Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's a Long Flight

Let’s say you have a long flight ahead of you. Do you sleep on the plane? Can you sleep on a plane?
If not, why not?

Have you tried any of these to help?

An eye mask works to block out the light. For some, this is important. The cabin lights are usually dimmed, but you can still have some light that may bother you. Try an eye mask. If the ones given to you by the airline are too thin or slippery, pack your own.

Earplugs are a must for others. Noise-cancelling headphones may work as well or better. Again, if you don’t like the ones on the plane, bring your own.

Make sure you are wearing clothes which help you sleep. I’m not advocating dressing in your pajamas. Not at all. But, be comfortable.

If you really want to sleep, mention this to the attendant. Ask that they not wake you unless it’s an emergency.

If you don’t think there will be pillows or blankets, bring your own. I always have a pashmina with me to work as a shawl, blanket, or something to rest my head on.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Before You Book That Tour...

Before you book your tour, here are some things to think about… If you’re not sure, ask. Get the answers in writing, if you still have doubts.

1. Is the tour tailored to beginners or experts?
If you are going on a specialty tour (history, art, cooking) and you already know a lot about the subject, you might be bored silly by information that a non-expert would find fascinating.

2. Does the tour guide speak throughout, or is it an audio tour with headphones or other media?
Will you be learning from an individual or listening to a taped expert played over headphones? Can you go at your own pace?

3. Who is your guide?
Are the guides locals? Trained historians? Degreed naturalists? Whoever the company could find who needed a job? Does the information tell you? If not, ask.

4. In what language(s) will the tour be given?
Definitely,an important fact to know before you book.

5. Is it all-inclusive, or will you have to pay additional admission fees?
If you will be visiting attractions during the tour, the price of the tour may be completely separate from the admission to those attractions. Again…ask.

6. Is food provided?
If the tour bridges a mealtime, ask if food is included in the price of the tour. If not, will there be time and opportunity to purchase something, or should you bring your own snacks? If food is available, what options are there? You'll want to make sure the offerings suit your taste and dietary limitations.

7. What weather can you expect?
If your tour requires you to go up a gondola to a mountaintop and there is a temperature difference of 60 degrees…you'll want to know ahead of time so you can dress appropriately.

8. How much physical exertion is required?
Unless it is a bus or boat tour, most guided tours require you to walk a bit. Find out how far, whether hills or stairs are involved and what shoes would be most appropriate.

9. Is the tour kid-friendly/handicap-accessible/etc.?
If you or anyone in your group has any special needs, even if they are as simple and common as being a young and restless kid, ask ahead of time if the tour will work well for that person.

10. Where does the tour pick up and drop off?
Many tours operate without official offices, so they might meet at street corners, near a famous statue, on the steps of a museum ... you get the idea.

11. How long is the tour?
You know your own threshold for being led around and told stuff; some may want hours and hours of information, while others want concise overviews before going on their own again.

12. How much time is spent in each place?
Sometimes folks on tours complain of having been rushed through a place they really wanted to see and absorb, while others report having had to linger over something in which they had little interest. Do your research.

13. Are there other tours along the route?
Travelers who prefer to avoid the built-in crowds that tours bring with them can feel even more hemmed in when there are multiple tours all visiting and talking about the same thing at the same time. You could ask about this before you book.

14. What size is the group?
Do you feel comfortable in a large group or do you prefer a more intimate one?

15. Will you get to break off on your own?
Many tours will give you a lot  of information followed by a little bit of time to poke around yourself.

16. Is it safe?
If you’re not sure, check with the State Department about the city or country. Read reviews as well.

17. Does pricing change by the week or day?
Something that should be listed.

18. What's the inclement weather policy?
If your tour is outdoors, will you get a refund in foul weather, will you be rescheduled to a different day or time, or do they expect you to show up no matter what the weather is like?

19. What's the cancellation policy?
You'll often have to schedule and pay for your tour ahead of time. Before putting any money down, find out what happens if you need to cancel or reschedule.

20. Is the tour well reviewed?

There will always be bad reviews. Read them all, regardless. Do they lean more toward the positive aspects or the negative ones of the tour? 

Happy President's Day

Mt. Rushmore and the Avenue of Flags

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Those Are Big Horses...

