Airline passengers break the law daily: Are you one of them?

How many times during a flight do we hear “Please keep your seat belt fastened”?   Okay we have all been on that flight where the turbulence seems to keep coming in various waves and perhaps prior to take off the pilot announces it is going to be a bumpy ride.  We are prepared and go easy on the drinks to avoid having to utilize the rest room during the flight.  

Did you know that it is illegal to get out of your seat whilst the sign is illuminated?  

YES it is true.  You can be prosecuted for breaking the FAA Regulations 14 CFR 121.311(f) which requires passengers to wear seat belts when the sign is illuminated.

As a frequent traveler I am a strong advocate to follow the FAA Regulations.  I will never be the passenger who stands up 1 minute after takeoff to get a sweater out of the overhead bin.  Listen unless there is an urgent bathroom need I am not prepared to violate the law.  Safety first.  

While no one has ever been prosecuted for violating this regulation the flight attendants appear to have a general “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” philosophy  on this.  This philosophy seems to take on magical super powers when you are traveling in business or first class; as cabin roaming while the seat belt sign is illuminated is a regular occurrence.  Never directly ask for permission from a flight attendant to get out of your seat for a rest room break as it will conflict with their ability to support the regulation.  However if the flight attendant asks you to return to your seat while you are headed to the rest room you should comply.  You are more likely to be prosecuted for directly disobeying crew member instructions.   

So has anyone else noticed that many long flights reach cruising altitude with a smooth ride yet the seat belt sign remains illuminated.  Why is that?  

  • Did the pilot simply forget?
  • Or does the pilot have no regard that we might need to utilize the rest room during a flight over 4 hours?  
  • Or are the flight attendants trying to manage the crowd by forcing passengers to remain seated?  
  • Or is the airline trying to reduce cost on toilet paper?  

My money is on crowd control management or cost savings for toilet paper.  Let me know your thoughts. 

Seek your adventure!




Say it isn’t true; breaking up with an app is hard to do

May 2015: Cordoba Spain

 

I hope you are sitting down!  I have some bad news for you.  Our beloved Worldmate app is breaking up with all of us!  All  functionality will be no longer be available effective the 31st March.  Sigh!   We worked so well together and we were all so familiar with all the features.  After the 1st of April you will not be able to add new trip reservations to the app.  However until September 2017 you will have access to view all previously added trip reservations. 

 

After a glass of wine I began the search for my new guy; ahh I mean a new itinerary trip management app.   I checked out several apps that are available and I am currently “dating” a new app called TripIt.  I tested it with loading a few reservations and so far the functionality seems to work well.  Don’t tell anyone but it has some additional features that will be incredibly helpful.  For example; it will allow you to connect multiple email addresses to your account and automatically forwards the reservations into the system.  However it does not support automatically deleting any reservations that have been cancelled.  

Do you have any favorite travel itinerary apps to recommend?  

 

Seek your adventure!

Fasten your seatbelt for new American Airlines boarding process!

Starting next week on 1st March, American Airlines will begin a new “simplified” boarding process.  The protocol is very easy: everyone is assigned a group number and there are two boarding lanes.  The two lanes are defined as  Priority Boarding and Main Boarding lane.  Group numbers assignments will now include First Class, Business Class, active duty U.S. military, and higher tier status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines,  or one world®. 

I am greatly looking forward to no longer hearing the boarding process drone on with, “Now boarding Executive Platinum, oneworld® Emerald,  Platinum, oneworld® Sapphire, Gold, oneworld® Ruby and so on”. 

The overall goal I understand is to reduce overall boarding time which could potentially work for the majority of travelers with a few protocols.  However, I think there could be a few outstanding gaps:

  •  Will boarding group will be clearly marked on the boarding pass?
  • What happened to the courtesy early boarding groups of “passengers travelling with small children” or “passengers needing extra time or assistance”?
  • How closely will carryon luggage be monitored in an effort to help speed up boarding time?

