Monthly Archives: May 2015

What I take on the Plane with me for an Overnight Flight

I tend to be a hoarder with my points and want to save them for Business Class tickets when we have long flights.  Our flight, on KLM, is under 8 hours and I did not want to waste points for that so…we are flying economy.  Even though I wish we were flying Business Class for a myriad of reasons, I just can’t justify it for this flight.

One of the things that I will be missing on our flight home (on Star Alliance) is the lounge since we will have about a 3 hour layover.  I do not have the Chase United Explorer which would give me 2 United Club passes a year.  Instead I went to DansDeals to the Buying/Selling forum and was able to purchase 2 lounge passes for $20.

Sitting as long as we will be, my ankle will get very swollen.  I went to our medical pharmacy yesterday to purchase a compression sleeve for my ankle.  I do have the knee high support hose but the top rolls down and they are very, very hot.  The sleeve that I have is open toed and goes just slightly above my ankle.  There was another one that was open heel and open toed and was much easier to get on though my thought was that it would give me less support and structure.  I’ll report back whether I made a mistake or not.

I have downloaded books to both my iPad (for me) and my Kindle (for Blogger Hubby).  They need to be preloaded in order for you to read them when there is no WiFi available or it is very expensive.  We’ll be reading for awhile and won’t run out of books.

I am wearing on the plane very comfortable pants, a short sleeve shirt with a sweater over it hoping I can find a comfortable zone.  I also have little knit slippers from one of my amenity kits to put on my feet to walk up and down the aisle of the plane – I have to take my shoes off.  I also bring a scarf as another layer or just a light layer over me.

I always wear my heaviest shoes and in this case it will be my running shoes (for me, it’s walking shoes) from Saucony.  I hesitated to bring them but we will be in some rain and my other shoes are more open on top and I thought these shoes would keep my feet drier.

I have Sjogrens Syndrome, an autoimmune disease,  and my skin,mouth and eyes are always dry.  In my CamelPak that I’ll bring on the plane I’ll have a bag of hard candies to suck on as well as eye drops to help my dry eyes.  I’ll also bring hydrating moisturizer for my face.

In my backpack, I will have all of our cords for our electronics and a small travel cord that I can plug multiple items into.  If we need to recharge our electronics, I’ll be ready.

I’ll also have in my pack my knitting and my smocking – need to keep my hands busy and flexible.

Have I forgotten anything?

Pre – Travel Preparation – a little old school for us

Yes, we are at it again.  We leave in a couple of days to begin our trip to Prague and then the Danube followed by northern Italy.

As I have mentioned before, we tend to be a little “old school” in that we take paper copies of confirmations, tickets, maps with us.  We have a 3 ringed flexible travel notebook with divider tabs to help organize ourselves.  We just spent two nights going through our notebook and updating our Excel spreadsheet of our itinerary.  The spread sheet is basically a condensed version of what we are doing, confirmation numbers, activities, lodging information, transportation info arrival/departure times, etc.

We have also emailed ourselves scans of our passports and wrote down all the international phone numbers of our credit cards (disregarding our banks instructions of writing down the actual credit card numbers).  Additionally we have ordered three different foreign currencies so we will have some money when we arrive in each country; notified our credit cards companies that we will be traveling and making sure that I only bring the credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees; also notified our Schwab Bank, whose no-fee ATM card we will be carrying, that we will be traveling.  I have reconfirmed all of our confirmations that are made with individuals, confirming the date, time and location of where we will meet.  I have down loaded onto my cellphone the Rick Steves audio walking tours of the cities/area that we will be in.  Finally, I have stopped our mail and our newspaper delivery.

Traveling in the spring I wanted (wanted, not needed) a new safety purse in a lighter color.  I went to my favorite bag retailer – Ebags –  and found just what I wanted.  Going through my Chase shopping portal, I received 8 points per dollar for my purchase at Ebags.

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What I really liked about this purse is that its heavy-duty water-resistant nylon bag features cut-proof Chain Link construction, it protects me from pickpockets with a lock where you main zippers are located so it can’t be easily opened, it has a cut proof chain link construction on the shoulder strap, it also has a RFID blocking card to prevent thieves from getting wirelessly our information from our chip enabled credit cards.  There is even a side mesh pocket for my water bottle.  If you are interested in this purse (and I do not get get a commission, just like to pass on what I like) you can go here.

While I was looking at my purse on E-bags I also decided to look at the packing cubes that  have heard so much about.  I really didn’t understand why everyone was raving about these cubes since I feel that I already packed very well.  I use ziplock bags, roll my tops to take up less room and feel that I “stuff” things in every nook and cranny that comes with having odd size items.  Nevertheless, I purchased a set of medium as well as small cubes.  Now that I have packed, I’m beginning to realize why travelers like them.  All my tops are in two medium size cubes, underwear in a small, accessories in another.  My pants are not in cubes. It is very easy to unpack as well as to pack again.  My suitcase looks a lot neater and Blogger Hubby thinks that I am bringing less because it looks so neat.  These are the cubes I purchased, again getting 8 points per dollar spent by going through my Chase shopping portal.

