Friday, July 26, 2013

New Post Going Up on Travel Ideas. Travel Tips. Travel Warnings.

If you haven't already, please subscribe to my other blog Travel Ideas. Travel Tips. Travel Warnings. 

Just uploaded a new post and am in the processes of getting a bunch of new ideas, tips and warnings ready to upload over the next couple of days.

 

 

Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking River Cruises, known for its river cruise-tours in Europe, Asia and Egypt, announced on May 17 that it is launching an ocean cruise line, Viking Ocean Cruises.

Viking placed orders for two 928-pax ships, with options for more. The first, Viking Star, is scheduled to begin sailing in May 2015, with itineraries to Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean area. The mid-size ship will be designed to have access to most ports.

I have sailed Viking River cruises in China and in the Netherlands and am looking forward to a seagoing experience with them. Anyone else interested?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Where to Buy Foreign Currency

Was speaking with a friend who was taking an international trip. She mentioned getting her Euros at Chase and I asked her about fees.

She said there were none. Chase doesn't charge a fee if you do business with them. She doesn't have any bank accounts with them but has a Chase credit card.That was all she needed to get her Euros with no extra fees.

I am anticipating needing Euros in the near future and was going to head over to AAA. Now I'll first check things out. Very convenient that there is a Chase branch right across the street from our AAA branch.

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 Things to Look for in a Vacation Rental When Traveling with Kids

 The following article is from the website House Sitting Jobs and is published here with permission

When you’re planning an extended family vacation, a rental property is often more economical and more convenient than a long stay in cramped hotel quarters. Selecting the perfect short-term vacation rental, however, is far from a simple process if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. When you’re adequately prepared and have a firm idea of your needs in mind, however, finding the perfect vacation home is far from daunting. Armed with the items detailed on this list, you’ll have a strong vision of what you need from a vacation home and amenities to be on the lookout for as you browse through rental listings.
  • A Functional Kitchen – One of the primary amenities of a vacation home over a hotel room is the ability to prepare meals at your home away from home, rather than springing for restaurant meals at tourist-destination prices. Make sure that you’re taking the functionality of the kitchen into account when you book your rental; a hotplate and a dorm-sized refrigerator in a garage apartment won’t be worth the money saved on the rental when you’re forced to drop a bundle on three meals out each day.
  • Smoke and Pet Free Houses – Smoke and pet dander not only leave unpleasant smells that linger for weeks, they can also be triggers for family members that are prone to allergies. Make sure that you’re keeping an eye out for smoke-free, pet-free vacation rentals. Unless, of course, you plan to bring Rover along for the ride.
  • Ample Sleeping Space – Vacation home owners know that the appeal of a rental over hotel accommodations is that they can reasonably house more people than a hotel room and, as such, can prove to be a more economical choice for large groups. Your teenager will get tired of sleeping on the pull-out sofa in a main area, though, so make sure that there’s enough privacy to go around. And if you don’t feel like lugging along the portable crib, be sure to inquire as to if you can get one on location.
  • Multiple Bathrooms – Unless you’re traveling as a single family and are accustomed to sharing a restroom, it’s a good idea to look only at listings that include more than one bathroom. Waiting in line for a shared, single restroom is enough to rain on anyone’s parade, and will make for hectic morning ablutions.
  • Full-Sized Bathtubs – In order to maximize available living space, many vacation rental owners opt to build smaller bathrooms with only a standing shower. This might not be an issue if your kids are older, but bathing a frightened toddler in a standing shower is no one’s idea of a good time.
  • Dining Space – Those home-cooked meals that are going to save you big bucks aren’t as much fun when half of your group is balancing plates on their knees on the back porch. Make sure that there’s seating for everyone in your group, or you won’t be sharing many family meals while you’re traveling.
  • Close Proximity to Area Attractions – In an unfamiliar area, the last thing you’ll want to do is navigate a maze of back roads and residential streets to find the beach or the amusement park. A centrally-located, easy-to-find home is your best bet when you’re visiting a new town.
  • Safety and Security Features – Pools are an attractive amenity for travelers, but can pose a hazard for families with little ones that aren’t yet strong swimmers if the proper safety features aren’t in place. Modern furniture with glass tops and sharp corners also aren’t safe for little ones that aren’t steady on their feet. A place that offers childproofing or at least safety gates can be helpful. Keep an eye on safety while you’re looking for a vacation rental so that your trip isn’t spoiled by a trip to the emergency room.
  • Laundry Facilities – You won’t want to deal with enough luggage to keep your entire family in clean clothes for the duration of the trip, and you probably won’t like the idea of spending your vacation in a Laundromat much more. Homes with on-site laundry facilities should probably take precedence over those without them.
  • Access to Childcare Services – One perk that the major resort chains have over small, owner-operated vacation rentals is that those big-box resorts typically have childcare services on-site or a concierge that can direct you to a reputable service. Unless you plan to never have a grown-ups night out, you’ll want to inquire about childcare services and temporary nanny agencies in the area, or line up a local sitter.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Flying European Budget Airlines

If you'll be heading to Europe and flying around the continent using its budget airlines, you'll want to read this article from the New York Times: Beware the Fees on Europe’s Budget Airlines

Not only should you be aware of the add-on fees but based on the experience of my travel agent, don't expect your experience to be anything like you would find on an airline here in the U.S. She had the "opportunity" to fly Vueling airlines and now calls it "grueling" airlines.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Prepare Your Home For Vacation

I, for one, can vouch for the amount of preparation a vacation takes, from researching the destination to researching tour operators and finally making final itinerary decisions ... which for some reason don't always stay final. But that's another story.

This post is about preparing your house for your vacation. We have our own checklist that has evolved over time. The following is a bit more general and will apply, in most cases, whether you are going away for a few days or a few months.

Air Conditioner
If you'll be gone during the summer months, raise the house temperature to 78 degrees. Every degree you raise the thermostat will save you about 2 percent on your heating costs.

Pool Pump
If you have a pool, continue to run it so the pool doesn't develop algae and turn green. Check the settings to make sure they are where you want them. If you'll be gone long-term, ask a friend or neighbor to stop by and monitor things. If you have a spa, you can turn off the heat.

Plumbing
Turn off water at the main shut-off valve unless you've got household items that require water on a regular basis such as an automatic sprinkler system. If you'll be gone more than a month, as a friend or neighbor to turn on the water and run the faucets at least once a month. This helps prevent sewer gas from etering the house and can keep parts of plumbing fixtures from drying out.

Water Heater
If your water heater has a "vacation mode" setting, use it.

Toilets
Pour a half cup of chlorine into the bowl to reduce bacteria which can cause stains.

Lights
Put inside lights on variable timers.

Refrigerator
Throw out perishables (or pass along) like milk which may expire while you are gone. If you will be absent for along time, generally clean out the refrigerator. If you'll be leaving it running while away, fill it with bottles of water so it will run more efficiently.