 

I like the concept, but “simplified” boarding seems perhaps a little bit too good to be true.  Let’s be honest with ourselves – this is all highly dependent on passenger compliance.  But I still look forward to the new process.  Bring it on!

Seek your adventure!

Pack your bags: Highlights from the New York Times Travel Show

As a fellow traveler, what better way to kick off the New Year, and celebrated Chinese New Year, than with a fabulous trip to the New York Times Travel Show! Inspiration filled the exhibit hall and the seminar rooms were packed to hear from the industry experts.

Top 5 destinations to consider for your 2017 travel plans:

1. Waldorf Astoria New York: Go right now before they close on 1st March! We were fortunate to spend the weekend in the historical luxury accommodations. The renovations are anticipated to take 2-3 years and will be predominately turned into condos. Treat yourself to an overnight stay, historical tour, or perhaps a Bellini at the bar.

2. Paris: Since the attacks in November 2015 tourism is down drastically with the ability to enjoy sites without crowds. You can easily  secure dinner reservations at top tier restaurants and enjoy lower hotel prices. Even better news for US travelers is the dollar is currently very strong against the euro.  Frank Sinatra said it best in his famous hit “I love Paris“.  So what are you waiting for!

3. Montreal: Well, if Paris is simply too far, consider its little sister. Montreal is your Parisian weekend getaway for anyone in North America. Once again the U.S. Dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar so great time to go. Oh and did I mention that Montreal is celebrating 375 years?  As the birthplace of Cirque de Soleil there is no doubt you will definitely be entertained with festival events.

4. Haida Gwai: Another option to take advantage of the low Canadian dollar is the hidden location of Haida Gwai. It was been nicknamed the “Candian Galápagos'” given all the engandered species living locally. 

5. Karasjok Norway: one of the best places to witness the infamous northern lights. Every 10 years the lights increase in intensity and 2017/18 is on schedule to become amazing. Plan your travels for September thru mid-April 2018 and get ready to enjoy the night sky. 

 

                                           Seek your adventure!

Chicago Travel Show: 1 if by land and 2 if by sea

July 2011: Queen Mary 2

The Chicago Travel & Adventure show was last weekend and I found a few new travel ideas that include 1 new city and 2 new sea adventures.

  1. I was introduced to Emerald Waterway which is a UK based company that focuses on river cruises primarily European.   The ships are small offering full service and high end amenities.  I will definitely be investigating for future travel plans. 
  2. For anyone considering a trip to Patagonia there is an option to take a cruise with Skorpios in Chile with amazing views of the glaciers and fjords.   The tours are limited to travel between October through April but bookings can be made over 1 year in advance. 
  3. After a visit to the Mexico booth I have found a destination that I will be adding to my list.  The city of  San Luis Potosi might be the best kept secret in Mexico with a castle hidden in the jungle and unlimited adventure activities. 

In other news while visiting with agents from Chicago US Passport agency I was very disheartened to learn that I do not own my passport!  My most prized possession is officially the property of the United States government and must be surrendered at any time upon request of an authorized member of the State Department or the government.  Yikes!  I solemnly promise to be a loyal steward of “my” passport.  

Seek your adventure!

 

 

Viva Colombia: Top 10 trip ideas you don’t want to miss

Hola amigos.  A few weeks ago I travelled to Colombia; yes the country.  Let me begin by resolving some of your possible current conceptions.  I have heard these common questions from many people:  “Were you ever scared or nervous?”  “Did you feel danger lurking around every corner?”   “Did you see any drug lords?” I can easily answer NO to all of these questions even though I travelled independently with only one female friend.  The country is full of beautiful landscapes, incredible architecture, amazing coffee, good food and friendly people. Our travels included a few days in Bogota, Salento coffee plantation region, and Cartagena.  

Here are the top 10 highlights I would recommend from our adventure: 

Cocora Valley
Cocora Valley

 1. Hike in the Cocora Valley among the 60 foot wax palm trees providing a truly peaceful and beautiful environment.  The photos are unable to do it justice as  unfortunately the weather was not very agreeable the day we went but trust me this is a must see item.  