Hitch Requirements: To qualify for one of the traveling hitches, a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age, stand 72 inches at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, have a bay coat, four white legs, a white blaze, and a black mane and tail.

Feed: Each hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals and vitamins, 50 to 60 pounds of hay, and 30 gallons of water per day.

Transport: Ten horses, the famous red, white, and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment are transported in three 50-foot tractor-trailers. Cameras mounted in the trailers are connected to monitors in the cabs that enable the drivers to keep a watchful eye on their precious cargo during transport. The team stops each night at local stables so the “gentle giants” can rest. Air-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring in the trailers ease the rigors of traveling.

Drivers: Driving the combined 12 tons of wagon and horses requires expert skill and physical strength. The 40 pounds of lines held by the driver plus the tension of the horses pulling creates a weight of over 75 pounds. Hitch drivers endure a lengthy training process before they assume the prestigious role of “Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch Driver.”

Harness: Each harness and collar weighs approximately 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted with solid brass, patent leather, and stitched with pure linen thread. The harness is made to fit any Clydesdale; however, collars come in various sizes and must be individually fitted to the Clydesdale like a finely tailored suit.

Horseshoes: Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about 5 pounds which is more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a light horse. A horse’s hoof is made of a nerveless, horn-like substance similar to the human fingernail so being fitted for shoes affects the animal no more than a manicure affects people.

Dalmatians: Dalmatians have traveled with the Clydesdale hitch since the 1950s. The Dalmatian breed long has been associated with horses and valued for their speed, endurance, and dependable nature. Dalmatians were known as coach dogs because they ran between the wheels of coaches or carriages and were companions to the horses. Today, the Dalmatians are perched atop the wagon, proudly seated next to the driver.

Monday, February 13, 2017


If you are retired and have the travel bug, but need to stick to a budget, here are some things to think about and research.

Become an online detective, and shop around. Maybe you didn’t know, but rock-bottom deals are not automatic for the 55-plus crowd.

You can often get 5 percent to 15 percent discounts with membership cards, such as AAA and AARP. But, just because a senior rate is offered doesn't mean it's the best deal out there. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask about all rates.

Think about traveling where and when it’s the cheapest. Pick smaller cities in countries you want to visit. You can probably travel in off-season. Rates are usually quite a bit cheaper for flights, hotels, and attractions. Think about dates and fly when plane fares are cheaper.

Check out all airlines before booking. You can look at sites like Trip Advisor, Expedia, or Kayak. Then, go to that airline’s site. Sometimes prices are better on the airline site.

Think about staying in vacation rentals instead of hotels. Use websites like to see what is available.

If you see a good deal, book it now. You probably have a good sense of the cost. Don’t sweat whether the price is going to go up or down $10.

Sometimes flying on the holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's is cheaper. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Should I Buy That?

You’re stuck in an airport, wandering the duty-free shops before your flight leaves for home. 

Everything is bright, shiny, and beckoning. It’s duty free. Right? Doesn’t that make it a good deal?

Even though you may find a deal once in a great while, it’s not a given that your duty-free purchase is a good buy. In fact, you’ll most likely find those electronic goods, beauty products, and high end purses usually cost less at home or online.

Do your homework before you fly. Get some idea of what products cost. Look at those you might be tempted to purchase.

Duty-free liquor. Think about the price. Then, think about carrying it on the plane with you. Do you really have room in your carry-on?

Of course, there are exceptions. Locally made or hand-crafted gifts made in that region make sense. Especially, if they are not available anywhere else. But, this also comes with a caveat. Is it something you want or need? Or, does it just look great at the time?

Maybe you’re walking around the airport waiting to head out on vacation.

Every store or magazine stand in every airport seems to have a selection of neck pillows. Should you buy one or not? If you really think you need a neck pillow, buy it before you leave home. Travel clothing websites, online, Amazon, and so many more carry them for a fraction of the cost at the airport.

Another thing that may grab your attention, is getting your foreign currency when you first land in a different country. Stop. Currency exchange desks in airports will charge a high transaction fee. Really high, in some cases. Sure, it’s convenient. But, probably not worth the fees.

Before you fly, get some money at your local bank. Many do not have foreign transaction fees.
Or, wait until you get to your destination. An ATM from a national bank will change less of a transaction fee than the airport.