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I also purchased new shoes.  I ordered them Shoes.com (going through Chase also at 8 points per dollar) and as soon as I put them on my feet it felt like my feet were in feet heaven.  I kid you not!  The adjustable heel strap made sure that my narrow heel fit well in the shoe.  It also has a Velcro strap that goes over my foot which will come in handy with swollen feet (elastic straps do not work well for me).  Additionally it has a roomy toe box which is where I find shoes snug.  I put them on and felt like they were already broken in.  If you are interested in these shoe here is the link:

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To help me know what the weather will be like, and therefore what clothes to bring, I went to http://www.worldweatheronline.com  With their 10 day forecast I would plug in every city that we were visiting.  I also saw that I should bring an umbrella and raincoat!

Finally, with our daughter due to deliver her second child while we are traveling, I looked into finding and purchasing an unlocked phone (didn’t find one), and into the Verizon Global Plan to use on my phone.  All of our children have our itinerary with telephone of our hotels and the ship.

I think with all this, I am done and can relax.

Hope you enjoy this YouTube video about packing

 

 

Cruising Questions and Answers

Believe it or not, I have had about 10  different people ask me questions about cruising within the past week.  Although there are different types of cruising (ocean cruising, river cruising, barge cruising, etc) the questions were asked of the big cruise lines which ply the waters of the Caribbean, Alaska and the Mediterranean.

I was first asked how how to choose a cruise line and this may be the most difficult.  Each cruise line, in my mind, has a different reputation and yet that is somewhat subjective and there are always exceptions primarily because of itineraries.  I feel that Carnival has a much younger crowd, particularly when sailing in the Caribbean.  The twenty, and thirty year olds tend to hang out around the pool all day long and it can be difficult getting a chair.  Drinks flow freely and they are all having a good time.  Royal Caribbean, again in my opinion, tends to be more thirty and forty year olds, and again for Caribbean sailing, all the action will be around the pool.  However, for both of these lines, when not sailing around the Caribbean, it can be very different, a little older and not quite as lively as the what you would come to expect on the Caribbean.

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Celebrity and Princess, again in my opinion, tends to be more of a middle age/young seniors cruising with them.  Princess made a name for itself on the Love Boat television show and that one show probably is responsible for sparking the interest in cruising among the younger than senior generation.  I am also of the opinion that Princess is the cruise line that developed Alaska for cruising.  They have wonderful lodges if you opt in for their pre or post cruise land portion .  We cruised with Celebrity on our Eastern Med cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed it – not sure if it was the 100 plus people that we met through Cruise Critic Roll Call and we very very tight or because of all the on board lectures that we could attend to hear about our upcoming ports.  They also had, on the Equinox, a glass blowing demonstration every day from Corning Glassworks.

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Finally, Holland America which in many reasons is my favorite cruise line as well as being known as the geriatric cruise lines.  Yes, there are lots of seniors in wheelchairs, scooters, etc but there are also many younger people in their40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  They have an on board kitchen where you can sign up for small classes cooking instructions and demonstrations.  We do enjoy that.  They are also know for the large, and at times rowdy Team Trivia where you will have about 200 very competitive trivia experts vying to win little Holland America pins, trinkets and bragging rights.

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Once you have narrowed down your choices, then I highly recommend putting your trip out to bid.  Contact an online travel agency, a brick and mortar travel agency and the cruise line.  See what they offer you for the fare, the On Board credit, whether their On Board credit will go down if the price ofd your cruise goes down.  Do they print out your documents or do you need to do it.  Do you want to pick out your stateroom (which I highly recommend looking at deck plans – what is next to you, across from you, above you and below you) or do you want them to do it for you.  Another tip:  once you decide on your stateroom, google it and see if there are any reviews on it.  For those who cruise and are very familiar, you may not need a lot of personal attention but for those who are unsure and need their hands held, you might want a travel agent at a brick and mortar.

deck plan

Once you book your cruise you still need to do work.  Your travel agent most likely will not check to see if the price has dropped – you need to do that and you can by signing up with Cruise Fish (which I use) or Cruise Fare Monitor.

Look at the ships you are interested in, do they have an indoor pool or an outdoor pool that has a retractable roof (like Holland America)?  Are you interested in computer classes – some cruise lines have it.  Do you need a rock climbing wall, enhanced pool activities?  What are your needs – knowing that you’ll be more confident in choosing your line.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comment section then come back to read the response.

Happy Sailing

Trains in Europe

I’ll be honest….we don’t have much experience with  train travel in Europe.  We have taken a train from the cruise port into Rome as well as from the airport in Amsterdam into the city and then a local one for a day trip from Rome to Sienna and from Florence to Luca.  We have wanted to expand our train travel experience – the kids seem to do it all the train and if they could, why couldn’t we?