2. Enjoy the local fruits such as lulo, feijoa,  and tomato de árbol that are only available in Colombia that will “knock your socks off” with flavor. 

3. Marvel at over 55,000 gold pieces at the Bogota Gold Museum which is one of the most visited tourist sights in Colombia.  This collection is unimaginable and will leave you speechless!

4. Cook local Colombian cuisine in the home of a local resident as a tour option through 5bogota.com

5. Stay in the charming and adorable town of Salento to observe all the vibrantly painted houses, doors and window shutters.

Colombia: Fruit & Juice stands
Salento fruit & juice stand
Salento
Salento

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don Elias Coffee Plantation

6. Drink coffee on a daily basis taking after the locals who will serve it strong and black.  I had the best damn coffee of my life at Don Elias plantation

7.  Wander the streets in the old walled town of Cartagena until you get lost.  

8. Taste chocolate samples at the incredible Museo del Cocoa in Cartagena.  There are also tours, cooking courses and of course many things you can purchase including chocolate candles.

9. Walk the wall which surrounds the perimeter of old town Cartagena built over 500 years ago nearing 7 miles long and at points over 30 feet thick.  

 

10.  Cherish the architectural beauty in any local church.  There are numerous churches we visited that were incredible in their unique way; however every church regardless of day or time had local patrons actively practicing their faith. 

 

Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek your adventure!

 

2016 Year in Review – Top 5!

My personal travel for 2016 brought me to many new destinations including the US states of South Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire; the countries of Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Colombia; one questionable territory and a city that has been on my wish list for many years.  At the end of every trip I reflect on my experience to denote the highlights, any challenges and most importantly what I learned.

This was a pretty busy year traveling on 35 flights and staying at 19 different hotels; however nothing compared to road warriors who travel relentlessly for work who are likely to quadruple these numbers.   However keep in mind this is all vacation travel and don’t dare ask the cost unless you want to pay the Visa bill.

 

Best Festival – Romania Annual Spring Ploughman Festival (April 2016): On our visit to Bran Castle we had the good fortune to be there at the time of the Annual Spring Ploughman Festival which is held to promote a good harvest for the crops.   It was a beautiful display of local traditional clothing, music and dancing.  In addition to all of this fanfare the ladies promenade around with enormous basket of pastries welcoming the public to enjoy the good harvest blessing.

April 2016: Ploughman Festival – Bran Castle

 

Best natural site –  Fall Foliage Drive near Conway New Hampshire (October 2016):  For many years I have wanted to travel out east to check out the fall foliage.  However as an avid college football fan historically this had conflicting weekend priorities; until I sold my season tickets.

Timing is everything for fall foliage and that window can be very limited sometimes.  There is only so much planning you can do in advance as it all depends on Mother Nature.  Look at the historical weather reports and peak foliage reports to get a gauge of what weekends it might peak then book your hotel room asap.  There is limited hotel rooms and everyone wants to be there when the fall foliage peaks!  Check out possible driving routes but be flexible to changes based on the latest peak foliage report.   Be sure to take your smartphone and backup charger to plan your revised driving routes.

 
October 2016: New Hampshire

Best site –  Bucovina Romania Painted Monasteries (April 2016): Do you remember when I said UNESCO sites do not disappoint?  This is definitely one!  We sat mystified gazing at the frescos dating back to the early 1500’s and wondering what natural ingredients were used to create the blue hues.   When we visited in April it was off season but rarely had to
share any part of the monastery with anyone else.  This may still be off the tourist radar for many people however given that it is a UNESCO site it could gain in popularity.  I would highly recommend a visit if you have interest in fresco artwork.

