you hope to see Antarctica from the deck of one of the larger cruising ships, then you better make your reservation soon. I just checked and Holland America has at least one sailing in December of this year and Princess has one in January of next year. Who knows what will be after that.

Need an agent to answer your questions and to work with you on your booking? Email Ellen at

Airlines Dealing With Obese Passengers

United Airlines has joined the growing list of airlines that require 'passengers of size' to purchase a second seat.

United's new policy reads: " For the comfort and well-being of all customers aboard United flights, we have aligned with other major airlines' seating policies regarding passengers of size.

This includes passengers who are:
unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin
unable to properly buckle the seat belt using a single seat belt extender
unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated

If there are unused seats on the United flight, the passenger meeting these criteria will be given a seat next to an empty one. If the flight is full, the customer either must purchase an upgrade to a cabin with available seats or change the ticket to the next available flight and purchase an additional, second seat. The price of the second seat will be the same as paid for the original seat and there will be no rebooking or change of flight fees charged.

If there passenger cannot purchase a second seat and there are no empty ones, the passenger will not be permitted to board and their fare will be refunded with no penalty.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cheyenne Woods Graced Local Golf Course

Cheyenne Woods, who is Tiger Wood's niece, was playing at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York. She had been competing in the Wegmans LPGA tournament before missing the cut.

Locust Hill is about 20 minutes from my house. The LPGA tournament is, obviously, a very major golfing event held here every year.

Wegmans, one of the major sponsors, is our local, home grown chain of supermarkets. And I use the term supermarket loosely. Their premier store in Pittsford is a local tourist attraction. (Even Cher was taken there when she did a local concert.) Shopping at the Pittsford store of Wegmans is a shopping 'event'.

I wonder if Cheyenne was taken there and given the VIP tour? Wegman's sells a large variety of items but I think even they don't sell ladies golf clubs.