With our upcoming trip we will be taking a bus between two locations as well as several trains including an overnight train. We need to be in Prague and I just couldn’t find a flight on the date that I wanted however, there was a flight to nearby Nuremberg and that is what we are going to do.  We fly overnight on KLM and will be able to spend the day in Amsterdam.  A short train ride into the city and we’ll enjoy strolling around, sitting at some of the outdoor cafes and I hope being able to visit the Rijk Museum since it was closed the last time we were in Amsterdam.   Later that day we’ll take a commuter hopper flight to Nuremberg.

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We have booked a hotel room at a Holiday Inn Express that is near the train station.  After doing a little touring during the morning and afternoon we’ll get on a bus to Prague.  Bus travel wasn’t something that I had thought of until it was suggested to me by members on Trip Advisor.  Apparently the bus has a direct route to Prague while the train is longer since there is a change of trains with a layover at one of the stops. So, we are doing the train.  We purchased our tickets online from a Czech site to save money.  It was suggested that we do that since the Germans tend to have transportation strikes and we didn’t want to risk it.

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Our cruise on the Danube finishes in Budapest and after we spend some extra time there we’ll head to Venice.  This is where our real dilemma happened.  Do we take the night train from Vienna to Venice or do we take the ten hour train ride during the day and see all the beautiful scenery?  After going back and forth we decided that we wanted the extra time in Venice as we had only scheduled two nights there.

 

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After we leave Venice, we’ll be on the final leg of our trip but still more train rides to come.  We’ll take the train from Venice to Milan with perhaps a stop in Verona to see the famed, but fake, Juliette balcony in Verona.  Once in Milan we’ll be taking regional trains to go up to Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and, if I can talk Blogger Hubby into it, the World’s Fair in Milan this year.

We are fairly new to train travel and we could not have done all this without the help and guidance of Mark who is known as The Man in Seat 61   All he asks for all his help is a donation, if you can, to UNICEF’S Syrian Appeal.  He knows train travel all over the world and is willing to share his knowledge and expertise.  Not only did I read his blog but I also emailed him more than a few times.  He told me how far out I should purchase the tickets from, which sites and about how much it would be.

What has been your experience use the train around the world?

 

What to Do in Cape Town, South Africa – Part 1

There is so much to see and do in the Cape Town area that I am not sure where to begin.  If you do come to South Africa to go on safari, you should definitely go to Cape Town  I am so thankful we had the opportunity to explore this unique area.

The Cape began as an outpost  by the Dutch East Indies Company for their ships and sailors to stop on their way to the Indies so they could get fresh water,  supplies, fruit (to combat scurvy) and the sick could be treated.   Reports were made to the Company that the land was fertile for farming.  What began as the outcrop then turned into a land for agriculture.  Slaves were imported and Huguenot exiles from France came to the area.  The French, who were known for wine making even back in this time, went over the mountains and began planting grapes for wine but more on that later.

Some people will say that you do not need a car to explore Cape Town and the  Cape Point area.  You might not need one but it sure does come in handy and I wouldn’t think of exploring without one.

During the weekends, particularly in the morning head over to the Old Biscuit Mill.    As you approach the area, you’ll see men holding areas along the street for drivers to park their cars.  If you park there, and I do recommend it, you will need to tip them.  They watch over your car, you have a convenient spot to park and they get to earn a little money.  It really saves time from driving around trying to find parking and then walking long distances.

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The Old Biscuit Mill is a foodie as well as an arts and crafts lovers site.  I could have spent hours there.  All different types of crafts including custom made tables, clothing, leather goods, etc.  You browse in this open air market while listening to live music.  There are also shops surrounding the open air part and one of the best shops, in my opinion, is the chocolate shop where you can sample many fine delicious treats.

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If you are hungry afterwards, and I hope you are, head over to the building where food vendors are located.  Part of the front of the building has as farmers market like feel but the second part, behind the first is where foodies will love to congregate.  There were four of us and our collective challenge was to buy something you have never tasted before and bring it back to the picnic bench style tables to share.  Here are a few pictures that I hope make you hungry:

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There are also a a few restaurant in the area and the most notable is The Test Kitchen.  I had read about them in the Washington Post and was excited when I saw them at the Old Biscuit Mill.  Unfortunately we did not have reservation s but I was excited to be there.  They were voted the Best Restaurant in Africa!

More about Cape Town to come!

 

A Change has come to Club Carlson

I’ve touted in the past my love of the Club Carlson VISA credit card and all the benefits that come with it in particular a free award night when you book a two night stay using your points – book the two nights and only pay for one night with points – the second night is free!  That benefit is going away the end of May, 2015.

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With that in mind I’ve been trying to anticipate some of our travel and booking hotel rooms to be grandfathered into the existing benefit.  I know that we are going to be taking another river cruise next year on the Rhone and we will spend some time in Lyon and Paris.  Unfortunately the Radisson in Lyon is under construction and will not be open.  I was able to book two nights under my name at the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel.  These stays are for September 2016 !  I still have more points in my account and will need to spend some more time thinking of where we could possibly go before May 31st so I can book them under the old system.

rad blu paris

What are you doing with your Club Carlson points?  Have you made any reservations knowing that the benefit is going to be changing?