 

 

 

 

Best Drink – Colombia coffee at Don Elias Organic Coffee Plantation (November 2016):  Colombia is famous for it’s coffee production and we had enjoyed countless cups of coffee around the country.  Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to coffee but in Colombia you will never be offered cream for your coffee as it would distract from the taste.  You can have it black or with sugar in general.  We headed to the source to see coffee plantation region near Salento to learn more about the coffee production.  While on descent you can already see the beautiful lush green landscape that you can only imagine.November 2016: Don Elias Coffee Plantation

Don Elias plantation is a family run business that focuses on sustainable production and utilizing your environment to peak performance.  They offer tours of the plantation which are very interesting to see their simple and wholesome process that produces a large volume of coffee.  At Don Elias Coffee Plantation I had the best damn coffee in my life.  I prefer cream and sugar in my coffee; however I was surprisingly in agreement with the locals that when you have a good quality coffee it is better to drink it black.  The good news is that he sells the coffee whole beans or ground packaged onsite and I bought several packages to take home.  The bad news you can only buy it on the farm and I should have bought more!  Or perhaps when you visit you can pick me up a package?

 

 

Best Tour – Hello Bucovina (April 2016)

As an experienced international traveller I generally prefer to avoid organized tours.  However we found Hello Bucovina as the perfect option as it offers private  customi

April 2016: I love Tiraspol, Transnistria!

zed tours!  We had requested a 3 day private tour which covered a big wish list of sights spanning many kilometers and multiple countries.  We had two guides

over the course of the itinerary who were very knowledge about the sights, country, history, etc.  The guides were extremely friendly and kindly greeted us at the airport late in the evening for transport to our hotel.

We had time available while in transit to learn more about local culture and current events.  We spent several days with Chip as our guide who is also the company owner.  Chip is very dedicated to providing his clients with the best experience and asks for feedback throughout the tour.  We appreciated that each day the agenda and rough timelines were clearly established so we knew what to expect.  I am looking forward to traveling to Eastern Europe sometime soon and connect again with Hello Bucovina to arrange another tour.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope 2017 brings you great travel adventures!

Seek your adventure!

 

3 hot travel apps!

IMG_6739

 

Ladies and Gents I hope you are sitting down and ready to download some awesome apps!  My love for travel has overtaken my timely new blog posts as I have traveled on 17 flights in the last few weeks.  My apologies everyone!

All 3 of these amazing hot apps are FREE!

 

 

Rome2Rio:

This app provides you with a quick price comparison on transport options between any 2 cities you enter.   The transport options included vary based on destination but could include flights, trains, bus, ferry, rideshare, taxi and estimated cost to drive.  While it does not take into consideration the date of travel it will quickly give you a general sense of the time and cost for each option.   It links to accommodations, attractions, and finds google ads with links to recent sales.

Here is an example:  Bangkok Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-8-06-41-pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LoungeBuddy

IMG_6095This app gives you a quick overview of your options for lounge access based on your itinerary.  While you may recall that I currently do not have status with any airline.  However  I do have lounge access though several different credit cards and one time passes.  Once you have entered into the app which credit cards, elite status, lounge club memberships you currently have you are ready to roll.

You simply enter your itinerary including the airports, airline, and cabin class.  It will provide you a list of lounge options that have you may have access to and specific details on where they are located in the airport.   It also includes details regarding hours of operation, amenities, reviews and if you are allowed to bring guests along with you.

If you you are interested in a $10 credit, use my referral code VXSJUD85U6 when you visit loungebuddy.com.

 

IMG_6629Postagram

This is an amazing app that lets you create a custom postcard with your personal photos and personalized text.  It will be sent via US Mail and be delivered within 5-7 days.  No more searching for the right postcard or stamps in foreign countries!  In addition the photo pops out of the postcard for a 3 x 3 inch photo to tuck into your purse or post on your fridge.  All this for only 99 cents a postcard!

I still highly recommend 2 of my favorite apps I blogged about last year: check out Worldmate & Triposo

 

Seek your adventure!

Falling in love with local wine one trip at a time

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2011: Mendoza Argentina

So imagine yourself in a beautiful vineyard at a wine tasting enjoying one of the most amazing wines you have had in years.  It sounds like paradise right?  It is!  You then learn from the vineyard owner that they have a very small annual production and the wine is not exported; as a matter of fact the wine is only sold locally right here at the vineyard in Mendoza Argentina.  Oh no!!!

Sadly this scenario has become a common problem for me traveling around the world and discovering some of the very best wines are not exported.  After 10 years  I still crave a wine from Stellenbosch South Africa.

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Wine tasting in Mendoza

 

 

 

How do you bring home these amazing wines?

There are a few options:

  • Ship it from the vineyard directly to your home.  This is an option that most larger vineyards provide however there are additional fees involved and it can get quite pricey quickly.
  • Buy it and then ship it yourself from a local post office.  This is usually a good option but does require some additional effort on your part and ideally you have a rental car to transport the wine.  It make take several weeks for your wine to arrive at your home and I would not recommend doing this with expensive wine.
  • Buy it and pack it in your suitcase.  My favorite choice! I have successfully transported wine from over a dozen countries as far away as Australia and South Africa.

How to pack wine in your checked luggage?

Let me start by saying that I have NEVER had a bottle of wine break in my suitcase.  I have packed up to 10 bottles into a medium roller board suitcase with no issues.  I sadly cannot guarantee your success of course but I have followed these simple steps dozens of times.

IMG_8714
Wine + packing materials

 

  1. Utilize a t-shirt (or any clothing item) to wrap around the bottle of wine; wrapping like a present.
  2. Place the wrapped wine bottle into a plastic carrier bag or ideally large ziplock bag to avoid any clinking.
  3. Put the plastic bag that contains the bottle into a medium packing cube.
  4. Repeat the process for 2 additional bottles of wine that will all fit firmly into one medium packing cube.
  5. In the event that you have less than 3 bottles continue to fill the packing cube with additional clothes until firmly packed.
  6. I recommend putting your shoes on the bottom of the suit case for extra protection; then load the packing cubes on top.
  7. That’s it!   Get home and enjoy some amazing wine!

Reminder: Check the customs policies for your home country.  In many countries you are allowed 3 bottles duty free but if you bring more just declare it on your customs form.  There may be a small tax but well worth the price of amazing wine!

 

Seek your adventure!

5 must have items for every travel day bag!

P1010332All trips are unique and will require something different to be carried in your day bag.  However after 60 plus countries around the world these 5 items are always in my day travel bag regardless of where I am traveling.  In a prevoius post I wrote about “5 must have items for any flight!”  and today let’s consider what you should be carrying with you before you leave your hotel for any adventure.

  1. Water bottle:  I personally drink a lot of water and always have a bottle with me regardless of the situation. I could be traveling around a big city or in the rainforest no exceptions; there I am carrying a water bottle.   You could bring your own water filter  but I always take a flat packable water bottle to refill.
  2. Note pad & pen: This has been extremely helpful in international travel to write down the name and address of the destination we are going to as my pronunciation may not always be perfect.  Just grab the one from your hotel room before you head out for the day.
  3. Headache & Pain Relief Tablets:  There is nothing worse than being on a vacation that you have waited months for and not feeling well!  I always carry 2-6 tablets with me in a teeny tiny plastic bag  in case I get a headache, tummy ache or etc.
  4. Baby wipes:  Not just for babies anymore.  These really should be called “magic wipes”  as they resolve so many travel needs from washing your hands, toilet paper substitute, getting dirt off clothes and cleaning leather shoes.
  5. Collapsible shopping bag: This is critical.  You may have absolutely no intentions of buying anything while you are out for the day.  Yet somehow you end up unexpectedly at a local market or artisans fair.  In many countries you have to purchase a bag to take your purchases home; so bring your own!  I personally have been utilizing the same set of Envirosax bags for daily shopping for over 7 years now and they are still in great condition.

Seek your adventure!